eter found himself on the outskirts of the wrong kind of neighborhood. It was a boundary. One he knew, deep down in his heart of hearts, he should not cross. To bridge this was to court unknown dangers and peril he could only imagine, though he didn't have to work very hard. 42nd and Bravo. On this side sat safety: old, run-down brick dinosaurs slowly decaying into one other and the ground, shrinking alleys filled with offal from years past, smelling of urine and rot. No-one came here except those who called these tenements home, though even they found business elsewhere whenever they could.
But it was the safe side.
Through crags in the sidewalk small yellowed weeds hung flaccid, too small or too old to have been pulled out by strung out junkies jonesinę so bad they neither saw nor cared. He watched as a small, black roach disappeared into a rusting drain spout. Not a street light worked; strange that, since there were several that worked across the way, flickering on the other side of the pock-marked pavement. But it was only a tease, a taunting of security. The Lords of the hood, the bosses even higher, the cops who sat on several payrolls and those who were too fresh to be street wise, the junkies and the pushers, pimps, the hoods and the crazies: they all toed the faded yellow strip down the middle of the street separating this world of stayed entropy from that one of brutal, dynamic chaos-out of some paranoid fear that had grown to become myth, legend and law or from some sense of perverted, strained sense of ethics, Peter couldn't say; only this: for him to stay on this side, well, was it better to fade away like the color sapped from a billboard face in the glazed sun or to blaze out like a moltoff cocktail flung far into the night?
He patted his breast pocket for the roll of bills and felt for the strap slung over his shoulder, holding his steel passport and password to the darkness he was about to enter. The hooker at the next corner watched him from under a platinum wig which fell lopsided over one ear. Cocktail it is, he thought, stepping off the curb with a muffled crunch into the street that, though it only ran twenty seven blocks, would take him to another dimension.
First published: October 1997