Poor Sal. She had not been doing so well, our girl. She had only wanted all the nastier bits of life to just go away, just like the rest of humanity. And she was very pretty—so pale, dark hair, doll's face, big black eyes. Pretty enough to be collateral damage, in times like these. In a place like this.

The end began when she and her friends had stumbled outside the pub.

It was called the Imaginarium, a dusty impossible world in a caravan, parked. It looked like some sort of street theater show. It had looked just delightful. She had only gone for a laugh. She had only gone for a drink. She had only gone.

There had been men outside the Imaginarium, the performers, who looked simply delightful through her drunken haze of gold liquid and handsome smiles. The men and woman had powdered silver faces, like something out of a story. A forgotten narrative. One had been charming, with a curved white mask. The other had curled and dipped her, and separated her from her friend, and picked her up. Her beautiful boots had knocked an old man over as they twirled. And then the young man dressed as Mercury had thrown her, new dress and nice hair and all, through a silver mirror as she cried out.

(The stars had been silver too that night, she remembered, an actual dribbly silver all over a velvet blue sky. It had been a tapestry. Or maybe that had just been in her dream?)

She had gone—through the mirror. She had been thrown through the ratty foil flaps into a hell. And once there, well Sal, she screamed.

It had been terrible, inside the Imaginarium. The world had fallen apart. All the worst things she had ever imagined. All the worst things she had ever dreamed, tearing and twisting and bleeding. Her life was in shreds. The world was in shambles. She had chosen the only way out she could find, and flung herself towards it.

And there she had ended up in garbage, as pretty as a discarded toy herself. She landed hard, smack-dab among refuse.

Sal looked back and forth, checking her own limbs. Nothing too dire. She wasn't bleeding or anything, just shaken. Oh, but she felt so odd...

She felt his presence before she saw him.

Something in the air hummed with an outside electricity, a proximity intensified. An almost noxious smell—like something was smoldering. Flaring and fuming, just waiting for the match. Diesel, maybe, all around. A pulpy, palpable presence. Sal felt dizzy, and even more disoriented then...well...whatever had just happened. She fancied she could feel her hair stand on end, watch the ends ignite. Smell it all burn.

And then--

"Hey, there," an American voice purred, and a lavender glove stretched out to her. "I've been looking for you."

She looked up. He was an older gentleman, and quite dapper, to say the least, with a fine anachronistic suit, scarlet bowtie, silver waistcoat, and black bowler. He had close-set eyes, and curly flesh-colored hair tucked carelessly into his hat. An oddly defined mouth, with what would have been a full lower lip in his youth. He smiled down at her, and his blue eyes burned like chemical flame.

Sally's mouth hung open, crimson doll's mouth turned down. She placed her hand in his, and he pulled her up close, not letting go of her hand. It was such a strange delicious feeling, being pulled up strong by your hand, of having something strange and definite on the other end, lifting you from the gutter. Lifting you up.

"Hello," she said.

The man smiled again, a blistering peeled smile, and looked her up and down. Alcohol and smoke hung in the air, and she couldn't tell what was her and what was him. "Well goodness me. It looks like you've had a rough night," he said, nodding his head in sympathy. His voice was a hiss, a sulfurous rasp. It scraped. It abraded. It rubbed the air raw.

Sal felt lightheaded, and did not know at first how to respond. "Thank you," she smiled back. "It has been—that is—I don't--" she gave a little shuddering gasp. "It's been awful. You have no idea."

"I maybe have some." He reached his hand to her shoulder. "May I?"


"You got a little, uh," he dusted off some oily paper that had stuck to her shoulder "You got a little garbage on your pretty coat there."

"Oh! Thank you." She looked at him as he brushed her off, in a most gentlemanly manner. Something about his face--. She stepped back, confused. "Do I know you?" she said weakly.

"Oh, everybody knows me. I'm Mr. Nick," he said in his corrosive voice, and smiled his corrosive smile, and tipped his bowler hat. "And you're Sally. Sal. We'd best be going." He extended his arm.

"I'm go with you?" It was all happening very fast. And she wasn't completely sure what had happened before.

"That's right."


"Doesn't really matter right now, does it? Your choice. You wanted me, you got me."

"I'm a little scared," she confided, although she wasn't really. She took his arm. The coat was of very fine material. In a strange way, she was a little relieved.

"Oh, I don't think so," he said. "If you are, I got no use on earth for you. Sal."

They stepped into the night, her dress fluttering and her heels clicking, his coattails flaring out angles and his smoky chuckle, all soon enveloped by black.

Sally--Sal--was relieved, because before she had been lost. She had wanted to go out. She had wanted to be gone. She had wanted an easy way out, from all the pain, from all the confusion.

Of course, it's times like these the devil is never too far away.


Sorry I've been away. University wrapping up and all, plus an actual career developing that is NOT looking too shabby. :) Let me know what you think. I do tend to update when I know people are reading and enjoying, like any of us. And I am totes shocked there is not more for this category.

Love, and kisses this time to make up for my absence,