By: Shaun Hupp
The alleyway was occupied by a full dumpster, its cold contents overflowing onto equally sullied snow. Black and white bags lie torn open like unwrapped presents with drawstring bows. Locked and bolted doorways from darkened dwellings and repulsive restaurants surrounded it as if it was a temple to trash. Remnants of thrown away lives mingled with maggots and broken Christmas bulbs whose flickering lights would never twinkle in a child's eyes again. It was garbage, and it was garland. The stench of spoiled food poisoned the air for all who might enter. Scavengers dare not be tempted even to nibble. No one should want to be there, and yet, there were those who needed to be.
The fresh corpse of a man laid several feet from that dumpster. He was an ignored intruder upon the asphalt. This body did not belong.
But who was he?
A father, a husband, a son, a friend... Now an empty shell, oozing onto the ground.
A role model, a lover, a legacy, a confidant... Now a slab of rotting meat, feeding flies.
But he never saw himself as their eyes did. To him, he was...
A failure, a regret, a disappointment, a nobody... Now he was all that, proving himself right.
A bell rang outside that alleyway. A fraud in a red and white velvet suit filled the freezing air with repetitive noise for those less fortunate. He sounded an alarm that no one but a small few cared to heed. Secretly, he longed to break the little lock to his brass bucket, freeing the tiny bits of money he and his family needed to eat. His false stomach mocked him as it rubbed against his shivering ribs. He looked towards the alley behind him, wondering if something within might help him gain entry to this collection of coins he coveted.
The bell stirred a nearby vagrant resting on a rusted bench. His liver-spotted arm lashed out, striking an empty bottle, shattering it against the pavement like a stocking dumped out by a child who waited all night to find out what lie inside. His eyes opened. His need returned. Anger filled him as sleep was the only thing that chased away his addiction. He looked to the alleyway behind the bell ringer and wondered if the Sandman might find him deep within there.
Under a dim streetlamp, a call-girl on the corner heard the ringing and the breaking of glass. Her eyes darted back and forth, looking for her next meal ticket. She used to love this street and now it filled her with mixed feelings. She remembered a lifetime ago before she plastered heavy make-up on to hide her true age. As a child, she used to hold her father's hand, shopping for Christmas gifts while the ever present ho-ho-hos danced in the air. He always told her that this was time of giving and getting. Not much had changed. Giving and getting was her job. It was the joke that her life had become. She stared at the bell ringer wishing he'd leave. Not because he might drive potential clients away, but because he reminded her of a past long dead. She needed a distraction. She needed a John. She needed money. She looked at the shadowy alleyway and wondered if maybe the next man she met would take her within, rip her cheap skirt and panties off, and for a few bills, help her forget.
They were the only ones out that time of night, braving the winter's air. Nothing to link them together. They had never met before. They had never spoken to one another. And after tonight, they would never see each other again.
They all did, however, have one thing in common...
One thing connected these strangers...
They envied the dead man.
About the author:
Shaun Hupp lives in Michigan with his wife, two kids, and dog. While he mainly writes in the horror genre, he also dabbles in the supernatural and comedy. When he's not writing, he wears t-shirts of sports teams he could care less about. He also needs to take the trash out.