Up in the city, there’s a place where people go to get flipped over on their heads. There below hangs a shadow turned solid in the shape of a living person, a description only suiting for a man named Sussex. The chill of a pending first date teases his future like a dancing monkey inside of a gypsy’s crystal ball. She might as well be an angel in his eyes. But how angelic could she really be, though? She is from the city!
Sussex wakes up, maybe from a dream about cyber sex. A painful burst light-sabers right through his chest. He’s found himself below layers of concrete, something like a basement, and he listens as drops of water sweat from the thick pipes around his head. He tries to kick but notices his feet are chained to one of them, swinging like a hangman in reverse. His arms dangle and his nerves would swear there’s an army of invisible ants marching up to his hands. He sleeps for an amount of time known only by the sewer creatures below; this as he wakes and faints in intermittent blinks.
Where are we? he whispers. A good question, really … Where are we, exactly? You could be in a lawn chair on your lawn, I don’t know. But Sussex is busy getting snapped at by rats and amphibious insects cheering for his savory sweat to fall into their mouths. Or mandibles. Most of it freezes before dripping from his chin. “Whe- where’s my date at, my — ?” Oh, now he really sounds faded.
Soon after some distant crackling wakes him up, he’s sleeping again, dreaming of getting high or of a misty projection — likely both — somewhere magical with rainbow dew and pixies buzzing around their heads. His only warmth comes from the wet crust of earth surrounding him. When he awakes again, he sees someone moving about in the dark. It reminds him of being a child, when he would look out the windows and watch wild things moving around in deep blackness. How can it see? he wonders as much now as back then.
A massive figure approaches, winds up its arms, and tries to split Sussex across his middle with a baseball bat. CRACK. Sudden inspiration sparks the being, and he changes his aim to Sussex’s knee.
WUDDAH, WUDDAH — And the hits keep coming.
Eventually the knee dislocates and, upon sight of this, the man seems to suddenly realize he’s not at a home run derby. The girl, the muse that has brought him this far, injects into his mind now. He recalls giddily their conversations over months of FaceTime. She told him once about a time she (not asked) told her professor she wasn’t going to take an exam. The little fireball then said that he’d be better off balling the paper up so he could attach it to his “retarded tie” and gag himself to death. Funny enough, she said something similar to a census surveyor — or maybe a door-to-door evangelist, I don’t quite remember. This fiery attitude is apparently what floats Sussex’s boat. He likes his women like his mysterious mobsters.
Our boy then watches a new hench guy appear, this time without a bat. The grim silhouette cuts him down from his chains. His teeth promptly bite the floor. A few roaches come to welcome him with kisses and sniffs. He licks his wounds, then notices the ice around his mouth tastes vaguely of piss. His leg has gone numb, having given up on signaling any more pain to him, but he lifts himself aglow with a new passion.
“Hey, man, lookit. You pass the test,” the gangster, now a sharp image, says to him.
“Is ‘at all? I — I can just go?”
“By all means. Welcome to town. Don’t come here new again.” Whatever that means.
He does the broken-leg shuffle past a netherworld market, through rummaging heaps of cattle and mules, sick beggars and rich merchants, getting his first glimpse of the slimy sewer world that bustles under the massive city. Sussex ventures until he reaches a storm drain where he catches a faceful of greasy slush. A piece of frozen urine slides off his mustache due to impact. He elects to toss it down to treat one lucky rat. Reaching out of the drain like a hangry clown, he awkwardly pulls himself up, trembling in his weak frozen core, onto the biggest commercial street known in the heart of the metropolis.