The Selfish Wraith

Aaron Starks


The warm breeze rippled in off the gulf, grazing the Seawall and then rising into the thick air. Seaweed scented thermals blowing through the coastal city of Galveston, Texas. The Galveston, Texas Seawall at that early hour was vacant and empty save for an aging rust brown pick-up truck parked along the seawall proper.

 Reclining, stuffed into the driver side front seat, knees on the steering wheel, his tall lanky frame barely fitting into the truck it seemed, a hollow-eyed wraith of a man sat. The driver side window was rolled fully down, his left arm hanging outside. If one were to look closely one would notice prickling chills and gooseflesh running along his forearm despite the humid balminess of the summertime Gulf night/early morning.

At two o’clock in the morning the seagulls were still asleep. Another two or three hours remained before they began the racket and noise of their daily survival excursions.  All was silent excepting the rise and fall of the crashing waves and the occasional siren or car alarm further inland.

 The reclining man in the pick-up lit a cigarette and took a pull. He grimaced. He really didn’t want the thing. Realizing this and wondering why he lit it in the first place he flicked the still lit cigarette out through the open window and into the temporarily dry high tidal area packed with wet sand. After thirty seconds or so of staring at the glowing cigarette smoldering in the sand he reached into the middle console of the truck and pulled out a maroon sunglasses case.  He popped the case open and removed the contents, placing individually each piece from within on his lap.

The actions and routine that followed had governed his life for nearly the last 20 years.  His hands worked quickly, thoughtlessly with no conscious consideration involved. Muscle memory. One hand separated the black crumply wrapping from the dark vinegar smelling substance inside and placed it on the burnt spoon in his other hand. He squirted a syringe full of water onto the brown powder on the spoon, the powder swirling and diluting. The lighter flicked twice before the flint spark caught aflame. Running the flame beneath the spoon, he felt his heart rate speed up in anticipation of the fix.  There was a sizzle and pop as the heroin broke down and diluted further into the water. Using part of a cigarette filter he drew the liquid, now nearly black, up into the syringe as it filtered through the cotton from the cigarette.

He would not need a tourniquet today. There was a vein down around his wrist he immediately noticed. Thick and pulsing. He punctured the skin with the point of the syringe and pressed the plunger down without even checking to see if he was in the vein for sure. Years of junky experience told him he was on target. The heroin dispersed into his bloodstream.

As always the first thing he registered was an acrid taste in the back of his throat, followed by a slight heaviness in the middle of his shoulders and back of his neck. Warm and glowing. The sensation raced up into his head and out towards his extremities, then rocketing back inward, finally coalescing into his chest, uncoiling down into his belly, and settling in his groin. The wasted and spent shell of a man felt his world begin to grow soft and grey, his eyelids beginning to close on their own accord as if dead weight were attached to each one. Heaven for a fallen angel.

An hour later he woke. He realized he should probably get moving lest a police patrol wander by. As he reached up to turn the key in the ignition there was a sharp stab of pain down towards his wrist. Glancing down he saw the syringe still sticking out of his wrist, dangling there. He tugged at it gently , coagulated and dried blood holding the syringe needle tip firmly in place. The skin pulled taut and then tented before the point ripped free. He hissed in pain and  placed his lips around the injection site and sucked, tasting copper, subtle, and madly unpleasant. As the dope  wore off the pain of existence came roaring back into his entire being. He shuddered at the thought of promises broken, responsibilities shirked, loved ones forgotten,and general self loathing so intense it made him want to vomit.

He reached over into the glove compartment and pulled out his Smith and Wesson 9mm. without even checking he knew there were plenty of rounds within the chamber and clip itself, Appeared as if today would be the day he supposed, he rested his chin on top of the barrel and sighed deeply, sweet empty oblivion was only seconds away should he want it, he reckoned he did. He gazed out on the waves breaking along the shore line and sighed deeply, a runny remnant of a tear snaked down through the concave of his eye and down the side of his nose causing him to snort his right nostril. This was not a tear of despair or hopelessness, but rather one of hope and anticipation mixed with selfish longing and disregard for every person who had ever cared for him in his long and shameful life

 He prayed to no Gods nor wished no mercy from any being supernatural  or otherwise, perhaps he’d just gaze out into the surf a bit longer. But Goddamn the thought of oblivion gave him a happy little jolt…his tears felt warm and sublime as they washed down his wasted facial features. There were worse ways to go he supposed, by his rekoning he was getting off quite easy as he imagined being in a nursing home having young pretty women cleaning his piss and shit from his frail and worthless cage of a body. Imagining their noses turned up in disgust and disdain at their distasteful chore, He exhaled one more exaggerated exhalation and with gladness in his heart raised the barrel to the side of his head. He was found with a strange peaceful and carefree grin on his face….what was left of it that was.



Aaron Starks is a homeless aspiring writer and poet primarily interested in the darker hidden side of human nature. He’s not some goth emo type; he just finds darkness fascinating. But just as fascinating to him are the small acts of kindness and love our species is capable of. Duality as cliched and corny as it sounds is still viable and relevant if portrayed in the proper light.