Jimmy woke up on something soft, but not that soft. It wasn’t asphalt, but it also wasn’t his bed at home, though as he swung his arms and legs, flailing a bit, it could tell it was at least a bed. One foot struck a wall that the bed was shoved up against, the other leg hit air, one arm knocked something off the bedside table that hit the ground with a thud, but not a crack. He was face down still, head pounding, and he rubbed his face with both hands, drilling fingers into his eyes until he saw spots, and then tried opening them again.
Not his room. Nowhere that he had ever been before, that he could remember. He rolled over on the double bed, back to the wall, and looked around for someone who might have found him and brought him here, but he was alone that he could see. There wasn’t much of anything to see, really. There was a kitchenette across from him, bare of dishes but not necessarily clean, a bathroom at one end which didn’t seem to have a door, and in the other direction, a door that he assumed led elsewhere in the apartment. He swung his feet over the side of the bed gave a stretch, and that was when he got the first inkling that something about him was off. The weight of his arms as he reached up, the smell that came from his pits, stronger and rougher than what had been his boisterous, youthful scent. He stumbled towards the bathroom, found a switch that flicked on the beauty lights, though the bulbs in only half of them functioned, and stared at his face with a dull disbelief.
It wasn’t his face. Older, certainly. At least aged into his thirties, if not a bit closer to forty. A thick beard trimmed short all over his chin and jaw, climbing high up his cheeks. A body that looked strong, though not particularly pretty or handsome. A tunic of body hair, running up his chest, over his shoulders and down his back, interrupted by a few fresh scars running across it, from the Warden’s flogger. He ran his fingers over them–that had just been the night before, hadn’t it? They felt healed over, and yet the memory was fresh, and he felt a strange stirring in his cock from the thought of it, the bite of it, remembering how good it had felt laying into the shade, and–
He pushed it away. It was too raw and too close, the emotions all threatening to overwhelm him in a place that he didn’t know, that probably wasn’t safe, in a body that wasn’t even his own. He left the bathroom, not sure how to untangle the emotions swirling in his chest. Not fear, surprisingly. Exhaustion, sure, after the night he’d just had. Horny. A little numb, like something had been pulled out of him, something he couldn’t quite name, the importance of which was only clarified by the shape and size of the hole once pulled free. He went to the other door, opened it up, expecting to find a living room, or some other part of a larger apartment, but all he found was a concrete balcony overlooking a parking lot. It was a studio apartment, more like a hotel room, really, but Jimmy had never been inside one. He’d never known someone who lived in one either. He knew of them, vaguely, like kids in the suburbs knew about “Chicago”, or “London”, places that existed but had no real bearing on their lives. Someone passing on the sidewalk looked up, saw him, gave a whistle, and headed for the stairwell–it was only then that Jimmy realized he was standing there, stark naked under the early afternoon sun. He went back into the apartment, the man knocked on the door a few times while Jimmy cowered on the bed, embarrassed and frightened and angry at himself, before the stranger gave up and left.
There were some clothes on the floor, some torn up jeans and a wifebeater. The pockets had a key–probably to the apartment, but nothing for a car. The thing that he’d knocked off the nightstand was a cell phone, though not the one he’d had. This one was substantially older, and much less functional. The wallet had some cash, no cards, and an expired driver’s license. His name was on it, his picture looked how he imagined a halfway point between his youth of yesterday and face of today might have looked. He was smirking, and Jimmy felt mocked. The address was not his home address, but after throwing on the clothes, along with some socks and beat up work boots, he left. Sure enough, the address on the ID looked to match the apartment number and location. He might live here, allegedly, but he didn’t have to stay here. He left, key phone and wallet in his pockets, and started walking.
It was a few blocks before he could orient himself with a half remembered landmark or two, and determined he was, in fact, in Pigtown. On the outskirts, he supposed, but if Pigtown were a circle, Depot was at the southern end, and his apartment was more to the east, closer to the river and the docks. He headed that way on foot, and after half an hour, pushed open the door to Marshall’s Cigar and Briar, and found Marshall and Kyle chatting with a regular.
“Hey man,” Marshall said, “First time, I–no, wait…” He looked a bit closer. “Oh. Hey Bill, I appreciate the gossip, as always, but this one will need a little attention, if you don’t mind.”
“Sure thing, Marshall,” the chubby regular said, chuffing away at a massive pipe he held up with one hand. He gave Jimmy a look up and down, then a wink, and slipped out the door and onto the sidewalk.
The three of them just looked at one another. Kyle was confused, and didn’t seem to recognize him. Marshall was apparently content to let the silence grow as long as necessary. “It’s me, Kyle. It’s Jimmy.”
“Jimmy…” Kyle said, like he was trying to recall a regular at the shop, until his brain clicked over, and he realized who it was who had just come in. “Fucking–what happened to you? I just saw you a week ago for fuck’s sake! What the fuck did you do to yourself?”
Jimmy related the story of the day and night before, from filing a report at the precinct, to his dream, and encounter with the shade on the street, concluding with a toned down version of what happened down in the jail. Jimmy didn’t want that to have been something he’d done, he couldn’t yet fold that into his identity, and so he tried to shut it away, edit around the joy he’d taken in flaying that shade open over and over again, for hours. Marshall saw it anyway, but he thought Kyle might have been fooled. There was something else though, something between him and his friend that had formed in the last week since he’d last seen him here. A confidence, maybe, in Kyle’s new persona, but it was also in the way Kyle looked at him, like he was still struggling to recall him, the young men they’d both been before. He thought about how it had felt, forgetting Marlon over the week before, and wondered how much Kyle had forgotten. How much him being here had just dredged forth.
“That’s quite the tale, bud,” Marshall said, “I assume you want to know how to change back?”
“The short answer is, you can’t. You’re a resident now, whether you like it or not. You’re stuck here, with the rest of us, like this, more or less.”
“That’s the short answer?”
“The long answer, is that you don’t have to stay like this, I suppose. Plenty of folks around here will be more than happy to give you a makeover, if you aren’t happy, myself included. The deeper you go, the more…happy they’ll be. Around Washington street, it gets thicker, a couple blocks up from The Hideaway. Guys who go past there don’t come back to these parts after a while. We’ll all make our way there, one day I suppose. Resist, don’t, it’s all up to you. It’ll be easier if you just think of it as a brand new life, and enjoy it as best you can.”
Jimmy looked over at Kyle, who was looking down at the floor. No help then, not even an acknowledgement of his feelings, his loss. He’d expected better of his friend, but then, he wasn’t quite sure Kyle was actually his friend anymore, the one he remembered. He was becoming someone else too, just as he was. Unable to bear it, he turned around and left, breathing hard, full of anxiety, and just walked. He walked south, wanting to get out, wanting to try and get away. He knew how to get home by bus, he could go see his parents, they would help, surely. But he only got a few blocks south of the precinct before the sun felt too harsh, the air too clean. The looks that the businessmen and women going about their day shot at him told him that not only did he not belong here, but that being forced to notice him, to look at him, was making their day actively worse. He tried to get on a bus, but the driver wouldn’t even let him on. He tried to call a cab, but none of them even bothered stopping. He tried walking, but took a turn down an alley, only to find himself back on a familiar street between Marshall’s and the Precinct. He really was stuck.
He was hungry. He found a cafe, ate some dinner, but that didn’t satisfy him. The cock he ended up sucking in the alley next to the cafe was more filling than that. He ended up at Depot for a while, but the bustling youth turned him off. This wasn’t his scene anymore. Depot, he realized, was bait. A honeypot for the district to suck men in–the younger the better. Others hovered around it and inside it, looking for men in moments of weakness so they could swoop in and have their way with them. He left, not interested in feeling like a predator. He walked more, saw the bar that Marshall had mentioned, the Hideaway, and decided it was better than nothing.
He didn’t remember much of what happened inside there. It had been pleasurable, not as pleasurable as his night in the jail, but pleasurable all the same. He awoke in the same position, in the same double bed, alone, in his new apartment. This, then, is all there is for him. He thought about getting up, but couldn’t face it. He stared at the ceiling, the patterns of mold there looking more and more like the silhouettes of cocks, until the need and the hunger drove him out again, into the evening, for more debauchery. This was it then. This was it.
END OF PART THREE