Story excerpt: THE FACES OF THE DEAD ONES, by Joe Sinisi

From All Due Respect #5, coming any day now:


A pair of metal doors blocked our way, one to the left, rust creeping over its hide, and one to the right, holding a small plate with illegible letters hiding behind red blackness. Tre pushed open the right door and beyond was a large chamber containing the building’s quiet boilers and heating mechanisms, lined in broad columns. He walked through them in a seemingly indeterminable path, only three of the ten hummed, a heart desperately pumping its last few beats through a body it didn’t know was already dead.

My nose began to sting. Tre told me he wasn’t into drugs anymore, pot notwithstanding, which I thought was odd because up until then, the thought hadn’t occurred to me. Freemont was Tre’s cousin, and Tre had spent the better part of his life looking after the junkie.

“Man can only look at someone like that for so long before he starts seeing himself. I stopped the H after I saw Freemont get hooked on that methadone shit. Ain’t never heard of a cure that’s worse than the disease.”

“Other than life.”

A small laugh, he liked that.

“Yea. Shit yea, fucking life. Guess you know something about that.”

“There’s never going to be a cure for what I have.”

“Me neither.” The laugh disappeared. “Me neither.”

My eyes contracted and even before the full smell, I knew we had traversed past the heart and into the bowels of this dilapidated tenement and our forgotten frozen city. The odor cascaded around us, lapping like a wave, and nausea rose in my stomach. I felt as though I could smell the entire country decaying into the black concrete.

Tre groped for the tail of his dew rag and shoved it over his mouth. The acrid smell of death burst around us and my tongue swelled in my mouth, strangled my breath. I exhaled into the crook of my elbow but it brought little relief. Tre led me to the far wall. My body resisted. My feet moved but I stood still. The wall and the ten open brown dumpsters in front of it stalked me.

Tre stopped about twenty feet away. He waved with his wrist, still holding his gun. “There.” He spoke through the rag. “Ah shit. There. The last one on the end.”

“What the fuck is this Tre?”

The white caps of his eyes broke over the crest of his rag. He spoke again and the muffled words came straight from those eyes. “What? You thought this shit had a happy ending? You too smart of a girl for that. Go. Say goodbye to Ronnie G. You goin’ be the only one. I guess the nigga deserved at least that much.”

I waited for the wall to come to me, for the building’s bones to bend in a somber bow. But instead it was me, moving through a haze of queasiness, pushing toward the dumpsters until I walked down the line of them and the decayed, grayed bodies tangled in each.

Through no command of my own my eyes pinched shut, and as I passed each metal tomb, a crack opened, and through this fissure I saw the faces, just the faces of the dead ones. Some were down here for too long. Too gray, too decomposed. The slit in reality filled with tears, from the stench, and from all that horrible sadness.


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