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CHAPTER ONE:
ABANDON ALL HOPE

He was a plug-ugly sonofabitch
With a fist where most folks
get their face.
– Big Black, “Deep-Six”

Perfect. I grin into the mirror. Six-one, dark hair, dark eyes, smile that can be sweet and wicked all at once. Hair meticulously arranged to look like it wasn’t. Leather jacket, black shirt, black jeans, silver jewelry, black boots, just a touch of makeup. Shades for effect, although it’s already close to midnight. Pretty goth boy going out on the town.

Still smiling, I drop the Mask, force myself to keep staring as the reflection in the mirror warps. Grin runs like water, takes on more twists than a mountain highway. Sharp outfit becomes whatever was in the Goodwill box 18 months ago. It patchily covers a gnarled tangle of limbs sticking out in various directions from a lump that would make Quasimodo climb to the top of his bell tower and praise the grace of God. Chest down to my waist. Yeah, that thing there – that scabby patch of crust with the pus dribbling from its cracks – used to be a Ace, once upon a time. Smell hits then – a perfume far different from the ones I wore as a mortal. “Eau du Nosferatu” is enough to make even me gag. I stand there and count to 10, slowly, like I do every night when I wake up. Gotta keep things in perspective.

Enough's enough. I’m good and pissed. I turn the Mask on again – Demon Lover reappears in the mirror. Time to hit the town. I know what I’m looking for, and I know where to find it.

I open the grate and slide into the sewer tunnels adjacent to my haven. My Fingers slip on the algae and worse that line the walls. Creep along, splashing in the dark, occasionally stepping on something that squishes between my toes or wriggles away altogether. Not far to go until I hear the throb of Club Nocturne’s backbeat, high above me like the music of the spheres or something. I know you’re up there somewhere, flopping about on the dance floor like a wounded fish. I can smell you.

There’s an access tunnel into Nocturne’s maintenance room, one only me and the other Rats know about – and the goddamn Toreador think they run the place. I clamber up, like Satan crawling his way out of hell, and emerge amid wires and lumber and debris. The sound surrounds me – the backbeat hammers in my head and pisses me off even more. I check the Mask – I want to look real pretty for you. Yeah. I am a veritable artiste, as it were. Nonexistent hoots glisten under the single bulb, and my nonexistent silver ankh gleams against the black canopy of my nonexistent Dead Can Dance T-shirt. My grimace of disgust no doubt appears as a pretentious pout sure to charm you.

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