• The streets of downtown Fort Worth were dark and damp; the rainfall from the night before had not fully evaporated yet in the summer heat. Yet there was still heat rising from the ground in thick misty clouds, making the air extremely humid. But that never stopped Astrid from exploring the roads after nightfall. They’re so crowded during the day, she thought to herself. I’d get trampled in a heartbeat. As a light drizzle began to fall, she looked up into the clouds: grey and black. I didn’t know it was supposed to rain. She pulled her long, black trench coat around her more, turned up the volume on her mp3 player, and kept walking, the sounds of her combat boots scuffling on the wet asphault drowned out by Rammstein blaring in her ears. She didn’t like the sissy pop boy bands today’s girls were drooling over. She didn’t like dressing for them, either. Black was the dominant color of her wardrobe.

    She finally arrived at her destination: a grimy looking bar on the lower west side of the city. She ignored the sneers and jeers of passerby as she threw the door open and entered the rundown joint. As she walked up to the bar, she let her coat fall from her shoulders, bearing a tight crimson corset top, black miniskirt, fishnets covering her long, luscious legs, and her numerous tattoos. The barman looked up from wiping down his glasses and smiled.

    “What’ll it be, doll?” he asked in a low voice, avoiding bringing any more attention to his friend. Astrid smiled.

    “The usual,” she replied coyly. “You know how I like it.” The barman nodded and walked off to mix her favorite beverage of choice, a Bloody Mary with a shot of Goldschlager. Not the best-tasting drink, she thought, but it sure makes for a nice hangover in the morning. He walked out holding a tall glass and a shot.

    “Here you go,” he said as he slid them across the bar. “Going upstairs?” Astrid nodded as she took the glasses and walked to the dark staircase in the far corner of the bar. Hungry eyes followed her as she made her way up the stairs.

    She didn’t know what exactly she was looking for when she came here, the same room she always ended up in, every time she made her journey to this particular bar. Maybe she felt this room was just as dark and dirty as she felt her soul was. It felt un-whole… something was missing… She didn’t want to fall into the trap of drug abuse again. That road was bumpy and difficult to navigate, and left her nothing but an empty shell, almost lifeless. She wasn’t going to make that mistake again. She knew alcohol didn’t help her either. It didn’t help her, but it helped her to forget for a short time. Her mistakes, her past… Her mahogany hair fell around her face as she bent her head and closed her eyes, letting the alcohol do its job. She could no longer search within herself the answer to her many questions, for she’d already done that several times, with no resolution. There seemed to be no answer, no end to her internal torment and agony she endured for several years.

    She looked on the end table to her right: upon it’s flat, dusty top sat a screwdriver, a long rusty nail, and a jagged piece of glass. Dare she do what she so longed to release her pain and suffering? Or was she destined to walk the earth a lifeless, miserable being the rest of her life? Her hand hovered inches above the jagged piece of glass.

    She dare not.