WHEN YOU NEED HEROIN, you can’t sleep, you can’t eat or drink. Your teeth shatter and goose-bumps run up your forearms, the downy hairs stand on end and you know these are your hands, your hairs, your goose bumps, but you don’t feel like it’s you.

It’s been almost a day, and hot sand burns in my bones. In my mind I reach inside the grainy marrow and scratch the lining with my nails. In my mind I have sharp nails. I never have nails in real life. I bite them to blood. But in my mind I shred the tenderness, claw out the gnawing ache, scrape the sand out clean.

I dial the number. My fingers shake. The long beeps in the phone are loud. Louder than Maddy’s screams in the other room.

“Go pick her up,” says Jack from the hallway, his jacket and hat on. “Take care of your fucking kid.”

“It’s your kid, too. I’m sick,” I say. “I need a fix.”

“You’re a mother,” he says.

He puts a purple scarf around his neck, and says, “You can’t do it, you need to get over it, you’ll get your fix when she grows up.”

He reaches his hand in the stroller, under the mattress.

“No,” I say, crawling to him on all fours.

He pulls the money from the hole in the stroller’s bottom and waves it at me. His hand looks like a lobster’s claw, swollen, blue-black with scars and bruises.

“You’re an idiot, Nelly. Next time hide it better. I’m taking it,” he says. “For your own sake. You should be ashamed of yourself, what a bad mother you are.”

I’m a good mother. I just need my fix now, and I’ll stop next week, I know it.

He slams the door. I shake, arms around my body, my t-shirt sticking to me, drenched in my cold sweat. The sand in my bones hurts.

Then, I feel them. The wings. The wings are the worst. First, the hot sand throbs under my shoulder blades. Then, it forms two buds of feathers and cartilage. Next, the buds unfurl into iron wings that cut through my flesh like serrated saws. Each tooth is bent to a precise angle. Each tooth rips me inside out.

Pain has a sound: A schizophrenic string orchestra. A cat tortured in the basement of my mind. Snow squeaking under Jack’s boots. Maddy screaming in her crib. I follow the sound to her room. I shiver so badly that I almost drop her.

“Mommy’s here,” I say. “Don’t cry, baby.”

I peel off her soiled diaper, her soggy pajamas. The wings grow. I grab Maddy in her brown blanket and push her in the car seat and drive ten blocks to Mom’s house.

Green and red lights blink above Mom’s old door: MERRY CHRISTMAS. MERRY CHRISTMAS. MERRY— Every crinkle in the mustard paint is painful, familiar.

Mom’s in the garage, in front of the open car trunk. I see carnations in the darkness of the trunk like crumpled paper. More pale carnations in her arms. It hurts to look.

“I’m out of here, I’m off to church,” says Mom, her eyes wide open like a child’s eyes. “I promised, I said I’d be there. You know you should call first. I called you and your voicemail box’s full—“

Heroin Wings continues...
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About Zarina Zabrisky

Zarina Zabrisky started to write at six and until now she burnt everything she wrote, including her first novel about trafficking drugs from Ukraine to Russia and her last novel about moonlighting as a dominatrix in Oakland. She wrote and burned short stories traveling around the world as a street artist, fur...read more coat model, translator, kickboxing instructor, and a hot dogs brand ambassador. When not busy writing, Zarina likes to set the world on fire.
  3 months ago
Powerful. Well done.
  15 months ago
Heartbreaking. You do an amazing job of pulling the reader into the 'crawling hunger' as Nancy says.
  25 months ago
I read this story a day ago and, as an alcoholic and addict, my mind keeps returning to it. I can almost feel the crawling hunger of the narrator, but also can also sympathize with her desire to be a good mother, and feel her shame and guilt. This is very powerful work.
  25 months ago
This story, the narrator's voice, invaded my head. I can't quit thinking about it. Everything about it propels the story, facilitates the story. Impressive.
  25 months ago
I'm blown away. Great story.

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