A distraught husband scours the city for his missing wife, a search that leads him ever deeper into the dark underbelly of the metropolis he calls home. But he is wholly unprepared for just where -- and to whom -- his Orphic journey leads....


The subway train was rank with the odour of urine and vomit, but James Donovan barely noticed the assault on his nostrils. Even the violent judder of the carriage as it sped beneath the sleeping city failed to make any impression. He was simply too tired to notice after almost a month spent delving into the underbelly of the metropolis he called home.
          A month of trawling the city's entrails, where all of its waste and detritus gathered and festered. The pimps and whores; the crack dealers and human traffickers. Donovan had encountered them all in his search for Robyn. After a while his initial revulsion had worn off. Maybe it was just sheer bone-weariness, or maybe it was something more: the sickness of the world he had needfully immersed himself in having eaten away his sense of moral outrage like a cancer.
          Resisting the overwhelming desire to lean his head back on the filthy window and close his eyes, Donovan took a deep breath of the rancid air and blinked hard several times. A few seats away, a couple in bizarre Gothic dress were blithely making out by the sputtering light of a failing fluorescent tube, whilst almost directly opposite, a user was shooting up in full view. Donovan stared mutely as he drove the dirty syringe deep into an arm already riddled with infected needle holes and bruises. As he fed the heroin into his vein, Donovan noticed the ragged poster above the junkie's head which declared in faded red lettering: 'God Loves You.' Beneath it, scrawled in spidery black spray paint was the rejoinder: 'Whatever, Jesus freak!'
          His eyes left the user, continued to wander, and froze on the hooker standing in the littered gangway, clutching a grubby chrome pole as she swayed like some washed-up Salome to the movement of the train, watching him. The provocative dress, the body language, the pout -- all were a blatant come-on. But the large grey eyes said anything but come to bed. No amount of cheap mascara and eyeliner could mask the emptiness he found there. The dereliction. The body she leased out for an hour or two in some seedy hotel room was all she had left. She must surely have heard about the recent spate of disappearances, realised that she could be next. But why should she care? Of what concern was fate to those who were already dead?
          Their shared understanding expired as the hooker showed him the finger, mouthed 'Fuck you!', and turned her back to him.
          Donovan sighed and dropped his gaze to a nest of imploded Budweiser cans rattling at his feet, but focused instead on the images in his recurring dream like some kind of mental security blanket. Of Robyn wearing the halterneck top and hipsters that showed off her sexy navel piercing, laughing at the huge coffee stain flowering on his favourite white shirt after that clumsy Starbucks episode. Looking so drop-dead gorgeous in the late afternoon sunshine, which seemed to lend a lambency to her vibrant russet hair fashioned in the latest Eva Longoria style. His sour mood could not exist beside her infectious ebullience. As she instinctively reached for his hand, he found himself thinking how goddammed lucky he was. To hell with his pride when he had the most beautiful girl in the world.
          But just when he had been deceived into believing that life was once again perfect, he would awaken with Robyn's name on his lips, as the empty space in the unkempt bed wordlessly mocked his delusion....
          Donovan's insides heaved as the first real reaction he had felt in weeks hit him in the gut like a blow from a heavyweight. When Robyn had needed him most, he'd just kept on cooking that damned lasagne! If only he'd gone to collect her after the routine insurance medical....
          The whine of the subway train as it slowed to a stop drew Donovan back to the present. He reluctantly released his hold on Robyn's image as he waited for the other passengers to disembark. Then he, too, got up, and left.

The End

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