Who is it that takes care of the forgotten?
Throughout the world there are populations of forgotten people. They are cast-offs, often seen but usually ignored, and they thrive together on the periphery of society. They live according to their own dangerous rules and code of conduct. If not for one member of this group of Portland’s homeless, they would likely meet the most horrible of ends. Take a journey to a place you will never forget in “City Song” by Edward Morris and Trent Zelazny, featured in DREAD: A Head Full of Bad Dreams.
Prepare yourself for “City Song” by Edward Morris & Trent Zelazny
Day and night, Portland screamed and dripped and bitched and moved along around them. The traffic was their music, and their music was their silence. Most of the time anyway.
Sometimes, the music was different. Older. Sometimes it was the kind people passed down. The kind you saved for a rainy day. It rained a lot in Portland. But Dewey remembered a lot of songs.
Pensively whistling “Baby, I Need Your Loving,” Dewey presently whickered and flashed around with the rusty pair of fabric scissors, slowly trimming Ralph’s hair like some kind of hedge.
Glenda sat close to both of them, as she usually did, watching the exchange as she field-stripped cigarette butts holding anything more than a centimeter of tobacco, flicking the tiny brown second-hand organic turds into a cut-down can that once held some energy drink or another. Those kind weren’t coded for recycling. Oregon law. In their camp, those cans had become street Tupperware. Her harridan fingernails lovingly hulled the sniped-out cigarettes like peas, even thoughtfully flicking the papers into an old coffee can that was a third full of compost. In their camp, nothing went to waste. Not even air—okay, air did a lot of the time. But not for long.
“Hot as the hinges of Hell,” Dewey observed, breaking the tune and setting his scissors down. “Wait just one second.”
Ralph grunted assent, clearly not happy about sitting still.
Dewey removed his ratty, black pocket t-shirt and tossed it to the ground, then resumed cutting Ralph’s hair.
“Is Jessica still sleeping?” he asked, suddenly more cautious than his usual sleepy demeanor projected. Everyone present saw him tense up like a pit bull, and they knew why.
”Out like a light,” Glenda told him back right away. She always wanted to make the peace, and keep it. She had the scars to illustrate that particular need.
By the telepathy of street-camp life, natural as pigeons, everyone looked at Jessica’s house at the same time. They were lucky to have carved out this much real estate under the Burnside Bridge. Campsites were becoming less and less available, following the Sit-Lie Ordinance and the rest of the local bullshit that went out with the bathwater when the Cascadian Secession took its legendary flaming shit and Portland went under martial law—like the rest of Oregon, Washington, California and Alaska. Nowadays, even space in the filthy loam and black mold under this bridge was at a premium.
Most of the gangbangers—the Bantu, Cholo and Snakehead sets, anyway—lived like ratty kings down in the old skatepark, or whatever office building they’d most recently blown to pieces over protection money. And regular people had to fight over scraps of third-hand land. Anybody who lived outside did, anyway. Since martial law came down, that was about one person in four.
But nobody fought about Jessica. They let her have her own house, big enough for a grown man to toss and turn in when he slept. Part of said house was hanging out into the river, but Ralph had made a makeshift float rig from a pallet and some old-time plastic bottles he had found. That seemed to have worked.
Jessica was special. Nobody fought about that, either. Glenda once privately wondered if Jessica could help them build some new digs somewhere, in a different campsite, but she shut up about that fast. She was the first to admit, when pressed, that Jessica was the sun in their sky, and they’d all be toast without everything she did for them.
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More About DREAD
DREAD is a unique volume of dark fiction containing stories chosen solely by fans and featuring an array of award-winning authors and masters from the horror, science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction genres.
DREAD contains nightmares from some of the most accomplished authors writing in genre fiction today, including New York Times bestselling author and multiple Bram Stoker Award® winner Jonathan Maberry; Grand Master of Horror Award winner Ray Garton; Stoker award recipients John Everson and JG Faherty, and nominees Michael Laimo and John F.D. Taff; Shirley Jackson Award nominee Tim Waggoner; Pushcart and Rhysling awards nominee Edward Morris; Nightmare Award winner Trent Zelazny; and leading fiction authors Bracken MacLeod, William Meikle, John C. Foster, T. Fox Dunham, Rose Blackthorn, Chad McKee, Martin Rose, Jane Brooks, Peter Whitley, J. Daniel Stone and Jonathan Balog.