“Don’t I rate a bad girl’s death?” – Chuck Wendig, Mockingbird

It’s cold, but at least the wind is dry.  Better than the wet nights, at least.  The wind cuts and moans, but it doesn’t suck the heat out of you as bad as sleet does.  It’s an unthinking mercy from nature.

Doorways are good.  They cut the wind down on three sides, and if they’re deep enough, all that’s left is a little skirl of breeze that doesn’t have the strength to bite by the time it gets to you.  Doorways are a place that’s almost inside, but usually not inside enough that anybody will bother to throw you out, if you’re careful about the doorway you pick.

Almost inside.  If you’re lucky, there will be glass all the way down the door, and you can push up against it and get a little trickle of heat out from the world that is really inside.  Inside seems like a foreign country now; one that requires passports and documents in languages you don’t understand, on paper you’ve never seen.  “Inside” is like “safe” – both of them are words that have a meaning, just not one that applies to you.  Option E, none of the above, because it just flat doesn’t exist for people like you are now.

Have to be careful which doorway you pick, though.  Nobody wants you messing up their porch, maybe doing something they wouldn’t approve of near their warm, safe insideness.  Getting chased off means losing heat, losing energy, losing a little more of things you don’t know if you’ll be able to replace.  Sometimes it means worse things.  Words like knives, blows that burn up more energy, more heat, more life.  Bleeding you out by making you expose yourself to air that hasn’t already been warmed by your body or by the door.

Tiredness is a poison and a warning.  It’s meant to make you seek shelter, seek food, so that the body can replenish itself.  Being tired and cold is supposed to tell you to warm up and get rest and fuel.  After a certain point, all it tells you is that you’ve failed again.  Failed to get inside.  Failed to get food.  Failed and failed and failed at looking enough like a good girl to make it through the door.

Some nights the failure is a frustration, an irritation, an inconvenience.  But if the failure goes on long enough, it gets dangerous.  Failure begets failure; if you can’t eat, can’t get warm, you look like a bad girl.  Too skinny, too ragged, too wild.  Then it gets easier and easier to fail, and you get closer and closer to failing forever.

It’s your own fault, you know.  If you’d just been a good girl, you wouldn’t have to curl up in doorways, scrounging heat and hoping to steal enough to get by.  Enough what?  Enough anything.  Anything that can be food or can be traded for it.  Food and warmth become your only goals, if the failure goes on long enough.  Anything that will stop the feeling of bleeding out through your skin.  Anything that will stop the gnawing inside, keep you from thinking even for a moment about how close you are to running out of energy completely.

If you’d just been able to figure out how to be a good girl, you wouldn’t have to go through any of this.  But you weren’t smart enough, weren’t fast enough, weren’t good enough even to pretend to be good.  Now you never will be.  Maybe next time you’ll remember to listen, to be obedient, to be pleasing.  Except for you, there is no next time.

There’s only the doorway, and a bad girl’s death.  Drawn up, curled up, hoarding your energy and trying to steal more, right until the very end.

Only bad girls steal.  That’s why you’re caught, almost inside and never safe.

It’s a bad girl’s death, and it’s all yours.

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