The stroke of midnight and millions of Angelinos rejoiced. New beginnings would replace old failures. The Van Man stepped out into the alleyway behind some bar he was at and leaned against the back wall. Where the hell am I?, he thought and yearned for a cigarette. He drunkenly peered around and figured he was still in The Valley. Van Man spotted a dumpster in an unlit section of the alley. He hugged the building wall and shuffled to it, leaned over and vomited.
The puke spewed from his shivering lips. Van Man looked around with watered eyes. No one saw. He leaned over again and the sickening mix of tequila, bourbon and ginger beer rocketed out of his mouth. It splattered on the filthy ground, mixing with used syringes and crushed Miller High Life cans. Yeah, he was definitely still in The Valley. Must be Van Nuys, he thought.
"Want some?", asked a grizzled voice from the alley darkness. Van Man looked deep into the unlit alleyway, straining his eyes. There was nothing. He glanced down at the vomit soufflé. He knew he could stand one more puke to get right with the night. But it did not come and he was grateful. "Want some?", again asked the grizzled voice. "Who's there?", replied Van Man as he stepped towards the darkness.
The Valley temperature hung at thirty-five, but sweat trickled down his brow. Van Man was sick. He stepped closer into the darkened alley and thought he heard heavy breathing. "Hello?", asked Van Man. A few more steps in. Then he swore he could hear comforting laughter. Van Man was frightened, but could not stop staring into the vast blackness. He did not want to be a part of whatever was in it and turned to leave. Then two hands grabbed his ankles and yanked his feet out from underneath him. His face slammed into the concrete and shards of broken glass. Van Man's face bled from the gashes and he tried to pull away. But the hands held their firm grip. He looked behind him, into the alley's black hole where the hands came. Van Man stared at the hideous image, frozen in fear. He snapped out of the terrified trance and reached ahead of him for something, anything to grab hold of. Van Man tried to scream, but only more vomit came out. Then the hands yanked hard and Van Man was sucked into the darkness.
Later that morning, a coffee barista arrived for work, as the cafe was located next door to the bar. She parked her small, white economy car in the back alley parking lot, like she usually did. The Barista fumbled for the cafe keys and noticed something in the corner of her eye. And that was when she found the dead body of Van Man. It was on the ground, leaned against the building. He was shirtless and there was a syringe sticking out of a main vein in his arm. A belt was wrapped around the same appendage, just above the elbow. Dozens of bite marks stretched across his torso and neck. She looked at his face and screamed.
The ones in charge said it was an accidental overdose. But The Barista knew better. That was no accident. And for the remainder of her life, she would wake up in the middle of the night, screaming. Nightmares brought on by the image of The Van Man. The needle. The bite marks. And the gruesome, distorted smile on his face.