It's more of a cave than a room. You can almost hear the dripping, while wooden chairs rise dramatically out of the floor like stalagmites. We're here to look for her, find her, dig her out of this. And half expecting to see her hanging like a bat from the crumbling ceiling, her arms wrapped around herself. That smile, red gums gleaming insanely to light our way in a rosy glow. But she isn't.

She's in the corner, hair matted over half her face. There's another eye in there somewhere, if we looked. In her little corner, more a rat than anything else, and hunkering away from us. We shine torches in her face, a little sadistically. Because we can't punish her, but we'll at least be cruel about saving her.

There are pock marks... everywhere. The silly thing, only wearing lingerie in the middle of winter. And not enough money for heating either. We spot holes on the insides of her thighs, her neck, her breasts. One day the veins just collapsed and she had to start looking for muscles. Trying to pick her up is hard, she's just skin and bones but still lead heavy. And staring at us, perversely enjoying our discomfort as her snapped nerves force her to twitch against our bare flesh.

"I've got you... under my skin..." she sings throatily, like a roughed up Marilyn Monroe. It's a wonder, with her lungs infected and the toxins in her voice box. But she sings like a pretty, broken little crow. Sings in our arms. On her own arms, bruises and lesions. Bedsores, bright and bleeding. Tracking marks, deep and visible enough for a child's railway set to twist along.

She's heroin chic in a poppy seed, and we love her to the bones. Her upper teeth are nearly all gone now, worn away into little half moons that glimmer dimly. Her lips are pale and dry, coated with milk and dried spittle, but still soft. There are dull spaces where her fingernails used to be, red in a crude imitation of the nail polish I know she still hordes.

When we drag her out, the neighbours mutter, and she moans at the sun. In the light, she makes me less nervous. The scars of her dirty paradise are not so inane, they don't watch me as I walk across the room. She's gone, almost, but in a moment of lucidity mutters thickly, "it's so, so good. Don't even try it once." Semi-conscious, but still wily enough to probe me, dare me, double dare me with a needle on top.