Thriller

Only When Alone

Ambitious lady looking up in city (ai)

EPISODE 1 – DISMAL CITY LIFE

In the all-consuming heartless city, Mindy faces unfavorable compromises while struggling to maintain the most basic accommodations.

⚠️ This episode describes female services in a depraved environment. Continue with discretion.

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Alone and Broke

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Living alone since she was 18 years old, Mindy has grown up in the big city. She scrapes by with multiple hospitality jobs to pay rent on a studio kitchen apartment. It’s so small that she cooks and sleeps in the same room. At a minimum, she works 12 hours a day, with a maximum of 16, rushing from one job to the next.

This relentless hustle leaves her with no time for leisure nor the company of friends. Engulfed by dismal city life at the poverty level, she feels isolated and trapped within its concrete and steel confines.

It took Mindy months to save up for a bicycle that was stolen within a week. After pining away for five years, she has no car, no social life, and barely any savings in her account. The paltry sum wouldn’t last her more than two weeks. Her dreams of obtaining a college degree, buying a home, or starting a family feel like distant fantasies. She’s merely surviving in the relentless rat race of urban life that exacerbates her bouts with a clinical anxiety disorder.

Alone Without Time

With no compassion, her heartless landlord decides to raise the rent by a staggering twenty percent, obliterating her already meager food budget. Justification comes in the form of maintenance-cost inflation. But the burden falls squarely on the tenants, forcing them to face exorbitant housing inflation. Mindy finds herself at a crossroads, confronted with tough choices and limited options.

Desperate to secure some stability, she considers two undesirable paths. One option involves pooling her apartment security deposit with her meager savings. With that, she can make a down payment on a dilapidated car with a backseat large enough to serve as her makeshift home.

The other option is to abandon her evening job and venture into the realm of gentleman’s club entertainment. Neither choice is ideal, but Mindy wants to avoid the harsh reality of sleeping on sidewalks.

With the rent increase looming only 30 days away, Mindy must make a decisive move. Amid heightened anxiety, she schedules an interview at Frank’s Place. It’s the gentleman’s club she passes each evening after finishing her night shift. Mindy never imagined she would entertain the idea of objectification for money. The desperation for survival propels her into a whole new world beyond the club’s doors.

Here, the pulsating music casts a seductive spell on men leering at scantily clad women. In the back, Frank’s office awaits, garishly adorned with centerfolds and ochre wallpaper that seems to whisper secrets. He feigns a smile through his remaining dark teeth. While reeking of whisky and cheap cologne he presidentially sits behind a wooden thrift-store desk.

Alone and Interviewing

Mindy hands Frank a résumé lacking relevant experience, which incidentally slides into the wastebasket. In exchange, he hands her a skimpy outfit, directing her toward the lady’s room. She finds an empty stall among others occupied by people engaging in intimate encounters or recovering from hangovers. Mindy folds some toilet paper to wedge in the door jam, keeping the door from swinging open.

This is an unsettling glimpse into the darker underbelly of the borderline-illegal establishment. After disrobing, she holds the entire costume in the palm of her hand as a woman taps on the stall door.

Mindy shouts, “Occupied,” but the visitor pushes through the makeshift security.

“Looks like you could use a little assistance,” the stranger offers.

Mindy wants to run out, but she’s standing in the buff, wondering if this is Frank’s test. So she accepts help from the emaciated figure wearing tight blue jeans within the cramped stall.

“Which of these two pieces is the top?”

The female stranger proceeds to respond while fastening the upper part onto Mindy with what feels like excessive contact, “Ain’t you ever worn a thong?”

“Oh, this is a little snug,” Mindy expresses discomfort while twisting to see how revealing the outfit is. “I mean, I’m not, really used to—.”

“Stop right there. If you ain’t willing to show whatever you got, you ain’t got no business up in here.”

“You’re right. This is why I’m here.” After tugging the crotch for a slightly better fit and pushing her top to accentuate her cleavage, Mindy asks, “How do I look?”

The volunteer wardrobe assistant whistles and replies, “Turn all the way around. That’s it. Umph, girl! It’s looking good, but you forgot the fishnets so I get to watch you start over. And get them high heels on, Sweetie. If I didn’t need a few dollars for my expertise, you coulda charged me for this private show.”

With very little cash, Mindy thanks the strange fashion assistant who makes impertinent contact within the cramped space, giving her all she has.

In a somber moment of reflection, Mindy wonders if this might be her future, so she asks, “Are all the girls in these bathroom stalls like… you?”

“You probably think I ain’t nothin’. I can coach you to be a star. Before I started Jonesing, I was the best dancer up in here.”

“Thanks for the offer,” Mindy replies. “I know where to find you.”

Mindy mists herself with perfume to mask the bathroom malodor. Upon her return in the ill-fitting attire, Frank presses a button, and a cascade of flashing lights synchronize with music. “Do your thing,” are words barely audible over the surreal cacophony. Despite her physical exhaustion, Mindy dances with the realization that her very existence depends on it. Frank interrupts the spectacle by pressing the button again, abruptly silencing the music to ask, “Is this what you wanna do eight hours a day?"

Deep down, Mindy knows she should decline, but she’s come this far, and the allure of financial relief from her trouble beckons. She gathers enough courage to inquire about the wages. Frank promises her a base pay equal to the combined salary of both her current jobs, adding, “There’s potential to earn a minimum of fifty percent more, depending on your willingness to be friendly with the patrons.”

She tries to ignore the friendly reference. Instead, she contemplates the possibility of quitting both of her current jobs and immersing herself in this new career. It might even be possible to keep one and moonlight as a dancer. By working one and a half shifts, the salary would cover the higher rent and then some. With the extra money, she can save up for school or a car, and possibly enjoy longer rest periods.

But refocusing on the skimpy outfit she’s wearing in this dank sordid office reveals the apparent compromise of her self-worth that gives her pause. Mindy tells Frank that she needs time to think it over.

“Can I let you know in a few days?” she asks, her voice trembling with uncertainty.

Frank’s response is anything but reassuring, further diminishing her already fragile self-esteem. “Look, Sweetie, there are a limited number of time slots available. Most girls want as many shifts as they can get. I’m offering you this chance because we have an open slot, and you’ve got a decent body. But your American Bandstand moves reveal a lack of experience.”

His words hit Mindy hard, causing her to question her self-worth. By lowering her standards, she believes that accepting this job is doing Frank a favor. However, deep down, she knows that this might be the only thing preventing her from ending up on the unforgiving streets.

After swallowing her pride, she musters the courage to tell Frank. “I’m ninety percent certain I want this job, but I need to give notice to my other employers and look for a more affordable apartment.”

Frank offers her an alternative, mentioning that the establishment provides a place for the girls to stay rent-free. However, he hints that it often comes with unwelcome company, insinuating the presence of male companionship during the nights—perhaps even with him.

Mindy coaxed herself into this interview by focusing on a lucrative opportunity to dance. Now she’s choking back acid reflux while imagining herself waking up next to foul-smelling Frank. She declines the residence offer, requesting a few more days to make a final decision about dancing for dollars.

“Um, can I keep the outfit until I return?”

With a lecherous grin obscured by a cloud of cigar smoke, he replies, “You can buy it for a hundred bucks. Otherwise, go back to the ladies’ room, or change in the corner of my office while I look the other way.” It’s obvious that there’s no expectation of privacy while working here. Reluctantly, she chooses to change in the office corner, under the purview of Frank’s peering eyes. Yet, she isn’t prepared for what happens next.

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Return twice weekly for miniseries. Any relation to actual persons or events is coincidental. Login provides the most immersive experience. About 6200 total words. Audio may include sound effects that alter reading time. Story includes one or more generative AI images to help readers visualize scenes.

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