…a pink haze shrouds a nondescript, dystopian town that is so deadly quiet you can hear a single needle drop—and then it does with a piercing, metallic ring. Landing on an immaculately polished marble floor, a blood-soaked, sterling silver syringe breaks the eerie silence. Not that it makes a bit of difference to the kid, who drifts into a drug-induced stupor from the custom-brewed cocktail of cocaine, heroin and morphine that he just injected between his toes. Even the sharp pain from his head bouncing off the gold-inlaid toilet like a basketball has no effect, until the gruesome morning light, when he awakes to find a throbbing purple knot protruding from his ear.

…the distinctive crinkling noise of plastic wrappers being ripped apart breaks the silence as a gargantuan girl ferociously devours a dozen boxes of Twinkies. Sitting up on her bed in a pitch-black room, her face smeared with cream, she fantasizes about a career as an official quality control manager for Hostess, and dreams of a mansion constructed of butterscotch ice cream filled with caramel clusters, fudge chunks and marshmallow swirls.

…a short man with a thick, black mustache hunches over a dimly lit kitchen table as he lights a cigarette. Laid out in front of him is a mess of scribbled notes, building photos and a hand-drawn floor plan. Like a coach mapping out details of his game plan, he draws a dashed line down the street marking a large “X” in the center of the local post office. A gaunt, full-bearded man stumbles into the room, half-awake, opens the refrigerator and guzzles down a bottle of goat’s milk, while chomping on a moldy slice of bacon cheesy pizza.

…a muffled female scream floats through the stale, smog-filled air like an alley cat in heat. Panties ripped open and sweating, she covers her mouth so she won’t wake her mother. An insatiable urge has kept the girl awake all night. Eyes now closed, she dreams that he is inside her, and their bodies are locked in an Olympic love fest. If only her fingers were longer.

…the uber athlete desperately claps his hands over his ears to blunt the thumping sound of a head in the next room hitting the wall over and over again. He must endure the sound of a team of jackhammers working overtime every single night. The enraged young man buries his head in three layers of pillows trying to make the sound go away. But it doesn’t—and never will.

It’s 3 AM and the needle drops on an old vinyl copy of Woody Guthrie’s Dust Bowl Ballads. TS Reely High’s most troubled senior is committing every syllable of each lyric to memory like he’s reciting a verse in bible class. “What would Woody do today?” he muses. “Would he join an unruly gang of misfits? Would Woody lead the Sprawl Lords?”