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A back alley in a big city, empty but for wind-blown heaps of trash, food papers and dinted cans. In the shadow of a doorway, a pale figure in a tattered coat.

The head is scabbed and flaking as if with psoriasis. A boy is before him, on his knees, probably no more than sixteen. The jacket he wears was once blue. Nights spent sleeping rough in other doorways have grimed it like a garage floor. The figure rocks the boy back and forth.

The boy, limp, offers no resistance. His name is not important. None of his friends knew what his parents had called him anyway. This is an anonymous place; only the hot meat of the body matters, not the name. On the streets, everything feeds off everything else. You do what you have to, to survive.

Strong fingers dig into the boy's neck in rhythmic spasms of pleasure. There is almost no noise, only a soft moan rising and falling with the wind. There is the sound of suction, a grunt of satisfaction. Dribbling and dripping follow, fluid pattering on old newspaper.

Move nearer and a stew of stinks is strong in the air: rot and urine, vomit and cheap vodka, the smell of humanity gone to waste.

Where the figure stands, the air is rich and rank with the smell of a butcher's shop window on a hot day. Then you notice the decay, the sick, intimate, coughed-up lump of stink like a tooth gone rotten in the mouth. The man smells worse than food forgotten at the back of a fridge, sunk to brown liquid and pulp.

The boy is pale. His neck lolls loosely. His mouth hangs open, a thread of saliva trailing from it. Dead eyes see nothing, or something far, far away.

Scabbed paw-hands with pulsing veins grip his shoulders tightly. Claws like two-foot catheters, gray as filthy glass, have speared through the padding of his jacket and into his body cavities. A red bubbling flow races through them, sucked up by the groaning thing. It rocks back and forth, back and forth in its pleasure.

The dead boy's face becomes concave under the suction. The eyes retreat into the skull. The lips draw back from the teeth in an involuntary grimace. He shrinks and crumples like a deflating rubber toy with bones in. The thing shakes him harder, trying to loosen more fluids from deeper within. Its sucks harder and faster.

The boy's body convulses. There is a rattling gurgle like a child finishing a milkshake.

Slowly, reluctantly, the slick claws withdraw. The body silently gives in to gravity, collapsing backwards into the alley without any fuss. It has nothing of the human about it any more. The limp white carcass is just a thing; cold veal.

The creature's car wreck of a face is happy. It closes the teabag-colored gobs that were eyes. Most of its jaw is hanging off and the lips are burst and ragged, but it smacks them anyway, as if it remembered finishing a bowl of hot soup on a winter day.

The coat it wears is sopping with mucus and blood. But for that, it is a naked, rotten bulk of muscle, livid with wriggling veins. Hot blood vessels thread under the skin like fat cables, pulsing, bursting the surface. The little veins under its skin are livid and mobile as mealworms, itching.

Those in its arms are swollen massively like sausage balloons, gross, taut and shiny, needing only a touch to burst them. The whole creature throbs. A little blood sprays from the head, like a leak in a garden hose, where there are shallow pink trenches ploughed in the skull. The boy tried to fight.

Later, no doubt, hardened forensic investigators will turn pale when they analyze the necrotic matter under the boy's nails. The skin and flesh belongs to a body that has been dead for months.