Eyes [excerpt] – Ryan Kelley

7. Real Enough

It’s been a while since anyone’s sold to the Block. Once inside a Pusher can tell just how much fun any trip will be. No matter how strong his drug, how blissful the effects, the Mold that’s grown will drag any user down. Sometimes things are too messed for drugs to matter. The Mold has taken them all past that dark event horizon.

Eventually the Pusher can’t live with himself. How could he? Selling drugs in the Block is selling flatline awful trips. Gaisha doesn’t like that and his morals are the only ones that stand. To sell drugs in the Block you’d have to have blown a death wish.

But there’s a Pusher here now and he’s having mold mainlined into his system. His irises are darker. The veins in his eyes are less dead tree branch, thicker now like forest brush. His eyes are starting to film over. His pupils are slowing down. Soon they’ll give up on following the fireflies, and will just rest, the mold working him so he isn’t bored always seeing the same thing. Nothing will excite him. Everything will sadden him.

She moves to him now. She kneels by him, her kneecaps slipping under her cutoffs and pressing into the warm floor. The moisture from it dews her skin.

She cradles his head with soft arms. She angles it so it’s in the best position for talking to her. “Where’s your stash?” she says. Hoping she still sounds like a mother.

“Jean pockets,” he says. The groin area. Of course. His id must be dying for it.

Doesn’t matter. If she lets him slip into mold hell she’ll never forgive herself.

She digs in his pocket, feels his skin, clammy through the thin denim. Slips past the bulge and finds another. Explores it. It feels like a box, small and thin. She pulls it free as he grunts. As she pulls away he belches a small cloud of spores.

It’s a wooden box, whorling with dark oak patterns. It looks like it has a sliding cover. She presses her finger on the centre whorl and pushes it out. There are six pills Inside the box, nestled against the far end. Each pill has two colours, black and white, split in the middle into perfect halves.

She pushes one into Trucker Cap’s mouth, trying to avoid touching his lips with her fingers. She fails, grazes for a long centimetre. He gurgles. She moves to her corner basin. Sees the reflection in it from the fireflies, the constellations more beautiful in the dark water.

She cups her hands and scoops the water out. Fireflies loop around her arms, trilling in warmth. She tries to keep as much of it as possible in her palms, though of course some slips through her fingers, splashes on the gray of the floor.

Then she kicks him in the groin. Tries to hold herself back but maybe she didn’t hold enough. He opens his mouth, eyes shot.

She pours the water in. She wants to flow the pill down his system, knows it needs help. He sits up sudden, gurgling, coughing. Looks at her. Focuses on her for the first time since they were outside the Block.

“Take one too,” he says. He flops back. Slumps against her bed, back curved up to it, legs still flat on the ground.

“No,” she says. “This is your trip. I can get by here sober now.”

“I’m gonna use your neuro-net,” he says. “Need you to get me past the lock.”

“What?” she says. Who does he think he is? “No”.

“Come on,” he says. Now he’s grinning. Grinning through filmed over crazy eyes. It takes her breath away, and she wants it back so she can use it to strangle him.

“Trip with me,” he says. “Or sit in this room watching my ko’ed body for hours while you try not to claw your eyes out from the vibes here.”

She glares at him.

“I just took it,” he says, “so you know it’s not lethal.”

“What does it do?” she asks. Hates herself for asking.

“It makes stories better,” he says. “They’re seme-stims. They channel your semiotic pathways.”

This is a test of who I am. Sure, things look bleak for all of them. But is taking strange drugs with a strange boy the answer? While outside her meta-children live the effects of falling to your lust?

Things look bleak for all of them.

Then she’s taking one herself from the pillbox. She’s still thinking, still choosing, even as her hand palms the pill and forces it into her mouth

It’s like she’s taking herself. Taking into herself the choices that she will always make. She gulps it down, feels it traverse her throat. Then she moves again to the basin.

On her way there a firefly hits her in the eye. Her lid comes down by instinct and the fly bonks off it. Opens her eye in time to watch it float away, slower than the others. What was I doing? Oh, yeah. She pads the rest of the way to the basin on her soft sneakers. Brushes away more fireflies, gentle so as not to offend them. Then she leans into it. Her nose breaks the surface and the rest of her follows.

She drinks long and deep. Forgets for now that she has no way of finding more water. It’s cool, even though it’s pooled and stagnated in the dank and humid Block. She thinks about this. Firefly magic, their bodies absorbing warmth. Then she’s tripping to her mattress. The dude’s slumped back to the floor, eyes closed, breathing is steady. He was honest that he’d be knocked out.

But that doesn’t matter. If he makes moves on her, it will be in the neuro-net. The neuro-net is real enough. Like dreams. Real enough to get hurt and feel it.