Copyright © 2017 by John Wiber
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Tiffany is here again, for the third time already today. Undoubtedly, she’d be back at least once more before the day was done. Typical X-----head; too spaced out to realize that buying the X----- in bulk would save her a shit ton of money, not to mention time and risk. Although, I guess she probably didn’t give a shit about time anymore. Maybe it was a coping mechanism for drug addicts. I’ll only buy a bit , they tell themselves, knowing full well they’ll be back for more later. The penalty for dealing X----- was life in the camps.
And I currently have just under one thousand tabs stored beneath this very couch.
I always made sure to keep under a thousand. You could get the death penalty for having over a thousand X----- tabs.
“Thanks for the hook-up, as always,” Tiffany says, laughing in that awkward way an X-----head does when they’re not high. Her eye-patch was hardly shocking to me anymore. What’s shocking is the fact that Tiff still liked to place the X----- tabs on her good eye. I watch her do it in front of me, using two full tabs at once. A clear tear falls from the corner of her eye, leaving a long dripping stain down her pale cheek. She has the sucked-in cheeks of a fish, and her skin is covered in blemishes and pimples. Basic hygiene ceased to be a priority after X-----, which was one of the main reasons I will never touch the stuff. I enjoyed my skin and sanity far too much.
“Any plans for tonight?” I ask, just trying to make conversation.
“Well, I was gonna go see that Space Cannibal movie, but after what happened the other night…”
I look down at the hardwood floor and try to concentrate on the rigid patterns of the wooden panels.
“I’m sorry for bringing it up,” she says quickly, “I forgot.”
“Tyler was a good guy.”
“Yeah,” I shrug. “He was a cool dude.”
Tiffany gives me the forty dollars, and promises she’ll have the missing ten for me next time. I tell her not to worry about it and she leaves. She was always short, which was okay because she always came back.
Tyler was a good guy.
It was still strange hearing Tyler’s name followed by that word.
He was an X——-head, not a good guy.
I’d known Tyler since we were kids, since before the Privacy Riots, even. Back when X----- didn’t exist and police couldn’t listen to your conversations through a microchip implanted in your neck. Oh, how the times had changed. Tyler’s aunt had been the one who introduced him to Carlos, funny enough.
But Shirley was gone now, and so was Tyler. Such a fucking waste. Tyler had been an advanced student when they were kids. Students were designated at age fourteen into one of four groups: administrative, security, technology, or general. Administrative was government or businesses, security was obviously the SSF, technology was the toughest to get into since there was the most competition, and the largest group by far; general. If you were designated general, you were better of selling drugs or joining the People’s Army, and that was just the cold hard truth. Which is why I started dealing. But Tyler had been selected for administrative. He could have been in Sector A by now.
I turn on the TV to take my mind away. Another BREAKING NEWS banner flashes across the screen:
…this just in, a piece of breaking news for you now, we are confirming reports that Sector B remains on high alert after yet another terrorist attack in Sector C last night. Sources say the People’s Army are mounting an all out assault on Sector A as the tensions remain very high surrounding the recent disappearance of the President, who is presumed to be stationed in the SSF bunkers below Sector A. For what reason the President is in hiding, we are currently unaware, but some speculate an imminent threat may be close at hand. All of this just months away from the Presidential Election…
Election? I scoff. There hasn’t been a real election in two decades. Shaking my head, I light up a cigarette. Sure, there were two parties to choose from, but both were owned and operated by the WIC. It didn’t matter who was in power, so long as the money flowed from the same place. Not to mention the SSF was also behind the scenes pulling the various strings connected to these politicians’ arms. They really were nothing more than puppets. A stage show for the public. Distraction. The elected Executives were interchangeable. They had no real power. I couldn’t tell if it was our President of twenty years whom controlled the SSF, or if they controlled him, but either way; those were clearly the only offices that mattered.
Almost on cue, a loud banging on my door, which makes me jump and speeds my heart to an uncomfortable rate.
I really need to lay off the blow.
“Who is it?” I call out, rising from my black La-Z-Boy leather chair.
“It’s Turbo! Come on, lemme in man!”
“Okay, okay, hold on a second.”
I undo the chain lock and pull back the bolt on my stainless steel Ultra-Lock, a solid block of steal that gets installed behind your doorknob.
“Man, oh, man,” Turbo comes bursting into my apartment. I always have to remind him to take off his damn shoes.
“My bad, man – I’m just wound up right now, big time.”
“Yeah, I need a fix bad. Either that or a shotgun.”
“What would you do with a shotgun?” I inquire.
“I’d blow my fucking head off!”
Turbo laughs uneasily and I decide that his arrival warrants a nice, fat line. I’m sure I’ll need it to help endure the oncoming rant from Turbo about how the world has gone and fucked him over again. Freaking drug addicts. Always so quick to blame the world for their goddamn problems. It’s the government’s fault, or it’s their parents’ fault, or fucking global warming, but it is NEVER the drug’s fault.
“Any chance you got that X----- in powder? I’m not really looking for tabs right now...”
“Yeah, I got what you need.”
The effects of X----- were similar to LSD. It was made in laboratories and had a chemical base like no other. X----- was in no way natural. It was a completely artificial substance, manufactured with the sole purpose of making the user feel good. Really good. It was dopaminergic, binding to our serotonin receptors. But X----- did something that no other drug has been able to do before. X----- is able to reproduce our serotonin artificially, which leads to the dramatic increase in intensity and duration of the trip, and of course the ultimate wave of depression and anxiety that comes on after the drug has left the body. This is what forces X-----heads to keep using, day after day, week after week, month after month. It was the only way to escape that dreaded X----- hangover, which could last up to a whole month. It was said that one out of ten people who go through the hangover end up killing themselves.
The drug itself was essentially Ecstasy combined with Mescaline, plus one new ingredient. Pharmaceutical company Trivix,, a conglomerate of the WIC, and the world’s sole provider of all pharmaceuticals. They released a cold medication that contained this new form of pseudoephedrine. It was engineered to prevent alteration, thus making it extremely difficult to produce meth with. However, some enlightened minds were able to concoct a new formula from the cold mediation, and thus X----- was born.
“Did ya hear they picked up Ronny last night?” Turbo says, his bottom jaw twitching around like a loose board.
“Shit, eh? Was he carrying?”
“Big time, over a thousand, so I hear.”
“Tough one,” I say, grimacing at the thought.
“Pretty soon you’ll be the last business in town!” Turbo says with a burst of enthusiasm.
“More likely they’ll have me locked up…”
Turbo sighs and tells me how much he wants. I weigh out the powder for him and wonder if he’s going to snort it or inject it. Not that I really cared. People were free to make their own decisions. Look at me, I sit around all day with bags of the stuff, and I’m no X——-head. Not by a long shot. A person who can’t control their own actions will eventually be used by someone who can, so why squabble such a grand opportunity? It was probably time to quit, though. What with the crackdown and all. Every day there was someone else getting picked up.
“Any chance I can grab a water off you?”
“Sure man, I’ve got some in the fridge.”
Turbo rushes over to the kitchen and snags himself a water bottle. X——heads were always trading their water rations away for drug money. It was a vicious cycle really, because more often than not it was a drug dealer buying the water from them, who of course in turn received their money for more drugs later. Ever since the Great Fall, water and food was rationed in the outer sectors. There were only two ways to get water now, and that was through either the WIC or the People’s Army. Without a Sub Dermal implant, you had to turn to the black markets.
“I’m telling you man, the People’s Army gets their water from the government. How else could they afford to give it away so cheap? It’s all a setup, man. They’re pulling the strings. And there are fucking strings on everything, man.”
I nod and light another cigarette, wondering how long Turbo’s rant will last this time.
“That’s the beauty of it man. They’re working together. They want us to believe that they hate each other, that one is our friend while the other is an enemy, but the truth is it’s all the same. It’s always been the same!”
I nod and pretend to be engaged, while at the back of my mind I wonder who these conspiracy theorists think ‘they’ is? It’s always ‘they’ doing the dirt, but no one has ever been able to tell me who ‘they’ are. It was all a crock of shit.
“I’m gonna get going,” Turbo says, stuffing the baggie into his sock. I watch him leave and stew in my own paranoid thoughts for a bit.
Do another line.
Light a cigarette. The smoke fills my lungs and sends a buzzing signal up my spine and into my brain. A wave of light-headedness; a moment of freedom.
My phone rings.
“I’m coming over.”
“Okay,” I say, “just -...” but he’s already hung up.
Five minutes later, a knock at my door.
Snapping back the lock, I step aside to let Carlos into my apartment. He is a high up member of the People’s Army, and he scared me. As always, he leaves his well-polished black leather shoes on as he takes up his position on my couch. He did not look like the typical X——-head coming by my apartment. With his designer pair of sunglasses, the tailored Italian shirt and pants to match. He kept a well-groomed beard and never said hello. In short, Carlos was the man.
“How you doing with your supply?” he asks, taking out a tooth-pick from a stainless steel case.
“Oh, I’m good, man. Still clocking over five hundred so…”
“Well, I got an extra thousand that I’m looking to get rid of, cheap.”
I start pacing but don’t say anything. It was important that I didn’t offend him. Carlos continues chewing on his toothpick and stares at me with an indifferent and opaque face.
“I… don’t know, man. That’d be a lot to have at one time…”
“I would consider it a personal favour,” he says, “and I’ll give you the thousand for $1,500.”
“Fuck,” I say, knowing I cannot reject such a sweet deal.
“So, we’re good then?”
“Yeah, man. We’re good.”
Without saying anything, he slaps a large zip-lock bag down on my coffee table, and I can see the rainbow colours of the tablets, looking like an innocent kid’s painting, or a children’s puzzle. Oh, the irony.
“I don’t know if I have all the cash on me,” I start.
“Don’t worry about it,” Carlos says. “Just pay me next time I see you.”
“Cool,” I say. “Good-bye…” but he’s already turned away, snapping back the lock and pulling back the door. I watch him go and take faint notice of the black ski-mask hanging out from the back pocket of his tailored Italian dress pants.
Travel to the year 2039 in this dystopian North America where the governments of Canada, America and Mexico have consolidated, and society is segregated into Sectors. A haunting glimpse of what could become of our increasingly militarized society, as the public's privacy is slowly reduced to absolutely zero in the wake of state-sponsored terrorism. The streets remain on lock-down in Sector B as Tyler's cousin deals with a stream of customers on a typical night in Sector C. Whispers abound as to what exactly the government and the People's Army are up to, meanwhile, an offer presents itself which is impossible to turn down...