by Tobacco Jones
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
1. Pickup (Marco)
Marco is scared, but he isn’t going to admit it in front of Wong. This must be the first time Wong has ever set foot outside the lab, and they’ve driven straightaway into one of the bad places, looking for trouble. Wong is shaking.
“Hold up,” says Marco. “Up ahead, in the doorway.”
“He is asleep,” says Wong. “Or dead, perhaps. Must we disturb him?”
“That’s what we’re looking for,” says Marco. “Black scales on his face, see? You can see it from here. That’s dead flesh. Krokodil.”
“Desomorphine,” says Wong, in awe. “Who would willingly subject themselves to it?”
“Only those who are beyond hope.”
Wong stares at the addict, slumped in the doorway.
“Which is why it is ethical for us to pick them up,” says Marco
“And conduct experiments on them,” whispers Wong.
Marco is as skinny as Wong and not much taller, but at least he has any street smarts whatsoever. Valedictorian of his hopeless high school, Marco managed to avoid the wrong drugs, the wrong girls, and the wrong gangs, and come out on top. Now he has a sweet job in the lab with Wong, and no way is he going to mess it up. The Doctor Professor wants them to bring in a krok addict, and bring in a krok addict they will.
Wong is standing behind Marco as Marco uses his umbrella to prod the mouldering heap awake.
“Krokodil,” the subject croaks, on cue.
“I am Marco, and this is Wong,” says Marco. “I think we can help you. What is your name?”
The krok user either has no name or can’t give it. He only begs for drugs, for krokodil. Desperation wafts from him. Marco knows this addict is near the end.
“It isn’t krokodil, but we do have a drug that can help you,” says Marco.
“Give it to me,” says the addict.
“It can only be administered at the clinic, in our lab,” says Marco. “You need to sign some forms.”
The addict springs up impossibly fast and latches onto Marco’s windbreaker, trying to get his rotting face as close to Marco’s as possible. “Give it to me now,” the addict says.
“Look, no, I don’t have it, I don’t have any drugs on me,” says Marco, leaning away and trying to push the addict off. “The stuff is in the lab and you can have it for free. Just come with us. We’re testing it. You’ll be high as a kite, man, I swear.”
The addict keeps his face up in Marco’s for too long, his putrid smell causing Marco to retch as one of the addict’s hands slides around Marco’s jacket and feels the pockets. Wong just stands there, frozen with dread. The hand reaches Marco’s jeans.
“Stop, no,” says Marco. “We have the stuff, I swear. It’s free. It kicks like mad and lasts all night and you won’t even think about krokodil anymore, I swear.”
Finally, the addict melts away and lowers his head. “Give it to me,” he says.
The addict passes out in the back seat of Wong’s Honda, which is really for the best. The scents of death and old urine permeate the car, forcing both Wong and Marco to roll down their windows despite the rain.
“We should not be using my car for this type of work,” says Wong.
“We should have my cousin with us,” says Marco. “We really need someone like my cousin.”
2. Outside (Hasdrubal)
A view of Earth, from outside, from an information dimension.
Souls of all magnitudes swarm, but only the basest flow in. They teem, desperate, hungry for life, leaking inbound by the millions, straining Earthward by the billions. Most lack any intelligence or self-awareness. Hasdrubal feels them strain, and hates them for worms. Unlike his kind, the worms are nothing until embodied.
Hasdrubal hopes that one day an antenna capable of receiving something like him will arise. He has hungered for a very long time.
Dimensions of Hasdrubal zip off at the speed of light in all directions, but the one near Earth remains. The hunger dominates him.
3. Dundee (Marco)
The Doctor Professor christens the addict “Dundee” while he is still passed out, saying they can always fix the name on the consent forms later if needed. Then, with considerable effort, they drag him into the lab and lay him on the floor, and wait.
The Doctor Professor is getting impatient and goes off to fill a syringe with something wakey; in the meantime Dundee regains consciousness.
“Krokodil,” he says.
“We have a drug,” says Marco, once again wishing that anyone with some physical stature was present. Dundee is in morbid shape, but he could still do some damage. “You just need to read and sign these papers, and we’ll get the drug for you.”
There is no chance at all that Dundee is going to read the papers. When the Doctor Professor returns, he orders Wong to speed-read them aloud. Then they settle for an X on the dotted line.
In the meantime Marco keeps Dundee at bay by promising the new drug will do blissful things he has no idea whether it can do. He suspects this behavior is unethical, but he fears for his personal safety, and the Doctor Professor isn’t complaining. So it’s bliss all the way.
Once Dundee has X’ed the forms, they give him a sedative and bring him into the treatment room and strap him down. Marco is finally able to relax. He excuses himself to go pee.
Marco doesn’t know anything about the drug they are testing, but he is still pretty surprised when he returns to find the Doctor Professor withdrawing a drill bit from the patient’s temple, a little flap of skin having been peeled up and pinned to the side to facilitate entry. It isn’t a drug at all. They are going to lobotomize him!
Torn between more feelings than he can easily identify, Marco simply watches. What is this job? he thinks. What have I got myself into?
Instead of a leucotome, however, Wong hands the doctor a long needle and syringe. The syringe contains a metallic liquid, like dull dark mercury.
It is a drug after all.
The doctor spends the better part of an hour pushing the needle into Dundee’s frontal lobe, depositing liquid, withdrawing, making notes, repeating. Finally all of the liquid is gone, and it is done.
In time, Dundee awakes, groggy and disoriented.
“Krokodil,” he says. He pulls against his restraints, not hard enough to alarm anyone. He is still sedated.
Marco and Wong look at each other, eyebrows raised. Wong calls for the Doctor Professor.
“He needs some fresh air,” says the Doctor Professor when he returns. He is acting like nothing much has happened, this is all no big deal. “Let’s get him outside for a stretch.”
4. Watching (Hasdrubal)
Hasdrubal watches, and waits, and hates. He will watch for another million years, for an eternity. He watches the worms sieve in, and he hungers.
From Earth, then, there is a pinprick of light. Only for an instant. The worms can’t see it, but the higher entities surely can. One of these, one of the dirtiest, nastiest, hungriest souls of them all, swoops directly into the pinprick of light, and then both are gone.
Hasdrubal might have imagined it, but knows he did not. The hunger multiplies. There is an antenna. Now there is hope.
Other souls have seen it, and now they press towards Earth, needful of an opening. They are all on alert — but Hasdrubal will not miss another chance. He moves in close, among the awarenesses and the straining, draining worms, and he focuses everything he is on the space where the prick of light was. He will wait another million years, watching that place. He won’t miss another chance. He hungers.
5. Contact (Marco)
Sunlight has started to filter through the breaking clouds, and it hits Dundee like the Rapture. “Oh! Ahhhh!” says Dundee.
“Krokodil?” asks Marco, still on his guard.
“Hungry. So hungry,” says Dundee.
“You want some food?” says Wong.
The Doctor Professor looks on with an intensity.
Dundee continues making noises of pleasure or pain until finally he speaks. “Thank you,” he says.
“Who are you?” asks the Doctor Professor.
“He won’t answer that,” says Wong. “He won’t give his name.”
“My true name does not translate to your audio,” says Dundee. “Ahh, thank you.”
The Doctor Professor wrings his hands eagerly, staring at Dundee with wide eyes. “It has worked!” he says. “It has worked! Come inside, come inside, there is much to discuss. Much to discuss!” The Doctor Professor is very excited now, and he ushers Wong ahead, Dundee shuffling in between them.
Marco stands outside, forgotten.
6. Attack (Marco)
Marco is still outside, leaning in his windbreaker against the damp brick of the building, kicking little splashes out of a puddle, chewing on his lip. A worm has somehow got into the puddle. Marco looks at the worm without seeing it.
The Doctor Professor emerges from the building, his tie loosened and grey hair mussed. He produces a cigarette from somewhere, and Bics it aflame with difficulty.
“You smoke?” asks Marco. “Sir?”
The Doctor Professor notices Marco now and shakes his head, whether trying to clear it or responding in the negative, Marco isn’t sure. Marco lets it pass.
“My life’s work,” says the Doctor Professor. “This day marks the realization of my life’s work.”
“Have we cured krokodil addiction, sir?”
“No, no, not at all. Well yes, possibly. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.”
“But aren’t we, umm...”
“I have captured an alien intelligence,” says the Doctor Professor. “I have created an antenna in the frontal lobe—”
There is a piercing scream from inside the building, audible even through the brick wall or the brown metal door. The Doctor Professor startles, but it is Marco who runs in first.
A wire-reinforced window affords a view of the treatment room, not that the door is closed or locked or anything, and Marco pulls up short when he sees the other side.
Wong is on the floor, motionless, on his side. Dundee pulls the bone drill out of Wong’s skull and flings it arcing behind him on its cord.
“Wong!” Marco yells.
Dundee takes no notice, and now he has a flask of gray liquid and he is trying to get it into Wong’s brain but his coordination is off and despite probably being well trained in the use of needles, Dundee is trying to simply pour the metallic stuff into the rather larger than necessary drill hole that he has bored into Wong’s dome. Some of the liquid goes in, but most of it dribbles down Wong’s face, painting him like a robot. Wong isn’t moving at all.
Marco slams the door to the room and locks it, first appreciating then wondering why they would have thought to make the door lockable from the outside, and yet not even closed it with their first patient.
Marco is safe now, but Wong is being ministered to by an insane krokodil addict, and he needs saving. Marco pounds on the window and hollers at Dundee, yells for Wong to wake up, all to no effect. He curses his weakness, the lack of a handy weapon, the lack of his cousin or someone like him.
“We have to call the cops,” says Marco, distrusting and needing them all at once. Asking for permission — or cover — to call.
The Doctor Professor looks at the scene on the other side of the window, his eyes squinting. His mouth is open but nothing comes out but labored breath.
Dundee is moving slower now, trying to sweep the liquid metal up off the floor with his hand and apply it to Wong, pushing it into Wong’s temple-hole with a blackened finger.
7. Cleanup (Marco)
At some point the Doctor Professor extracts a Taser from his man-purse and hands it to Marco without looking.
Marco isn’t too sure about this, having never operated a Taser before, but he can’t stand what is happening to Wong for another second. Marco overcomes his considerable fear and cracks the door. He aims the Taser and lets fly, stiffening Dundee as the weapon crackles out its charge.
Marco runs in and stomps Dundee’s stunned head aside, grabs Wong under the armpits, and gets them both out of there, Wong leaving foot-trails of grey liquid to the door. Once they are out, the Doctor Professor re-shuts and re-locks the door.
They sit Wong up in a chair, and he stares at them without seeing. When they turn back to look at Dundee, Wong falls out of his chair and bangs his head on the wooden arm of another chair, leaving spots of metal and red there but otherwise taking no notice. Marco and the Doctor Professor drag Wong to an exam room, get him up into a bed, and strap him down for safety. Wong doesn’t complain.
When they get back to the observation room, Dundee is inert. After an hour, the Doctor Professor tells Marco to go in and check for a pulse. Marco does the task, pressing two fingers against an unblackened section of neck, reloaded Taser gripped hard in his other hand.
Dundee is dead.
Despite being from a pretty bad place, Marco has never killed anyone before. Heard of it, sure. But he has never seen a human being actually die, even one as messed up as Dundee.
Marco looks at the Taser in his hand, then looks at the Doctor Professor, mind racing despite his shock. They’ll have to dump the body back on the street somewhere, maybe in the same doorway they picked him up from. No one will know.
Marco needs his cousin now more than ever.
The front door erupts in a loud, insistent pounding. No one knocks on a door that way except cops. Then the noise of the front door’s glass shattering mingles with the sounds of excited entry.
Copyright © 2014 by Tobacco Jones