At first, we were five; suddenly, we became four. Eventually, we were all gone and others took our place, and they were gone too, and others replaced them. Perhaps it’s a spoiler, but not for the story; for life. In the end, we all cross to the other side and others take our place and the continuum ensues uninterrupted.
I was smoking my hash, feeling calm and relaxed. I didn’t want to move, I was numb and my mind was racing. It felt good; next to me, D. stared outside the window while scratching his arm in his constant effort to dig out the bugs that had infiltrated his skin.
“They’re out there, man!” He mumbled repeatedly but I didn’t pay attention. “They’re watching us, they’ll bust us! They’re out there, you hear me?”
“Sure,” I replied, hoping it’d shut him up; as always, it proved fruitless.
“What are we going to do, man? They’re there, in this car, in that car, behind the tree, FUCKING EVERYWHERE!”
I dragged long. I was running low. I needed something stronger and it was on its way. The symptoms had crept in, I was lost inside the dense mist but didn’t care. Soon, I’d be free. The door slammed shut thunderously and she rushed in, panting and sweating.
“Fucking pigs,” she spat in exasperation.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“They almost caught me, the fuckers!” She wailed, then flung herself on the couch. “There was an undercover bastard nearby; saw the transaction, sirens went off. I barely escaped!”
“Did you bring the stuff?”
She tossed the 8ball on the table and scoffed. “It’s all I could save.”
My lips curled faintly, when I took the rock in my fingers. I tore the bag carefully, put a small piece in the glass pipe and lit a lighter under it.
She sighed when the first crack blared into the air.
“Don’t you give a fuck that I lost both the money and the rest of the stuff?”
“Well, I do care for the money, considering they were mine,” my mind was going numb, I could barely feel my face any longer, “but, at least, you didn’t lose this!”
“Well, what am I supposed to do now?”
“Go find your medicine elsewhere!” I dismissed her; it was hitting me good, I was rejuvenated, I didn’t care.
“They’re out there, man!” D. reminded us of his existence. “Always watching!”
“Fuck off, you crazy bastard!” She screeched at him. She scratched her arm viciously while sweating buckets.
“Relax,” I said as I stared at the empty wall. “If you get all worked up, you’ll bring the sickness quicker. Take a deep breath, make a few calls.”
“I don’t have any money, motherfucker!” She shrieked. She got up, paced about the dirty room. “How am I supposed to pay for it? I lost everything, except for your fucking crack!”
“Luckily for you,” I whispered, dragged the last puff, and stuffed the rest in my pocket. I lit a cigarette and dragged deeply.
“What the fuck is going on in here?” H. came in. “Your screaming can be heard from around the corner.”
“I almost got busted and lost my junk.” R. stated coldly.
“God damn it,” he sighed and sat cross-legged on the floor. He heated up his own junk in a dirty cap.
“Jesus, are you going to do it now? IN FRONT OF ME?”
“Yeah,” he shrugged, pulled the leg of his pants up, and drew the junk into the syringe.
“Will you ever get this thing treated?” I gagged at the sight of the abscess on his calf; a hole in his skin surrounded by white mucus.
“It makes it easier to find the vein, man,” he shot the junk and closed his eyes, the very core of his being shuddered. “That’s better.”
“Doesn’t it hurt?”
“Sure, but junk makes it all better.”
“Can I have the leftovers?” She begged.
“Sure,” he sniffled, already skipping around in the meadow of dragons.
She heated up the cap again, then filled the syringe with what looked like a minuscule portion. After a few attempts she found a vein and the heavy sigh that escaped her quivering lips indicated she had completely forgotten about the cops and the lost money and drugs.
“They’re out there, man!” D. broke the silence.
“Oh, fuck off,” we all dismissed him in a chorus, but it didn’t hinder him from rambling on about the cops watching us every minute of every day.
D. finally calmed down, put a piece of ice in his pipe and puffed on it.
“I’m running low, man,” he whined. “Who’s been stealing my glass?”
“You’re the only one smoking that shit,” I rebuked, then put another small piece of rock in my pipe. “You’ve just smoked it all, that’s all.”
“No, it’s disappearing! It’s the cops, I’m telling you, they sneak in and steal our shit, so they have evidence! THEY’LL BUST US ONE DAY, YOU’LL SEE!!”
“All right,” I said and took a long hit. My mind was cleared, the numbness had returned, I didn’t give a damn even if he was right.
Heavy panting filled the air, but no one bothered to get up. J. shambled into the room, holding his stomach while tears welled down his eyes.
“They got me, the fuckers!” He groaned and collapsed on the couch next to me. The dark-red blood flowed freely from between his fingers; I had another drag and it didn’t bother me any longer.
“I was out on the streets,” he explained, pausing between every word, “and the fuckers got me. Said it’s their turf now, no one else is allowed to hustle there; told them to fuck off, that I’ve been working these street corners for two years. They just laughed and shot me. Warning shot; they said, ‘next time, you get it in the head’.
“Fuck,” he leaned back and lifted his blank gaze to the ceiling.
“No money, then?” I asked.
“Got some, yeah,” he dug into his jacket and produced a small pile of twenties; “it’s two hundred bucks, all I could get.”
“All right,” I took the money and stuffed them in my pocket. Then, I had the last hit from the pipe.
“I think I’m dying, man,” J. groaned.
“You’ll be fine. Just go to the kitchen, wash the wound, and put some bandage on it. You’ll make it.”
“You think, man?” His eyes were watery, his soul devastated. He tried to get up, but collapsed after the first unsteady step. Landed head first on the floor. He lay there, motionless, and a puddle of blood girdled his head.
I saw it and wanted to get up to help him, but I was too numb; so were the rest. I doubt the others even noticed. They were still too high, too occupied with their own dragons. J. never moved again.
He was seventeen and our resident hustler; he’d often cut some of my crack and sell it, so we could buy more. He was trying to learn to cook up horse tranquilizers; claimed it would bring in the big cash. Now, we’ll never know if he was as business savvy as he fancied himself to be.
The high slowly dissolved and we were all able to think. We wrapped J.’s battered body in a big bag and buried him in the garden in the middle of the night. There were no parting words, almost no tears shed. After the unceremonious burial of someone we used to call friend, we went back inside; we all had a hit of our medicine of choice and spent the night lost in the mist.
J. was gone and we were gone too, we just didn’t know it yet. Come morning, it was my turn to go out and get supplies. Just another day, though we were four now, instead of five. I used the last money J. ever made for us to buy some decent junk and rock; I even got a few grams of ice for D.—J.’s final gift from the grave and we had to find a new hustler soon, for otherwise, things would go way south for all of us.
George Gad Economou holds a Master’s degree in Philosophy of Science from Aarhus University and currently resides in Athens, Greece, freelancing his way to a new place. His stories have been published, predominantly, in the literary platform Jumbelbook and his novella, Letters to S., has been published in Storylandia Issue 30.