'Pharmik' by Calum Kerr

(After Philip K Dick)

“One and you’re high, two and you’re flying, three and you’re really flying.” Deek threw his head back and howled, and shook the small plastic bag full of pharmik as though it was some kind of percussion instrument. He jiggled the small green pills against each other, making them dance in the packet, and his laugh suggested that he’d already partaken.

Lacy reached out for the bag, his hand shaking. It wasn’t nerves, it was comedown from the tab of eZed he’d taken earlier. He was starting to hurt and flying sounded good right now. Really flying sounded even better. If three would do that, he wondered what five tabs would do – or ten – and before Deek could say anything, before Deek could try to stop him – if that plan was anywhere in his head – he’d opened the bag, pulled out a handful of tabs, and slung them into his mouth.

He rested his head on the back of the ratty sofa and waited for the rush.

It didn’t take long. At first he felt a tingling in his hands and feet. It spread to the rest of his limbs and suddenly his feet were jittering on the floor.

His arms started flopping in his lap, and in a small still place in the centre of his mind, Lacy worried that maybe he was going to fit out, maybe he was going to die with his tongue stuck backwards down his throat.

And then he was up and off the sofa, floating inches above it, in mid-air: really flying.

He wanted to let out a whoop, but although his mouth opened, and he felt the air pass over his tongue and teeth, no sound emerged.

The not-whoop then turned into a not-scream as his head passed up and through the ceiling.

He floated up through the roof, and within seconds was above the city, looking down.

The night-black city roiled along beneath him, and as the drug kicked him up a level, and then another, Lacy stopped trying to whoop or scream, and gazed upon it in silence.

He saw the links, the roads, the pipes, the wires, which connected the buildings one to another. And he saw the trails, the lines of life, which connected the people one to another. And he saw the pattern. He saw the way it worked.

And then, with a flash, he saw behind the pattern. He saw the plan. He saw the way in which everything he had ever believed was simply a world pulled over his eyes. He had clarity and insight. It all made sense and he could see how nothing had really changed in two thousand years. The civilisation he looked down on might as well have been the Roman Empire, with Emperors permanently poised to order death over all the petty fights, all for the accumulation of their own wealth and power.

He saw through it all, and understood it all, and it was like no drug he had ever taken. This was not a high which would abate and leave him dry. It was the truth.

And then Lacy was waking up, back on the sofa. He scrubbed his hands over his face and looked around. Deek was slumped in the armchair, his hand covered with ash where a cigarette had burned down.

Nothing seemed to have changed in the room, but Lacy knew that he would never be the same. He had come down, but he wasn’t himself again. He doubted he ever would be.

He stumbled from the apartment and out into the street, gazing around at the world. He could still see the connections, the cat’s cradle which held the world together and made it work in the way it did.

He paused on the corner, and then set off walking. He would follow the threads. He would find an end. And then, he would pull.



(First Published in Strange is the New Black.)

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