future drugs

There’s a drug out there in the Proxima system which goes by the not-very-imaginative name of ‘happy’. ‘Happy’ sounded like a very naïve sort of a street name for a drug to me. It sounded a bit lame – I couldn’t help having a bit of a laugh about it with my mates. Back on Earth we have drugs with proper street names like dancer, slap, frenzy, make, mule, KR-3 and stuff like that. Proper names. Names with some character to them. So as you can see my attitude towards this supposedly risky substance from Proxima was rather condescending – back in those days I thought I knew it all.


Now I know better. The name this particular off-world drug went by may not have seemed particularly impressive to me but the substance itself was like nothing you could ever imagine as I – much to my misfortune – discovered first hand when I went on a package holiday to the inner planets of the Proxima system. Despite laughing and joking with my fellow package holiday-makers when we were warned to have nothing to do with the stuff and any sleazy low-life individuals who might be trying to sell it to us, I felt that I couldn’t go back to Earth without trying at least one hit of it.


So on the last day of my holiday on Nix, the fourth planet of the system, famed for its great natural beauty and the very odd experiences to be had in its pleasure resorts, I managed to meet someone who said they could find me a connection. Later on that night I procured a bag of happy from a very curious-looking guy in a down-market bar. He looked normal enough, a bit pale and waxy-looking perhaps, apart from one striking feature – his eyes were constantly and rapidly moving around in circles – each one independently of the other! Apparently, as the guy signalled to me (he never spoke at all during the transaction), the thing to do was to rub some of the blue sticky substance onto your gums and then wait for it to take effect…


He had also indicated to me not to take it in public places, which is of course usual enough with banned substances, and so it was half an hour later, in the privacy of my hotel room, that I got to try out some of the bright blue paste that I had just paid so much money for. I half suspected that I had been taken for a mug – it looked more like a load of squeezed-out Aquafresh toothpaste than anything else. Barely five minutes later on I realized that I had made a very bad mistake…


The way I felt was simply too GOOD. I couldn’t just walk up the gang-plank into the interstellar cruise ship and return to my life back on Earth! I just couldn’t do that – all of a sudden my life back on Earth of no more interest to me! I was going to have to stay behind, outstay my tourist visa, and become an illegal on a strange planet with no source of income. A way of life I knew nothing about. It wasn’t a pretty prospect but the alternative – never to feel like this again – was far, far worse. That possibility terrified me. It didn’t matter to me how impossible my situation was going to be, what the difficulties were that lay ahead of me. I simply had to maintain my access to this drug – nothing else mattered.


In the months that followed, therefore, my life took a very unexpected turn. I found myself adapting to life as an addict to a very unforgiving drug, having to panhandle to keep going, having to hustle the tourists as they came in off the cruise ships. Who were for the most part every bit as naïve and dumb and pathetically lame-brained as I had been. Some things never change. The universe has its great constants, like h, and G, and Q, and the stupendous stupidity of space tourists. I am not proud of what I have had to do in order to service my happy habit and I certainly don’t intend to go into the sordid details here. Suffice to say that I would find it very hard to live with myself were it not for the fact that I am on a permanently high, my tongue bright blue and my eyes dancing around in my skull like mad things. Like they don’t belong to me at all…


As time passed my physical appearance gradually changed. Looking in a mirror one day I came to realize that I looked a lot like the guy who had sold me my first bag back in gent’s toilets in the Barbarossa bar in the seedy backstreets of Nix’s main spaceport. My skin had become uncannily smooth and waxy-looking and had taken on an unhealthy white colouration – a kind of off-white, a kind of cod-belly white.


My fingers and toes were absurdly fat little sausages of flesh; the skin stretched tautly over them, no sign of a knuckle left anywhere – they had become smooth and perfectly featureless shiny plastic tubes. All of my features were now curiously bland, lacking in any actual character, nothing to give away any actual personality – my face no more than a waxy, pallid mask. I could no longer speak – my tongue had swollen to such an extent that it took up almost the whole of my mouth. To my own eyes I looked more like a mannequin than a man, but I didn’t care. I was – after all – happy…


It occurs to me now that I have become practically indistinguishable from that strange fish I bought my first bag off that day, which was the day that my new life began. I am now a blank cipher, not a man. A pale unearthly mannequin. A haunter of shadows and seedy backstreets. A stalker of tourists who have had too much to drink.


My eating habits have changed too, due to the size of my massively-swollen tongue. All I can eat these days is liquidized fast food sucked up a straw; the dregs of a dozen fast-food joints, put through a blender. The lowest and most unsavoury offerings of cut-rate burger bars, the sleaziest and least hygienic noodle houses, the real bottom-of-the-barrel kebab parlours and the like. It all tastes the same at the end of the day, anyway. And besides, I don’t eat it for the sake of enjoyment…


I don’t do anything for the sake of ‘enjoyment’ these days. My life has devolved to the point where all I do to hustle for cash, rip-off unwary tourists, and then score bags of happy. Then when I have my supply I go back to my shitty malodorous apartment and I stare at the wall. I make sure to keep my eyes open. When I close my eyes all I can see are hundreds and hundreds of intensely bright yellow smiley faces grinning maniacally at me, bobbing up and down and side to side in a kind of hallucinatory Brownian motion. Sometimes they wink at me…


Now I understand, at long last, why they call this appalling drug by that ridiculously inane name…


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