“First Time, Last Time” by Robert M. Detman
Thursdaze (because the weekend won’t come fast enough) features original flash fiction modeled after our Drug Chronicles Series. Each story is an original one, and each encapsulates the author’s fictional experience with drugs. Our print series has anthologized authors writing about marijuana, cocaine, speed, and heroin, but contributors to the web series can focus on any drug, real or imagined, controlled or prescribed, illegal or soon-to-be legalized. Submissions to Thursdaze will be judged on an author’s ability to stylistically emulate his or her substance of choice. Submissions are also limited to 750 words, so try to focus. (They have a pill for that.)
This week, Robert M. Detman describes the wake of euphoria.
Harry glances around the room, the trim freshly painted. Someone with money owns the place. Maybe Christiane’s family.
“Does anyone live here?” Harry asks.
Gem sneers at this pretense of familiarity.
“You ask too many questions, man.”
Gem goes through an opening covered by a curtain into what Harry thinks is the kitchen, or maybe a pantry. He could run like hell, he thinks, and no one would care.
There are a few items scattered around. A fold-up card table with paint cans and rollers on top of it. A dirty washrag. The room might have been inhabited once, but somehow it seems that it never will be again. This could be the club headquarters, if indeed there is a club. He did not expect anything comfortable—not that this was comfortable. Maybe he expected the catacombs.
Gem moves about in the other room. He comes back with a shoe box lid. “This is how we live,” Gem says, smiling, as if to make up for his earlier bluntness. Harry sees the needle and feels his blood racing.
“You like it?”
It is not a question to be answered.
“You want to join us,” Gem states.
“I guess,” Harry replies, to be polite.
“Fucking liar. Harry wants the experience. Fine, Harry. Gem will let you get experienced.” Gem sucks on his teeth and looks at the window over Harry’s shoulder. “Too bad, ’cause when you start needing Gem’s magic, don’t come looking for me. I’m going to show you what you’re missing once. Then we don’t know each other. You got that?”
“Fine,” Harry says. “Fine.”
“Loco. Amer-e-can-o. Think you can do anything. Like her friend.”
Gem makes a gun with his hand, holds it to his head, and mouths the sound of a shot.
“What do you know?”
Gem gets in Harry’s face—he can smell onions on his breath—and makes him flinch.
“Listen, friend, I’ll tell you what I know,” Gem whispers. “She ‘Rhiannon.’ You know that song? Will you ever win? She get to you. Cee’s got to us all.”
Gem laughs to himself.
“I’m teasing! This is a bad way to begin, Mr. Harry. You have to promise we’re friends, yes?” Gem says. “Mr. Harry? Come on.”
“You don’t care. You gonna hurt Gem’s feelings.” The laugh again.
“What do you want me to say?” Harry says.
“Nothing. From what I can see, you were fucked from day one. I’m the only friend you got right now. You mess with this on your own, you’ll be one dead American.”
Gem gestures for Harry to roll up his sleeve, which he does.
“Just playing wit’ you. Cat and mouse,” Gem says. He smiles and shows his teeth, yellow, widely spaced. He ties the tubing around Harry’s arm and tugs. Harry’s arm goes numb as he watches.
“Once it happening,” Gem says, “you won’t remember.”
Gem grabs his arm and thumps at it to find a vein.
Before he can see what’s happening, the needle is stuck in his arm, his blood mixing with the clear substance, ink in water.
It isn’t quite painful at first. Then it feels like an electrical cord, drawing his life from him.
He sees the tube of the needle, a milky ruby cloud, cream in his tea.
His arm grows numb. He extends his fingers as a pleasant chill spreads down one side of his body, then down the other. He is sure he is passing out. He is submerged. The shot bolts through him. The word insignificant echoes from nowhere. He wrenches, tenses, until he can’t feel anymore.
Gem speaks, and Harry turns to face him, but he can’t understand the words.
He grips the edge of the couch, hanging on. Gravity releases. He rises, floating, filling up with air, expanding beyond the room, lighter than air, insubstantial. Invincible. He will conquer the world. Easy. The pain is gone.
He flies through a tunnel at the speed of light, blowing through walls. He doesn’t care where he goes.
The wake of euphoria.
He can’t feel the hollow pit in his stomach, the empty ache, as he tries to remember. He floats in this absence of self for a long time—unwilling to move, not wanting to shake off the feeling.
He faces Gem, laughing. Gem with glass skin. Gem liquefying, dissolving before him.
He loses it and falls. He slips through the rungs, the grip of the earth, and he’s in a terrifying free fall, with no chance to take in air. He’s suffocating. This is his death, his humiliation. He cannot reach out to stop. He closes his eyes at the treacherous pass, falling as fast as he had been rising.
ROBERT M. DETMAN’s novel Impossible Lives of Basher Thomas will be published in 2014 by Figureground Press. He has published fiction in the Antioch Review, Santa Monica Review, Evergreen Review, Wisconsin Review, Elimae, Word Riot, Spork Press, and numerous other journals. His story collection, The Survivor’s Guide, was a semifinalist for the 2013 Hudson Prize from Black Lawrence Press. His short stories were selected on two occasions as finalists for the New Letters Literary Awards, and a novel excerpt awarded him fellowship for the Abroad Writers’ Conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He has written reviews for Rain Taxi Review of Books, The Southeast Review, Trop Magazine, and the Romania Literara Foundation Journal, as well as journalism for Yahoo! and the San Francisco Chronicle.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Thursdaze flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your submission should never have been published elsewhere.
—Your story should feature a drug, any drug, and your character’s experience with it. We’ll consider everything from caffeine to opium, and look forward to stories ranging from casual use to addiction to recovery. Stylistically, we’ll respond most favorable to stories that capture the mood and rhythm of your drug of choice.
—Include your drug of choice next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected], and include THURSDAZE in the subject line. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
About the Drug Chronicles Series: Inspired by the ongoing international success of the city-based Akashic Noir Series, Akashic created the Drug Chronicles Series. The anthologies in the series feature original short stories from acclaimed authors, each of whom focuses on their fictional experience with the title drug. Current releases in the series include The Speed Chronicles (Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, Megan Abbott, James Franco, Beth Lisick, Tao Lin, etc.), The Cocaine Chronicles (Lee Child, Laura Lippman, etc.), The Heroin Chronicles (Eric Bogosian, Jerry Stahl, Lydia Lunch, etc.), and The Marijuana Chronicles (Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky, etc.).
Posted: Sep 11, 2014
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