“Off Empty” by Tobias Record
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, Tobias Record’s Holiday heads underground for a high.
“Night and day, you are the one”
The train lurched forward like a giant hiccup. Holiday awoke from his hiatus, opening his eyes just enough to make out light and dark shapes. You coulda blindfolded him with dental floss. He scanned the car only to find himself and a Rastafarian chantin’ down Babylon at the other end. He looked out the window at the marriage of industrial waste and punkweed that comprised the Northeast Corridor, which reminded him of his own wretched union of man with man-made. I gotta get off e. The sky shone brilliantly—intense streaks of red, orange, and purple, as if a motorboat had knifed through the clouds, leaving its oily discharge to expand and fade with the sunset. The B-list graffiti of Elizabeth soon gave way to the more artistic visions of Newark and Jersey City. High, arching, exaggerated block letters, with split fountain neon and pastel colors that read Boriqua! or Punkin’, lined the concrete wall that separated the train from the contradictions of the urban sprawl that had become the macrocosm of Holiday’s life. That’s Holiday, the walking paradox. Good and evil. Happy yet miserable. Gorgeous and ugly. Smart ‘n stupid. A true Gemini.
The train pulled into Journal Square. The Rasta bounced onto the platform, singing: Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can-a free our mind! The doors closed. Holiday was alone. He had an official US mailbag he pinched from a barfly named Bryan, who delivered mail by day and by night managed a raunch rock band called Puzzles the Clown that would put GG Allin to shame. The mailbag was sweet, with padded adjustable leather shoulder straps. It was also quite spacious, with liners, pockets, and canvas dividers. Perfect for the closet yuppie. Organized on the inside, indie-cool on the outside.
Holiday rifled through the bag and fished out the sunglass case that was nestled between his journal and CDs. He grabbed the water bottle that was conspicuously accessible in the sleeve normally reserved for the can of mace, pried the plastic cap that sealed the top, and placed it in his lap. Opening the sunglass case, he took out a fresh syringe and two bags of so-so dope he copped previously in New Brunswick. It was time to do the rest. Not to worry, I’ll be there soon enough.
Holiday broke the Scotch tape seal with his thumb and emptied the heroin into the plastic cup, mindful of his surroundings. He then took the syringe, drew 40 ccs from the water bottle, and slowly depressed the plunger, forcing the water into the cap, so as not to disturb the sleeping dragon that would soon awaken like some mummified curse inside of Holiday’s precious veins. He removed the plunger from the rig and stirred the mixture until it turned golden amber brown. Taking a Q-tip from the pen slot of the mailbag, Holiday pulled some of the cotton off, rolled it between his fingers, dropped it into the cap, and drew the liquid gold. Flicking the needle while he peered into the adjacent cars, he stuck his forearm. It slid into his arm effortlessly. Razor sharp. Painless. The blood invaded the syringe like an octopus squirting ink to confuse its predator. There was no confusion here. Holiday knew who was predator and who was prey.
Drooling like Pavlov’s dog, he eased the dope into himself. His lips pursed as the familiar warm love shot up his spine, enveloping his skull. The rush was like standing under a hot spring waterfall. Naked and embalmed. Content, Holiday sank into the hard bucket seats as the train descended into the darkness of the underworld.
TOBIAS RECORD is a media specialist from New Jersey. In 2003, Tobias started his own music supervision and publishing company, All Ears Music, while living in Los Angeles. After a successful 10 year run, he moved his company back to New Jersey, returning to his DIY roots. Although Tobias writes stories and poetry, it’s primarily for personal reasons; this is his first submission for publication. Nowadays, Tobias can be found up-cycling and refinishing furniture in addition to his film work. His latest work is featured in a documentary about the legendary punk club City Gardens (2014 release).
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: Feb 27, 2014
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