August and I leave the party I don’t know how much later. It’s dark still, and the warehouse is still full of humans dancing, but time seems like an outdated motion. In the embrace of Ceph, it’s all still the same moment. Time isn’t a straight line, an arrow traveling in a single direction. Time is an open field, and we may travel anywhere within that field we wish, so long as we have wit to do so.
It’s a shame so many people are witless.
It’s a blessing so many people are witless.
It is both and neither. Beside me, August says, “Christ, man. I’m high as fuck,” and this is at once profound and banal, inspired and insipid.
I shake my head, wince, count backwards from ten and get stuck at six. “Yeah. Me too.”
I shrug. “I don’t know. What do you think we should do?”
August scratches at his chin.
“Let’s get some pizza.”
“Oh, man! Good thinking. Some pizza would kill right now.”
We walk to Vespucci’s, and I think I can feel the Ceph starting to wear off. I feel slower, both physically and mentally. Less in tune with my own body. Like a clockwork machine winding down. But it’s not like I’m sinking to some new low. Rather, this is where I’ve always been. This is what my life was always like before Ceph elevated me.
It’s a depressing thought.
I turn to look at August, and the soulfire that shined in him before is dimming. Whether this is because his Ceph or mine is wearing off or for some other reason, I can’t say. This makes me sad, too, though.
We order a slice each and sit in a corner by the door like guardians of some unutterable secret. No one may enter or leave without or knowledge. Even those who pass by without coming inside are visible to us, and they do not escape our judgment. August rubs at his temples. “I feel weird,” he says, and I do too. The food is flavorless in my mouth. I watch people pass by the window of Vespucci’s. Some of them must have come from the rave, because I can see the dim glow of Ceph at the center of their beings. But the light is so dim as to be barely noticeable. Even the waning glow of soulfire in August and me is shining brighter than these cattle.
Cattle. They are cattle, with glassy eyes and vacant expressions. The gods don’t speak to them. They are unworthy.
I stop mid-bite and stare off into nothingness. Where did that come from? One trip and I’m already thinking like the woman with the piercings, thinking about the chosen and the unworthy. I shake my head and set down the slice of pizza. There is nothing to say and nothing to do. August watches as people stumble by the window. He chews his food mechanically, his eyes following their paths like a camera.
* * *
The week drags on. I sleepwalk through my job, through my interactions with others. From time to time, I pass by someone in the streets who glows. Most of them shine faintly, and the passers by are happy and oblivious. But sometimes I see someone whose face bears the mark of ennui that marks my own. They glow brighter, as I do, and I know that we are different.
The weekend comes again. August and I go out again. He scored some Ceph, and for the first time all week, I feel as if my eyes have been open. The rhythm and the gods speak to me and the Ceph is good and I’m still feeling it when the sun rises and I go home to my apartment and I fall asleep. On my bed in my clothes.
The woman with the piercings is in my dreams, naked and beautiful and terrible. We float above the burning ruins of a city, and the smoke rises and encircles her like a halo.
“This world is a garden,” she says. “This world is their garden.” Her eyes shining like an animal’s in the night. She smiles, and her tongue slithers from her mouth and brushes against the pins that jut from her face like bone. “This world is their garden, and we are their gardeners.
“And they are the weeds.”