The Beast, Pt. 6 (Chapter 5b)

There’s a smirk on Erb’s face as I fall in beside him and Googe. “So, just to clarify, the bag bot called you out on being high, yes?”

I don’t look at Erb. It’s an incontrovertible fact that when you make eye contact with someone talking sass to you they win. Instead I do the mature thing and march right past him, bags in hand, and held high. It is only when I’m in front of him that I respond, and rather then do something foolish like turn my head and look back over my shoulder to address him, I speak to the empty space in front of me. That way there’s a chance he might not here me, and increased odds of winning. “I’m not high,” I say matter-of-factly. “I’m altered.”

It’s important to render a statement like “I’m not high”as matter-of-factly as possible. If you don’t, you might find that your voice is naturally taking on a tone of whinyness or petulance. There are certain phrases (“I’m not high” being chief among them, along with conceptually similar denials like “I’m not drunk” and “I didn’t hear you” and “I thought we were on a break”) that the human voice tends to rise in pitch when it delivers. If one doesn’t take care and practice, they might find their expertly crafted rebuttal being delivered in the same manner as a fat child caught with their hand in a cookie jar insisting that they have not been eating cookies. Or in the manner of a fat child throwing a tantrum because they’ve been denied a cookie by a parent or legal guardian concerned about childhood obesity. Or in the manner of a fat child being forced to run the 40-yard dash.

Basically, don’t sound like a fat child. It’s unbecoming in general and in heated debates it does your credibility absolutely no favors. To wit, after my less-than-convincing rebuttal, Erb’s eyes narrow to slits and he frowns, the good natured humor leaving his face and being replaced by bad natured skepticism. He tries bumps his bags together twice, looks down at them in surprise, and lets his arms fall slack at his side. It takes me a moment, but I soon realize that he was trying to cross his arms and failed miserably. This failure, however small, does nothing to improve his disposition.

“Dude, you’re high as fuck. Your pupils are the size of dinner plates.”

“I’m not high, damn it!”

“The Hell you aren’t.”

“I’m altered! Nootropics don’t get you high! They augment your brain! They enhance it! I’m augmented! Enhanced! I’m smart as shit!”

“If you’re not high, why are you all twitchy and wide-eyed?”

I open my mouth ready to unleash a blistering retort, but nothing comes out. I’m standing in a crowded terminal with my mouth slack and a blank look on my face that’s quickly turning into worry and, again, this is doing nothing to help my credibility.

Erb’s smug little smirk comes back. He knows he’s got me on the ropes. “Do you need sunglasses, buddy?”

“I’ve got a pair in my bag,” I mumble. It’s a pitiful response, but at least my mouth is shut and I’m not walking around like a baleen whale anymore.

“Hide that conjunctivitis? Protect your eyes from inclement weather?”

“I cannot believe you were able to hear that.”

“Keep the mean old law enforcement officials from noticing you’re tweaking?”

“It’s so loud in here and you were like fifteen feet away. It’s preposterous.”

Erb sets down his bags and grins. Crossing his arms is a trivial task without the bulk of enough clothing and accoutrements to see a grown man through a long weekend. Although really, if one subscribed to any kind of self-sufficiency (or slovenliness) they ought to be able to fit three days’ worth of living into a single bag. I was able to do it with two and I wasn’t even trying very hard.

I can’t let him win without putting up at least a token resistance. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and rely on my augmented enhanced brain to do its thing. After a moment that stretches on like an eternity, it comes to me.

“Yeah, well, so’s your sister.”

Word Count: 4,609 (1,973 words per day remaining)


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