The Beast, Pt. 77 (Chapter 18h)

The stims got me feeling too sharp, too sharp by half. By three-quarters, by seven-eighths, decimal-point-nine-repeating. Maybe a nanite cleanse would have been better, some Ringer’s, something to reset me. Instead the stims reset my zero point and I don’t have a good handle on how fucked everything is.

The auto-doc must have slipped me something stronger than caffeine. Caffeine doesn’t do to me. I abuse caffeine like an economically disadvantaged and undereducated chauvinist male abuses his wife and family. I’ve been burned again. Surely it’s not adrenaline from the fear of getting my ass beat by Aloysius. Surely I wasn’t intimidated by talking with someone so attractive my brain wouldn’t properly render her image, like some Lovecraftian protagonist broken by the great endless gulfs of the ineffable. No, no, I’ve been burned. Fuck the beam in my own eye, this affliction comes from forces beyond me. This isn’t self-serving bias, this is the truth.

I head back downstairs, my hands shaking at my side. Quick glance around the room and I don’t see Aloysius and the cloud of particulate matter that was Cat Berry. Maybe she left in disgust. Maybe they’re just in another room. I don’t hear anyone talking about her, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve got a goal. I’ve got a purpose. The goal is the bottle of blue-green magic that’s somewhere in the kitchen (if it hasn’t been consumed by other thirsty mouths,) and the purpose is dissolution. That’s all anyone needs in this life, I think. A purpose. And lucky us, we come with one built in. We exist to cease.

The blue-green elixir is sitting on the table in the kitchen. Matchstick Corbo’s moved in here, it seems, and it’s become some kind of strip variant, or else Monk and Erb and all the others have just decided that it’s too hot in here. To be fair, it’s a little too hot in here. Too many bodies all pressed against each other. Where are the couple that were fucking in the fitness center when I walked in? Off in some other room? Blended back into the crowd? Disappeared into the greater mass of the meadows?

It doesn’t matter. I reach for the bottle, clumsily paw at it with my numbed hands, almost knock the thing over. Erb and Monk shoot me angry half-naked glares, and I mumble something that’s either an apology or a fuck you. Take a big pull from the thing. It’s impossibly full. We’ve been drinking from it all night, but it’s not empty, not even half. The fabled Cup of Many Sips. Ponce de L√©on, you were born a thousand years too early, and you were looking for the wrong fountain.

Give it a minute. The first pull doesn’t do anything. It never does, so you’ve got to

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