The Third Time (2/2)
So I go to the spot by the bushes alongside the foot tunnel, where there’s a bit of light so I can see what I’m doing but not enough for people to see me easy unless they’re looking. Someone’s dumped one of them masks so it dangles on a branch and whatever shit has come out of the nose can float into the air. I think about chucking it deeper into the bush but realises that means touching and God knows what type of shit will get on my fingers, and they’s going near my mouth with what I’m going to do. So I just shift myself a little so I can’t see it, cough a couple of times, then take the plastic bag from my pocket. More than double the usual price and Melvyn talked like he was doing me a bleeding favour to sell it at that, giving all that talk about how it’s got ten times harder to get since the lockdown started and there are laws of supply and demand and he don’t care that I haven’t had a smoke for over a week. Fuck him! I’ll find someone else next time. So I take some of the weed from the bag – not as much as usual as I’ve got to make this last and I’m not sharing – and roll it into the paper, lick and press it down. It looks a bit pathetic, but Melvn promised it’s primo, none of your cabbage or rope, and it would take my head wherever I wanted it to go.
“Trust me man, you’ll forget about this coronafuckup for a good few hours.”
Yeah, that’s what I want, something strong enough to take my mind off being lockdowned with my mum and sisters and all the shouting and squealing when we haven’t even got decent Wi-Fi in the flat. I cough again and pull out my lighter, put the flame to the spliff and take the first drag. Ten seconds later I know that Melvyn was telling the truth, it’s proper primo and the shit falls out of my head and suddenly I feel good. That is the business. I roll the spliff between my fingers, know there’s only a few drags in it but reckon that’ll be enough. I don’t want to get so out of it that I can’t find my way home easy. I shuffle into the corner of the bush where I can lean against the concrete corner of the tunnel and relax. Yeah, just let that nice feeling roll around my head and forget about all this lockdown bollocks for a couple of hours. I can think of a couple of the crew who’d be seriously pissed off that I didn’t make a phone call to share, but as things stand anyone not buying ain’t sharing. It needs another cough before the next drag but that goes easy and I soothe a little more, not worrying about anything and smiling at those funny whispers in my head. There’s some lines of smoke in front of me, and I think they’re from the spliff even though I’ve never seen them like that before, and I look down and laugh a little without really knowing why.
My eyes are closed for a bit and I take another drag before opening them and see something standing in front of me.
“What the fuck!”
I don’t what they is but they ain’t people, just lines of smoke in a shape that makes a body and loads of arms and a mouth and big eyes that are staring right at me. I don’t move and they don’t move but the way they look tells me that they ain’t seen anything like me before either. I realise I’m shaking and not knowing if I should run, or fight, or ….. Now I see one of them is looking down towards my hand with the spliff in it, and I wonder if that’s why they’ve come looking here, then what is all this shit in my head? But maybe? I raise my hand with the spliff, reckoning they might take it as a sign of peace, and for a moment one of half a dozen hands stretches towards it. Then my throat catches and I splurt a big angry cough, then another and another, right into the faces and their eyes get bigger and their mouths twist and they back off. For a second they go all shimmery then the lines of smoke start swirling and fly away and they’re gone.
I’ve dropped the spliff, scared silly and thinking what’s that bloody weed done to my head. That wasn’t primo and it wasn’t cabbage or rope, but some evil shit that twists your head into knots then splices into some crazy CGI effect. I pick up the spliff, hold it close to my nose but I’m too scared to breathe it in. Yeah I watch that special effects stuff in movies but I don’t want it in my head. So I shuffle along the path to the nearest drain and – this is crazy – drop the spliff through the grill. Then I take the bag from my pocket, open it up and tip the rest of the weed after it. For a moment I think about how much money I’ve just chucked down the drain – like, literally – but think fuck it who needs all that in their head?
For a moment I look around, wondering if them smoke creatures are just down the path, and realise I don’t even know which way they’ve gone. Then I think I just want to get home and start walking, and decide maybe this has been some weird warning. I ain’t doing this stuff no more!
Terminal log entry. Mission abort. Risk factor of Planet Ʊ28 has risen exponentially since last recon. Ground party was able to report previously undetected viral presence gestating within host species. Little evidence of its nature but any contact inflicts rapid infection of our internal matter, compounded by dematerialisation for swift movement. This was detected only when ground party synchronised at landing point, leading to high speed transmission among its members. Most lost life agents and dematerialised on the planet surface. A few were able to transition back to vessel, but efforts to regenerate affected matter were unsuccessful and quickly infected other members of crew. Most have now dematerialised. Only three of us remain alive and all have shown early signs of internal dematerialisation. We have little time left.
In accordance with protocol we are directing the vessel away from this solar system and into dark space, with a programme to close all systems then compress itself minimum dimensions.
Advise no further reconnaissance of Planet Ʊ28; virus within resident species makes it inherently toxic. Excessive risk factor in any further efforts to extract its quantumonics.
That’s it. We’re dying and the ship will be turned into space junk. Stay away from that planet!
Image by Centophobia from flickr, CC BY 2.0