There is a lab in Switzerland where you are sent to experience the unique thrill of cocaine, without ever touching the substance. In the lab, well below ground level, furtive scientists attach sensors inside your nostrils and ask you to wear holograph producing glasses, as they connect various sensors to your brain and spinal cord.
On their cue, you tap a white substance from a holographic cut-glass tumbler, onto a holographic mirror – blinking in wonderment at the uncanny resemblance. Within these walls, any human cost is negligible. There are no ethical malpractices at play. One can enjoy this in the name of research, without a heavy conscience. No risk to health, it would seem.
Of course, it doesn’t end after the first gasp. Nor the second. Nor the hundredth. Before long, the addiction has set in. Each cell in your body jostles for the next holographic rush, and from this your mind works diligently to form robust arguments.
The tumbler refills itself perpetually. So you may find yourself opting in its favour, instead of the delicious food laid out for you every hour. The untouched plates are duly removed as they go cold.
You may keep sampling, until the very end. But in those last, choking moments you look up from your glass enclosure, only to see giant human-size rats in lab coats and spectacles, towering above you, fussing and theorising and taking notes.
They deem the experiment a success, and propose a toast. As you recoil on the floor before your final breath, you see a neighbouring glass enclosure next to yours. In it, is the healthy, perfectly-kept version of yourself.
You see them, but they do not see you. For they are not your shadow, you are theirs. They remain unaware, sat with a pensive expression, eating baked veal with asparagus, on a white tablecloth, listening to a Beethoven concerto coming from speakers on the wall.
Deaf to your groans, blind to the flat palm of destiny pushed against the glass, sliding incrementally downwards with a faint squeaking sound, like a windscreen wiper in dry conditions.