Mostly Hidden, Chapter Four

Look at this. Productivity. Writing. Sweat. Work. Labor.

All by me, for you, the readers. My dedicated readers. My dedicated readers that, snif, I wish I had.

Well, there are some of you. Anyway. Chapter Four. I actually finished this a few days ago, but wanted to give myself a head start on the next chapter, and didn’t want to spoil you because you got a chapter Saturday, too.

Here it is, hope you enjoy. Soon enough, you’ll have to start writing down character’s names and what they do, or something. How many characters are there, now? I don’t even know.

Sir Desmond Andrew Pollock slowly packed a pipe, his eyes and thoughts distant from it. When finished, he struck a match and slowly lit the pipe, blowing out little puffs of black cavendish tobacco. He looked up through the trees at the stars that were just barely starting to show, even though the sun hadn’t quite begun setting yet.
He set the pipe down and looked at the small bowls of fine, white powder in front of him. He opened a notebook, wet a fingertip, dipped it into the first bowl, and tasted the contents.
He cringed at the bitterness, then cocked his head to the side as he sized up the quality.
He scribbled down a few notes on the notepad, wiped his finger on a wet cloth nearby, took a few puffs of the pipe, and finally, a sip of water. He then repeated the process with the contents of the second and third bowls, then reviewed his notes.
The first bowl was unfortunately contaminated with some small degree of dicemetide, and wouldn’t be useful – except as a last resort. The second was of almost perfect quality, in any case, the best that could be possible at the present time. The third was also of good quality, but not enough calcium triphosphate had been added, and perhaps a third was still unconverted corquine. He could possibly add more calcium triphosphate, or could just sell it as a lesser-quality product.
A shame about the first batch, though. He had fourteen kilograms of it, and it was contaminated. If he performed a cold-water extraction of the dicemetide, then perhaps…
Yes, that would have to be it. And he would re-process the third. He was known as the producer of the best quality stuff around, and he wasn’t going to lose that ranking.
He poured the second bowl into a little bag and put it in his pocket. That would be useful for later. As for the others, he took them and poured them back into the larger bins which contained the rest of the batch. He’d like to get a head-start on purifying them, but didn’t think he would tonight. The second batch would be enough for a week or so, anyway, and he’d have plenty of time to get the rest ready before then.
Before that, he wanted to really test how good this stuff was. Taste could tell him quality, but to really know it he’d have to go deeper.
He relaxed in a chair and finished his pipe, then tapped out the ashes over the edge of the porch and went inside.
He lit a flame burner under a small rounded metal bowl that he had sterilized with an alcohol swab, then took out a fresh syringe and needle. He took up three-quarters of a cubic centimeter of water into the syringe, then squirted it into the metal bowl, then scooped out a small amount of the powder from the bag and put it on a scale. He looked at the number, then put a dash more of the powder on. Satisfied, he dumped that into the metal bowl.
As it heated, he stirred it with the needle occasionally. When the powder had dissolved, he extinguished the flame, let the solution cool for a moment, then sucked it into the syringe. Most users would use a little clump of cotton as a filter, but he knew the purity of his product didn’t merit that, and would only bring on the possibility of cotton fever.
He brought the syringe and a rubber tourniquet out to the chair on the porch. He rolled up his sleeve, wrapped the tourniquet around his left forearm, pulled it tight, and made a fist. He flexed his wrist a few times, then found a vein that seemed good and tapped it a few times. He rubbed the area with an alcohol swab, then slid the needle into his arm, pulled back the plunger a bit to make sure it was in the vein well, then slowly pressed the plunger down.
A moment later, the tripencorquine hit him, pain-free, anxiolytic bliss filling him. He let out a sigh, relaxed into his chair, and let the night slide by.

Jem could’ve really done with some of that powder right about now.
He retched again, but his stomach had already completely emptied itself into the puddle in front of him. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, spat into the puddle a few times in an attempt to clear his mouth of the vile taste of vomit, then stepped back.
He really should’ve found a better place to do this. Of course, there really weren’t that many great places to puke incessantly, around here.
Withdrawals were a bitch, and he knew it. He’d gone through this all a few times before, but never quite this bad or for this long – only long enough until he got another shipment.
He grinned through his pain, retched again, and collapsed on the floor. Nausea wracked him, his head pounded unbearably, and his entire body was filled with uncontrollable pain.
“One reason I didn’t get into drugs,” Christopher said from his seat nearby. Jem glared at him, but couldn’t summon enough strength to create a comeback.
Noticing that his cigarette was getting low, Christopher pulled a new one out of his pack – his pack that seemed, inexplicably, to never run out -, put it in his mouth, and pressed the still-glowing end of the previous one against the end of the fresh one. He took a few strong drags to light it, then tossed the old cigarette into the corner of the room.
He took a look at Jem. “Yeah, yeah, I know, not supposed to smoke in here. Not supposed to throw my butts around on the floor. What are you gonna do about it?” He grinned menacingly.
Jem closed his eyes and let his head slump onto the floor. “This is bullshit,” he mumbled, then put out an open hand towards Christopher. Christopher sighed, then lit a second cigarette and handed it to Jem.
Still laying on the floor with his eyes closed, Jem brought the cigarette to his lips and took a few short pulls at it. It eased him, to some small degree, but not near enough.
A moment later, he got up slowly, bracing himself with his hands against the floor.
He sat, with his back leaning on the cement wall behind, slowly smoking his cigarette. When it was finished, he flicked the butt in the same direction that Christopher. Christopher himself was already on his third, looking distantly at the opposing wall.
Legs shaking, Jem got up and stood on the floor of the bathroom they were in. Showers made handy smoking-rooms. as well as detox clinics. The very thought of that sent Jem’s stomach spinning, but he settled it and turned to Christopher.
“You ready?”
Christopher nodded, then regretfully tossed his final butt in the corner.
They’d have to clean the bathroom soon enough anyway, so there wasn’t much use in trying to keep it clean.

Gerard stayed away from Michael’s room for the next few days. With outbursts like the last, he couldn’t risk it.
He still didn’t understand how Michael had known he was in the room. It must’ve just been a guess, or merely a general cry of rage against Gerard and the betrayal he represented.
Betrayal.
Gerard sat in his office in front of yet another blank sheet of paper. So many sheets of paper, so much accumulated ash in his trash bin.
He clicked and un-clicked his pen a few times, then leaned over the paper and began writing once again.
Front and back, then another sheet of paper, front and back. Filled to the edges and scribbled in tiny print. His hand throbbed with a cramp, but he kept writing.
It was cunning, it was unencroachable. It was foolproof, as if there were any fools here. It had to be foolproof, it had to be more than foolproof. It had to be unbreakable.
Clyde Edison Orrville. He was to be most considered in the writing of this. Gerard had only personally met him a few times, but had sensed in those few times what kind of man Clyde was. A hard man, a man who could break things, anything. Almost anything.
This had to be unbreakable.

James looked at the sign above the exit of Mind Pharmaceuticals.
“Live long, live well,” it said, with an engraving of Clyde Edison Orrville beside it. He was neither smiling nor frowning, an emotionless yet discerning and commanding face that James was sure he, if he was even real or alive, permanently wore.
James continued walking, through the two layers of double-doors, out into the parking lot beyond. James’ car was an incredibly outdated boxy four-door, which he found for three hundred dollars by the side of the road, and had cost him twice as much in repairs. It worked fine, which was all he needed it to do.
To work, and back. And again. That’s all it did. It followed one track and one track precisely. James passed by the store he shopped at on his way to and from work, so he didn’t even need to make specific trips for that.
He was well-stocked on bread, milk, eggs, cereal, hot dogs, and macaroni and cheese mixes, so he didn’t need to stop in today.
While at a stop light, he leaned over and opened the glove compartment, grabbing a bottle of metaproxil he stored in there. He popped open the top and took one out, then closed it again and tossed the bottle back in. He dry-swallowed the pill, waited for the light to change, and kept driving.
His apartment was small, dingy, cramped, and generally dislikable, but that didn’t matter to James. It was just a place to live, or, more accurately, to survive. Living was what successful, happy people did. He survived, and that was all he could hope for.
He got a glass of water, and a larger glass of vodka. He squinted at them for a moment, trying to remember which was which – what was the logic behind it, again? -, then made up his mind, set them on a small table, collapsed into the dilapidated couch beside it, and turned on the television.
Surviving could be fun, if you did it right.

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