rating: +10+x

I dream dim dreams of Dramamine. Shallow shadows pass me by – shoulders, faces, names and cries, it all gets swallowed by my addled mind. Try not to blink, not to trip, for the morning sun is a stroboscopic light: sharp flashes go off, and I space out.

Steps, steps, steps. Scattered thoughts. I'm teleporting. Half my track is misremembered black, blank spaces that eat away instants at a time, the connective tissue between one thought and another corroded and—

Pop pink pills and power past the push of people, for today is payday at the grey men's lair. Get on the bus and half-sleep half the way; hallucinate the rest and pray I don't miss my stop.

I'm already late for work. Time drags by and I can't tell if it's traffic holding us back or if my synapses have become so numb that I can no longer tell the seconds apart. I close my eyes and embrace my trip through the quicksand of my own psyche.

Drowsy, dreamy, decayed, drowned. Off I go and crawl into the office monolith like I'm zombiefied. Narcoleptic little man, my reflection in the bathroom mirror grins. Think you can fake not being high off your ass?

Don't know, don't care. I go through the motions: say hi, flash some white, sit down and shut up. Someone barks an order, and my hands are not my own – they're the computer's, the office's, the pills'. Space out again and I'm almost yawning, my work not yet finished and my brain indisposed. Grab a glass of cold water and swallow hard to part the mud and grime that bogs the machine down.

It doesn't work. No work, no pay, so I down another glass and then another. I lack focus, not conviction, so I swim through gelatin and set myself on mindless toiling. Every three steps is a misstep into a puddle of black brain bile, and I sink to the bottom, then force myself to wake up.

There's no dreaming on the job, no higher brain function. The grey men have their way, and it's all numbers and mumbles. Talk the money, get the money, worship the money. Today is payday, so I better file the paperwork the way the system likes it. Manage a decent conversation here and there to keep up the illusion of sobriety; guess I'm getting good at hiding my alienation.

Sulk some, smoke some – try to exhale my way past the drowsiness that threatens to pull me under. Lock myself in a bathroom stall, pants down, spirits low, and get some much-needed closed-eye time. No dreams here either, but I don't feel like crashing face-first against the door; I'm making progress, I know; soon I'll be back to my usual dynamic, waiting out the day so I can crawl back into bed and dream the nightmares I put to paper.

Click my tongue as I wash my hands clean, measuring the infinite distance between my brain's command and its execution by the nerves at the end of the road. Not quick enough yet — I'm still not out of the trip, so I sink my face into cold water and buy myself a few lucid instants before venturing back into the fog.

There are things out here, nasty things with their lips dripping ugly words like "credit score" and "contractual obligations." I politely nod at their human guises, trying not to look too close at the corners of their smiles, where their skin stretches thin and the other visage pushes through. Another stack of paperwork needs filing, so I excuse myself and leave under the watch of their pitiless eyes. They still haven't figured how high I am.

Payment comes, neat round zeroes that spell out the fruit of my labor. Better off like this than on the streets, than on my bed lamenting having no routine and no cash. Don't miss that life at all, I tell myself. Don't regret selling my soul. I know things were worse back then, but they could be much better too. This isn't life you're going through, man. This is a simulacrum, a lie you chose for yourself. But I'm too far gone to care, too busy battling the weight of my own eyelids and the spasms that shock me back to consciousness.

The haze refuses to subside, so I glide through pleasant thoughts which can't help but interrupt themselves as I recall that I'm still awake, not dreaming in my sheets or weaving words into worlds of wonder. There are no windows here, so I've taken to looking inwards, into the maze. Sometimes I force a thought into reality and envision that I exist past the coils that ensnare me, past the babbling of the grey men. I summon sights of placid forests, of calm afternoons spent watching the sun hide beyond the mountains.

Someday, I hope. Someday I'll leave behind this tomb. Someday I'll weave stories until night swallows me whole. Someday bright dreams will manifest beyond the mind-numbing, soul-sucking embrace of Dramamine.

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