The Vial (By Anil)

“This is truth, this is enlightenment” said Marcus, holding the vial up into the sunlight. The dark, musky room felt cleaner, brighter, warmer even, as though angels had refracted from the sunbeam. And then he clasped his fingers around the vial, and the light was gone.

I’d gone to meet Marcus to get a bit of that vial. His ‘goods’ had come highly recommended. Though, everyone who partook had the same warning. Marcus liked to talk.

“This”, he continued in passionate monotone “is light, excruciating light, under its gaze, facades will crumble, pedestals will fall. Only the grim truths will remain. That man who delivered your paper today, he is a mere automaton, driven by base needs, programmed to deposit a lump of dead carbon on your doorstep, incapable of a single unorthodox thought. That dog of yours, the one that carried in the bundle to your bed, learn that it isn’t capable of love. It too is a machine, forcing itself onto your generosity, its synapses firing in pre-determined bursts. Did you ever need its affection? You could simply program a Roomba to say it loved you. Save yourself a whole lot of trouble. Like your wife, the one who claims to love you, who wakes up each morning to make you coffee. Think she’d do it if you didn’t have money. No. No way. With this, you’d see through her, through her act, right to her very soul, her robotic, pre-programmed soul. …”

I looked around the room, letting the voice fade away. It was, as I said, a dark room. Dreary even, with heavy curtains employed to block out the sun. There was an AC that sputtered on in a steady if distracting beat. Its effect was questionable. The air remained morose, heavy, with a hint of growing mold. The carpet felt moist, slippery, mossy even. In other words, a picture of this room belonged in the dictionary right next to the word ‘Seedy’.

Marcus was still talking, blindly and to no one in particular. ” … autonomous synapses switching like a computer. Nobody is real. Get it? I did. That is why I fell. That is what I offer you. A life without illusions. A life without machines. With this streaming through your veins, you’ll see them as they really are. ”

He paused. Perhaps he sensed my distraction.

” Why did you want this again? ” he asked.

” My boy died. Cancer. ” I said through clipped teeth.

” Ah, your kid, your kid, with her wide eyes staring up in anticipation. Neurons clicking up a storm when a toffee is being opened. Let me warn you though, this potion won’t make you forget. It will make you see. See a machine where a face used to make. You see, she (not this) was the addiction. Now, it will feel like losing a phone. Do you still want it? ”

“Yes. ”

“Alright. Heroin, the first batch is 500 rupees. I take cash, and cash only. ”

Marcus, held out the vial to me. I could see dark circles under his puffy eyes which were barely keeping themselves open, and pale blotchy skin everywhere else, and on a shelf, behind him, stood a picture frame. Despite the poor light, I could make out silhouettes- perhaps of a happier past.

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