This fearful though gets me moving again. I close on the shop-fronts which transform from a threatening reservoir of evil to a pleasant, cool place of rest. I bee-line to the outermost business and fall against its door jarringly. My lack of momentum fails to break its lock and it repels me with distain. The entrance to the Hot Stuff Bakery is soundly built.
I hop away, holding my shoulder, trying not to fall through the front window when the stupid hiker’s pack throws me off balance. I hate reinforced doors. This must have been a bad neighbourhood. Still is, from my point of view.
Having delivered the last of my strength I settle for the shallow verandah’s shade. Besides, going inside means breaking Rule thirty five which forbids access to confined spaces whenever possible. And we wouldn’t want to be caught like a rat in a trap, would we?
Another round of dizziness visits. I blindly clutch at a post and hug its solidity tight. My mind is reduced to its lowest functions and a pulse behind my eyes thuds so hard I press my fingers against my eyelids.
I remain in this pose for some time, as still and lonely as a manikin, while the world dips and whirls crazily. Strangely it’s my brand new addiction that lets me claw my way back to a semblance of sanity. My skin is flushing from hot to cold. It is a growingly familiar precursor to the sharp teeth that will soon begin to tickle then bite. I can deny or appease my body’s demand for opiates. As the one and only power I have left I latch onto this fiction of control, like a nine year olds’ stubborn belief in the Easter Bunny.
Something rustles in the weeds. I stiffen and unclasp my eyes. They thoughtlessly spring open in alarm before I can decide whether or not I actually want to see the threat.
A shiftless gust of wind blows a piece of paper by and I am poleaxed by relief.
Fuck this madness! I must regain control. I must get some drugs in me.
It takes several seconds for my rebellious limbs to understand the benefits I offer but the body and mind begin cooperating at the promise of diluted pain and a lifting of a heavy heart. Topping up on liquid courage is also high on my priority list.
I know dulling my senses will not enhance my fighting prowess, but generally speaking, my favoured form of attack is to throw stuff behind me as I run away.
Rest, recharge and recuperate.
The stanza cajoles aching thumbs to unsnap argumentative buckles. My shoulders roll up joyfully as the pack slips from them, crashing onto the ground. I crouch to search its pockets for a particular plastic bottle of pills. The right one playfully eludes my grasping hands but I strangle it into submission and toss an uncounted few into my mouth. I chew its grainy, bitter guts then swallow the mush to my back-flipping stomach. Gradually a numbing sensation floods over my hurts.
A God-like rush rises and then infinitely tapers away leaving a euphoric feeling of well-being in its place. Grinning, I collapse, spreadeagling my floaty limbs on the cool concrete, ignoring my kill-joy brain’s insistent reminder of deadly danger.
To appease this needless worrying I pretend to consult with it to plan a way home. We’ll have to find another route, that’s for certain. All hosts within earshot of my shooting spree will be drawn to their dead friend’s, which they will be happy to feed upon. They would love for me to come back that way and they always leave dead meat for fresh.
I could pick up keys for one of a thousand vehicles easily enough. Motoring home would be really fine, it’s true. Except for the lessons I’ve learned. Batteries are mostly dead by now which means screwing around finding a car with a manual box; and I’m too tired to push a tonne of metal that may or may not start. Besides I’ve lost my special map with its passable routes marked in red.
I flashback to a time, many months ago, when I’d risked driving a truck into town to stock up on bulk supplies. I’d been very careful to use main highways, and made sure I came back by a different route each time. Then I’d gotten complacent. The Hosts I seen were few and far between so inn a fit of laziness I back-track an easy route and discovered numerous Hosts had filled the streets, still investigating the noise of my first passing. They hadn’t been afraid to sacrifice themselves to stop me either. Like tenpins I ran them down until their weight of numbers almost stalled the truck. I’d barely escaped. I upgraded their threat level after that day. They’d cooperated to bring me down. I’d given up shopping after that experience. My pantry was full. I had tonnes of food, pallets of beer and spirits and a fair bit of toilet paper.
What more does a man need?
The soft clanking of steel on steel wakes me from the semi-doze I’d succumbed to. I can’t for the life of me understand why I am dreaming of toilet paper? Did I need to take a dump? What in the hell am I doing outside?
I sleepily realise the sun has passed its zenith, and the shifting shadows tell me I’ve lain here for hours. Sleeping! Dreaming!
Flustered into action I sit up and carefully look around and find nothing immediately threatens. I undo the leather jacket and jerk down the form-fitting body armour beneath it, groaning at relieving the pressure where it was biting into my skin.
I dig under my chin for the helmet’s strap. It is lost amongst the scraggly beard I’ve grown through laziness. Eventually I find the strap and swear as I tear out a chuck of hair stuck in the clip. The shiny black helmet hits the deck with the splatting sound of a broken egg. I push back the wet mass of matted hair that spills down my back and stand proudly as an unfashionable statement of neglect.
Ah yes, it’s much better to breathe the cool breeze that ruffles my damp hair. Rule Eighteen can shove its prissy helmet wearing insistence up its arse.
My eyes slide across to the urban camouflaged, three foot high bag of crap nearby. It mocks me from its abandoned position knowing I have to pick it up again, soon. The vague regret that I hadn’t taken the woodland variation is fleeting. Who would have guessed Mother Nature could reseed an entire city of concrete and steel with greenery so quickly.
Getting up is a drawn out affair involving equal measures of groaning and curses. Every part of me is either numbly prickling or flaming with pain. Gaining my blistered feet, I unenergetically jump up and down several times to encourage circulation. The action stirs something up in my system. Dizziness and a sudden irrational fear of floating away has me crouching in bent kneed concern.
There’s an answer to my ills at hand. More, different drugs will cure these irrational thoughts.
I whip open the pack’s top flap and busily read labels on the jumble of pill bottles and packets that fill it. Adderall, the fast acting kind, floats around in my hand. I wring several capsules from the foil and expertly dry-swallow them.
I brace myself in anticipation. The nitrous boost of these babies kicking in is sublime. OK, I figure that dose should counter the Methadone and the Kadian I’d gobbled back in the pharmacy to calm my nerves. I note Santa’s sack contains an interesting array that I will enjoy dividing into a final entertainment program that will be never need to be excelled...
...Oh thank God, here comes the rush. Oh shit yeah, hang onto your brain. Goodbye depression’s depths, I’m a freaking super-star of heated helium! Somewhere towards the back on my mind a freight train of napalm crashes into a super-tanker of nitro. The wreckage is blasted across my mind, and the footage transmits along my spine in ringing crystal, swirling with vibrant colour accompanied by a soundtrack turned up to eleven.
Man, I feel great.
Awareness snaps a rubber band against both my eyeballs and clarity resumes on a far different level than I am used to. Energy builds, vitality soars, pulse rate is racing, heart gallops, breathing accelerating. I Am A God!