Nicholas sat outside on the deck, rolling his teeth and tongue across his lips. He pulled the taste from his lips and spat off the deck.
“That is a disgusting habit, you know?” Grant said as he joined Nicholas at the outside table.
Nicholas lifted his left hand to make it an example, staring at the joint in his hand before looking back to Grant.
“We’re smoking weed. I clearly don’t care about bad habits.”
Grant sat down, slumping into his chair and taking a sip from his mug.
“Still, you are spreading disease and bacteria when you spit.”
“Ha, with who, man? No one comes over here, and before you say you just remember that we literally share joints. We might as well be kissing.”
“I mean, if you are offering….”
Nicholas laughed to himself as he ran the lighter up and down the joint, drying out the paper.
“You know, man, if I didn’t know any better, I would say you were hitting on me.”
The two of them paused, then laughed at one another. Grant took another sip from his drink before turning his focus to Nicholas.
“So how was workman? Anything interesting happen?”
“Na, not really ae. I had a wee bit of a fucking.” Nicholas waved his hands around in the air, hoping to find the words. “Well, a, you know.”
“Fuck, man, that sucks. Oh shit, is that because you went to therapy today?”
“Yea, I did. That was the reason for the, ya know, the weird shit.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t smoke if you are having these issues.”
“Ha, yea, I had thought of that, but frankly, I would prefer to be able to turn my mind off for a few hours each night. I don’t foresee what I have got worse, so while this may add to the duration, at least, I am happy for a bit, you know.”
Nicholas stared down at the joint in his hands for a long while, turning it between his fingers. Finally, he raised it to his lips with haste and lit it, inhaling deeply. Grant watched as the embers burnt back rapidly.
“Well fuck, I ain’t gonna tell you how to live your life.” Grant said, waiting for Nicholas to pass the joint.
Nicholas held his breath, passing the joint over and inhaling several short breaths. He watched as Grant took a toke and waited for him to breathe out. Grant looked back at Nicholas with a grin and did the same. They both stared each other down as they could feel the smoke in their lungs heating up. Nicholas’s eyes started to water, and his face started to turn red. In one outward breath, Nicholas let loose most of the smoke in his lungs. Coughing, he sputtered the rest of the smoke out of him as he looked back at Grant, who still sat looking fine with a grin on his face.
“Alright, cunt. You fucking win this round.”
Grant calmly let the smoke out of his lungs and handed over the joint.
“Look, your good kid, but I am better.”
Nicholas and Grant spent the rest of the night chatting and passing smoke between one another. Until finally, Nicholas looked at his phone.
“Fark, man, it is so damn late. I really need to go to bed.”
Grant stared, grinning.
“You what, mate?”
“I gotta sleep, man.”
“Alright, but how about one more joint.”
Nicholas faked considering it before turning it down.
“Na man, I got work tomorrow. But tomorrow is Friday, so we can go fucking hard in the afternoon.”
“Fuck yeeeeeeeeee, fuk yea. Let’s do it.”
Nicholas walked off slowly back inside, falling face-first into his bed. He rolled around in his blankets until he was comfortable. As soon as he found his spot, he quickly fell asleep.
Nicholas’s alarm went off, and he felt it pulsating through his head. His eyes opened, and everything he looked at was vibrating to the tune of the alarm.
“What the…” His own words were cut off by his crying out in pain.
Closing his eyes, he covered his ears, muting the sounds of the alarm. Patting around his bedside table, he found his phone. Desperately swiping his fingers across the screen, he tried his best to disable the alarm without opening his eyes. But after what felt like minutes of the alarm screaming at him, he reluctantly opened his eyes to see how to turn it off. The same pulsating vision came back to him, but what he thought was his phone was a random block of wood. As soon as he saw it, he dropped it, and suddenly the sounds of the alarm seemed to be coming from another room. Nicholas tried to stand to make his way to where the alarm was sounding, but moving while keeping his eyes open made him too nauseous. He held back the need to vomit but collapsed to his knees and closed his eyes again.
“Why the fuck is it so loud? I can’t do it; it hurts too much!” He screamed as he curled over into the fetal position on the floor, covering his ears as best as he could.
Once he finished screaming, the sound of the alarm stopped. His ears rang, and he remained curled on the floor as his head throbbed and ached from putting up with the loud sound for too long. His breath was fast and shallow, and tears started to stream from his eyes.
“I told you he isn’t ready yet; he doesn’t have the resolve yet. He is hardly Anodyne.”
Nicholas’s eyes shot open, bloodshot and still tearing. He wiped the tears from his eyes and stood as fast as he could. His head throbbed with every movement.
“Argh. Who is there?”
The conversation fell silent, and Nicholas heard silently moving footsteps trail away from him.
He slowly opened his door to see two individuals standing on his deck, one of them lighting a cigarette. He watched them talk in hushed tones. The dirty glass sliding door made it hard to see at night, but with every inhale, Nicholas tried to piece facial features together. The one smoking had a face covered in scars, while the other looked like they had never seen the sun a day in their life. Skin as white as snow that looked soft to the touch. As if they had been told, they both turned at once to see Nicholas standing dazed in the doorway to his room. They shared a few more words before they started to walk off.
“Come on, man, we can follow them. Harden the fuck up; we know we are sleeping.” Nicholas stood motionless in his doorway.
“Fucking move already.” He screamed at his legs.
He felt himself jerk forward like a car finding its gear. Lurching forward, his head thumped with every step he made. Further adding to the headache that was showing no sign of retreating any time soon. Nicholas came to the front door and slid it open; peering out, he watched as the two individuals were walking to the gate of his property.
“Hey, you two, stop!” Nicholas screamed as he walked down the ramp.
“Bolder than I thought.” The fair individual laughed before the both of them started to walk down the road.
“Who the fuck are these two?” Nicholas asked himself as he slowly began to run after them. Turning the corner, they had already moved hundreds of meters down the road, despite the fact they were only walking. Nicholas stalled for a moment to take in the distance he still had to travel before shifting into a full sprint. His breath quickly became labored as he struggled through heaving lungs.
‘God, I am out of shape.’ He thought to himself, not wanting to use his precious supply of air.
Before Nicholas had time to react, he noticed that he had made it all the way into town, his body drenched in sweat and his feet bleeding on the concrete. Nicholas’ mind was already preoccupied, staring down the two who managed to stay out of his grasp no matter how hard he ran and how slow they walked. His nose flexed and curled at the smell of something acrid in the air that seemed to follow him. Finally, the two individuals stopped in an alleyway, staring back at Nicholas as he approached them.
“Finally, you fucks stopped moving; who the hell are you. I don’t think I have seen you in my dreams before.”
They looked at one another with confusion.
“He can still speak.” The scarred man said, turning back to the fair man.
“I, too, am surprised; maybe he is more Anodyne than I thought.”
“Aha, you called me Anodyne. Do you know him? Are you from Hollow?”
“Ha, yea, we are from Hollow. But neither of us, ‘know,’ Anodyne.” The scarred man said before he took another long drag. “I have been close to him; his fury is palpable. It really electrifies the air.”
The two of them laughed as Nicholas leaned on his knees, focusing on regaining his breath. The sour smell had gotten so strong he could taste it.
“God, this smell, is this you two?”
The fair individual looked back at Nicholas knowingly. “It is funny how you can accuse us of smelling when you are in that state. A shameful display knowing that someday you are going to be a god of unrelenting presence.”
“I don’t give a fuck about how shameful I act. If I tarnish his name every time I look like a fool, I shall act the fool every day of my life until the day I die.”
“Well, you are going the right way about it so far. Just keep this up.” The fair man said as he looked up; squinting his eyes, he turned to the scarred man. “It is nearly daytime. We need to head off.
Nicholas turned and was immediately blinded by the light of a midday sun. Falling to the ground, he shielded his eyes and shook. All of a sudden, his body erupted into pain as every muscle ached, he screamed out, and shortly after, he realized he could hear hushed tones of others passing by.
“See that kid?”
“See him? I smelt him; I’ll call the cops.”
“Don’t call the cops; he needs an ambulance.”
“Fine, I don’t see why you always have to have so much compassion for these drugged-up homeless kids.”
Nicholas’ eyes fluttered open. The world was saturated in light and looked like a 2d plane. Tears started streaming from his eyes as the heat of the sunburnt. Finally blinking enough to manage staring into the bright day, he looked around. Two older women stood nearby, one with concern wrapped around her face, and another looked perturbed while on a phone call, occasionally turning a side eye to Nicholas before turning her body away from him.
“Where a…” Nicholas started coughing, his throat so dry that pushing words out felt like sandpaper being forced up his throat.
His head was heavy. It slumped forward, and he felt the squish of a viscous, lumpy liquid on his shirt. Pressing his hand against it, he pulled his hand out to see vomit dripping from his fingers. The world started to spin slowly, and he could feel his stomach starting to swell.
“Oh no, it looks like he might blow again.”
Nicholas turned his head to see a kid staring at him, his mother swatting at his arm.
“Don’t look; those two women are taking care of him.”
The woman walked on with her child, the child still turning back and making disgusted faces.
Nicholas rolled his tongue around his mouth, feeling the prickly texture through his mouth. His tongue sticking to every part of his mouth since he didn’t have any moisture left in his mouth. His vision fell short before it fell dark.
Waking up, he looked to the ceiling, his body aching and his throat sore. But nothing compared to how it was before.
“Hello, old friend.” He said as he stared at the buzzing light fixture on the ceiling. With the sound of a curtain rolling back, Nicholas heard a familiar voice.
“Hello, Nicholas; once again, you have no contacts for your medical record. Is there anyone you want to tell that you are here?”
Nicholas paused for a long while, breathing the sanitized air in. He listened as machines next to him beeped, and he could hear trolley beds rolling past. The cold breeze on his legs told him he was in a gown, and his clothes were probably used beyond use. He closed his eyes and rolled to his side.
“Dinners at six, and tonight is vege soup?” Nicholas asked.
“Stir fry, actually; it is a Tuesday. Someone will be back shortly with water. Mental health services will be around when you are feeling better.” The doctor left the room, pulling Nicholas’ curtain closed again.
Nicholas wrapped himself up in his blanket and closed his eyes; swallowing heavily, he tried his best to sleep, trying his best to forget.