Author : Rachelle Shepherd

We stopped at the Drug Market for clone-cloves, street illegal copies of Indonesian spice and porn-shop perfume. They were thick rolls of black steel with bands of gold in a no-nonsense plastic wrap pack. Even their cellophane slip was less than legal litter, a fine of 50 credits and community service at the soup kitchen.

There was no 2000 era Surgeon General warning on these bootleg beauties.

All natural unnatural chemical release. The Historians say Americans used to pull this sap smoke thick straight to the lungs, relishing on the novelty of loiter fines. They crowded like fireflies outside nightclubs, winking in the shadows of crumbling stone masonry.

They kept the smokers from the non-smokers, segregating vices into self-righteous wrongs and rights. Even a smoker’s breath was poison and a clove was like to knock a set of virgin lungs into toxic shock.

Clone-cloves were no heat no smoke electronic gadgets, packed full of a body’s memory of epiphany and release. All it took was a kiss of lips to metal and our lungs puffed up like balloons, stretching pink and fleshy in our aching chests. The info-tech tickled when it poured down the throat, causing real-life real-time smoker’s cough. We hacked and gagged our way through the first stick and watched the tech fall apart like ashes in the wind.

Three pairs of boots in a puddle of metal shavings.

We were bloated on vice, giddy with the shock and sensation of peering into a dead past of unhealth and hospital bills. Giddy with the memory of smog clouds and ancestor waste.

Our pack passed hand to hand, puff and pass, nausea contagious.

There was nothing left but crinkling cellophane and churning stomachs, water-heavy lungs and a light head buzz. We held a small funeral at the corner side incinerator, paraphernalia flaring into ember. Spicy incense on the midnight air. Scent pollution.

Sudden cravings led us to a regulation café. I wanted a cup of caffeine and a new taste in my mouth. Something melting, something chocolate. Something to wash away the melancholy of propaganda.

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