Author : Rachelle Shepherd

The streetlamps sputtered on, spilling buttery fluorescence on Broadway Street litter. Sparrow opened the kitchen cabinets where chrome rows of Midnight Oil hissed in the shadow.

“Another night, Sparrow?” He didn’t answer. He never talked anymore, only scribbled in his journal and chewed his teeth crooked on pull-tabs.

Midnight Oil. 100% pure energy info-tech, all natural human animal hormone. Each tiny can was polished aluminum, reflective down to the print. Circuitry wrapped its wires around brand logo and rim and vanished down into the belly of the can. If you took a penlight and peered past the pull-tab, you could see through the translucent hormone to where the circuitry disappeared into the darker depths of oil.

Street rumor said that the circuitry never ended, not on any can. Constant loop.

With a magnifying glass the flawless circuitry became fine line English. Words all crammed in one gut-wrenching punch of symptoms and side effects. Gigabyte after gigabyte of consequence raced its message down those wires. Always changing.

Sparrow had classic addiction. Addiction and a writer’s muse, one of Midnight Oil’s bastard prodigies. Midnight Oil Poetry! Drinkers beware: metaphor in every can.

Sparrow plucked one off the shelf, chugged it, staggered, tossed the waste. When he turned back to me he had the pull-tab between his teeth.


Another night. I began to dread it just as much as my flat-mate, a man grown gaunt.

“You can’t live off metal shavings and steroids,” I said. He grinned a grin of broken teeth and ragged tongue. He’d been gnawing that pink skin at the edges.

The streetlamps hummed and spilled out sunscreen puddles over Broadway Street stray cats.

Midnight Oil. He said it stung the first dozen times. I saw the blisters myself, the pockets of pus clustered around his lips. There was a callous on the inside of his middle finger by the end of the week and crumpled stationary crackled underfoot with every step. Some of those pages were only words, some sentences, some dark night dead-end poems. All projects of a wired mind. Sparrow had gone viral.

He stopped talking, sleeping, eating, paying rent, paying attention. But he always burned the Midnight Oil.

I had my cigarettes, Surgeon General, and I lit one. Sparrow stood at the kitchen cabinet, his army of chrome soldiers full attention.

Another pop and hiss, guzzle and gag, gasp.


I woke up one morning to sunshine streetlamps fighting city smog. Some days, there was real Sun out there, the bona fide all natural firefly in the sky. You could see it on the news, too, if you were scared to go outside.

Sparrow dead on the kitchen floor, a pull-tab in his teeth. The linoleum was hormone slick.

I peered down at his open, vacant eyes. Circuitry bobbed across his iris.

I rushed for my magnifying glass. I was back before the words were swallowed by the black hole of his pupil and flushed down the cords of optic nerve.

Penlight? Check.

I put a beam on them, trapped that fine line English with my glass eye. They struggled with the congealed pool of sticky blue, strangers to 100% all natural human animal death throes.

They read: symptoms and side effects.


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