Author : Rachelle Shepherd
There was a teal stained smile behind her plump cobalt lips.
“Tonight’s flavor is cotton candy,” She placed a coal chunk in the sticky pit of Haze. It flared red-hot. Potpourri purrs into plumes of purple breath. “Smoke responsibly.”
She went on to the next customer, repeating her mantra behind an inky grin. The warning never wavered.
Smoke responsibly. Euphoria expected. Euphoria imminent.
Haze was experimental air. Laboratory grown stink bud, infused with the flavors of the universe. There was a strawberry, orange, vanilla. Almond and walnut, golden honey, sea-salt and vinegar. All the basics.
Higher up the fusion chain lays the complex tastes. Cotton candy. Indonesian clove. Wormwood with licorice swirls. Flavors without description, without accurate representation. Outlaws. Illegal behaviors made smoke and mirror with the trick of laboratory liquids.
Cotton candy was a Smoke-Night special. There was nothing amateur about this carnival vintage. It was untested, even on rats. Straight to human species.
Who could spin sugar into smoke? Only Taffy. Taffy’s Tar House, home of less-than-legal flavors. Taffy with her rainbow color kisses, stained by the liquids that wove flavors into breath.
Taffy had her Smoker’s Lottery. Sign up for smokes today!
Not Liable for Side Effects.
The raffle ticket cost me a week’s salary. Only a little more than any other weekend smoke night in Taffy’s glittering parlor of forbidden fruits.
Legal Haze was just flavored paper and watercolor. Taffy smoked science. Matter made consumable. Matter made illegal, destruct on sight. It took straight to your head, rearranged the atoms there. I’d spend hours after a good smoke trying to find my thoughts. And when they came back again, they came with new hues. A glaze of sorts, a pot fired in a kiln. Watch the shadows break that tacky ceramic into jigsaw art.
We are the summation of the effects of our addictions.
The parlor filled with the suck and sigh of smoke. Each table glowed with its own private third eye. Taffy carried her brazier behind a silk screen. It rustled restlessly, closing behind her and clicking with the teeth of a thousand beads.
I inhaled. My mind bloated like my chest, thick with nausea and epiphany. The Haze had no weight. I was breathing thoughts, absorbing them into the very tissue of my body. I could see the carnival lights flickering on the backdrop of my eyelids, hear the clank of heavy steel machinery. Children were laughing, their mouths sticky with caramel apple juice.
In my mouth, the cloying aftertaste of cheap cotton candy. Pink and blue tongues fat with refined sugar. The Ticketmaster leered behind his booth, smears of black tar on his fingertips. Bubbles of blood nestled in the corners of his eyes.
The parlor coughed. Collectively we gasped, our nozzles abandoned on the table. Hookah cords hung like snakes, writhing.
Someone called out for some real-time fresh air.
“Open a window!”
The last bit of breath rushed past greedy lips. I ran my tongue over my teeth. Clumps of sharp sugar crystals bit into the soft flesh.
A smother blanket of Haze settled over the room. The light dimmed with the dying coals. A steady silence built as lungs hushed.
Smoker’s Lottery. Not Liable for Side Effects.
The fog swelled, sticky blue. One by one, embers melted into ash slag like winking eyes.