Author: Mark Renney

Dean was amazed that he had managed to hold off for so long. He had decided to languish with the minority, but not because he was in any way pious or had some overly zealous agenda. Dean was a user, had been for all of his adult life, for as long – no actually, it was for longer, than he could recollect.
He remembered the illegal and addictive substances and had been a part of that world. It was a hard place and survival was a constant struggle. It was a shady and murky world and Dean did not want to go back.
For him the transition, like of most of his generation, was effortless and there had been no withdrawal. At first he had to buy the State sponsored substances but once he was working and earning enough they became part of the package and substances were simply something to which he was entitled. That gut-wrenching pain, the all consuming need, quickly became a part of his past and Dean was thankful and appreciative.
But the Grade was different and although not sponsored by the State it was not illegal. Almost everyone was using it and it was accepted. There was no stigma attached to it and no risks involved. It was just adding another pill to the State sponsored cocktail.
Perhaps Dean had held off for so long because to begin buying again felt to him like a step back toward the dark world from which he had managed to escape.

Dean was in the Works canteen, his colleague sitting directly opposite stretched out his hand and nestled in the centre of his palm were two pills.
‘Go on,’ his friend urged, ‘take one, what have you got to lose?’
Dean reached out and snatched one of the pills almost without thinking. He knew of course that it was the Grade. There wasn’t anything else it could be, that a friend could hold out in his hand and proffer.
‘Go on,’ his friend repeated. ‘Try it, you won’t regret it.’ Dean popped the pill into his mouth and swallowed.

But he did regret it, instantly. And throughout the day he became increasingly more anxious about how the Grade would affect him, what would he feel? Would it be something new? Different? Or would it be something old that he had forgotten?
Dean thought about the life he had managed to carve out for himself. The tiniest of slices in the largest of pies and for so long he had felt safe and secure. And then the Grade began to take effect and it did feel like something new and he felt different and he began to forget.