A Kiss of Legacy

It amuses me how many books were never lost. Though the cities crumbled and the libraries burned down, the data remained. As society slipped into the black hole it had birthed upon itself, the matter was destroyed but the information remained intact.

Granted, it took a few hundred years for the new colonies to unscramble the data, but it was all there. From Harry Potter to Tolkien, from the Hunger Games to Divergent to the script of Interstellar. These words and images were refined into shots for dispersion. At first all you had to do was take a walk to the drug store, purchase a pack, and head home, but the stories were too good, too great, too easy an escape.

Within a few years, the books were banned, but junkies kept them in the back allies and unlit halls, spreading these memories like a disease.

My friend Tabitha got too caught up, soon enough she couldn’t tell a horse from a Hippogryph or a sunrise from the eye of Sauron. She got locked up. I heard she still screams as she breaks the glass and the whole world shatters.

The truth is, I slip too. That’s what they call it, slipping. Back before only the data remained, you followed the words, they called it reading, but now it’s just a shot and reality slides away. For a while, you’re gone. It’s pure bliss.

But I gotta take it slow, can’t end up like Tabitha. Or James. Demal. Alicia. Collin. Won’t get myself locked up, not like that. Not ever.

There’s a soft spot on my wrist where the blank page fades away. I push my leather wristband down and see that small patch of blue and brown, always bruised, always fresh and raw like the stories I slip in. The books are glass capsules the size of fingertips, one end chiseled to a point. It just looks like water till it hits the air, then it shines in all the colors of the story inside.

As it drains into the syringe, this one turns green and yellow, a rich russet brown. The Canterbury Tales. A classic. I love the fresh air, the sound of streams, the scent of pine needles in the brush. I don’t feel it anymore when the needle goes inside, when the words fill my veins. Instead this bleak horizon starts to blur, to blend, and suddenly, softly, I’m standing in a castle.

Time for the story to sweep me away.


Sirium 5

V. Gypsy Moth Fortune Cookie

I spread my arms into the wind and jump. For a moment we’re suspended in space amid the single note of someone’s scream and a roll of thunder above us. Then we’re plummeting toward the ground, the wind roaring into my ears and rain splattering across my face. I spread my fingers–the water hits them like ice and I swear I’m bleeding–and try to feel the water droplets in the air and the layers of clouds above us.

The rain’s a lot like the snow, and I feel the droplets moving toward me as I start to bend my fingers inward, but the clouds are like the river I hadn’t quite gotten hold of. I open my eyes and try to look upwards, to see them, but it’s all a blur, and we’re still falling. I shut my eyes, imagining the clouds and spread my fingers again. It’s now or never.

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Sirium 4.2

IV. Radioactive Kitten Cage

2. Lithium Ion

As I climbed in her car, Rebecca Blakewell tapped the side of my skull with her finger. I felt a sudden jolt and suddenly I couldn’t see. “It’s only temporary,” she said with a laugh and I heard the car door close.

Another door opened a moment later and she closed it before starting the car. It rumbled underneath me and I heard over its rattling the sound of sirens in the distance.

“Did you knock them all out?” I asked. She and I had been alone outside, but there were other guys still inside. The house should’ve been packed this time of night.

“They’ll wake up once we’re gone,” she said and I felt a lurch backward as she began moving. “It’s easier to win a game when there are fewer pieces in play, don’t you agree?”

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Sirium 4.1

IV. Radioactive Kitten Cage

1. Alkaline

I see a small bathroom attached to the hospital room and angle myself in that direction; as I fall off the bed, I grab a handful of wires and pull–they hold me back for a second and then pop off as I strike the floor. I moan as the monitors start beeping and shrieking and I drag myself along the floor toward the bathroom. I pull myself up in front of the sink and grab the handle–water starts pouring, and I splash it in my face, letting little rivers of drips and drops slide into my mouth. It hits my tongue like acid, chiseling away at the parched landscape of my mouth. It feels wonderful and my sudden thirst makes me yearn for more.

I struggle to pull myself up, straining my neck to reach the water. I stick my tongue out and feel the first droplets on my palette, and it gives me strength to push forward and open my mouth under the faucet: the water floods inside me and rushes down my throat, and at first I feel like I’m choking, but then I feel my muscles start to work again and the fugue start to lift from my mind and my eyes–I can see again, the blurry haze slipping away. I swallow and I swallow more and more and then I hear footsteps.

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Sirium 3.3

III. Cold Snake Memory Charm

3. Metamorphic

I tried pressing Ylissa for more, but after all that seizing, that one morsel of usable information was all she was able to pull from the nonsensical reeling inside her mind. But maybe that was enough. My suspicions were confirmed: the biology department was where I’d find the answers about what had happened to Gus, and if he was still alive, where I could find him. Then maybe my life could be normal again.

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