By: E.A. Sauer
W: 1,566 T: 12 minutes R: Moderate
He watched, captivated, as she bewitched the crystal blue surface with her silky touch. The chemicals coursed through his veins, causing his body to twinge, he shook his arms attempting to steady his nerves. This vicarious life is too fleeting, it no longer served his addiction, therefore it would be his last time with The Experience.
The dense green canopy danced in the wind as the siren call of tranquility serenaded him from the crater below. If he let fear coax him, rather than exhilaration, The Experience wouldn’t take. Sean took a calming breath attempting to alter the chemical properties of his fear-fueled adrenaline.
“Jump! I promise you’ll love it!” Lulu called up to him from fifty feet below. Her curves glistened with every intoxicating giggle, penetrating deep within his psyche. She was unaware of how vital her existence.
The symphony of flitting insects buzzed in peripheral obscurity. Jasmine gently lingered in the wake of a light breeze. The warmth from the sun and the sensation from the soft moss between his toes allowed a vigorous life force to engulf him. Dissociating from reality his perception of governance vanished. In that moment of serenity, the veil of trepidation faded. Grinning from ear to ear, he leaped from the canopy ledge.
At thirty-two years of age, Sean Mckinney is regarded as a successful businessman. The type of man who has a private chef and a subscription of high-end bourbon sent directly to his door. More notably, he is a member of Level Five, a furtive organization within the Dwyer Institution. Among being responsible for many reputable business ventures, the Dwyer Institution is also home to the elite society responsible for the distribution and consumption of The Experience. Level Five utilizes their in-house female escorts to distribute the drug to their extremely exclusive clientele.
The promise of escape from reality enthralled Sean, he could care less about the hookers. He abided by the rules. Pick the girls up from Ace, a club on the strip, and take them home. He’d always send the girls home after one drink. He was addicted to the power of the drug. He’d awake after a ride unable to leave his home. He became a recluse, tortured by involuntary seclusion, his solitude, and envy boiled into a deep depression managed by pills he frequently discarded. He needed this escape from reality; the fresh air, the distraction, the sense of freedom. Most importantly, he needed her.
Calling up to the canopy’s ledge she couldn’t help but take a moment to absorb the mystic aura thriving within the cavernous chamber. Ripples created by twisting arms complemented the stillness of the surface. The chaos that vibrated around her was deliberate. She could hear the hum of purposeful energy.
The cascading falls to her left weren’t roaring with power, they were harmonizing with the atmospheric intensity. Millenia of untouched vines weaved together creating a plush blanket of greenery that covered the rock surface of the walls. Boulders cloaked with soft green moss created a sense of comfort within the virginal pit. An enchanting tree grew on the opposing edge of the deep pool. Twisting and curling around the rock formation, its roots inspired survival. Blue flowers coiled around the winding bark, enhancing the beauty of the nutant feathery fronds.
At the top of the pit, she could hardly see him leaning over the edge. She was standing ankle deep in the water when she was struck by an electric surge that that pushed a memory of hiking through the jungle.
His face looking back towards her. Feeling his lips on her inner thigh in the darkness by the fire. Mouthwatering sensation of the sweet he surprised her with as they neared the top of the mountain. The stomach clenching exhilaration after they cleared the low hanging vines to discover the sunken pit. His toned arms lifting her in the air with elation. Deciding to jump from the ledge into the clear water below, unknowing of the outcome. Descending deep into the welcoming embrace. Mentally photographing the abstract painting through the crystal lens of the water. Feeling the deprivation of oxygen and choosing to linger. Allowing the purity of the water to fill every pore. Completely submerging her soul. Slowly ascending to the surface she felt peaceful watching her remaining air bubbles rise to the surface. The first breath of air, a baptism of reality.
She was raptured by the memory, losing herself in The Experience. Her hair stood on end and the euphoria within her was unimaginable. Unable to brace herself in this phantom world, nausea crept through her stomach to her esophagus. Opening her mouth to call to Sean, she found her voice muted at the same time he leaped from the ledge.
At that moment Sean no longer existed. The chains of mundanity broken by erupting pangs of pleasure. Below the surface of the water, his deprivation of life became glaringly transparent. Internal pleas of passion empowered him to rise to the surface a new man. The light tasted of unmerited freedom. He felt liberated knowing his tortured soul would cease to exist.
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The system went black. Trapped in purgatory, she didn’t want to lose the high she was riding. Blissful satisfaction coursed through her veins. Opening her eyes she panicked, her vision was dampened by an iridescent black film. She blinked several times trying to clear the debris. Her only memories were of the uncharted sinkhole in the jungle.
Through the film, she tried to make sense of her surroundings. She was sitting on a leather couch in an unfamiliar apartment. Everything was hazy, she shook her head thinking back on her day. She couldn’t remember anything specific, nothing that helped riddle out what was happening. Rubbing her eyes she felt the soft plastic move.
Contact lenses! She pulled the semi deteriorated discs from her eyes. Sighing with relief she remembered the VR drug Sean had given her. She giggled laying back in his arms. The Experience was more than she could’ve ever imagined. She could still feel the water droplets on her arm, even though she could see they weren’t there.. The scent of jasmine lingered in her nostrils. The feeling of rejuvenation from the memory of the girl who actually did leap from the canopy edge.
She never dreamed of sampling the product, the Institution would kill them if they ever found out. These psychedelic laced contact lenses project a pre-selected virtual reality experience into the users’ mind. The members of Level Five we’re bound to a ritualistic secrecy, they were never to use the drug around others. Sean told her he didn’t care because he was done with the Dwyer Institution. Due to inexperience, she didn’t know how to handle the situation so she went along with what the client wanted.
Looking up at Sean, she wondered how much longer he’d stay in The Experience. She sat up crossing her legs, she needed him to come back. There were questions she needed him to answer. She regarded him, taking in his features. His small frame and short black hair we’re non-threatening. His skin seemed tight, almost waxy. She touched his face life which felt as if his life source had vanished. The world fell away from her.
“No no no no no no no!” She grabbed his shoulders shaking his limp body. Pulling him to the ground she started CPR. He had no pulse, she had no idea how long he’d been unconscious. Each futile pump she delivered to his stiff chest sent her into a sobbing fit. Falling back on the couch she started convulsing violently causing nausea to consume her. Running to the kitchen she expelled bile into the sink. Minutes passed by as she felt her body adjust back to reality. She was shaking, how did this happen? Did he overdose on the VR drug? How many people have died? They were going to kill her. Her mind was racing. Attempting not to panic she splashed her face with water and rinsed her mouth. She stood in the kitchen, staring at the back of the dead man’s head.
They were seen together at the club, she couldn’t just leave. Too frightened to call her boss, she crumpled over the kitchen counter crying. Her sobs only interrupted by the short breaths she was able to manage. Slinking to the floor in the fetal position, she stayed there for hours. The sun broke through the window releasing her from the coma-like trance. Using the counter to stand up, she was still unsure what she should do. As her eyes crossed over the countertop she noticed a piece of paper with words scrawled on top.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t want to be alone”
What the hell did that mean? Was that note left for her? Why would he say sorry? What the hell was going on? Disbelief and confusion sank deep into her mind. Looking around the kitchen she tried to find clues, it wasn’t until she opened the cupboard she found the truth. An empty pill bottle in the bottom of an empty trash bin. “Sean McKinney. Klonopin .25 mg. Take 1 capsule by mouth every day. If needed increase .5 mg a day for 3 days to reach doseage of 1 mg per day.”
It had been filled that morning.