“It’s the next big thing,” Cate assures me. “Please, just try it?”
I hesitate. My friend heaves an impatient sigh.
“March, it’s not like anyone’s around to see us.”
The cavernous cement structure looming above us criticized my indecisiveness. It isn’t the illegality of the drugs that's bothering my conscience as I press my back against the smoothness of the wall behind me. There's more to it than that. It just doesn't feel right. In front of me, Cate fidgets with the small box in her hands. I know she's tired of my anxiety. It feels senseless to resist the Next Big Thing. Everyone is looking for the new style, the thing to do, the latest form of entertainment. If it catches on, it will be made popular by mass use and demand. This is just something to try, but it's another craze for me to balk at. I know I am being stubborn. Everyone takes Doses now, even if they're underage like we are, and the drugs are safe if you don’t overuse them. Minors like us have easy access to buying them off any adult looking to make a little cash. If everyone else can use them, why shouldn't I?
Cate can see me relenting. Her disappointed pout disappears as she opens the box and unwraps its contents. It looks like a container of vitamins. Two metallic blue capsules tumble out into the palm of her hand.
I make a face. “You try it first.”
She flicks her gaze to meet mine. “Do it with me.”
My hand reaches over and plucks a capsule from her hand. Everyone likes taking the new stuff because it's more powerful. I told Cate I’ve done other kinds of Doses, but I know she doesn’t believe me. Now, her bright eyes sparkle with expectation. This stuff is strong, one of the most potent on the market. Advertisements had assured me that it will leave the user thoughtless and euphoric. Thoughtless is the word I'm caught on. Why doesn’t anyone want to think anymore? All they seem to care about is the next Dose and what makes you feel something. You see it in the eyes of the kids at school - all they're thinking about is numbing themselves with the next Dose. But Cate’s eager face is leaving me guilty for overthinking this. I nod my consent and we lower ourselves to sit on the pavement with our backs against the concrete bridge. We're hidden from view. No one ever has to know I betrayed my own feelings and did this. Good.
Three simple motions occur after she hands me the capsule: place pill on tongue, close mouth, swallow.
Cate flashes me a grin. I wonder how many Doses she has tried before. Deep inside the bowels of my stomach, acid works to release the contents of the silvery capsule.
"It takes a little while to kick in." She tells me. "Don't worry, it'll feel weird at the start. When I took one for the first time, I think I threw up like, immediately." She laughs, but I wipe some sweat from my forehead.
"I can handle it." I say, my voice steady, and I try to believe my own words. We fall quiet when Cate leans her head back and closes her eyes. After a couple minutes, my head starts to swim and my eyes water. It worked its way into my system faster than I expected. I recalled the Doses advertisement I’d seen as its brilliant colors and ecstatic users flashed through my memory. The skeletal model had turned her glowing eyes to the camera and stuck out her tongue. A capsule rested on the tip. Brilliant colors whirled around in a smoky haze. She swallowed. Then the model had disappeared into the backdrop with a blissful look on her face, having achieved the latest sensation. It's the ability to feel something that powerful - it pulls people in.
I shut my eyes and wait for it to come. Beside me, Cate gives a contented sigh. My stomach gurgles and I want to throw up, remembering Cate's story, and clench my gut.
Doses’ new time stopping sensation, says the model from my memory as she assures me that, it’s the next big thing!
Flowering colors burst beneath my eyelids. Each Dose contains over 10 grams of pure euphoria-inducing chemicals.
Go try it today, let your mind be swept away!
Swept away. I feel myself drowning as my brain releases its hold on reality. I grapple for it, trying to find control over myself. But the Dose is tempting me with its assurance of peace. I assure myself that I’ll feel nothing if I just let go. If it's supposed to be enjoyable, then why do I feel like panicking? Eye sockets ablaze with a kaleidoscope of lights, my pounding heart jumps into my throat.
“I hate this.” I murmur, finally losing control.
The sensation is surging through my body. The world melts away and I wonder why I ever cared about it before. It overtakes me and my stubbornness melts into a perfect sensatiion, and utter satisfaction settles my heart. Peace is overwhelming and I wish everyone I know could be feeling this right now, right here with me. I am hovering over myself, watching me laugh and whoop elatedly about. For the first time, my body is wonderful to me, a masterpiece of sinew and flesh. Gaping down at it, I wonder why I have ever been ungrateful for who I am. I am capable of anything. The feeling builds inside me until I think I am screaming with delight. This is euphoria. This is bliss.
Time passes. Perhaps a moment, maybe an eternity. My life might be over but I would not mind having spent it this way. In this place I remain, until I realize I am drifting down to my body and back into myself. For a while I grasp at the air around me in resistance to returning to the world.
Suddenly I am aware that the Dose’s full effect has worn off and I am awakening. I shudder and fight reality, grasping for another moment of carefree euphoria. It’s beyond my reach now and I sink my aching back against the concrete behind me. My chest and face are soaked in sweat that drips down my skin. I turn my head to look at my friend. There’s a smile playing on her lips, and I wonder if the Dose is still in effect. Then the opened box on the ground catches my eye. She’s taken another capsule. I don't know how long she'll be out now.
“Cate?” I say, mouth dry, but I know she is long gone. “Cate, I’m going home now.”
Her eyes fly open wide and for a second I think she heard me. Then she laughs, a tinkling giggle like how she sounded back in the simple days of childhood. She waves her arms in the air and plucks at something. I realize she is hallucinating, and turn away from her. My head feels thick and foggy. Normally I would never leave Cate like this – it’s dangerous and she might be vulnerable to anyone who comes – but I'm scared. I'm scared like an animal, and instinct is telling me to flee. I want to run, to get away from this awful buzz in my head. It is dulling my mind. Everyone who takes Doses is experiencing the same thing, searching for the what everyone else is feeling. Feel happy, feel invincible, feel powerful, feel euphoric. Feel like everyone else.
Let your mind be swept away!
I shudder, and bile pools into my mouth. The acrid taste forces me to retch. I am just like the rest of them, caught up in the next big thing. I thought I could escape losing my mind to the cesspool they left theirs in. My body betrayed me when it enjoyed the Dose. Worse, it is begging for more, and dissatisfaction leaves a scowl on my face. I can't do this. I can't face this anymore.
I turn away from it all and run out from the cover of the bridge and into the street.