“They call it Herbal Blue.”
I studied the glow of the strange blue liquid. The neon lights of the dark club didn’t really aid in my inspection, but I couldn’t notice any impurities floating around in the vial. “So what does it do, exactly?”
Scott laughed before taking another drag of his blunt. “What doesn’t it do, man? Ahh... It’s definitely a different kind of feeling. Like nothing you ain’t ever seen.”
“Uh huh.” I offered the vial back to him, then took another swig of the piss poor beer this place had to offer. “Didn’t know you were into psychedelics that much.”
“I’m not! I mean, I wasn’t, until Dewey introduced me to this. They say it’s completely organic or some shit like that.”
“Yeah, well, they say the same thing about the apples I buy from the grocery store, but they taste the same as any other apple.”
Scott huffed, showing his irritation towards my unwillingness to subject myself to that blue gunk. It was an expression I was used to; I didn’t mind joining him on these Friday nights for heavy metal tunes at the club, but I was pretty firm about my position on experimenting. Every time he found something new, he had to try it out, with no concern about catching cancer or something other god forsaken disease. I, on the other hand, preferred to stick to the classics of beer and smokes, the latter far less often. Scott always tried to expand my scope, but I had only agreed on a few occasions. Perhaps agreeing at all was a bad choice; it just left the door open for him to keep testing me.
“What’s in it?”
“Dunno. Dewey wouldn’t tell me, says it was a ‘trade secret’.”
I looked over to the young bartender in question, who threw a wave in my direction. I returned my attention to the concert. “I’ll pass.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Scott rubbing his chin and observing me. “It’s not a needle, ya know.”
I turned my head back, slightly relieved that injections were out of the equation. “Edible?”
Scott nodded, then offered the vial back towards me. “Listen, mate. I know you’re squeamish about this sort of thing. But I wouldn’t offer something if I thought it was too crazy for you. Please, just for me? So you can understand what I’m talking about.”
I looked at the vial, then back at him. His pierced face had gone from one of simple bliss to one of care, the kind of face a parent makes when giving their kid a life-long important piece of advice. Sighing, I took the small glass tube and popped off the cork. I didn’t need to raise it to my nose; the candy-like smell diffused towards my face instantly. I cautiously stuck my fingertip in and pulled it out, the cold goo stick slowly crawling down my skin. My heart beat in tune to the music, and after shattering any remaining doubt, I stuck the mixture between my lips and sucked.
The substance was much colder than anticipated, just barely to the point of hurting my teeth, but otherwise it just tasted like candy gel – the kind you’d squeeze onto a lollipop and lick off, or something of the sorts. I smacked my lips for a few moments to try and get the taste to fade away, but Scott smacked my back and laughed.
“Well, whaddya know! You’ve actually got a pair after all.”
“Yeah, yeah. Here-“
I began to hand the vial back to its owner when I froze. An icy sensation was resonating from my stomach throughout my torso, before hurrying along my limbs and tickling the tips of my appendages. The chill passed after a moment, but once it was gone, it was as though someone had maxed out my saturation setting. The neon lights burned brighter, the lasers from the stage cut through the strengthened blackness of the clubs, lining my arms in stripes of blue and green. I no longer felt the warm buzz of the alcohol, but rather a heart racing sensation that was carried to every part of my being. Any ounce of tiredness that I had was flushed from my system. I wanted to run, I wanted to jump, and I wanted to fight. At least, that’s what my body was saying.
The next thing I knew, I was standing in the crowd, head banging and mouth screaming to the songs of the band. I keep flailing and jumping about to the smashing of drum and guitar, while visions of slaying heavy metal cover demons danced in my brain. Colours invaded my eyes from all directions, and I felt as though any moment, my senses would become fried and unusable.
As with most drugs, I had a few lapses in memory, but based on Scott’s personal account, I nearly jumped up on stage in my enthusiastic state of mind before being taken down by security. However, the band, delighted at how much I was into the music, just laughed it off and let me stay for the show, back over by Scott of course. That wasn’t without the lead singer autographing my forehead however; a small joke to her, but an honour to me.
Slouched on that leather couch once again, I could hardly keep still. My leg was bouncing rapidly on the ball of my foot. My heart was still performing the Indy 500, and my eyes were transfixed upon the stage. Scott had also had a “drop or two”, as he put it, and was currently fiddling with a metal puzzle that looked like it had fallen straight out of a junk yard.
“So, you like-y?”
I quickly turned my head towards and him and nodded. “I’ve never felt so energized in my life.”
Scott laughed, then raised his own bottle towards me. “You said it, bruth’r,” he replied, imitating the wrestler voice as best he could. I grinned and clanked my bottle against his, and we both followed up with a swig. The rest of the evening I spent sitting around, imagining countless scenarios of heroism and destruction to the tunes of the club. Eventually, as the night wound down, the feeling passed, and not long after the club was cleared out.
As we waited at the bus stop for his ride home, Scott slipped something into my pocket. I immediately pulled the vial back out and pushed it towards his chest. “Look, I appreciate it, but my parents would kill me if they-“
“Just tell them it’s candy, they’ll buy it.” Scott smiled before patting me on the shoulder and boarding a bus that had just arrived. I stood there, holding the strange liquid, its blue glow slightly illuminating my hand under the streetlight. There wasn’t a lot of it left. Looking back up, I watched as the bus departed, taking notice of Scott. I couldn’t tell if it was the lighting of the bus or what, but his face read as if he were sad, or concerned.
I made my way home from the bus stop. I quietly entered the front door, creeped upstairs to my room, and flopped into bed, immediately falling to slumber beneath my countless posters of spike-covered guitars and flaming stages.
My sleep, however, was not an enjoyable one. I was plagued throughout the night by the same hyperbolic visions of rock album covers coming to life – perhaps when I was on Herbal Blue it fit the feeling, but now it was just disruptive and honestly terrifying. What made it especially bad were the voices. The me in the dreams spoke in an unfamiliar voice, with a cruel laughter that sounded repeatedly as “I” slaughtered countless creatures and people across a hellscape of twisted metal and fire.
When I awoke, my head spun and ached from a restless night. I rolled over to face my alarm clock – it was ten in the morning. My stomach also growled something horrid, so I clambered to my feet, still dressed in the same attire as the night before, and made my way to the kitchen. The only person awake was my younger brother Ricky, who was playing one of those old rock band rhythm games on the living room TV, with the fake instruments and whatnot.
I threw a bowl of cereal together and flopped myself next to him on the couch. “Mom and dad out?”
“Dad’s at a meeting or something, I don’t know where mom is,” the lovable termite responded, not taking his eyes off of the screen.
I slowly ate my Saturday morning breakfast while watching him attempt some difficult rock song that I recognized the sound of, but couldn’t place the name. It was hard to think with my brain rattling around roughly in my skull. Eventually the song ended, and I took the guitar from Ricky’s hands. “Lemme show ya how it’s done.”
“Sure,” he replied sarcastically.
I stood to put him in his place with the power of musical gaming genius, and started the song. I wasn’t far into the song before I began missing a few notes, distracted by a nagging feeling in the back of my mind. I paused the game for a moment, trying to figure out what it was. It was hard to discern what my brain wanted from the pain it was exuding. Going back to the game, I followed the notes more accurately for a while, but about halfway through the song the thoughts started back up.
“You okay..?” Ricky asked, a sprinkle of worry in his voice.
“Yeah… I’m fine.” I tried to keep up with the coloured notes on the screen, but pretty soon, I found myself flailing my fingers up and down the neck of the guitar, slapping the buttons randomly like a kid far younger than my brother. It was obvious that Ricky saw how I was playing, so once again I restarted and turned towards him. “Third time’s the charm.”
The kid rolled his eyes with an impatient sigh. I wiped my brow and tried to concentrate on the game, but as the song went on, I couldn’t fight against the urgent feeling that I had to do something. Frustration broiled in my gut from two sources - not hitting those damned notes, and not knowing what to do to make my head shut up.
“Jeez,” Ricky laughed. “You’re even worse than I am.”
“Oh yeah?” I scowled, whipping around mid song. “Then here, you figure it out.” I chucked the guitar onto on the couch, surprising him. He locked up for a second, then slowly picked up the guitar after a moment and started a different song. I simply left and went out on the porch to ease my mind.
Pulling a pack from my jacket pocket, I slid a cancer stick between my fingers, lifted it to the sky, and let the little orange flame touch its tip. I dragged that smoke into my body like a tug-of-war, then let it go between pursed lips. I watched white puffy clouds drift by in the sky as I added a more toxic variety to my local area. But soon enough, I had finished the cigarette, and still felt no better. Panic jolted through my system. I hastily lit another one and worked on it, but it was to no effect.
Finally, the words came together in my mind: Herbal Blue. I put out the cigarette and held my face, trying not to panic. How could one taste have stolen my body’s love? I reached back into the pocket where the vial sat, its beautiful blue hue mocking me. I still could be wrong, I thought. Maybe it’s something else. I’ll just have a little bit to test my theory.
I uncorked the glass tube and hesitantly stuck my finger in again. The cool syrup covered my fingertip like melted wax, and after observing it for a time, I ingested it. Sure enough, as the cold feeling rapidly expanded through my body, the itch was suddenly gone. The grass grew greener, and the sky lit up like a neon sign, but deep down, my heart still sunk, knowing the truth. I didn’t like how that felt; I wanted to feel that racing sensation again. The vial was upside down and emptied before I knew it, my tongue trying to impossibly fit inside the tube to grab every last drop. The chill grew stronger, and my blood pumping organ got to work.
I did a jog around the block, growing into a sprint as my body demanded greater movement. The colours of my town became smooth and swirled, and the only thing keeping me going in the right direction was the distinction between a light grey streak and a black streak. I had to keep my head towards the ground anyways, as the sun was far too strong for my eyes while Herbal Blue was coursing through my veins.
The next thing I know, I was sitting at a bus stop somewhere in town. Where exactly I had no idea, but the drug was beginning to wear off. The heavy feeling was returning, and I had to fight the urge to want more. Scott. He must’ve had some idea that Herbal Blue did this. I pulled out my phone and dialled Scott’s number. I wanted answers about Herbal Blue, right here, right now. No reply. I tried again, rubbing my eyes so that I could make out the keys on the digital screen instead of being blinded by sky blue light. Still no answer. I changed tactics; I sent him a text. Still nothing. I tried every form of social media I had him added on. Nothing worked.
A bus eventually pulled up, and I scrambled on board to escape the blinding light. The few people on board gave me some queer looks, but I just turned my back towards them and gripped the pole, my fingers tapping along its smooth surface in rapid motions. I had no idea how many stops were between where I just was and Scott’s stop, so I just had to hold out until then. A few more times people got on and off.
One lady was making her way on and bumped into me without a single apology. “Hey! Wh-“ I started to viciously scream at her, but remembered where I was. After catching a glimpse of the various stares I had received, I just nodded to the woman before looking down at the floor for the rest of the trip. People getting off took the door towards the back.
Once I had arrived at Scott’s, I gave the bus driver a frantic “thank you”, then leaped out the folding doors and sprinted wildly down the sidewalk. I almost bumped into a couple of people waiting to get on, but it didn’t matter. I needed to find Scott.
His house wasn’t far from where I was let off, so in no time I was hurrying up the front porch and knocking on the door. His mother came to the door and greeted me, but when I asked her about Scott, she shook her head and said that he had gone out of town for a week to visit some relatives. My hand formed into a twitching fist, but I hid it as best I could. She asked if I needed to leave a message, and I paused for a moment, trying not to trip over my words or tell her about the drug.
“Just... tell him, I really need to speak with him.”
She nodded, and we went our ways.
- - -
The rest of the evening, I spent in my room. I decided against coming down for dinner, instead pacing back and forth, chewing my fingernails to jagged edges. All I could think about was Herbal Blue. I didn’t actually want to feel the rush again, I wasn’t in the mood for any drugs at all. But there was nothing else I could think about.
I tossed and turned all night, unable to quell the itch. When my mind finally quieted just enough to close my eyes, sleep still would not come to me. Instead, my dreams lingered towards more of the insane visions of rock ’n’ roll hell that had plagued me the night before. Each time I woke up, I resisted the urge to go looking for more Herbal Blue, before looking out the window and seeing the sky in a new shade of blue. I kept telling myself I still had time to sleep, but each awakening, the sky was brighter than the last.
I gave up on sleep and starting browsing the net. If my brain wouldn’t let it go, then maybe I should look into this all-consuming substance. I tried various searches, both by name and description, but couldn’t find much. One link would lead me to something about an ancient remedy used by cults hundreds of years ago, another would take me to experimental drug test applications. Countless results were for beauty creams. Nothing worked, and it only made the itch worse.
I heard a knock at my door, and I closed out of the tab. Ricky slowly entered my room, hiding behind the edge of the frame. “Mom says, breakfast is ready…”
Puzzled, I turned around in my chair. The sun was up. My gaze shifted back to Ricky. “I’m not hungry right now… I’ll come later. Thanks.”
“Are you feeling okay…?”
That little twinge of annoyance started up again. I needed sleep. I needed Scott. I needed answers. I needed more Herbal Blue. I didn’t need to be bothered, bugged, questioned, annoyed, or interrogated. “I’m fine. Go.”
“You don’t seem okay…”
Ricky approached me slowly, arms outstretched. I rose violently from my chair, knocking it back onto the floor with a thud. “I said I’m fine! Now get out!”
The kid paused again and tucked his arms back into his chest, his lip quivering. I groaned and flailed around, trying to come up with something to tell him. A sniffle sounded from him - he was about to cry. I kneeled down and held his shoulders tightly, squeezing my fingernails into his skin. “I need it, don’t you get it? I need more!”
Ricky opened his mouth, unable to answer as tears welled in his innocent eyes. “I-I don’t understand…”
“Argh, of course you don’t. No one does! Only Scott knows, only-“ I began to shout in his face, before it hit me. Dewey. He’s the one who gave Scott the vial originally. I walked past Ricky, leaving him on the verge of tears in my room as I pulled on my shoes and bolted out the door. I could hear my mother calling out to me, but there was no time. Dewey has answers. He might even have some Herbal Blue. I patted my pockets for my wallet, then slowed down, returning to reality. What has become of me…?
I arrived at the club as the shadow under my feet was but a black circle. I fell to one knee at the doors, catching my breath and trying to contain its pace, before standing and trying the door. Locked. My heart went from fourth to fifth gear. I banged my fist against the door, trying to evoke a response if anyone was inside. There was no answer.
This couldn’t be happening. Surely, this was all another layer to the drug – hyper realistic dreams. That had to be it. I pinched my arm multiple times, trying to wake up. It failed. My mind raced, trying to create a solution. My instincts took the reins instead, and I smashed my fist against the door. Something made a crunching sound, and I was pretty certain it wasn’t the metal entrance. My ring finger was crooked, and I couldn’t re-position it. I swallowed, trying not to scream from the pain.
My little act of aggression finally drew some attention, however. The club’s door opened and a brick wall of a man came stomping out. I opened my mouth to explain the situation, but he already had me by the scruff of my shirt and in the air. “This building is closed! Get out of here, or I’ll get the police in here on charges of trespassing and destruction of property.”
I tried to fight his grip, but even with my body in the mood to fight, I couldn’t make this guy budge. I swung my feet around below me, but I only tapped his chest with the ball of my foot. He noticed though, and wound up his fist to put me through the fence to my rear.
“Chase, please. He’s my friend.”
The brute dropped me, and I tried to see who was speaking. However, between the burning sunlight, the figure hiding in the shadows of the doorway, and thousands of phosphenes blinking colours before my eyes, it was impossible to make out.
“Initiate, or ingredient?”
“Initiate. Please… not so roughly.”
The voice was familiar enough, but before I could make another move, Chase the brute had raised his fist once more, and the next second only the phosphenes remained before my eyes.
- - -
I was woken by a light dancing over my eyelid. I groaned miserably, my head spinning even more than before, but my stomach was on a whole new level. I sat up from where I laid, and found myself on the same couch I had tried Herbal Blue on. A great pain resonated from my hand as well, and where I thought I’d see fingers was replaced by a large cast surrounding the hand.
“Don’t worry. You won’t need both hands, for now anyways.” I looked to where the voice came from, and saw Dewey standing behind the bar, drying a wine glass with an off-putting smile. “Care for a drink?”
“You...” I scowled, standing slowly before falling to my knees once again. My head hurt beyond anything I’d ever felt before, but I still advanced slowly across the club floor. “What the hell is Herbal Blue?”
Dewey smiled, then set down the glass and approached me. “Just a bit of this and that. I wouldn’t worry about it.” I noticed he was wearing a dark robe and a strange gold medallion in the shape of some kind of cat. It didn’t have the mane of a lion, so I assumed it was a leopard. It gave me the impression he was more than just some hoppy dude that served me equally hoppy drinks.
He looked past me and nodded to someone, who then picked me up by my good arm and dragged me behind the counter – I could only assume it was Chase. It was just a normal back room, filled with the various poisons mankind loved so much, but Dewey continued through the room. He pressed on what looked, in the dark, to be a section of the wall, only to open as another doorway. Chase set me on my feet and gave me a nudge. Slowly, I stumbled past Dewey and into the next room.
In the centre of the dimly lit room was a large pool, filled to the brim with Herbal Blue. The air was sickly sweet, like a toothache’s aftershave. Sitting on a poorly chiseled altar in the centre was an equally crude statue of some kind of devil creature, with an outstretched hand and fingers pointing downwards, bending in various positions. The blue substance rained down from those fingertips, making my stomach audibly growl in frustration. There were multiple similarly robed caretakers wandering the edge of the pool, taking buckets and either scooping them into the pool, or pouring in another dark purple liquid. Others had large paddles and were stirring the drug gradually, humming deeply to an ominous tune.
I tried to approach the pool, but a hand pulled me back. I struggled to break free from the grasp. I didn’t care anymore; I just needed the Herbal Blue to end my pain, my obsession. “Let go!”
Dewey walked to my side, holding me back. “I’m afraid I cannot allow you to do that. This pool is sacred, and the essence of our Lord must not be tainted by unworthy lips.” Chase grabbed me from behind, holding me place, despite my continued struggling. I watched as Dewey approached the edge of the pond, took a bucket from one of the strange workers, who then bowed before him, and filled it with the glistening ooze. He then turned back towards me, and with a devious grin he began to sip from the bucket. I twisted and pushed, stretching my neck forwards in the hopes of obtaining even a spilled drop from his lips. I needed Herbal Blue, I needed more, I needed it now.
After finishing his sip, Dewey reached out and held the bucket in my direction. For me? Yes, it had to be. No one else here seemed to be in pain, no one else knew how I felt. It had to be for me – he was helping me. Whatever price he wanted afterwards didn’t matter. I’d pay a thousand dollars for just half of that bucket. Tears welled in my eyes as Chase loosened his grip on my arms, and I stumbled forward to take the container.
Dewey’s attention then returned directly to me, and with a face of disgust he lifted the bucket higher. Despair riddled my heart as the burly arms of Chase reached over me and took the offering, before tilting the bucket back and chugging its entirety.
I spun around and faced Dewey, unsure of how to curse him, then back to Chase. He was done with the bucket; I ripped it from his hands, implanting splinters of wood along the inside of my fingers. I moved my head inwards to lick any trace of Herbal Blue from the sides, my heart racing in excitement. A strong force hit the bottom of the bucket, sending it into my face and smashing against my nose. I fell back, stunned and in more pain than before.
“You have not earned your share, dog!” Dewey screamed, kicking the bucket away and standing over my broken form. “The Lord only shares His divine essence to those who work in His name.” He paused for a moment, as though he had forgotten something, then turned towards the pool. “Speaking of which... Scott!”
The name rang in my ears on repeat for a moment before my head swivelled around looking for the traitor. He approached from the pool, dressed in one of the robes. Over his left breast was the same shape of the leopard that hung from Dewey’s neck. His face was sunken and tired, and a hint of worry pulled my heartstrings. “Y-yes, m’lord...”
“You have succeeded in your mission to take another under the wing of our Lord. Thus, you shall be rewarded.” Dewey reached into his own robe and pulled out another vial of Herbal Blue. Without an ounce of hesitation, Scott kneeled before his leader and held out his hands in acceptance, lowering his head to the ground. With little more than another cruel smile, Dewey carefully placed the vial in his hands. His fingers had barely left Scott’s palm before the cork was off and the syrup falling into Scott’s painfully gleeful mouth. A drop spilled onto his robe’s shirt, and his eyes turned into dinner plates. He frantically yanked the shirt up towards his mouth, trying to suck up that tiny drop before it faded away. Watching two feedings in a row was no less than torture, and that’s still putting it gently.
I had to get out of there. I had to report the situation to the police, and find a good hospital where I could get rid of this ridiculous addiction. But before I could get back up, Dewey approached me once more, gesturing to the wild mess that was my friend. “You see? He has a purpose, and he fulfilled it. Addiction is a great motivator.” He leaned down to look me in the face, with a look of unnatural calmness. “We’ll start you off with simple jobs, and from there-“
“What are you talking about!? Why would I ever join you?”
“To get rid of the pain.”
“I can get better! I’ll never touch the stuff again, I’ll go to rehab! Whatever it takes, I’ll never use Herbal Blue again!”
The smile on Dewey’s face faded, giving way to a frown. “Have it your way. Chase, take him to stage six.”
The brute nodded, then swung again. It was enough to incapacitate me, but my consciousness was semi-intact. He carried me passed various rooms, all filled with cloaked monsters preparing various states of their psychedelic solution. Eventually, I was thrown against an upright table in a room with red lighting. Lacking the strength to fight back, I was helpless as Chase took my wrists and tied them to metal bars on my sides. I was half expecting them to place a wreath on my head next, but instead my head was caged and my feet chained to the floor. It was nearly impossible to move my body.
Dewey entered the room not too long after, holding another vial. I couldn’t tell initially if it was actually glowing red, or if the lights of the room were making the Herbal Blue appear that way. “This is a different variety of Herbal Blue, with a high concentration of the chemicals that make it so... special. We call it Hellish Insight.”
The dreams from last night quickly replayed in my mind. I shook my head quickly, but Dewey ignored my pleas. “Open your mouth.”
I clamped my jaw shut, much to Dewey’s displeasure. He snapped his fingers, and Chase slammed another fist into my solar plexus. The air rushed from my body, only to be replaced by the slime. I felt it pour against my tongue, but as I tried to spit and cough, Dewey just held my jaw up. Eventually, most of it trickled down my throat, with what remained falling out of my lips between coughs. I kept my eyes shut, but I could hear a clicking sound, followed by music. It was a recording of last night’s band, the guitar and drum reverberating in my brain and dragging out the visions of hell on earth.
The Insight was nowhere near the same as Herbal Blue. Instead of a cooling sensation, my body began to roast. My cheeks grew flustered and red, and every part of me felt tingly and raw, like a strong sunburn. Opening my eyes made things worse. My vision bent like a funhouse mirror, and the cloaked figures in the room grinned in glee with faces of bone. Large spires of rock jutted into the sky, and grey clouds spiralled around in random patterns. The world looked to be on fire, and the red light of dusk touched every surface. I heard the far off shrieks of other monstrous things, and despite being terrified by them, I tried to scream as the two skeletal beings walked away from my plateau.
There I lied, dreaming of demons and creatures untold of. I grew scared of blinking, as when I did, a new monster would be standing before me, ready to play with the prisoner. Every touch felt as though I was being lit ablaze, and even if my mouth could not move, I was screaming from within in pure agony. The skeletons came occasionally, but only to feed me more of the blood red glue, and nothing else...
- - -
After what felt like an eternity, the spires faded, the sky gave way to plaster roofing, and I was back in the red room. The door opened, and someone walked in. Surprisingly, they didn’t force feed me more Insight and then take off like before. I couldn’t tell who it was, and I didn’t care anymore. Anything was better than what I had just endured.
The heavy metal loop ended. The cage was opened, and the ropes were cut. My body fell like an abandoned marionette doll, but I was still little more than a prisoner with my feet chained. Something was extended out towards me, and it only took a moment to recognize the alluring scent of Herbal Blue.
I didn’t want it. My hand reached out for it anyways.
Written by RedNovaTyrant