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Lewis’s tongue licked the rolling paper before his nimble fingers rolled the fresh joint into a cone. It was a procedure he had repeated countless times, and practice had made him very handy at it. Even now that his motor skills were affected by his lack of sleep, the only impact it had on his rolling skills was that it took him a couple of minutes longer to prepare the spliff. The man, known by those familiar with him as “the Rat,” fumbled for his lighter, his tired eyes shifting across his desk. His activities for the last few nights had left junk scattered all over it. Rolling paper lay strewn about like dead leaves, with bits of tobacco representing a trail of dirt leading to a half-empty packet, right next to the roaches. A metal grinder lay in the corner behind a few bags of the green stuff. Out of sight, but not out of mind. And cluttered near the other corner of the desk were various bottles of pills or liquids, all of them unlabeled. Lewis brought the joint to his mouth and lit it. He inhaled deeply, closing his eyes and savouring the buzz that had kept him going through these long nights. The young man wanted nothing more than to keep his eyes closed until the sun was high again, but forced them open nonetheless. He had work to do.

The Rat’s attention went back to the task at hand. Before him lay a little brown block. It was compact and chunky, bearing resemblance to a bouillon cube. By anyone’s eye, be it someone lacking any experience with the mood-altering substance or Snoop Dogg himself, it seemed like an ordinary block of cannabis resin. No one could have known that this was something else entirely. No one but Lewis.

Be it through his lack of patience, lack of intelligence, lack of proper judgement or lack of general human decency, the Rat had always excelled at making enemies. Sure, his appearance didn’t help much. There was something about a pale, gangly, snake-bite sporting man in his mid twenties wearing beanies and sports clothes that tended to rub most people the wrong way. Not everyone judged a book by its cover, however.

Nevertheless, even those who gave Lewis a chance found themselves hating the man sooner or later. The good book of the Lord has listed seven deadly sins, and Christian or not, most people would agree that all seven of them were prominent in the Rat’s personality. He was greedy to the point of wanting everything in life, and envious enough to absolutely loathe those who had what he didn’t have. Yet he was also slothful, never willing to lift a finger to actually achieve his desires, always looking for the easy way out instead. He was lustful as well, and had been banned from several bars for harassing women. Wrath was represented by his nasty temper and gluttony by his annoying tendency to go through food, weed or whatever narcotics available before anyone else had a chance to even sample them. Finally, he was too proud to admit his failures in life were his own fault. As the icing on the cake of the unlikable nature that was Lewis “the Rat” Wilkins, he had a habit of ranting to whoever was unfortunate enough to listen about how society had, as he so eloquently put it, “fucked him over” and how he would get back at them one day.

Born in an upper-class white family in rural Kansas, as a kid Lewis was used to getting what he wanted. Had his parents been less supplying for the boy’s sense of entitlement, maybe Lewis would have grown into a better person. Unfortunately they didn’t, and the comfortable part of Lewis’ life ended the moment he actually had to earn what he wanted. A high school dropout by the age of fifteen, he lived with his parents until he was nineteen. At this point a long list of failed jobs as well as multiple incidents of using marijuana or other narcotics in the house had caused his parents to kick him out and focus their attention on his more gifted younger sister.

After moving to Kansas City, the Rat’s life continued to go just as most would expect. Switching from one minimum-wage job to another, over the course of seven years Lewis had surrounded himself with a clique of individuals who shared Lewis’s interest in narcotics. It didn’t take long for them to start cultivating their own marijuana. The plan was simple. The plants would grow in the greenhouse one of the guys, a bear of a dude named Benny, had inherited from his parents. The ringleader of the group, Frank, would distribute the stuff across the remaining members, Lewis being one of them. These members would then sell their share on the streets or through the deep web using Silkroad, a popular online marketplace for illegal narcotics. When this little project had been set up, the Rat had been sure that their operation was the start of something big. In a few years, he would often boast to his friends, he would be one of the biggest crime bosses of Kansas.

This is where the Rat’s habit of making enemies came back to bite him one more time. After repeatedly smoking through large amounts of the share he was supposed to sell as well as hitting on Frank’s girlfriend in no uncertain terms (the things the Rat texted that he would do to her could easily be confused for a passage from Fifty Shades of Grey if E.L James would have had a complete disregard for grammar and spelling), Lewis was kicked out of the group. They threatened that if he ever showed his face near his former partners again, they would make sure he ended up even uglier than he already was.

This was what set the Rat on his rampage of revenge. First he decided to simply shoot his former partners in the face. Then, deciding that a quick bullet wasn’t painful enough, he planned to cut them up and let them bleed to death. The Rat had always been handy with a knife. Only then did it occur to him that the police would have no difficulty connecting the dots if he chose a method that obvious. He had already been to jail once, and he didn’t feel like going back anytime soon. It was then, while he was busy contemplating a more subtle approach, that it hit him. He knew how he could get back at his former crew.

Marijuana laced with poison. It was perfect. He had heard of drug dealers lacing their cannabis resin with all sorts of materials, from glass fibre to pain-killers, in order to make them heavier so they could charge more for them. But the right mix of poisons could drive anyone to an early, painful grave even with only a limited dose. So over the last few days, the Rat had been slaving away at his desk using whatever poison he could find to lace his drugs with. Rat poison, aconite, even some arsenic that he had gotten his hands on. But as he was working, his hands deftly mixing the soft resin with the poisons, his hatefulness began to cloud his mind. It made his heart beat faster, left a nasty taste in his mouth and a vile sneer on his face. His old friends were all junkies, slobs and were often too stoned, high or otherwise drugged up to be capable of reasoning. Getting the laced marijuana into their pockets was a simple case of asking a favour to some local street dealer. It was so easy! But if he could get away with murder like this, why stop at his former partners in crime? Why not get back at society, at all those people who thought they were better than him, had more money on him and looked down on him when they crossed him in the streets?! Silkroad was a popular website for making drug deals, and rich with naive kids, mostly boys, trying to impress their peers by scoring some stuff over the internet.

And so the first batch of laced resin had already found its way on the online market. He had even made some dropoffs in the short time he had been working on his little project, and was now feverishly preparing the second load of painful death. Rat Bite was how he advertised this homemade, unique strain.

Lewis chuckled as he pressed the remains of his joint into his ash tray. Then, stroking one hand through his short, brown hair and yawning deeply, he realized that he needed a bigger buzz than what the last spliff had given him if he didn’t want to slumber off on the job. And so the Rat once again paused and absentmindedly began preparing his next cone. On autopilot, his fingers worked their magic while the Rat savoured the thought of his former friends, lying on the ground, foaming at the mouth and twitching and turning in pain as his creations did their job. A smile crept across his face again while he began rolling the paper. Just a few more hours, and he would crash in for the night. He had a day of work to look ahead to, and getting fired from a job at Wendy’s was a low point that even the Rat tried to avoid as best as a twenty-six year old deadbeat could. He felt the cool metal of his lighter in his hand. Putting the freshly-made cone in between his lips and pressing them together, he brought the fire to the other end of the joint. He gave a few sharp inhales as the fire lit the spliff, put the lighter away and savoured several deep inhales.

With the combination of sleep deprivation and consistent drug use of the last few days, it was no wonder Lewis’s mind was hazy the way it was that night. He had almost finished the thing and was about to press it into his ashtray before his mind fully registered the weird taste in his mouth. A chill ran down his spine. Beads of cold sweat began forming on his forehead as realization crept in. His heart accelerated as Lewis was suddenly wide awake and cold sober. He looked down at his desk, confirming his fears.

Before him lay a quarter of a brown little block of resin.

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