I knew that I was in trouble the moment that I pushed on the door.
I had entered the store less than ten minutes earlier, slipping in quietly as another customer was leaving. A few more shoppers had come and gone in that time, just like I had hoped. They had kept the man behind the counter busy with sales and given me plenty of time to locate a few small items that could be slipped into my pockets without anyone noticing. Once I had procured four or five objects that I was sure that I could sell elsewhere, I had waved pleasantly to the oblivious owner and waltzed right out the way I had come in.
That had been my intention, anyway. No matter how hard I pushed on it, the door simply wouldn’t budge.
“I took the liberty of locking the door remotely,” the man called over to me from behind the counter.
I gritted my teeth and pressed my forehead against the glass. He hadn’t been nearly as unaware of my actions as I had thought. Sighing, I turned to face him.
“I take it that you aren’t much of a connoisseur of antiques,” he continued, his tone neither angry nor gloating as I would have expected. “In my line of work it is a requirement. The items that you pocketed are worth twenty, maybe thirty dollars total. I keep them on hand for individuals that want something that looks fancy but can’t afford the real thing. The truly expensive items are inside the displays on the other side of the store.”
I wasn’t sure what to say, so I kept my mouth shut. Years of hard living had taught me that I was liable to make a bad situation worse if I spouted off without thinking things through.
“Do you see this coin?” the man asked, pointing down into the glass case he was standing behind. “If I walked into this particular store with the aim of stealing something, this is where I would start.”
He motioned for me to come closer. I hesitated for a moment before slowly walking over to the case. It wasn’t like I could leave, and besides, it might make it easier for me to convince him to let me go if I played along with his little game. I looked down at the coin he was indicating. It was badly damaged, and the corners were bent inward.
“It really isn’t much to look at,” he said as he voiced my unspoken thought. “Looks can be deceiving, however. It’s pure silver, and it was minted centuries before any civilization known to man ever dreamed of doing such a thing. An ancient currency for an ancient civilization. That alone would make it priceless, but there’s even more to it than that.”
I found myself being drawn in by the man’s words. His voice had a certain cadence that was almost hypnotic. I glanced at him when he wasn’t looking. He was tall and thin, and he was wearing a gray suit with a black tie.
“The society that this coin comes from was class-based,” the man told me. “The modern world is much the same, of course, but this particular society took things even further. Each class had different currency issued to them. Brass for the lower class, iron for the middle class, and gold for the upper class. Silver was used by members of the priesthood. They were the only ones given money that bore the image of the god the people worshiped.”
It was difficult to see any of the image imprinted on the coin, but I could just make out a vaguely humanoid shape. There seemed to be a number of limbs or growths extending from the body. I resisted the urge to shudder.
“Take my property out of your pockets and put it onto the counter,” he instructed.
I slowly removed the objects in question from my coat and placed them on the glass. He watched me silently as I did so. When I had finished, he picked them up and moved them to an empty shelf on the wall behind him.
“Thank you for not insulting me by trying to keep one or two of them hidden,” he said. “That gives me hope that we can be civilized about this whole thing. Now then, I am Silas Pembrook. Your name is…?”
I stared at him but didn’t answer his question.
He sighed. “Perhaps I was wrong, and we need to get the authorities involved.”
“Chloe,” I blurted out. “Chloe Bennington.”
“There we are. Ms. Bennington, I would like to offer you a choice.”
“What kind of choice?” I asked, blinking in surprise.
“The kind of choice that may benefit us both. Your first option is for me to handle this incident as the petty theft that it is. I call the police, and you are arrested and charged. I would imagine that this wouldn’t be your first time in their custody.”
I chewed on the inside of my lip.
“Ah, I see that your time around the local authorities hasn’t been pleasant. I have to admit that I don’t have a very high opinion of them myself. Were you arrested for theft? No, that’s not right. You are clearly too clever and careful for that.”
“Apparently not clever or careful enough,” I muttered.
“You’re not being fair to yourself. You had no way of knowing that you had chosen the absolute worst mark you possibly could have. Back to your criminal record. Based on the slight shaking of your hands, your low body weight for your height, and any number of smaller things, I’m going to hazard a guess that you are addicted to crystal methamphetamine. What a shame. Your previous arrests must have been related to that.”
I stared at him in shock. “How could you have possibly-”
“I know how to use my mind to think through things, but that isn’t important right now,” the man interrupted. “What is important is the second option that I’m about to give you. I can call the police, or I can give you something in exchange for your promise to never set foot in my store again and you can be on your way.”
Not waiting for my answer, he reached into the display case and removed a small vial. It was only a few inches tall, and it appeared to be made of real crystal. A silver liquid filled it up to just below the halfway point. He set it down gently on the glass and tapped the stopper with the tip of his finger.
“This,” he said with the faintest trace of a smile on his lips, “is what I believe you addicts refer to as the ultimate high.”
I reached out for the vial to examine it closer, but he put his hand over top of it to stop me.
“I came across it at an estate sale that I was in charge of. That’s where all of the items in the store have come from. They’re items that I acquired from the families at a discounted rate. Anyway, the chemist that first created this didn’t give it a proper name, but I’ve heard it referred to as nostalgia in a bottle. I prefer the other name that it goes by: Remembrance. When you take it, you relive the best moments from your life. I don’t mean that you simply recall them. I mean that it’s like you’re really experiencing them again. You’re not, of course, but it certainly seems that way when it’s happening.”
He picked up the vial and held it out towards me.
“So, do we have a deal?” he asked.
I nodded. It was better than the alternative.
“I’m afraid that isn’t good enough. I need to hear you say it.”
“Okay, yeah,” I said with another nod. “We have a deal. I get this, and I never come back.”
“Good.” He gently put the crystal bottle into the palm of my hand. “A pleasure doing business with you, my dear. When you want to use it, put three drops on the tip of your tongue. No more, no less. Three drops. Now run along.”
With a final look at the store owner, I turned and hurried out the door. I quickened my pace once I was out on the sidewalk, and I was practically running by the time I reached the end of the block. People on the street were giving me strange looks. I ignored them. All that mattered was putting as much distance as I could between me and that damn store.
I turned down an alley and followed it as it wrapped around behind a group of businesses, feeling the small vial that I was clutching tightly. I didn’t believe that the silvery liquid did what the man had told me it could. Over the years I had taken a lot of different drugs, and none of them came close to doing what he had described. It didn’t matter, though. All that I cared about was that he had let me out of the store without calling the cops. I couldn’t afford another arrest.
Coming out the other side of the alley, I slowed my pace and walked across the street. I was outside of the small downtown area now and heading into the more residential sections of the town. I followed a concrete road down into a trailer park. Normally this was one of the louder neighborhoods, but at this time of day it was quiet as most of the residents were either at work, asleep before heading to their third shift jobs, or simply passed out from heavy drinking the previous night. My footsteps were loud in my ears as I walked across the lot to a rundown gray trailer that looked barely habitable.
I opened the door and went inside, expecting to be alone in the trailer. Instead, I found my boyfriend Jared sitting in a chair in a shirt and boxers, sniffing loudly and rubbing at his nose. I frowned. His shift at the grocery store was supposed to have started an hour earlier. Seeing the expression on my face, he held up a hand and smiled at me crookedly.
“Hey, don’t worry, it’s okay,” he said, his words slightly slurred. “I’m not late to work. I told the manager to fuck off. That job sucked shit, you know?”
“Oh, you’re too good for it, you’re saying?” I asked, rolling my eyes. “Too good to pay your half of the rent again?”
“Ah, come on, babe, you would have quit too if you knew how bad it was.”
“Yeah, bagging groceries and stocking shelves is fucking rough, right? Dammit, Jared, I can’t ask my mom for money again. You need to get out there and find another fucking job. Like, right the fuck now.”
He nodded slowly. “Yeah, I will. I just had myself a snort snort, though. Once I come down I swear I’ll go fill out some applications and shit.”
“Sure you will.”
“What’s that you got in your hand?”
I looked down at the vial I was holding. “It’s this new thing called Get a Fucking Job or Get the Fuck Out. Heard of it?”
“Nah, seriously, what is that? Ecstasy?”
I sighed. “No, shit-for-brains, it’s not ecstasy. It’s… A guy gave it to me in town. Says it’s something called Remembrance.”
“Oh yeah?” He leaned forward in his chair. “What’s it do?”
“It’s supposed to make you remember happy memories or something. I don’t think it really works. I think the guy was just trying to get rid of me.”
Jared’s expression was hungry. “Okay, yeah, but what if it does work? We should try it and find out. What’s the worst that can happen?”
“You mean besides poison us or fry our brains? Fry them more, in your case.” I tossed him the vial. “Go ahead and try it if you want. The guy said to put three drops on your tongue.”
I watched as he took out the vial’s stopper. He stuck out his tongue and, after a brief hesitation, carefully tapped out three drops onto it. He put back in the stopper and set the bottle down on the chair armrest before reclining back and closing his mouth.
“I don’t feel anything,” Jared said after a moment. “I guess you were right about him being full of… Wait.”
Jared’s eyes rolled back in his head slightly as his body relaxed. A broad smile spread across his face. I had never seen him like this. He was normally skittish and high-strung, and even when he was on a heavy dose of downers he didn’t loosen up this much. Retrieving the vial, I held it between my thumb and index finger. Had the store owner actually been telling the truth?
There was only one way to find out. Going further into the trailer, I tossed my coat onto the table and kicked my shoes off. I laid down on the uncomfortable bed and took the stopper out of the bottle. Taking a deep breath, I placed three drops of the liquid on my tongue, set the bottle next to the bed, and crossed my arms over my chest.
For a pair of heartbeats nothing happened. I was just beginning to wonder if the drug hadn’t worked when a loud whooshing sound filled my ears. The world went black, and I felt a momentary panic as the thought that the drug had blinded me entered my head. My mind was set at ease as the light quickly returned.
I was no longer laying down, and I wasn’t inside of the trailer. I was sitting in a wooden box-like structure. Thin beams of light penetrated through the small gaps in the slats, and I could hear the sound of leaves rustling a few feet above me. A brown piece of canvas, thin enough for me to see through, was directly in front of me. I was in the old hunting blind that I had used with my…
I turned my head to face the bearded man sitting next to me. My father. I felt a lump form in my throat. He had died suddenly from a blood clot six years earlier, but there he was, exactly like I remembered him. He was dressed in that tattered flannel shirt that my mother had hated, and his head was adorned with that ridiculous flapped hat that he insisted on wearing whenever he took me hunting. I had always suspected that he only wore it because he knew that I thought it was funny.
“There it is,” he said quietly, pointing towards the mesh.
I forced myself to look away from him and at what he was indicating. Less than fifty feet from the blind was a large deer. It was a buck, with long antlers extending out and up from the sides of its head. The animal was sniffing the air. They were downwind, however. It wouldn’t be able to pick up their scents.
I remembered this particular day. It was the day that I had killed my first deer, less than a week before my twelfth birthday. I hadn’t been sure that I would be able to do it, as I had been conflicted about taking the life of an animal. I had managed to pull the trigger, and the look on my father’s face had been all the reward that I had needed. He had been so proud of me that he seemed like he might burst, not because of the kill, but because he had known how much it had meant to me. It was one of my happiest memories.
The Remembrance had worked just like the store owner had claimed. Everything seemed so real. I could feel the soft cloth of my hunting jacket against my skin and the stock of the rifle on the tips of my fingers. Not only could I see my father, I could actually sense his presence as if he was really there. It was like nothing that I had ever experienced before.
“Are you ready for this, kiddo?” my father asked.
I picked up the rifle and held it in both arms. I watched as the deer moved closer to the blind. It was eating the grass, seemingly satisfied that there was no danger nearby. I nodded once.
“Yes, Daddy,” I replied with a smile. “I am.”
I was suddenly back in the trailer. There was no transition. One moment I was in the hunting blind with my father, and the next I was back on the lumpy mattress looking up at the metal roof and smelling old cigarette butts. I quickly rolled over and reached for the vial in a near panic. I needed to get back into that memory. I wasn’t ready for it to be over.
The bottle wasn’t where I had left it. I got out of bed and found that Jared was in the process of sitting back down in his chair with it in his hand. Hurrying forward, I snatched it from his grasp and wrapped my fingers around it tightly.
“What the fuck, Chloe?” he demanded.
“Stop stealing my shit,” I snapped back. “I let you have one hit. That doesn’t mean you can take the rest.”
“Come on. That shit is fucking fantastic! It was like I was really hanging out with my friends back before the city tore down the skate park.”
“No. It’s mine.”
“Yeah, right.” Jared stood up and took a step towards me. “And just how did you get it, huh? You don’t have any money. What did you do, suck the guy off for it?”
“Fuck you,” I snarled. “Get the fuck out and don’t come back.”
“Not gonna happen. Give me the damn bottle, Chloe, or I’m going to take it from you.”
My anger flared. I didn’t have time for this, and I would be damned if I was going to let this asshole take the Remembrance from me. Without pausing to think things through, I reached over and grabbed a knife from the counter of the trailer’s kitchenette. I closed the distance between the two of us and plunged the blade deep into Jared’s stomach.
He stared at me in shock, his mouth moving but no words coming out. I pulled the knife free and slashed it across his throat. Blood spurted out from the wound. He attempted to cover it with his hands, but the thick hot fluid continued to ooze out between his fingers. Staggering backward, he tripped over his chair and fell onto the trailer floor. I was on him within seconds, bringing the knife down over and over again into his body. He stopped moving long before I stopped stabbing. Finally, my arms shaking from exhaustion, I dropped the weapon and sat back against the wall, panting as I tried to catch my breath.
I looked at the ruined body with detachment. I didn’t feel remorse for killing Jared. I didn’t feel much of anything, really. He had tried to take the Remembrance from me, and I had made sure that he didn’t. That was all. A small part of me was telling me that I had just murdered my boyfriend and that should mean something. I ignored it. All that mattered was the Remembrance.
I looked at the crystal vial. There was blood on it, and I used my thumb to wipe it off as best as I could. Each dose was three drops, and there wasn’t much of the silver liquid left. I lashed out with my foot and struck the side of Jared’s ruined face. The worthless prick had cost me one precious trip to the past. I would have killed him a second time if it had been possible.
I would need more Remembrance after just a few more doses. There had to be a way to get more of it that didn’t involve going back to the antique store and begging the owner. I knew every dealer in town. One of them had to know how to get their hands on it. I’d ask around later. For now, though, all I wanted to do was to go back to the memory I had experienced. Without bothering to move out of the expanding pool of blood, I used three more drops and closed my eyes.
There was the whooshing sound and the blackness again, but when it faded I wasn’t back in the hunting blind with my father. Instead, I was sitting in the back seat of a car with a boy about seventeen or eighteen years old. I was wearing a red dress, and my long hair was pulled back into a braid. The boy’s hand was on the skin of my thigh and was slowly moving upward.
It was the night of my senior prom. The boy was Brian Keller. He hadn’t started off the night as my date, but about halfway through the dance we had ditched the people we had come with and snuck off to his car. I had been carrying a major crush for him since middle school. It turned out that he had felt the same way; it had all come out during a conversation while their dates had been in the bathroom.
I closed my eyes as his hand reached the top of my thigh. It wasn’t the memory that I had expected the Remembrance to take me into, but it was a welcome one.
“Come on, Brian,” I heard myself say. “Make my night.”
The statement had come out without me intending to make it. It took me a moment to realize that it was because I was reliving a memory. Things were playing out the same way that they originally had. Although it didn’t seem that way because everything felt so real, I was just an observer.
The boy smiled hungrily and lifted up my dress to fully expose my lower half. He carefully pulled off my panties and dropped them on the car floor. As I gripped the seat, he bent over and put his head between my legs.
I was back in the trailer. I immediately let out a scream of frustration. The drug simply wasn’t lasting long enough. I needed more.
My pants were completely soaked through with blood, so I stood up and stripped them off as I stared at the crystal vial on the floor. The store owner had told me very specifically to only use three drops. That clearly wasn’t working. Whether it was because the drug wasn’t potent enough or because it wasn’t as effective on me because of my past use of other narcotics, I wasn’t being given enough time to see the memories all the way through.
Fuck that guy. Coming to a decision, I scooped up the vial and sat down in the nearby chair, ignoring the body next to it. Nodding to myself, I put four drops of the silver liquid on my tongue and listened to the now familiar whooshing noise as things faded to black.
I was standing in the trailer with Jared directly in front of me. My hand was gripped around the handle of the long kitchen knife, and I pushed it into his stomach before cutting open his throat. He fell to the ground, and just as I had earlier I got on top of him and began to stab him repeatedly.
“I’m proud of you, kiddo,” a voice said from behind me.
I turned my head slightly and saw my father standing a few feet behind me. He placed his hand on my shoulder and squeezed it gently. I felt myself smile. His approval meant everything to me.
“Be sure to puncture the lungs,” he instructed me. “You don’t want it to cry out and alert the other animals.”
I nodded and did as I was told. Blood bubbled out of Jared’s mouth, but I barely noticed. I was already covered in his red ichor, and a bit more of it didn’t matter one way or another. Leaning over him, I watched as he stopped struggling and the light faded from his eyes.
I felt arms wrap around my waist. I didn’t need to look to know that Brian Keller was behind me; I recognized his touch as he explored my body with his fingers. A soft moan escaped from my lips as he pushed himself inside of me. I smiled down at the mangled corpse and matched his rhythm. The blood and gore smelled intoxicating, and it seemed to excite him and make him more eager than I had ever known him to be.
When my mind returned to the real world, I felt both loved and satisfied. I was the happiest that I had ever been.
The feeling didn’t last. Within an hour I began to come down from the emotional and physical high. I brushed the hair out of my face and wiped the sweat from my forehead. Four drops had definitely been the way to go, even if it had mixed memories together instead of letting me experience more accurate ones. I glanced down at Jared’s body. That same voice that had told me that killing him was wrong was screaming at me that it wasn’t normal to have thoughts of sex while in the same room as his remains. I once again ignored it.
I picked up the vial of Remembrance and felt my body grow cold. I had used the last of it, and the bottle was now empty.
“Fuck,” I said in panic. “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!”
I got out of the chair and hurried over to the trailer’s small shower. I had to go get more, but I knew that I couldn’t go outside covered in blood. Quickly cleaning myself up, I got out, dried off, and put on clean clothes. Jared’s blood had soaked into my white shoes, and since those were the only pair that I owned I was forced to fish out a pair of sandals from one of the drawers. Being careful not to step on the body or the red pools around it, I left the trailer and hurried towards the trailer park exit.
One of the local dealers lived just a few blocks away. As I dashed up the three steps leading to the old house, I felt around in my coat pocket for my wallet. I always kept some emergency money on me, money that I had been careful to hide from Jared. It wasn’t much, but I hoped that it would be enough. I knocked on the door and waited impatiently for a few seconds before it opened, revealing a tall woman with short hair.
“What?” the woman demanded shortly.
“Yeah, Traci, it’s me, Chloe,” I answered. “I need to see Doug.”
“Oh, yeah, hey, Chloe. Doug’s not here.”
“Fuck. When will he be back?”
“Next Tuesday. He went to Vegas for his cousin’s wedding or some shit. You looking to score?”
I nodded. “Yeah, I’m looking for something specific.”
“Come on in.” Traci opened the door wider. “I’m handling things until he gets back.”
I sighed in relief and went into the house. The door was closed behind me, and I was led into a small living room. Half a dozen people were seated throughout the room, each of them looking like they were stoned out of their minds.
“Don’t mind them,” Traci told me. “Some of Doug’s regulars. They come in, shoot up, and leave a few hours later. They’re harmless.”
“Okay,” I said. “Listen, I’m looking for something in particular. I think it’s new. It’s called Remembrance.”
“Remembrance? Never heard of it. Upper, downer, psychedelic, what?”
“I… I’m not sure. You take it, and your best memories come up.”
Traci tapped her lips with her finger. “Doesn’t ring a bell, but Doug’s got a ton of weird shit stashed away. Tell you what. Wait here and I’ll give him a call. You can pay, right?”
“Then give me a minute.”
She left the room, and I found myself alone with the stoned people. There was nowhere to sit that wasn’t already occupied, but I doubted that I could have relaxed anyway. My entire body was shaking. It didn’t feel like withdrawal. It was more like I was extremely anxious and impatient. I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself.
On a long table in front of one of the customers was an open baggie of cocaine. There was quite a bit of it, and judging by how out of it the guy was there must have been a lot more to start. He wouldn’t even notice if I went over and did a quick snort of it. It just didn’t seem all that appealing, however. A week, hell, a day earlier I would have jumped at the opportunity, but now that I had tried Remembrance I no longer had a taste for lesser drugs.
Next to the cocaine was a razor blade. It was covered in white powder, proof that it had been used to cut lines for snorting. I stared at it for a few seconds before grabbing it and sliding it into my pocket. I wasn’t exactly sure why I did so. It was just something that I felt that I had to do. Now that I had the blade a small bit of my anxiety subsided. I kept my hand in the pocket with it, the metal feeling good against my skin as I rubbed my fingers against it.
Traci came back into the room as she hung up the cellphone she was holding.
“Doug says that there’s no such thing called Remembrance,” she said. “Not that he knows of, anyway. He says that maybe it’s a nickname a dealer gave it or something. From what you say it does, he thinks it might just be an amphetamine. We’ve got those.”
“It isn’t fucking Adderall,” I replied, more sharply than I intended. “This was different. It was like I was actually there.”
Traci shrugged. “Sorry, hon, I don’t know what to tell you. Are you sure it wasn’t some cocktail? Could have been an amphetamine mixed with a psychotropic.”
I took a deep breath to keep down the irritation that was threatening to overtake me. “It wasn’t a mix. Look, can I just take a look at what you have to make sure there isn’t any? I’ll know it if I see it.”
“No can do. That’s not how this works. Besides, Doug knows what he’s got and what he don’t got.” Traci paused. “Besides, you don’t look so good. Maybe you should lay off for a few days.”
I couldn’t control myself any further. I lunged forward and tackled the other woman to the ground. Traci cried out for just a moment before her head struck the hard floor. Her eyes looked unfocused as she struggled to draw in a breath.
Having no intention of letting her recover, I pulled the razor blade out of my pocket and cut a deep laceration across Traci’s long neck. I had never so much as punched another person in my life, but I had now cut the throat of two people in one day. As I pushed the blade deeper into the windpipe I idly wondered why I wasn’t horrified by that. I wasn’t experiencing revulsion, but I wasn’t experiencing satisfaction, either. This was simply an action that I was performing, nothing more and nothing less.
That sense of indifference stayed with me until the moment Traci fell still. Once that happened, I was shocked as the feelings I had experienced during my last Remembrance trip washed over me. My nerve endings blazed as I was filled with a loving warmth greater than any I had previously felt and physical satisfaction beyond any orgasm I had ever experienced. I fell to my knees and cried out with pure joy. In that moment everything was right with the universe for the very first time.
I don’t know how long it lasted, but the feelings eventually began to fade. They were replaced by panic as I tried to hold onto the last shreds of the incredible happiness. It was impossible, though, and I was left feeling empty and hollow.
My head snapped towards the stoners zoning out in the room. There was no indication that they had registered that anything had happened. They were so far gone that I could have set them on fire and they wouldn’t have noticed.
I looked down at the razor blade on the floor next to the dead woman’s neck. Retrieving it, I slowly stood up and moved towards the nearest of the addicts. It was a rail-thin man with pale skin and countless needle marks along both of his arms. For the first time I felt a twinge of unease. This was somehow different than killing either Jared or Traci. This person was completely defenseless and hadn’t done anything to set me off.
I thought about the incredible high that had consumed me when I killed the drug dealer, though, and suddenly nothing else mattered.
I went down the line of addicts, slitting each throat one at a time. I would bask in the pleasure the killing brought with it for as long as possible before moving on to the next person. After the third person the razor became too dull and slick with blood to continue using. I searched around in the kitchen until I located a sharp butcher knife.
As I turned around to continue with my work, I noticed an object on the counter next to the sink. I picked the gun up and looked at it curiously. Using it instead of a knife would certainly make the process easier, but I was hesitant to do so. I didn’t know if shooting someone would still trigger the post-killing high. Deciding that it wasn’t worth the risk of losing a potential fix, I set it back down and gripped the knife tightly.
Two hours later, I was standing over the final addict when I saw him begin to stir. His eyes started to flutter, and he licked his dry lips as he grunted. Before I could react, he started to try to stand up. He was much larger than the other people in the room, and if he managed to get his bearings and see what I had done I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to finish the job. Thinking quickly, I snatched up a nearby vase and smashed it as hard as I could against his temple. He fell back onto the couch and I managed to slice the blade of the knife across his throat before he recovered.
The sensations that came from the kill were even more intense than the others had been. I writhed on the floor in pleasure, moaning more than once as it coursed through my body like an electric current. The man had been the most difficult of the kills so far, and for some reason that made it even more satisfying.
When it finally subsided, I pushed myself up off the floor and took a moment to collect myself. I was exhausted, and all that I wanted was to go home and pass out. Now that I was past my craving, though, I was beginning to realize the reality of my situation. There was a body waiting for me back in my trailer, and there were seven others right in front of me. I needed to leave before someone else came by to make a purchase, and I couldn’t go back home until I figured out what to do with Jared.
My mind was working through the situation with cold detachment. I still didn’t feel any hint of guilt or remorse. In fact, each murder had been easier than the one before it, and at some point I had even stopped seeing them as human. They were simply what I needed to get my fix.
That didn’t mean that I wasn’t worried, however. Where there were bodies, there would be the police. Maybe they would attribute the carnage I had caused to an insane junkie or a rival drug dealer. It was also possible that they would perform a full and thorough investigation and that they would find evidence that I had been there. If that happened they would want to question me at the very least, and that could lead them to Jared’s body.
The prospect of being arrested for multiple homicides was bad enough, but what worried me most was that whatever was causing me to have such powerful reactions would eventually wear off. I knew absolutely nothing about the Remembrance I had taken, not even how long it would remain in my system. If there was one thing that I knew after years of using a wide variety of drugs, however, it was that the ride eventually stopped no matter how good the stuff was. I needed more Remembrance, and unfortunately there was only one place where I might be able to find some. I had to return to the store I had gotten it from.
I was once again covered in blood, and this time I wasn’t at home to be able to get changed. I looked over at Traci’s body. Not into my own clothes, anyway. Quickly stripping down to my underwear, I washed the blood off my hands and face before digging around in the kitchen cabinets until I found a box of garbage bags. I packed my bloody garments into one of the bags and carried it over my shoulder as I searched the house for Traci’s room. I found it on the second floor. When I opened the closet I was relieved to see both shirts and pants hanging from the rack. The hooded sweatshirt and jeans that I chose were a few sizes too big, but they would have to do.
Now that I was dressed, I left the house through the back door. I emerged into a weed-filled yard that obviously hadn’t been tended to in quite a while. I made sure that none of the neighbors were watching before I threw the trash bag over the far side fence and climbed over after it. Retrieving the bag, I hurried down the block, hoping that I would go unnoticed until I reached my destination.
I managed to make it to the small grocery store that stood at the edge of downtown. I had approached it from the rear, and I was able to cross the distance to a blue dumpster without incident. It was roughly half full, which was perfect for my needs. I tossed the garbage bag inside and moved a few of the other items around to cover it. I nodded to myself. Just another piece of trash.
The sun was setting in the distance. Hoping that the antique store wasn’t already closed, I walked down the sidewalk, the hood from my sweatshirt pulled up over my head. A number of people passed me going in the opposite direction without so much as glancing at me. Each time I thought about how incredible it would feel to kill them right then and there.
I reached the antique store and stopped at the door. The sign was still displaying Open, and I knew that I needed to go inside. The problem was that I had been banned from doing so earlier that same day. I blinked. Had it really been less than a day since I had gotten my hands on Remembrance? It seemed impossible.
I jumped slightly as the store door opened. The owner was standing directly in front of me, his expression unreadable as he looked down at me. I took an involuntary step backwards. There was something about the guy that intimidated me. I hated feeling that way. Nobody intimidated me, and yet he did with just a look.
“Come in,” Pembrook said, stepping aside to allow me to pass.
I hesitated before crossing through the doorway. He closed the door behind me and changed the Open sign to Closed. Taking a large key out of his pocket, he locked the door and flipped off the switch to the right of the frame. The lights in the front of the store turned off, casting a gloom over the items on display.
“I see that you went against my instructions and took more than three drops,” he observed dryly. “If there’s one thing that you can count on an addict to do, it’s to always want more.”
“I need more Remembrance,” I said, ignoring the thinly-veiled insult. “I can pay.”
“It doesn’t matter if you have money or not. There isn’t any to be had. I gave you my only bottle.”
“You have to know where to get more.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You’re assuming that there’s more out there to be procured. Remembrance is one of the rarest substances in the world.”
I felt a twinge of panic. “What about the person you said made it? The chemist or whatever? Can they make you more?”
The store owner didn’t answer immediately. Instead, he slowly walked to the other side of the store and retrieved something from a high shelf. Whatever it was, it was wrapped in soft black cloth and was about the size of his forearm.
“Remembrance isn’t a typical drug,” Pembrook told me as he came back over. “It’s quite… parasitic in nature. As I said, there isn’t any more. The only way to trigger the effects now is through the… other method that, judging by the blood on the tips of your hair, you’ve already discovered.”
I regarded him in surprise, my mouth moving but no words coming out as I reached up with one hand to touch my hair.
“There’s a very good reason that I told you to only use three drops,” the man continued. “Doing so causes you to experience old happy memories with vivid clarity, but it also doesn’t cause a permanent change in you. The effects, while quite strong, are temporary.”
“But when I took four drops…” I trailed off.
“You’ve caught on. Good. Four drops in one dose changes you. It rewrites you, makes you into someone else, something else.”
“Am…” I swallowed hard. “Am I going to die?”
He waited a moment before answering. “Not as long as you either continue on your little killing spree or take a very specific antidote, which I just happen to have on hand. Tell me, did you kill your first victim before or after you had taken the four drop dose?”
“Before,” I replied automatically, immediately realizing what I had admitted to. “Wait, fuck, I mean-”
“Before,” he repeated, ignoring my feeble backpedaling. “After a normal dose, correct? It’s very rare for someone to be that compatible. The euphoria you experience after killing must be indescribable.”
Not trusting myself to speak, I didn’t answer.
“I gave you a choice earlier today,” Pembrook said. “Now I’m giving you another one. I can give you the antidote that I mentioned. It’s still soon enough for it to reverse what’s happening to you. You’ll be able to continue living without killing, although you’ll no longer be able to achieve the, shall we say, pleasure you have experienced today, either.”
“No!” I practically screamed. “No, I can’t do that. I… I need it.”
The man grinned broadly. “I know that you do. That’s why I believe you’ll jump at the second option I have for you.”
He handed me the object that he was holding. I took it from him in confusion, not sure what he was getting at. I slowly unwrapped the cloth and found that inside was a wooden mask. It was intricately carved, and the wood was smooth to the touch. It had two ears and a snout with sharp teeth extending from it.
“It doesn’t look like much, does it? Looks can be deceiving, however. With it, you’ll become a true predator, a killer that lives her life in blood and ecstacy. I can show you how.”
“What will it cost me?” I asked, feeling a sudden stab of fear. “Are… are you the devil? Will this cost me my soul?”
“The devil? Oh, no, my dear, I’m something much different than that. And you’ve already given up your soul today of your own free will. I want something else.” The man’s smile turned vicious. “So tell me, Ms. Bennington, are you ready to make a deal?”