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Authors: Michelle Chaves

The Yellow Pill

BOOK: The Yellow Pill
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The Yellow Pill

By Michelle Chaves

 

 

Text and image copyright
Ó
2014 Michelle Chaves

All rights Reserved

 

To my old man

Chapter 1

The dome once again faded back to the darkness of nighttime. The
explosion of light was already over. Frey’s stomach clenched, her fingertips
burning as they touched the small, white box. Her insides had turned into one
huge lump of ice and she was trying, but not succeeding very well in
remembering to breathe.

Only seconds had passed since the drop had touched the
ground, and already the place was crowded with dirty and wild-eyed people.
Someone grabbed her braid, another’s fingers yanking at her clothes. The
treasure was pressed to her chest, with a strength she didn’t know she
possessed. Tiny stars obscured Frey’s vision as a punch connected with her jaw.

She stumbled into a wall, her assailant already coming
at her again,
spittle
flying from his mouth, his eyes
bloodshot and wide. The fist moved as if in
slow-motion
,
the ingrained dirt on his knuckles masking the skin underneath.

Frey ducked. Bones crunched and the man howled as she
slipped past. Another man, looking even worse than the first, blocked her
escape route. She came in low, twisting as she rammed her elbow into his
stomach. Some of his spit and bile hit her in the back of the neck. Frey felt
her heart contract as more hands reached for her, their fingers gripping and
slipping on the drop’s blank surface. Any minute now, this place would be crawling
with gang members from every district…

A woman barged into her, sending them both crashing
into the cobblestoned street to the right. They both punched and kicked while
they were still tumbling over trash and through puddles.

Frey felt the woman’s nose crunch under her sneaker as
her kick finally forced the crazed lady to let go. Frey stumbled away from the
moaning heap, the others already closing in again.

The sound of gunfire sounded just around the corner
now, the gangs probably working to surround the place or fighting each other to
be the first to arrive.

She ran as if hell’s hounds were behind her, because
when the guns arrived, she could kiss her treasure and her life goodbye.  She
squeezed the drop tighter, cold sweat breaking out from the shear fear of
loosing it.

Her feet took her through alleyways, through
skyscrapers and out the back entrances she knew so well. She shrugged off her jacket,
using it to cover the package while she ran, trying not to think, least she
fancied stumbling into death’s embrace all on her own.

Frey skidded around a corner and pressed her back into
a green and red graffiti covering the entire side of the building. The paint
had run at the edges and the Southside tag was there as a warning to others
that this was their territory.

Frey gulped air like a madwoman. She fumbled with the
sleeves until they were securely knotted around her chest,
then
only wasted a few more precious seconds to gulp some more air before, exiting
the alleyway. She walked over the street and into the darkness of the next,
kicking away the debris and trash when she could, jumping or climbing over it
when she couldn’t.

Street beggars, dogs and rats scattered at the
approaching sounds of fighting, and Frey tried to blend in with the mob of
people that were moving up and down the street in various stages of panic from
the advancing gunfire. She could feel her own fear building, half expecting to
have someone grab her shoulder, shove her into a dark corner and stab a blade
between her ribs.

Then something happened she hadn’t expected. The
digital sky lit up again, bright as day to allow a second package to slowly
float down on its parachute, this time towards the east of the City. The
blaring, triumphant music faded at the same time as the sky, and the drop was
over as fast as it had started.

Frey dodged one person after the other as they either
tried to rush towards or away from the would-be war zone. She could tell by the
frothing, crazed-eyed people pushing past that the only thing they would be
fighting for would be the yellow treasure inside the drop.

She elbowed her way through the mob, keeping close to
the edges of the buildings to get more room to breathe. The more sober beggars
scrambled out of the way, the rest were trampled, and she knew the alleyway
would be littered with the dead and the dying when daylight reached it.

A woman stumbled among the press of bodies and Frey
reached out just in time to grab her arm, keeping a firm hold until the press
lessened. She was gone from view in seconds.

Frey shoved and forced her way towards the next big
crossing, jumping over a smashed BMW and skidding around another car, this one
upside down and unrecognizably smashed. 

She blended in with a group of youngsters for a while
before slipping away to continue along a smaller street, parallel to the first.
The sounds of fighting faded. At least as faded as they would ever be in Slum
City.

Frey closed her eyes and breathed in, sweat still
running down her temple and dripping from her chin. She shoved her hands in her
pockets and walked on, ignoring the mumbling voices and begging hands from the
shadows.

 

Father Patrick rubbed his eye with one hand, working the latch with the
other. She held onto the windowsill, her worn sneakers still doing a pretty god
job of gripping the crumbling ledge.

Father Patrick was old, the oldest one she knew, and
yet he had not lived that many years in her eyes. There was always disease,
murder, accidents and more that made sure the population was kept down.

He pulled up the squeaky window with a grunt, allowing
Frey to enter. Shadows danced along the walls as he flicked on the lights, the
single
light-bulb
’s lifespan almost at an end. He ran
a hand through his graying hair that had more grey than black nowadays.

”Sorry to wake you,” Frey said in a whisper even
thought the walls were thick. ”But I got you something.” She reached up to
untie her sleeves as they sat down at the narrow, crocked table. Frey placed
the package on the table, gently after all its rough handling. Her fingertips
still burned, and she could almost imagine a glow spreading from the white box.
She pushed it closer to him. His shaking hand reached out to touch it, as if he
was not quite sure it was there.

When his fingers made contact he looked up at her, his
wrinkled eyes wide, any sign of sleepiness like blown away. ”How did you get
one?”

Frey was looking at the package with a small shake of
her head as if she couldn’t quite believe it either. ”Luck,” she said. “Pure
damn luck. There was a drop practically at my feet. Over at the west district.”

Father Patrick sat back in his chair, his hands
rubbing his temples hard. “Are you hurt?” He didn’t look up but kept that pose
as he waited for an answer.

“No,” she said, and in spite of herself she grinned as
she added; “Still can’t believe how lucky I was! There was a second drop just
when I thought they were
gonna
catch up with me. Probably saved me some bullet holes.”

“Frey, please don’t joke about this.”

Frey suppressed the grin, and her slight frown
returned
as she looked down at the small, white, perfect box
sitting on the table like a newly discovered species. The corners were rounded,
and it was startlingly clean compared to everything else.

“Open it.” Before he could argue she held up a finger
in his face. “I took it here for a reason. Please. Just open it.”

He placed his hand on the package again, just posing
like that for a second before unhitching the grey clasps. It opened at the
middle with a faint
hiss
, and a small trail of cool smoke escaped into
the air.

Frey found
herself
leaning
back in her chair as if she could distance herself from the alien object. She
tried not to let the chill force a shudder out of her as Father Patrick opened
the lid all the way, letting it rest on the tabletop.

Frey snaked her hand forward and picked up a black
object, turning it in her hand.

A
taser
.

Father Patrick pulled out the larger package covered in
butcher’s paper. “Brown powder,” he said, stroking his thumb along the precious
powdered food like a caress.

Frey didn’t answer. Her focus was on the last object.
A sick feeling escalated in her stomach as she clutched it, wondering how such
small things could ruin the lives of thousands. Her hands tore away the
butcher’s paper to reveal the yellow pills.

The excitement at having won the drop was gone, and
replaced with cold sweat and an uncomfortable throbbing in her head, bordering
on a headache. Frey could feel all the questions starting to stir again, the
ones she had tried to suppress. Instead they grew, and now worse than ever.

Father Patrick covered her hand with his. “Frey…” he
said. “Don’t go there. I can see it in your eyes…” he leaned in closer, his
voice barely loud enough for her to hear; “You
know
what happens with
those who question.”

I know….
The problem was, she couldn’t shut
her mind up.

Her fist clenched around the pill package. “Don’t you
dare argue,” she said, seeing his expression when she refused to accept the
brown powder. “I meant for you and the kids to have it. I’m going up.”

 

She sat cross-legged by the low wall surrounding the rooftop. Frey
crushed every pill to powdery dust with the heel of her foot. Then a small
trickle of precious water was added, and she watched as the mixture foamed and
bubbled before sinking down to useless muck at her feet.

Frey leaned back, knowing she could never shut out the
sight of the insane suffering, even when she closed her eyes. Nothing anyone
did could dull the reality they were living in. Not even the drugs.

Even from this height the towering black mass could be
seen in the distance. The Wall was massive and threatening in its construction,
intimidating and unreachable. It also completely surrounded Slum City. The
shifting of the digital dome caught her attention, the illusion of stars more a
distraction than anything.

Damn dome. And damn Wall…

Frey took a gulp of water from her canteen, a constant
companion
which
had seen better days. The Wall was
darker than the night sky, making it a stark contrast against everything else.

If only I could see the
real
sky.
Frey
sighed.
Bet it’d be worth it, even if we’d all die… Man, I’d be a goner if
anyone knew I was thinking like this…
 Well, she could
think
things, couldn’t she? As far as she knew, no one could read her thoughts.

Looking down at the yellow-brown muck, she was
reminded that more questions arose the more she tried to ignore them.

 

Frey walked away from the dark corner, her hood pulled up, hands shoved
deep into her pockets as she joined the crowd. There was a foul smelling
alleyway close by, where a loud argument was taking place between four men. As
she passed they stopped yelling and started swinging punches. She didn’t have
to turn around to know they were all foaming around the mouths.

She parted from the slow-moving crowd when the garage
came into view. Frey climbed the broad spiraling driveway to the fifth level.
The cars were all covered with a thick layer of grease and dirt, and most of
the windows were broken. Whatever valuables could have been pried out of the
cars
were
long gone.

Frey walked to the faded black Volvo. She could see
his outline through the driver’s window.

The door thudded shut, and they sat in silence for a
while, just enjoying the mute world inside the car.

“We haven’t been to this spot in a while,” she said,
her gaze fixing on the dirty rear view mirror. Her green eyes stared back at
her for a second before she looked at Jin. Frey brushed away some dark, dirty
strands from her face.

“We haven’t been in any of the spots for a long time,
Frey.”

“Yeah, well, you weren’t too happy with me the last
time.”

Jin scratched his short, reddish-tinted beard, bits of
dirt falling down to decorate his worn shirt. “I guess not. Anyway, how’ve you
been?”

Her hand came up to rub her arm. She couldn’t decide
if she should tell him or not. Last time she had spoken her mind, it had done
their friendship little good. Shrugging mentally she decided that he
had
asked. “I got a drop the other day.”

His head and body turned as much as the car would
allow his tall frame. “You got a
drop
!?
Holy
shit! Where is it
?!

“Well…” Suddenly she wasn’t so sure it had been a good
idea. “I gave the brown powder and the weapon to the orphanage.”

Jin sat rock steady, only his fists clenching a bit.
“And?”

“What?”

“Was there anything
more
in it?”

Frey shrugged with an annoyed frown, knowing they were
heading towards another disagreement. “I destroyed the pills, if that’s what
you mean.”

BOOK: The Yellow Pill
5.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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