It’s a neat place. It’s got all sorts of neat things in it. These aren’t things that you’ll find in any kind of advertisement aimed at the well-to-do: walls painted white and patched in various shades of off-white, wire-frame bed and mattress with springs, broken window covered with a piece of wood—“It gives the room character,” Corey says when I walk in. She’s judging me, just like everyone else. She doesn’t say anything, but it’s obvious from her body language that she wasn’t expecting me to be me. This reaction is not at all uncommon. I am used to it. It no longer bothers me.
The bathroom has a sink with shaved hair in it. I take the towel from my bag. It was wrapped around other items to protect them from the rain. Now, already wet, it is difficult to dry my fur. A considerable amount of time passes as I move the damp cloth over wetter fur. A towel decorated with cartoons rests on a towel rod. I take it and finish drying off, replace it and leave. I will have to apologize later for doing that. Not to Corey though. It doesn’t smell like her. It smells like someone else.
My new room is small, broken, and livable. I am on my back, on the bed, when I hear Corey leave. I contemplate falling asleep, then find that I have. Whoops. Daylight has burned and I did not help myself. I searched for no jobs, produced no résumé. And now I will be unable to sleep at night. Through the window’s unbroken top half I see only a brick wall of another building, weathered and peppered with scars of decades of war with the elements, with human interaction. Rust flowed like rivers from the gutter, brachiating at random and creating a sort of dark masked effect against the brick, almost Gothic, creepy. Loud air conditioners whined somewhere above the picturesque damaged wall before me, and for a moment I am in the rivers of rust, watching them etch themselves into the wall through accelerated time, days and nights blending as the sky turns above me, stars then clouds then stars then blue sky. And then, suddenly, I am back in the room. On the bed. My brief sojourn into the waking world is over. I don’t even consciously track my hands anymore as they work the tasp into place in my left wrist. A cold buzz races like ice in my veins when I hit the plunger button. Except the ice isn’t in my veins, technically. It’s my nerves that carry the signal. My whole arm briefly becomes an icicle. Then the spike drives deeply, deliciously into my brain. The bottom of my skull splits. My identity falls through the new hole. I sigh. Probably I’m getting an erection.
Saying the tasp interacts with the pleasure center in the brain is disingenuous. It manipulates your nervous system so using criteria predefined by you. If your mind has a preferred mode for pleasure, set the tasp to that. It will twist the dials until you feel your quantifiable best. The device is named for a similar device in a science fiction book. It works nothing like that device, but the principle is the same.
The device is simple: size of an eye-drop bottle, metal tip on the tapered end. Press into your hand, it releases a drop of serum. I call it serum because I do not know what it is, and that is how it is marketed: serum. There are no guidelines on illegal drugs. Then all you do is rub the serum into your skin, and wait, and within moments your world shifts without changing at all. Important things are relegated. You can get carried away sitting in one spot, drooling. Some people use it so much they forget to eat, die on their beds and floors. I won’t do that.
The tasp is still going strong when I walk to the kitchen. I take some time to look through the cupboards for glasses, eventually realize I must wash one if I want to use it. This place is messy. Not dirty, exactly, but messy. I have to dig through dishes that have been rinsed and maybe washed, but not well. Everything my hand touches buzzes with electricity. My arm is on fire, a beacon of warmth and life. Ultrasensitive. I can feel tiny currents in the air. I spend ten minutes washing the glass, at peace with the warm water flowing through my fingers.
The tasp was once the source of turmoil in my life. Then it became the blanket I threw over the turmoil. The process was simple. At first, I spent more time off it than on it. When I was off, I felt guilty, and my family compounded the guilt. I began to spend more time on it. Now I am more or less always on the tasp. I don’t have bad days anymore. That’s one aspect of the tasp. The other is the physical change. A drug dealer with a sense of humor. The people who make the tasp are smart, mischievous and resourceful. The first time you try it, the random sequence embedded in every drop of the drug goes to work. From then on, it doesn’t matter what you do or how many times you use it. The change is irreversible. I got lucky and drew a wolf. I know someone who drew a platypus. At least I look imposing enough that people don’t mess with me. Not usually.
One problem: I need income to pay for the habit. It is difficult to work while on the tasp, so I haven’t found a job yet. I left my house when my parents announced I would be stopping the tasp or fending for myself. They dangled my freshman year tuition in front of my face like a carrot on a stick. I did not want to be treated like an animal. So I left. I have no money and very much hope that Corey doesn’t ask for the rent until I’ve had a job for at least long enough to have a paycheck delivered.