One pill. One job. One free day. That’s the deal.
Trakk gripped the railings tightly with both hands as he descended into Luxe, Lau’s basement nightclub. He walked unsteadily, slowly, sometimes trembling.
At any minute, he could have another micro-seizure. A ten, thirty-second blackout, just like that, and then back. But if he could just get to Lau and get the CBD, he’d be fine. Maybe.
Just a few more steps now.
He could hear the muffled thumping of dubstep from the club’s bowels. Plastered on both sides of the narrow staircase were nudie centrefolds from old Playboys and covers of Guns&Ammo in a chaotic collage.
He caught a glimpse of Hiromi Oshima’s June 2004 big brown nipple staring at him. The one where she’s holding this ugly kite behind her.
Or had Trakk been ogling her for more than a minute? Trakk couldn’t tell anymore because of his condition. Time was unreliable to him now.
He reached the bottom landing and walked past the two bodyguards. They knew him by sight. The crippled gwai-lo Lau sent on errands. As Trakk pushed into the fake fog and laser lights, the wall of human sweat and synthetic perfume and hard liquor crashed into his face.
The smell of youth assaulted him. It screamed at him, Trakk, you’re getting old, man. You’re old and useless. Fuck you, Trakk. Why don’t you just lie down and die?
He turned 29 last week. He felt like 79.
Trakk paused before it all and took a minute, or two, or three before he limped through the press towards the VIP rooms.
He had no idea how many times he seized up uncontrollably in the middle of the dance floor like a mannequin. Just freezing for no good reason, then moving on as if nothing happened. Stuttering like a broken film strip.
The Shanghai kids paid him no mind and kept dancing and laughing and flirting. He was just some weird white dude tripping out and acting all funny.
Last year, when Trakk was here, he had just got caught stealing from Lau. An offshore server account in St. Kitts with crap security. A basic DDoS attack. And then shifting the funds via proxy servers on Tor. Easy-peasy. That’s what Trakk was made for.
Dealing with people IRL and picking up on social cues however. That he sucked at. Lau found out before he could get the fuck out of China. Someone gave him up.
So Lau’s men held him down, clasped electrodes to his forehead and broke his brain into a thousand little pieces.
Shin-Fun, Lau’s top cracker, opened up Trakk’s neural kernel and set loose a number of malware. One of them blocked Trakk from accessing his shells altogether, turning his ¥300,000 headgear into useless junk.
Another virus randomly spiked Trakk’s nervous system giving him absence epilepsy. It’s not the kind most people think of when you say epilepsy. Those are called grand mal seizures, where you collapse like a marionette whose strings were just cut and you start twitching on the ground.
No, Trakk got micro ones. Just ten, fifteen, thirty second bursts where he’d freeze like someone hit the pause button on him. It happened five to twenty times an hour. Once he counted sixty-eight in one hour.
Sometimes he was aware everyone else around him was still walking and talking. Most of the time, he’d just blank, black out and come back disoriented.
He’d be tying his shoe, stop midway, and wake up wondering why Mr. Bunny Rabbit hadn’t pulled through the loop yet. He’d couldn’t watch TV and movies anymore. It was like watching a DVD that skipped all the time and snippets of dialogue never happened.
Trakk stopped at the bottom of the wrought-iron spiral-staircase that led up to the second floor VIP rooms. Had it been a minute? Or longer?
The D.J. was playing a remix of of DeadMau5 “Drop the Poptart”. Was it the first chorus still? Third, fifth? It all sounded the same.
Trakk shook his head like a wet dog and climbed up the stairs.
Inside Lau’s room, girls in school uniforms were partying with older businessmen in with loosened ties. They girls were giggling, whining for jewelry. They all sat tightly together in a black-leather diamond-tufted horseshoe couch.
Except for the apex. That’s where Lau was. Everyone else kept a wide berth. Lau liked being surrounded by strangers having fun, but rarely partook himself.
Lau eyed Trakk from the back. He flashed his gold teeth with a wide grin, creasing his tanned, pockmarked cheeks, like he was seeing a long lost friend from a lifetime ago.
“Trakk! My friend,” he shouted. “You got my message! Come. Sit. Drink. Let’s happy together.”
Lau made exaggerated gestures, spoke loudly and used “happy” as a verb. He acted like a booming fool and nobody suspected him of running a ¥5 million drug empire.
“No thanks,” Trakk said.
“What?” Lau held his palm up to his ear.
“No thanks, I said!”
Lau shrugged and motioned him to come at him.
Trakk shuffled his feet up towards Lau. Everyone else was willfully oblivious to their interaction. Lau did business openly in front of them. He didn’t care. It was his way of saying, I own these people. I will find out if they share my dealings outside this room and I will break them. Just like Lau had broken Trakk.
When Trakk was midway towards Lau, everyone suddenly froze and stared at him. Trakk stopped too. Am I having a seizure? What’s going on? He could lift his feet, he could move. So what the hell was going on?
Trakk didn’t know what to do with the silence and gingerly took a step forward.
Lau snickered. Then chortled. And then everyone else in the room broke free from their freeze frame and howled uncontrollably. Some of them applauded. The Korean girls hid giggles under their dainty hands. The businessmen guffawed.
“Look at the tin man!” Lau announced. “Look at the tin man walk! Come here tin man. Come to the Wizard of Luxe. Ha ha ha. I will give you a heart!”
Trakk’s shoulder slumped. It was useless to fight back. Lau owned him. He was Lau’s dancing monkey.
Lau reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an orange tinted pill bottle. He rattled it. “Come on, tin man! Come get your medicine!”
Trakk drug himself forward. He felt like an abused geisha knee-walking shikkō towards Lau so he could have the privilege of gratefully sucking Lau’s cock even after all this humiliation. He might as well be.
Trakk reached out to the pill bottle only for Lau to pull it away at the last minute. Uproarious laughter from the peanut gallery again. “You gotta be faster, tin man. Nobody oil you today? Come on, tin man. Let’s happy together. I get you a cute girl you like.”
Trakk stood silently and put his head down, defeated.
“Here. Here. Take it now. Stop looking so fucking sad!” Lau pressed the bottle into Trakk’s hand. “You’re ruining it for the rest of us.”
Trakk gawked dumbly at the bottle. As usual, his assignment was on a folded-up piece of paper inside. But instead of one pill, he saw two.
Trakk’s life after Lau had broken him was simple. Lau gave him a single dosage of purified CBD. It stopped the seizures for one day. In exchange, he ran an errand for Lau that took anywhere from two to six hours. Being able to live normally again for the rest of his day was his payment.
One pill. One job. One free day. That’s the deal.
Trakk had tried other things of course.
Shortly after Lau cut up his neural network, he blew his emergency account on black market ops, doctors and drugs. Anything to fix it.
Nothing worked. There were always devastating side effects.
One gave him hand tremors. Another made him violent in ways that scared his friends, whoever was left in his circle. There was one that made his privates hive up. The off-market drug he tried last month turned him into a drooling zombie. No more micro-seizures, but no more life either.
Then there was the experimental nootropic earlier this year. It made him see bugs crawling out of holes in his skin.
Now, Trakk spends his days smoking pot and lying in bed and waiting for a text from Lau’s ghost phone. The ganja sometimes helped.
He managed to get a part-time job at the McDonald’s on Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street near The Bund. The manager liked him because Trakk was white and thought white tourists liked being served by their own kind. Taking orders and serving friends were small micro-units of time Trakk could handle. Anything longer than a 30-second interaction was risky.
Trakk looked up from the bottle with the extra pill. “What’s this?”
Lau stood up. He’s a five-feet tall coil of veiny muscles trapped in a black wife-beater. There’s a gold chain slung around his neck with a crucifix dangling behind his back. Trakk is almost two heads taller than Lau, but Lau makes him piss his pants every time he gets near. Lau hasn’t stopped smiling since Trakk arrived.
Lau swaggered up close to Trakk. “Tin man. Did you think I would forget?” Lau reached up to pinch Trakk’s pasty white cheeks. “It was your birthday last week! I don’t forget my friends’ birthdays! The extra one is your birthday present! c’mere!”
Lau hopped a little, threw his arm around Trakk’s neck and had him in a headlock before he realized what was happening. Lau tousled Trakk’s hair. “C’mon Trakk! Happy Birthday! Happy! Happy!”
Lau was bouncing. He freed Trakk then addressed the room, “Come on everyone! Let’s sing Happy Birthday for my boy Trakk here!” He swept his arms up like a conductor demanding more volume. There was a stony silence and hesitancy in the room. Lau shot a menacing glare at a drunk man with a girl on his lap. He started to sing. Soon the whole room joined in on the chorus.
Trakk stood there confounded by it all. He must have seized up, because he only remembers the third and final lines of the song.
Happy Biiiiirrthhhdaaaay, dear Traaaaaaa-aaaakkk… Happy Birthday to youuuuuuu….
Lau put his thick meaty hand on Trakk’s shoulder and leaned in as close as he could. “You take that extra pill on the weekend, OK, Trakk? You take that extra pill and you find a girl and you fuck her without losing consciousness. I want you to enjoy every last second of her wet, juicy pussy and remember who gave you that pill so you can experience that. OK, Trakk? Don’t you go waste it on some fucking movie from Hollywood. It’s all crap these days. Another action flick from Tom Fucking Cruise. He’s pushing sixty and still shooting bad guys and jumping out of airplanes? Fuck that. You find a girl Trakk. You hear me?”
“Y-y-y-yes, Lau. Thank you Lau.”
“Now get the fuck out of here. Winston outside will give you the briefcase to deliver.”
This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by me, Jinn Zhong…
“Royals” – Composed by Lorde
Mashedup & Performed by Pomplamoose using
“Loser” by Beck & “California Dreamin'” by Tupac
These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Nicholas Brack, Dogwood Daniels and I) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Tuesdays via podcast.