The shakes began to violently intensify. Janus couldn’t bear it much longer, the nauseating craving, the blankness of mind, the emotional emptiness. He tightly gripped a long slender metallic canister that cost him a days worth of panhandling cash. His index finger rubbed a trigger button, which it wanted badly to press. The brown-washed beach accommodated others like himself – dingy-looking, rancid-smelling drifters caressing bottles inserted into their noses, some rolling on sand, others swaying in the warm sticky breeze absorbed in a deep trance-like state. This would be his refuge during the Trip.
After finding a secluded spot below a broken wooden pier, Janus stuck two short stubby tubes on top of the canister into his nostrils, felt the cold rubber scratch his sinuses, releasing a thin stream of blood that trickled down to his chin. Eyes closed, breathing deeply in and out, he pushed the button.
A rush raced right into his brain, bombarding his sensory centers with a barrage of scents. A salty sea breeze. Sun block smeared on skin. Sand saturated with a fishy smell. They formed images, resurrected long-buried memories of days before the giant dust bowls, the catastrophic toxic spills, and great global economic collapse.
Janus smiled and opened his eyes. He looked awestruck watching the plump orange sun igniting the sky with red and purple colors as it fell below the skyline. The crystal blue ocean stretched infinitely into the horizon and stretched back toward shore, waves breaking against the white sand. He felt the warm water wash against his bare feet as the tide rolled in with a whoosh. A tear rolled down his cheek feeling the soothing sea breeze tickle his ear, listening to seagulls fly overhead, embracing the stillness – the serenity – of the moment.
Then the vision broke. The scene shattered like glass. The once pleasant smells morphed into stagnant sewage. The ocean became a brown sludge. The blue sky hid behind a curtain of thick dark yellow smog. The carcass of seagulls and other animals lay scattered across the trash-covered, discolored beach.
Janus felt that familiar sorrow return. He held the canister, which had the word Nostalgia® – the Breezy Beach flavor – written down the side. It felt empty, like he did. He discarded it into the sand and dropped to his knees, already itching for the next Trip, anything resembling the world he once lived in. He laid on the sand in a fetal position, sobbing, shaking, yearning for another hit.
Janus controlled his breathing and sat up. He scanned the beach glimpsing others like himself seize with euphoria in the sand like fish flopping out of water, metal canister pumping scents that recalled memories straight to their brains.
It wasn’t always like this, he thought. There was a time when you could swim in the ocean here, a time when you could hike in the woods, even a time where you could drink the water without it being in a bottle. But it all changed.
Janus sniffed and rubbed his nose. The rebound from his Trip subsided, leaving a lingering lust for another hit that he could feel on his lips. He stumbled to his feet, looked down at the empty Nostalgia® bottle in the sand. Perhaps, he thought, I’ll try the Redwood Rush next.