'Indications are good…' Every morning it was the same. 'Increase the dosage...' He would wake up huddled in a different spot, memories of the past running disjointedly through his brain. No one ever disturbed him; he was just another nameless bum, lost to the city, lost to himself.
"Angela." He sighed her name. His dreams were always so vivid; he felt he could almost still feel her under his hands, that he could smell her scent even now as he lay in the dirt. For him the line between dream and reality had blurred a long time ago, and though she had always been cold and unattainable, in his dream and now in his mind she was always tender and loving. Even though concepts such as 'love' and 'care' were unknown to him. He knew only that he wanted her and that she had been his, at least in his drug scrambled brain.
'The highest order… Obedience…' The morning sun hit his back but the warmth did not touch him. He pushed himself from the ground, feeling heavy and numb. He surveyed his surroundings while he still maintained some clarity of thought, before the pain began, before the drug hunger overtook him.
The park he recognised, he had slept here often before. He tended to walk familiar paths when he was in a zyme high, stumbling along the streets laughing and crying as he revelled in the release, but lamented that it could never be the same, not like a real hit. It could never feel as good as Loyalty.
'You need some Loyalty, L-21…' Howard, his name was Howard.
People gave him a wide berth as he lurched toward the subway, a giant Quasimodo, hunched and tattered, doubled over in pain as the shakes started. Sweat soaked his putrid rags; they'd been a uniform once. Howard could remember standing proudly, his clothes newly pressed with his classmates ranked along side of him, each of them looking equally as sharp. She would be close to him; only two people separated them on the line.
"Angela." She had been the top of the class, excelling in all areas, everything that he wanted to be. Howard had always been last in everything, but she had looked at him. She never called him 'sub-normal'.
Howard reached the subway and stumbled hastily down the stairs, his body was on fire. He could think of nothing but his need, he had to have relief. His breathing came heavy and echoing as he made his way into the dark. He couldn't even remember how his life had come to this.
The subway smelt of stale urine, no matter how much air blew through it, the stench was unrelenting. There had been much talk among the city officials of closing the station down, since the average populace never used it anymore. It had become a den of drug dealers, prostitutes and the homeless. But the talk of bureaucrats was of no concern to Howard and the other inhabitants of this seedy underworld. They lived from day to day, moment to moment. If the subway were taken from them, they would relocate to a different place, which was their lifestyle, flexible and nomadic.
He roughly pushed past two whores and their shrill protests were lost to his ears as he charged ahead, seeking his dealer. The pain was coming faster, stronger now, his whole body tense with need, fighting to keep moving, to not just fall to the ground and scream.
'Promising genetic pairs, L-15 and L-18… Get back in line L-21!' The pain reminded him of the sort he had felt before. They had tried to give Angela to another, and he refused to allow it. He had been conditioned to not feel pain, to be immune to it, but they still knew how to hurt him. The throbbing he felt now was a small pinprick compared to what he had endured at their hands. The price of disobedience, but it had been nothing compared to losing her to another.
He could see his man, the one with the zyme. He stood in a dark corner, well built and dangerous looking, his two dealers in training ever by his side. They fed off the misery of others like Howard; so smug in knowing they were better than the rest of them. How Howard hated them, but he needed the zyme.
"Hey Whitey!" The Dealer greeted him, so cheerful, so smooth. His two young protégé's sniggered at Howard but he did not hear them. "Looks like you could use a hit."
"Giiive…" Howard groaned, his voice hollow and cold, unable to relay his desperation. He could not even think to form a cohesive sentence, his mind scattered, his need burning. A life of drug abuse had ruined his below average intellect.
"One day I'll have to teach you to use those language skills. But right now you need to speak the language I understand, credits…" The Dealer rubbed his fingers together, waiting for Howard to pay up.
Howard feebly shook his head. Whatever money he had managed to scrape together was gone. He hadn't even had time today to steal something of value.
"Well now, you already owe me for the last hit. And my generosity only goes so far." The Dealer sniffed disdainfully, gone was his affable façade. "If you can't pay, you might as well go the way of old Junkie Jimbo and throw yourself in front of the next train." The Dealer crossed his arms, indicating there was nothing else to be said until Howard returned with some form of payment.
Howard lurched unevenly toward the Dealer. "No…" He grunted and the Dealer looked suitably surprised. None of his junkies ever spoke back to him. His companions had already reached for their weapons, but the Dealer held up his hand.
"I NEED!" Howard managed to shout, feeling his rage surge through his body, fuelled on by the pain. He would not be denied; no one would even deny him anything ever again.
"You listen careful now my pale friend." The Dealer's voice became dangerously quiet. "The only thing you're gonna get from me today if you don't leave now, is a lethal dose. So I suggest you stumble back to whatever sewer hole you crawled out off before I let you know what real pain is."
Howard could feel all his anger and all his anguish being channelled into his hands as he lunged for the Dealer, tearing out the man's offensive throat as the others looked on in stunned horror. The Dealer fell to the ground with a bloody gurgle and Howard's breath quickened with excitement. So long since he had killed.
He turned on the two boys as they pulled their weapons free but Howard was too fast, spurred on now by bloodlust. Something had been triggered in his brain, an old conditioning he had long forgotten. Killing was it's own reward and he felt a high building as his body released its own brand of pleasurable chemicals. Most of the other junkies and prostitutes looked on indifferently, it was not their concern that other died before them. But when Howard turned upon them, the crazed gleam in his eyes, his slack jaw gaping open, fear shot through them.
Howard had wrestled a knife from one of the Dealer's boys and he put it to work on the closest junkie, revelling in the spray of hot blood on his cold flesh. Screams of terror echoed down the tunnels as many died beneath his hands. Some made it back into the daylight, running for their lives, calling for help from any that would heed them, the pale stranger had gone berserk.
A flash of memory penetrated his crazed, hectic mind and he laughed in delight as he remembered. Remembered how on a routine mission he had turned on the one that had taken Angela. How he had cut him open in front of the unit, how he had turned to see Angela, her expression neutral, impassive. She had not cared the he had killed her lover, Howard knew then, she had not wanted the other, she had wanted him, she was glad he had killed for her. Always for her.
He had run as his unit turned against him, run for his life. He had escaped them easily; his joy had given him wings. They would never catch him. He laughed again now as he remembered that day, looking to his blood soaked forearms. A cold laugh that echoed in his lungs, howling like the wind that careened through the subway tunnels.
He stumbled drunkenly away from the carnage he had wrought back toward street level, the knife still clutched in his hands. He was feeling very good; he wanted to feel this high forever.
He wandered aimlessly for a while, not sure where he was going, only looking for more people, fresh blood. The growing wail of sirens did not register in his thoughts as he stumbled down an alleyway. A doorway opened in front of him and his next victim slowly emerged from it, turning to lock the door behind them.
Howard's breath caught in his throat as his eyes fell upon the loose dark, hair and the freshly painted white skin. The Goth girl jumped when she noticed he was so close to her, his dishevelled and haggard appearance alarming her.
"Angela?" In Howard's distorted worldview the girl was his Angela.
"What are you looking at freak?" She stammered, trying to maintain some false bravado as she slowly backed away from him. He stepped toward her closing the gap between them faster than she could have anticipated. She stumbled back over a crate in the cluttered alley, falling to the ground, her elbows smacking the hard concrete.
Howard closed in on her, reaching for her and uttering not a sound.
"Hey get away from me!" She tried to slither backwards away from him. "What… what is that on your hands?" She whispered feebly, paralysed with fear as he loomed above her. Her scream tore through the streets as he pounced upon her.
Howard held her close, crushing her against him as he had always longed to. To hold her close, to possess her, she was his at last. His drool smeared across her bare shoulder as she finally snapped in his bear hug and went limp.
The authorities tracked him down and found him in the alley with her; he would not let her go again. Howard cradled her and looked up, blinded by the floodlights. They were speaking to him, making demands but he did not care to listen, he would not comprehend them anyway.
It seemed as though everything went strangely quiet, perhaps they were going to leave him alone with her, which was all he anted. A shadow fell across him as someone stepped in front of the lights, approaching him steadily.
"We've found you at last L-21." The voice was hollow, smooth and even and he recognised it immediately. At first he looked to the corpse in his arms, confusing overwhelming him before he looked up to see her. His eyes trailed from her sensible black shoes, up her pale legs to her trim black skirt, the black coat. His eyes devoured her pale skin, and cold dark eyes.
"You… cut your hair." He managed to utter through his stupor as she raised her pistol. The inane comment drew her eyebrows together as she contemplated him before she pulled the trigger. Howard smiled stupidly as the bullet pierced his brain; it pleased him that it should end this way.