The next morning, Jay didn’t so much wake up as open his eyes. His mind was foggy with sleep deprivation, but he knew that morning was the best time to cultivate the boy’s dreams. He stumbled into the bathroom to piss and get the syringes out of the medicine cabinet. He slipped them into his shirt pocket. He would feed the boy and then take care of business. Nathan hadn’t moved during the night; he was in the same position that he had been in when Jay put him to bed.
“Nathan.” Jay shook his shoulder. “Come on, kid. It’s time to wake up.”
Nathan sat up but didn’t open his eyes. “Don’t wanna.”
“Too bad.” Jay picked him up and put him on his feet. “Don’t you want breakfast? I think that I have some Captain Crunch.”
They went into the kitchen and Jay poured him a bowl of stale Captain Crunch with no milk. “Go in the living room and eat. You can watch TV if you want. After you’re done we are going to talk about your dreams.”
Alone, Jay took several deep breathes. The idea of sticking a needle into the boy’s eye repulsed him but there was no way that he could back out now. He had made promises. They wouldn’t care that it made him feel sick. They wouldn’t care that right at this moment all he wanted to do was take the kid back to his orphanage and pretend like he had never seen him. It was one thing for Jay to sell Sand when he didn’t have to think about where it was coming from. Jay was losing his nerve. He had to do this now or he would never be able to. The first time would be the hardest, he told himself. The rest would be easy. Maybe after he proved that the kid was a viable product he would be able to sell him. Then he could go back to the way things were.
“Nate. Come here. We’ve gotta do this now.”
Nathan walked into the kitchen holding his empty bowl. “Do what? I wanna watch cartoons.”
“Just sit down here on the floor.” Jay rummaged in the refrigerator until he found the base that Hector had given him. It should make the boy complacent and make Sand more vivid. “Drink this.”
“Why? It smells bad.”
“Just drink it because I said so. If you drink it fast you won’t be able to taste it that much.”
Nathan grimaced but drank the whole bottle. He rocked for a moment before falling back onto the dirty linoleum. Jay knelt down and pinned Nathan’s head between his knees. The boy’s eyes were wide open; his pupils were dilated to the point where you could no longer tell the color of his eyes. They pulsed with his heartbeat. Jay pulled a syringe out of his pocket. His hands shook badly and he closed his eyes to try to calm himself. He knew that if he didn’t insert the needle correctly he could collapse the kid’s eyeball.
Jay brought the needle up to Nathan’s eye. The boy whimpered softly but didn’t move and didn’t close his eyes. Angling the tip of the needle directly into the center of Nathan’s pupil Jay slowly began to push it into his eye. He could feel the eyeball squish before giving way to the needle. Jay could taste bile in the back of his throat. He carefully pulled back the plunger and the syringe filled with Sand. Pulling the needle from Nathan’s eye he sat it down on the counter above them, then laid down. He took gulping breathes of air; his face was covered in sweat. There was no way that he was going to be able to do this again. He had to get rid of this kid.
After giving in and throwing up in the kitchen sink, Jay picked Nathan up and carefully sat him down on the couch. He was blinking but that was about it. Jay sat down next to him and stared at the TV without really seeing it. “Sorry kid. I hope that wasn’t as horrible for you as it was for me. You have to understand. We need your dreams.” He didn’t know if Nathan could hear him or not, but he had to explain himself. “Adults can’t dream the way you can. When we close our eyes everything is flat and gray and just like real life. Some of us remember what it was like when we were kids. They remember having hope and dreams full of magic and color. I don’t remember any of that. I barely remember being a kid at all. I guess that I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m sorry that I did that to you. I will never do it again. I promise. You don’t deserve it.”
With that off of his chest, Jay was able to concentrate on the TV. There was a sitcom on.
It took almost an hour for Nathan to come out of his stupor. “My head hurts.”
Jay flinched; he had forgotten that he wasn’t alone. “Yeah, sorry about that kid. It’ll probably hurt for a little while. Do you… do you remember anything that just happened?”
Nathan eyed him balefully. “I had cereal. No milk!”
Jay laughed at that. “How are you doing? Do you feel okay?”
“I gotta go.”
“The bathroom’s over by the bedroom. Go right ahead.”
Jay settled back into the couch. He still felt sick over what he had done but seemed to have come through it okay. Maybe he should keep him. At least that way he would know that he was taken care of. It could even be good. Nathan was a good kid. Jay jerked out of his reverie and realized that the kid had been in the bathroom for over ten minutes. Something had to be wrong. God, let him be okay. Jay thought about knocking but decided to just walk in. Nathan scrambled back from the door. He was playing with a roll of toilet paper.
He jerked back. Eyes wide with guilt and fear, he cried, “I’m sorry!”
Jay crouched down and ruffled the boy’s hair. “Don’t worry about it, Nate. Do you want to come back out and watch TV? You can bring the TP if you want.”
Nathan gave him a wide grin and, scooping up the toilet paper, trotted back into the living room. Jay followed after him, laughing. There was no way that he was going to let this boy become a tool.
“Maybe we can get you some real toys, kid. Would you like that?”
Nathan played for a couple of hours before tiring himself out and falling asleep under the coffee table. Jay got a can of beer out of the refrigerator. He picked up the full hypodermic needle and turned it over in sickly glow of the kitchen’s fluorescent light. The milky, silver liquid swirled iridescent pinks and greens. Sand had never appealed to Jay. What he could remember of his own childhood never seemed to be worth reliving. He knew that no matter what he would never allow anyone to take Nathan’s dreams again. He had to decide what to do with this dose. He could sell it. That would buy him and the boy time to get out of town. He could take it himself. Maybe it would help him understand the kid’s needs and wants. Or he could get rid of it and just go. He had already been paid upfront for by a number of people for the drug. It should be enough to last them for a while.
He squirted the Sand down the kitchen sink. They had to move fast. People would be looking for the supply soon. Jay was going into the bedroom to pack a bag when there was a knock at the door.
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Portland Fiction Project
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