Chapter 1

Which rabbit hole does dear Alice want to tumble down tonight? Cooper’s eyes drifted up and down before resting on her eyes, ahhh let me guess it’ll be two tabs of love?
I’m looking for a few capsules of your most potent morose, actually. Ria enjoyed the flash of surprise on his face as he sized her up as if for the first time.
An artist?
I prefer not to use fancy titles for self expression. You have it or not? She crossed her arms in mock frustration. Most dealers who hadn’t been raided in the last few months were grungy underground cons and Ria had her share of false leads that night.
You’ve come to the right place dear Alice. This way. Cooper ushered her into a dark tunnel he’d been blocking from view.
They walked for what felt like five minutes until red and purple lights began to glow and the tunnel opened up into a spacious den. The walls were lined with tiny glass shelves, each section organized with little neon symbols. The center of the room had two couches and a glass coffee table with powders, chemistry equipment and empty viles. Cooper strolled towards the section that was labeled with a glowing dark rose and pulled out five black pills gingerly from their case. His green eyes glowed in the neon cast and observed carefully as Ria continued to stare at each and every detail in awe. He smiled to himself noting how the purple glow made Ria’s skin shine.
This is amazing. How did you make all this? Still wide eyed with fascination she managed to regain eye contact.
Time and dedication. Plus a masters in molecular biology was good for something. He felt himself smile genuinely at her giggle and she must have noticed it too as she snapped out of it.
So how much?
I’ll tell you what Alice, bring me a piece of your “artistic expression” and we’ll call it even. Cooper placed the little black pills in a baggy between her palms.
You don’t even know what I make or if it’s any good. Ria raised her eyebrow in suspicion, almost as if realizing Cooper could be some strung out psycho who had just led her to her death for the first time.
I know whatever comes out of that beautiful head of yours on these beautiful emotions of mine will be more valuable than everything in this room. And with that he bowed and began to lead her out.
Alright, Hatter. I’ll see you on the other side. Ria grinned to herself as she hurried home with excitement, or at least the most excitement she could feel being in the new society that had evolved.
The world was much different than it used to be and in turn so were the humans that lived in it. Things started to change as social media and technology began to advance and people started going a little crazy. Emotional outbursts were off the charts and almost every teen was diagnosed with depression, bipolar, adhd, etc. Mood disorders were the new fads and the drugs on the streets were cocaine, weed and xannys. Psychedelics were acid and shrooms and drug dealers had cracked teeth and twitchy eyes.
People were out of control and emotions were to blame, so the government put their heads together to alleviate the issue and a new vaccine came out. It took a few generations and some odd side effects for the brain’s ability to stimulate emotion to completely shut down by handicapping the limbic system with a drug called Scyiatane that was in every vaccine.
There were people who fought the vaccine and chose not to get it for them or their children but after so many setup scares the ones who saw through it were weeded out and slowly but surely the entire population were numb, boring and meaningless shells.
They worked, ate, exercised and slept. But as human nature demands the ability to feel and love there was rebellion, a low and steady one below the cities. Drugs were now emotions, chemicals carefully crafted to force stimulate the inactive emotional triggers based on individual feeling. It was illegal, immoral and dangerous.
To go your whole life without feeling and then pop joy or even misery could push someone off the edge, and it did. Law enforcement tried to expunge the streets of the dealers they called motion rats but guys like Cooper were too smart to get caught and so the drug epidemic started all over again.
Ria’s apartment deadbolt gave a loud click as she shuffled inside, throwing her bag on the coffee table she pulled out an old and dusty vodka bottle. Alcohol was still legal, but rare. People didn’t have the need for it as much without emotion, it was more of a social delicacy but mixed with emotions it heightened the high.
The clear liquid poured smoothly into a small crystal glass. Ria took a few swigs before opening the baggy and taking out two pills to crush into a fine black powder. She pulled out a fresh silver razor blade and divided the powder into lines she sniffed promptly with a bill.
There was a pain in her heart and mind, an overwhelming mix of tears and laughter emerged from Ria’s face and she raced to her sketchbook. The pastels and charcoal pieces felt more colorful and heartbreaking than ever as her hands worked with each feeling she could focus on.
Ria was born wanting to create but with no feeling her realism charcoal sketches were beautiful but not unique, not creative. It was frustrating, to have the want and need for meaning in her art without the ability to feel it. Many born with similar gifts had suppressed theirs until coming across a motion rat with sorrow or hate and proceeded to throw themselves from buildings or open their wrists in the bathtub. Ria had experimented with lighter emotions to start like crush and nostalgia, she played it safe until she could pinpoint what gave her inspiration and what felt like shit. She’d searched for a motion rat with morose for months but it was advanced and took a real dealer with education to cultivate something so complex.
Cooper was known for his intricate chemistry, he had the best of the best. Love was the hardest to come by and his biggest seller but very dangerous. The effects lasted longer than any other and it could cause permanent side effects. That was another one that people offed themselves on, or each other.
Ria sat and drew all night, page after page of mountains, demons, angels and artistic visions. As her high faded she found herself hovering over two glowing green eyes with a furrowed brow,
Cooper? She gasped to herself, I guess this will work.
Selfishly she wanted to keep the portrait, for some reason it calmed her to feel like he was watching, an almost complete stranger. She shook off the thought and placed the paper in a clear plastic sheet to take him. Downing the rest of the bottle she twisted her long black hair out of her face, peering around the room scattered with beautiful colors in forms of eyes, mountains, forests, everything Ria wished she could capture forever. The biggest project she was working with was a mural the size of her wall which she aimed to portray every emotion stolen from her by the vaccines. There was still too many missing pieces but she was pacing herself, the biggest ones would be the trickiest. Love had a big empty spot in the center waiting to be filled but Ria carefully worked from the outer corners in to prolong it. Love was expensive but also dangerous and Cooper had been the first motion rat she’d heard of who successfully cultivated it. Her phone buzzing violently against the marble counter shook her out of a trance, the name Sara lit up the screen.

Hey. What’s up?

Ria! Ria! I need your help. I love you so much I didn’t mean to I fucked up please help me. Her voice rang out panicked and cracked.

Where are you? Ria spoke calmly as she grabbed her keys, heart racing.

At Sean’s. Please hurry I’m so scared. There was a click as the call ended and she rushed out.

After pounding on the door, Sara opened with a puffy face, her left eye swollen shut and decorated with awful shades of purple and blue. Her arms were scattered with the same bruises in the form of handprints.

Where the fuck is he? We need to call the police right now Sara. Ria embraced the sobbing girl but she shook her head violently.

Ria, I think he’s dead. She stepped back from the door so Ria could see a hand peeking out on the floor from around the corner. She took a few cautious steps and poked her head around to see Sean lying unconscious with a shattered vase scattered around his head like a fucked up halo.

We need to call the police. Ria urged wide eyed.

No, Ria. I can’t. We took love tabs from a crooked motion rat. Sara’s one open eye was wild and terrified. Ria took a deep breath and held her friend by her shoulders,

Okay, we have to break everything and leave. It will look like the motion rat he bought from robbed him or something. Does anyone know you were here? Sara shook her head but widened her eye as a grunting captured both of their attention.

Sean groggily sat up. Ria and Sara stared holding their breath as he registered his surroundings. His eyes narrowed as he focused on Sara, a trickle of blood rolling down his forehead stung his eye and he spat at them, slowly rising, Fucking cunts.

He started for Sara but Ria threw a punch and he grabbed her throat. Sara’s screams split the air, Sean stop! Stop! Stop!

Ria’s ears rang and she began seeing dark spots before kneeing him in the groin. He released his grip cursing incoherently, giving her enough time to retreat into the kitchen, gasping for breath. She caught a glimpse of silver in the dish rack, a steak knife. She grabbed it just as Sean hit Sara, her cheekbone giving a sickening crack and she fell to the floor.

You gonna shut up now, bitch? Sara whimpered on the floor. As he bent down Ria jumped from on his back, thrusting the knife through the side of his neck with all her strength. His scream came out like a gargling banshee and he flailed around furiously, holding his throat. He reached out to grab Ria but fell forward, his hands returning to the knifes handle, trying to pull it out creating more blood squirting and pouring from his jugular.

Ria had never seen someone die, it took longer than she thought. As his body stilled and eyes dulled the gargled curses ceased. Sara was passed out cold in shock, she dragged her over to the couch where she iced her nasty cheek and swollen eye.

Should have checked if he was dead, she whispered to herself, what a fucking mess.

Sara clutched her bandaged face and moaned in pain as the two made their way down a dark rabbit hole, where are we going, Ria?

To get help. Ria reluctantly marched them closer to the hues of purple and pink where two gleaming green eyes met them,

Well, well, well. What do we have here dear Alice? Is that blood I smell? Cooper smiled manically.

I need your help. She extended her hand with the plastic incased drawing and gave a bitter smile, a fleck of dried blood still remained by the corner of her eye. Cooper accepted the drawing, his smile widening,

Please, take a seat.

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