Patricia turned and looked back at the pale man with hate. Her eyes trailed along the gold links of the leash that he held in his hand that connected her to him. She wanted to spit in the street but restrained herself because she knew that Joseph, the master, would beat her if she did. Joseph had eaten onions and eggs that morning and the foul taste of him and his semen lingered in her mouth. Patricia knew his diet much too well.
Joseph let his mind wander as he ambled slowly behind the little dark girl. Today would be a good day. He was going to meet a direct connection of the source of what was known as the “marrow of life”. It had been 23 years since the virus had struck the world. The only way to stop the progression of the virus was to ingest flake marrow, related to opium. No antidote was ever found. Heroin, morphine and methadone had become almost impossible to find.
In the early days the hospitals and pharmacies had been looted and the armed militia of the city, formerly known as the police, had taken control of all the previously legal narcotic dispensation centers. The underground drug runners, always at odds with the militia, consolidated their power also and two opposing camps were created. To survive, the people went to one camp or the other.
There were hardly any citizens left. Those who controlled the drugs ruled. Suddenly a new substance appeared and it was introduced by a ruthless group of strange men. It was called “the marrow” and it did anything the narcotics did and some said the dreaming was better. These men called themselves “Breeders” and only appeared in the city on rare occasions to make secret drops. It was said that for the right price one could purchase the key to the source and become a Breeder.
Joseph was on his way to meet one of these half-men and his mind whirled with excitement. He had brought Patricia, his slave child, because someone had informed him that these half-men had an overwhelming attraction for these children and, very often, they could be a powerful bargaining chip.
Patricia was his favorite of all the children. Joseph could sense that she did not care for him at all and that made her all the more exciting. Patricia, the dark girl, was feeling that strange sense of nostalgia that came over her as the drug wore off. Her feet felt like they would slip through the walkway. At times like this Patricia would imagine that her skin was becoming thinner and that she was beginning to see into her body.
They passed a dark alley. Joseph jerked her chain and pulled her into the shadows. He whipped out two ampoules of marrow, uncovered the injector and plunged the spike into his arm. He gasped as the marrow hit his nervous system and pushed Patricia to her knees and poised the other ampoule over her neck. Patricia reached for him as he pierced her.
The inky blackness around them moved like a gelatinous substance as they shuddered together on the cold cement in the alley.
Garter carried the cage cloaked by a black cotton cover. Strange mewling sounds occasionally issued forth from the cloaked cage. Garter hissed impatiently when he arrived at the Kaliedoscope Eye Bar and saw that his potential breeder surrogate had not yet arrived.
Garter was finding it extremely tiring to care for what they called the Elvin Rats. The anger and sorrow that emanated from the small beasts was overwhelming and, with constant exposure, wore his nerves thin. Many breeders, if they did not use the marrow, finally went berserk and began killing every living thing they came in contact with. After two to three hours of slay-rage, they would turn their weapons upon themselves.
Garter was immune to the virus and did not use the marrow. He saw it as a sign of weakness to indulge. He had, however, developed a unique way to ingest the marrow but it was in the experimental stages. He hoped Joseph would bring the pretty young dark girl with him. Two Elvin Rats would be the price of purchase and then Patricia would be his. He had a flow-tube and a sac waiting for her in his med-kit.
When he entered the bar the Elvin Rats in the cloaked cage went wild. There were dragons that were close to the final stages of the addiction to marrow (called Meat Stage) scattered throughout the establishment.
Garter ordered a drink and sat in a corner. A high-pitched humming filled the bar and everyone looked at the source. Garter flipped his overcoat from his bulky body and the patrons saw the weapons strapped to his belt. He drank with one hand and rested his other on the handgrip of the Ruger.
Then the eerie sound of a dragon filled the air and a man hurtled out of the bathroom spraying saliva and watery excrement everywhere. He was in end stage. People leaped for cover. Garter whipped the pistol out of his belt and fired three times. The end stager leaped into the air as the bullets struck his head. His body slammed into the bar and he fell to the floor. He twitched in spasm and then lay still.
Once in a while a foolish person would stiff their connection for the marrow. A hot shot would change them immediately into end stage within thirty seconds or less. This guy still had the needle hanging from his neck.
Garter reholstered and sipped his drink. One of the patrons of the bar rifled the dead man’s pockets and handed the pouch to the bartender. The bartender spilled the pouch on the bar and examined its contents for a minute. Slid some packets over to a husky young boy at the end of the bar and the boy grabbed the dead man by the legs and dragged him out of the bar and rolled him into the street. The boy returned and took a mop and bucket and swabbed the area.
The door to the bar swung open and a dark girl on a gold leash entered followed by a pale white man with scaly skin and glowing eyes. It was Joseph and Patricia. Before the door closed behind them Garter caught a glimpse of three reptilian creatures tearing at the dead man in the street.
Garter held up two fingers in the air and the bartender scurried over. Garter stared at the dark girl and felt his mouth fill with saliva as she approached. Joseph watched the large man, Garter, with small dark holes for eyes aim those sights at Patricia and he knew he had bargaining power. He sat down and motioned the dark girl to kneel at the table.
Patricia’s stomach churned as she watched the two men. They had their faces so close they were almost touching noses and they hissed at each other like snakes. Suddenly she noticed the humming and looked at the cloaked cage. Captives. Like her. She felt as if she knew them and yet she did not even know what they looked like. Patricia wanted them to hum for her.
She shut her eyes and thought into the cage. There was a light touch and a promise of things to come. A song began in her center mind and then—-
A rough hand was shaking her and hot fetid breath slapped her nostrils.
“Come,” said Joseph. “You will meet your new master in the pleasure room at the back of the bar.”
Patricia stood and felt the blood rushing through her. She was beyond fear and yet not beyond hope of redemption. The two men led her into the back and the other patrons of the bar watched them go and no one spoke. Then they turned back to their drinks. Patricia heard someone laugh and then the door to the back room closed behind them. (To Be Concluded Next Issue.)