15 Jan 2055 | 2030h
‘Holy, holy, holy nuts dude. It’s the motherlode! Where the hell did you find all these?’ Ricky 2 was staring, eyes open, mouth agape, at the knapsack on his bed. It was stuffed to the brim with what must have been thousands of small items in the shape of a tootsie roll. Each had a yellow center, enveloped in blue.
‘I mean, just think about what you can do with this stuff, Ricky 2,’ Carlton said. ‘Wait, did you even read the paper I sent you?’ Ricky 2 shrugged. ‘Look, dude,’ Carlton continued, ‘I know you’re not into reading scientific crap—neither am I, most of the time. But there’s some good stuff in that research. This substances is… Otherworldly, to say the least.’
‘I happen to own a computer that can read my brain and show me my dreams on a big screen that only I can see,’ Ricky 2 said. ‘And I could work it without ever even searching for a manual. I think I’m pretty used to weird new technology.’
‘Fair enough. But anyway, that’s beside the point. You might be used to seeing crazy shit by now, but this just throws another fat cow on that pile of meat, if you know what I mean.’
‘I know what you mean. That’s still a weird way to say it.’
‘Whatever. What I’m trying to say is, the paper hints that there is a possibility this substance can be used to train your brain to engage in alchemy. Like, take the atoms from around us, and conjure up something that isn’t there. Just by, basically, using our imagination.’
‘Out of thin air?’
‘It would appear so. I don’t think it just teleports in front of you. They posit some ideas as to why this would be possible in the paper, but it’s still a big mystery. My guess is that it just puts us in touch with an energy that already exists, and allows us to direct that energy to manipulate atoms.’
‘So you’re saying this sack full of—what do they call it? Auber?’
‘Aubergine was the working name they used in the paper.’
‘Yeah, so this bag full of Aubers came straight out of your mind.’
‘That’s the basic gestalt.’
‘And if I eat all of them at once?’
‘Dude, I think your deadly sin is gluttony.’
‘What do you mean? How is that deadly?’
‘I mean you’re always asking Snow to try on his Lucidity to see what happens when you wear two at once,’ Carlton said, ‘and now you want to eat the whole bag of Aubergine. As far as how it’s deadly, I can probably just wait to read your obituary to find out.’
‘I do it up,’ Ricky 2 replied. ‘What can I say? I keep it lit.’
‘You’re freaking crazy.’
‘No fear, baby!’ Ricky 2 grabbed a handful of Aubergine and motioned as if he was going to put them in his mouth. Carlton’s body tensed—part of him wanted to physically restrain Ricky 2, but a stronger part of him wanted to see what would happen. After all, Ricky 2 was entitled to his individual choice.
Instead, Ricky 2 laughed and threw the handful of candies on the bed. ‘So how many do you suggest we take, Dr. Buristo?’
‘I was still thinking one each. It’s only your second time, right?’
‘And we still don’t know exactly what it does.’
‘You apparently do. How much did you have to eat to conjure up all these bad boys?’
‘Beside the point,’ Carlton said. ‘You don’t know how it affects you.’
‘How many times do I have to tell you? I have no fear.’
‘You sound like those teenagers our parents warn us about—you know, the ones who drive recklessly because they think they're invincible? And then they’re found at the bottom of a cliff somewhere—‘
‘Bro, we don’t even have cars here. Get off it. We won’t die if we take two.’
‘Okay, then,’ Carlton said. ‘Let’s take two.’
Ricky 2 grabbed two of the Aubergine he had thrown on the bed. ‘Ready?’ he asked. Carlton nodded. ‘Cheers,’ he said, and tossed the two pieces into his mouth.
‘They really don’t taste too bad,’ Ricky 2 said, chewing. ‘Very earthy. So tell me this—when you replicate them, do you have to know the exact formula? Like, did you have to read the research paper and really understand it?’
‘Not quite,’ Carlton replied. ‘As far as I can tell, just having a good idea of something, or having experienced it before, is enough to bring it into existence.’
‘I’m going to go ahead and believe you, because I want it to be true, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little skeptical. Do you have, like, a test-kit at home or something?’
‘Something like that,’ Carlton said.
‘What, did you conjure up one of those, too?’ Ricky 2 asked.
‘Why don’t you just see what you can do?’ Carlton said.
Ricky 2 nodded. ‘So, let’s see, all I have to do is imagine something, and it will pop into existence? Okay.’ Ricky 2 closed his eyes and tried his best to clear his mind. He held his hand out in front of him and relaxed his shoulders. He thought of the most simple object he could, deciding on a leaf—small, light, and familiar.
After a couple breaths, Ricky 2 began to feel a tickle over his palm. He opened his eyes and saw that he was holding a couple small flakes of green plant matter. Not quite a leaf, but a motivating attempt for a first try.
‘Wow,’ Carlton said. ‘You might be a natural.’
Ricky 2 scoffed. ‘Yeah, well, you only had a handful of these things and it didn’t take you long to turn out a thousand. I’d say I’m only scratching the surface.’
‘Sure,’ Carlton said. ‘But how many others could even scratch the surface?’
‘Isn’t that what the drug does?’ Ricky 2 asked.
‘I don’t know,’ Carlton said. ‘Nobody else who took it with us seemed to feel that affected by it. There’s a chance that you need to be gifted in some way for the drug to work like that.’
‘I got that evolved brain!’ Ricky 2 said, flexing his arms.
Carlton nodded. ‘I guess so.’
‘Could you imagine, though?’ Ricky 2 asked. ‘If it worked like this for everybody? A world where everyone could just make whatever they want?’
‘It’s hard to imagine. Do you think it would make people happier?’
‘I don’t know, man. I think people would probably be real happy at first. Then they would either get bored, or feel like they were, I don’t know, cheating or something. Or the world would just end—that’s a lot of power.’
‘So have you thought of selling these? Just to people you trust, of course.’
‘I’ve tossed the idea around in my head. It seems like I could make a tidy profit.’
‘Probably illegal, but definitely lucrative.’
‘Yeah, well, it’s basically stealing a secret substance, replicating it, then putting it out on the market before the inventor.’ Carlton shrugged. ‘Pretty shady.’
‘That black market profit.’
‘But we—I mean, you—could sell to a couple people. You know, people who have already tried it.’
‘I was thinking about that.’
‘You know,’ Ricky 2 said, ‘I talked to Snow a few days after we tried it the first time. He wouldn’t come right out with it, but I could tell, he really loved it.’
‘Yeah. One thing I’ve noticed about Snow: He’ll never admit to me when he’s happy, but when you’ve known him long enough, you can tell. And I could tell that he definitely wanted to try more.’
‘Try more what?’ Sera, Ricky 2’s younger sister, was standing in the doorway. Neither of the boys had even heard her open the door.
‘Sera, what the fuck?’ Ricky 2 said. ‘Nothing! Get the hell out of here!’
‘Ricky 2.’ Sera rolled her eyes. ‘It’s obviously not nothing.’
‘Get out of my room, it doesn’t matter!’
‘You act like you can tell me what to do with a big bag of—what is it? Drugs?’
‘Right on your bed, in plain sight. Maybe if I told mom that you were talking about selling drugs she would give you a small loan to start your business? I guess I can get out of here and go do that!’
‘My god, okay, fine, come in.’
Sera walked in and sat on Ricky 2’s bed. He sat between her and the bag full of Aubergine. ‘So?’ she asked.
‘So,’ Ricky 2 said. ‘Definitely don’t tell our parents about this. I know this whole situation looks sketchy. That’s because it is.’ Carlton cringed on the other side of the room. ‘What this stuff is,’ Ricky 2 continued, ‘is a drug that Carlton stole. Then he replicated it with his mind.’
‘Ricky 2, what the hell! Way to throw me under the bus!’ Carlton said.
‘Bro, my sister can read a lie like you can read a research paper. Probably better. She’s smart.’ Sera smiled at the rare compliment from her brother.
‘Okay, I believe you,’ Sera said. ‘So, can I try one?’
‘Woah, woah, woah,’ Carlton said. ‘First of all, I’m Carlton. Nice to meet you.’
‘Nice to meet you too,’ Sera said, shaking Carlton’s hand.
‘Now,’ Carlton continued. ‘Sera, right? How old are you?’
‘And you are willing to take unknown substances? Just like that?’
‘I know I’m not your brother, but that doesn’t seem like a very safe mindset to enter your high school years with.’
‘You already heard Ricky 2 call me smart,’ Sera said. ‘If he’s eating these drugs, I know I can, too. And if you really made them with your mind, I’m sure you made them safe. By the way, are you psychic or something?’
Carlton sighed. ‘Okay, if you’re going to be in on this, let me just catch you up briefly. These little pieces of “candy,” are called Aubergine.’
‘Or Auber,’ Ricky added.
‘And they are being tested at the University of New Idaho. They are synthesized from a plant in the Jungle. When we visited, they were handing out samples.’
‘They gave out samples? Then I can definitely try one!’
‘That’s beside the point,’ Carlton said. ‘The fact is, we don’t know exactly what these things do, but yes, they appear to augment some sort of psychic abilities.’
‘What he means,’ Ricky 2 said, ‘is they mess with your brain and give you some crazy powers.’
‘I guess that’s one way to put it,’ Carlton said. ‘But even so, we really don’t know much about them. Other than they are powerful. I don’t think UNI was really expecting any of us to actually conjure something out of thin air.’
‘So this is like, a huge discovery,’ Sera said, eyes widening. ‘And I thought Lucidity was the future! Can you imagine what you could do with this? You could make enough money to live off it forever!’
‘Good call, sis!’ Ricky 2 said. ‘We could buy, like, four Lucidities—each!—then put them all over our bodies!’
‘Maybe not!’ Sera said.
‘Okay,’ Carlton said, turning to Ricky 2. ‘So are you going to let her try one?’
‘She can have one,’ Ricky 2 said. ‘Remind me again how much you charge for them?’
‘Oh,’ Carlton said, making a mental note to thank Ricky 2 later for his quick business sense, ‘the first one is free, but after that, it’s five dollars a pop.’
‘What’s your Cash Account?’ Sera asked. ‘I’ll send you $50 right now.’ She tapped the side of her glasses to pull up her digital bank account.
‘What are you going to do with ten of them?’ Ricky 2 asked.
‘Learn to make more, probably,’ Sera said. ‘And I might even make a briefcase for you, so you can mind your own business.’ She was really thinking of Kenny, the Korean boy in her class who she expected was her soulmate. If she could find a way to replicate him, she figured, she would really be set for life.
As Sera and Carlton completed their transaction, Ricky 2 closed his eyes and focused again on the image of a leaf. After about a minute, he had made crumbles of plant matter. How much more could he create in ten?
The answer was nearly a whole leaf. Not only did it seem easier this time, Ricky 2 felt even more confident than normal. He already operated at a pretty high baseline, but his faith in his own abilities had notably increased from there since he had taken the Aubergine. It was a good feeling—it reminded him that everything was possible.
After Sera left to go into her own room, Carlton asked Ricky 2, ‘should we be worried about her?’
‘Sera?’ Ricky 2 said. ‘Nah. She can take care of herself. I give her shit, but she’s even smarter than me, and she’s only fourteen.’
‘I mean, should we worry about her getting us into trouble.’
‘I mean it, man,’ Ricky 2 said, looking Carlton in the eye. ‘The girl’s smart. Have you ever heard that saying? I’m going to butcher it, but it’s something like, only the dumbest get caught?’
‘I think I know what you’re referring to.’
‘Yeah. So if anyone screws this thing up first, it’s going to be me. And it’s not going to be me.’
‘I sure hope you’re right.’
‘I don’t!’ Ricky 2 laughed. ‘Anyway, let’s enjoy it while we can, huh? Look, I can almost make a leaf!’