By Shade

Zack eyed the open case before him.

He leaned forward and took another drag off his cigarette, absentmindedly ashing it onto the carpet afterwards. With his free hand he reached out and grabbed one of the small prescription vials sitting neatly within the case. Holding it up to the light he examined the contents. The liquid inside was a pale opaque blue. It had an almost luminescent quality that reminded Zack of radioactive materials. However, on the outside of the container where a prescription label was usually affixed there appeared only a barcode and some letters and numbers. Zack assumed it stood for a designation of the contents and maybe some routing info.

The contents.

That’s what got Zack’s mind going. His dealer, a guy from the south end named Derrick, had clearly indicated that it was safe. Then again what drug was ever safe? Zack had tried everything that Derrick had ever given to him before. Columbian cocaine. California gold. Acid. Methamphetamines. Barbiturates. Every upper and downer known to man. Even heroin. Nothing had ever given him the perfect high he’d been looking for all his short life.

That though brought him back to his parents. He had no idea where they were. Probably in Europe. Zack had breezed through college with honors and they hadn’t said a word. He’d been arrested and they hadn’t said a work. Nothing he did seemed to affect them. Being good, being bad, it didn’t matter. But they always kept his bank account topped off. Maybe that was their way of compensating for failing him as real humane parents. For failing him as human beings. Thinking about it and considering his progression of nannies, boarding schools and colleges, it was clear they didn’t care about him. And to Zack it no longer mattered if they did. He had long ago begun seeking out new thrills to compensate for his losses. Things to make life worth living, whether natural or drug induced. Even without his parents funding his lifestyle, Zack would still have had enough money in his own trust fund to live comfortably without them. Which he figured he’d been doing more or less since he was seven.

Maybe that was why he’d handed over $50,000 to Derrick with no great reluctance when Derrick had told him he’d come across some of the best stuff ever invented.

Derrick assured him that this shit would give him the kind of experience he wanted. Zack had never explained his motivations to Derrick, but the dealer seemed to know that nothing he’d provided before had ever been good enough. And nothing he’d provided had ever even hooked Zack for more than a few uses. He’d begun to get more creative over time.

That’s where the mysterious blue liquid came in.

This was the stuff that would do the trick, Derrick explained. This was a hard to obtain experimental synthetic. A drug that was manufactured for one purpose, but that they discovered was actually useful for another. Namely as a narcotic. Or so Derrick had explained anyway. Zack never really believed anything Derrick said. But then again he didn’t care either. He’d try anything once. He didn’t care how Derrick had come by it.

And right now it was sitting on his kitchen table. Derrick was a smart dealer. He didn’t sample his own products, so they never held any power over him. Surely though Derrick had indeed witnessed someone else who’d taken the stuff? Maybe the person who’d obtained it for him even?

Whatever the case Zack was ready to go.

He rolled up his sleeve. Zack was a thin man. But he had a wiry muscularity that came from good genetics and from dedicated exercise. Exercise was part of his routine. A certain ability to cling to a routine was part of what kept him from falling into the void every day. That and searching out new experiences with a tenacious dedication. It gave him a sense of purpose. And if this stuff killed him? So be it. It would be one less day that he had to continue in this absent, mindless existence.

He’d tied off the arm so that he’d get a nicely defined vein and filled the syringe.

Zack had done this before of course. A prick of pain and then the fluid of the unknown serum began to flow directly into the bloodstream. He expected the rush to be like heroin or morphine. An instantaneous hit of pleasure that eventually died away. But he hated that the failure of the pleasure to last only made the normality seem worse to him. He was surprised when instead of the pleasure he felt something else entirely. A slow creeping feeling, not like euphoria, but more like vitality. It was flowing within him and growing. Becoming stronger with each passing minute.

His head fell back and closed his eyes as he felt it work its way through his system.

Oh, there was a euphoria too. But it was ancillary to this feeling of strength and power. That was it exactly, he thought, strength and power. He felt like he could do anything. Take on the world. Despite his every assumption that this too would be only a passing pleasure, Zack felt the feeling growing stronger instead. He felt a raw manliness – a primitive energy that commanded respect. Derrick had hit the jackpot this time. This stuff lived up to what he’d said and maybe more.

The feeling of his own personal strength was unlike anything he’d ever experienced.

He stood up. He was stoked and he instinctively needed to test himself. Without thinking he brought his fist down with all his might against the granite countertop that he had paid so much money for. It cracked and shattered beneath the power of the impact. But with a quick glance at his hand, Zack realized that he’d felt no pain at all.

He’d never felt so alive and he wanted to test himself against something or someone.

After a moment’s reflection it occurred to him that the gym was the only possible place where he could find the challenge he so suddenly craved. He grabbed his sweats from the bedroom. Zack knew just the place too. Not the usual fitness center he frequented, but a real iron pit down on the south side. A place where the blue collar guys mixed in with the serious muscle heads. That would do. Once quick glance in the mirror though and Zack could see that his body still looked the same as ever. His wiry one hundred fifty pounds and handsome face grinned back at him. The same as they had this morning. No wait a minute, he thought, he hadn’t grinned like that in a long time. This was going to be a good time.

It took a half hour for his car to make it across town. He supposed that not too many people were used to seeing a car that expensive in this neighborhood. But he didn’t care.

An attendant sitting behind a desk stopped him as he walked in the door.

“Hey,” he called when Zack was about to stride past him into the gym proper.

Zack hadn’t even realized he was there. “What?” he asked.

“You don’t have a membership.”

“Oh,” said Zack, still grinning stupidly. The feeling of vitality had only gotten stronger with every second, even though Zack had expected it to have started receding by now. He reached into a wallet he had in the gym bag he’d brought with him and pulled out three hundred dollar bills.

“Will that do?” he asked nonchalantly. The attendant looked at him like he was crazy. The power of cash was amazing.

“Uh, yeah,” said the attendant stupidly, “Um…yeah…the rules are….”

“No rules,” said Zack, “Just cash.” And then he laid another two Benjamins on the counter.

“Whatever dude,” said the guy, “Do what you want. Locker room is that way.”

Zack thanked him and took off through the door, found a locker and stowed his stuff inside. He was still clad from head to toe in sweatshirt and sweatpants. When he stepped from the locker room out onto the floor it couldn’t have been more obvious that he was completely out of place. The gym was filled with sweaty monsters. Most having little to almost nothing on, so that each could show off the hard work he’d put into building his body. Normally Zack would have been intimidated no matter how much money he had to buy people off. But in this case, he was still running with an amazing high. More than ever in fact. Ignoring the looks he was getting, being without a doubt the smallest man in the place. He stood about five feet, nine inches, but even the shortest of the guys there could make up two of Zack.

He headed straight for the nearest bench. A guy had just finished and was toweling himself off. He hadn’t even had time to unrack the weight yet. No one was waiting and Zack thought that the bench press would do for his purposes. The guy was big. He seemed to Zack like an amateur bodybuilder who was interested solely in testing himself against the iron and not out in competition.

“How much you benching?” he asked the guy. He appraised the guy’s thick arms as he asked. He had no idea what they must measure, but they looked as thick as the guys who featured prominently on the covers of muscle magazines Zack had seen before. Zack reassessed quickly. Maybe this guy really was one of those sorts of bodybuilders. He seemed big enough. Powerful chest. High rounded delts. Thick neck – with ropes of muscle melting into equally thick shoulders. His waist was small and tight. And his legs were like some kind of thick young tree trunks. He wasn’t the single biggest dude in the place, but he seemed to be the most ripped of the lot.

“Bout three hundred,” the guy replied, taking in Zack at the same time. Aware of Zack’s having checked him out. The guy was used to that. “But I’m goin light today.”

Zack just looked at him soberly. “Shoulder injury,” the big guy added, as if it needed to be explained.

“Right,” said Zack in his most knowing tone, “So you mind givin me a spot then?”

The guy looked at Zack calmly. Zack had the feeling the guy felt sorry for him somehow. Maybe he thought Zack was just a fish out of water here.

Finally the guy said, “Okay, if you want to. Better make this a little lighter for you though little guy. Name’s Matt by the way.”

“Thanks Matt,” said Zack a little miffed, “I’m Zack”. He didn’t like being called little guy and something within him sorta snapped. “But I think I’ll try it out at three though. Thanks anyway big guy.” He put a lot of emphasis on “big guy”.

“Dude,” Matt said, “Seriously, this weight would flatten you.”

“Humor me,” said Zack getting down on the bench.

Experimentally he pushed up on the bar. At first he felt himself strain, but just as quickly he felt a surge of that strange power within him. The power was intoxicating. He lifted the bar and being used to benching with lesser weights, he pumped out twenty smooth reps – not even realizing that he’d gained the attention of a couple guys around him. He just listened to Matt count. Each time Matt’s voice seemed strained with surprise.

When he was finished, he looked up at Matt. “That felt pretty light,” he said, “Was that really three hundred?” Matt just nodded. “Put another hundred on will ya?” Matt complied without thinking.

When he’d done a set at the increased weight as well, he racked the bar and got up. He pulled off the sweatshirt off and looked at himself in the mirrors. While he had been lifting those weights, the muscles of his chest and arms had grown to accommodate the power. He wasn’t huge, but he was more defined than he’d ever been in his life. He flexed his right arm and brought it up to look at his gun. Where before there hadn’t really been anything, now there was a small ball of muscle. But his chest, now that was something. His slight pecs were full and rounded, like those of some guys who’d been pumping iron for a while. They looked about an inch thicker and actually stood out from his chest.

The feeling of vitality stayed with him and for the first time he looked around at the other guys lifting. Some of them were watching him with dumb looks on their faces. A few a little awestuck. Some seemed not to care and had gone back to whatever they had been lifting.

Matt came up next to him and flexed his gun behind Zack’s, framing him in the mirror. His powerful cannonball dwarfed Zack’s own, but the hard dick Zack felt pressed behind his ass told him everything he needed to know.

“That was incredible little guy,” he said, “I had no idea you were that strong.” After a second seeing Zack look into his eyes, he added, “Do you want to go back to my place.”

Zack smiled back at him. “Maybe later he said, first I want to finish my workout.” •

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