Warned for decades, we still contaminated the air. I guess we could point the finger at big business burning off industrial pollutants, if it made us feel better, but I suspect we all had a hand in it.
I have to suit up to venture outside. No one can live for more then a few seconds out there without wearing the gear. I’m seeking the most unlawful substance- smoke.
Downtown, I find my destination and go through one door, then another to the stabilization room. I remove my gear and enter the tunnel. In the distance a figure waves me forward. No clearance needed, I’m a regular.
The walls sweat; the air is a giant pocket of smoke. As I edge in, several men hunch over smoking. This is my camorra. One hands me a pair of surgical gloves and a cigarette. Lars is a greasy younger man with nervous shaky hands. “Hey, how ya doin’?”
I nod, drag on my smoke.
He creeps closer. “You know, I heard of this older lady, like around your age. She runs this smoking parlor where you can smoke anything- cigars even.”
I frown. “That’s a myth, Lars. I’ve heard it for years. Sorry, my friend. There are only these caves.”
“Well, I heard they’re watching some of the caves.”
I shrug, unaffected. I’ve heard this for almost as long.
I peel off the skin-like gloves, suit up, and leave. Outside, I’m too relaxed and unguarded when a stranger bumps into me.
He declares, “As a smoker, you are a murderer.”
Four uniformed men approach us. I’m stripped of my protective gear.
They’re really beautiful; pink and azure ribbons swirling all around me. Before I drop to my knees, I smell something sweet.