A young university student lies paralyzed in a hospital bed, a victim of locked-in syndrome. As he struggles to come to terms with this horrific condition he discovers an astonishing ability, one that grants him special insights into the disturbing properties of a new and increasingly popular entheogen.
Alex woke up, leaned forward, scratched his shin and inspected the body lying by his side.
A pale back poked up from the covers but remained completely still; above it was an equally stationary mass of black hair. Maybe she was dead. Alex continued to watch but failed to see any sign of life. He eased his way out of the bed and made for the small, grubby bathroom.
His reflection eyed him from the other side of the mirror: the same big eyes, big nose and big mouth as the previous night. Luckily Alex had a big head, he was adequately handsome. As for the rest of him: naturally large framed, recent work in a gym had begun to build up some muscle in impressive amounts, but he would have to watch his weight: even now, at just twenty-one years of age, he was beginning to form a beer gut.
He returned to the main room and once again inspected the entity in his bed. It made a grunt and showed an arm. He got dressed, shoved a few files and books into a carrier bag and silently stepped outside, thankful not to have awoken his girlfriend, Bridgett, and reignited last night’s row. So many arguments these days. Another problem to add to the list.
Alex stood outside his house, allowing the sharp April sunshine to warm his face as he tried to decide what to do next. It was after 10.30 and he’d already missed the first of two morning lectures. If he wanted to make it to the university in time for the second, he’d have to get a move on. But he didn’t feel like rushing today; he considered skipping the lecture.
He’d always struggled with his physics degree, there was so much work: assessments, practicals, lectures, projects – exams. As usual he’d fallen badly behind on all fronts, but time was now finally running out. It was the closing stages of the third and final year and if he stood any chance of successfully completing his degree he’d have to change his habits and simply work. That was asking a lot – too much – but despite all the odds he had made it this far; to fail now would be a disaster and a disgrace, it would fulfil his recurring nightmares.
His course was one reason for feeling miserable today, but there were others: his money – or lack of it, for example. Despite the occasional bar-work, Alex, in common with most other students, remained wholly incapable of controlling the level of his debt; and the bank had begun to take an active interest, threatening to impose a draconian allowance system, like he was a bankrupt! They wanted to see him:
‘Where has all the money gone, Mr Stanton?’
Lots of places ... the drugs were expensive...
Therein lay another problem: