Drink Vitriol!

by Dreadblocks
He could see the postman via the application. The only recently developed program allowed him the capability to remotely view whoever it was that might approach his front door, day or night. In addition to additional eyes, the user interface informed him of the current date, the time, as well as specific weather conditions, infinitely. The information never went away, but, if for some reason the system faced some sort of unexpected error or internal malfunction, records would be kept (and updated) in a local database stored on his personal computer. The convenience was remarkable, but unneeded in this particular circumstance. He had been expecting the arrival of a postal service worker in the preceding hours, thanks to the live and living document that he had been digitally supplied with, by his friend, only a few days ago. He had checked the status of the shipment intermittently, between tasks, in moments when he was either curious or impatient. The time of estimated reception for he, the customer, had never changed. 1:39 PM, on September 29th, 2024.

When he knocked on the door, the postman had this expression on his face that said, I really do hold contempt for my position. The box that he was holding was just large enough that he had to wrap both arms around its cumbersome dimensions in order to carry it. The clarity of the camera’s resolution made the man’s muscles observable. They were flexed, like the clenched tentacles of some predatory octopi. His clipboard rested on top, supported by the rough surface of heavily taped cardboard. When he spoke into the intercom, it was through strained breaths.

“Package for Abortmy..shits?”

He used the speaker built into the bottom of his mobile phone to respond.

“Yes, thank you.”

“I’m going to leave it here on the porch, if that’s okay.”

“That’s fine. Thanks.”

“Have a good day sir, and thank you for shipping with SafeShip.”

He watched the postman’s hips sway like a woman’s as he turned and marched towards his frustratingly misshapen-looking delivery truck. Abortmyshits wondered which marketer, in which conference room, in which corporate building, had decided that a distorted rhombus would be effective in drawing consumer attention. He bit his lip in aggravation when he realized that, just by contemplating the vehicle’s geometry, he had already, at the very least, somewhat fallen into their premeditated psychological trap.

Abortmyshits’ feet were just sweaty enough that, when they slapped against the wood flooring of his apartment, enough moisture would build on the tips of his heels that he could almost slide, as if he were in wool socks. Instead of sliding, however, he would approach a clumsy stumble that added several seconds to the time that it took him to move from his less-than-luxurious office chair to the door. The inefficiency of this didn’t bother him, but it did make him ponder on the significance of the percentage of his life that could be saved by some sort of retrieval bot that could have simply brought the package to him. He was sure that there were several teams of developers and programmers, somewhere in the world, asking themselves the same kinds of questions, in the context of other situations.

As he brought the box inside, he came to understand why the postman had so visibly struggled with the weight of it. The contents had been intended as a surprise, and Abortmyshits had no clear idea of what could be inside. His friend hadn’t hinted at any specific possibilities that could have clued him in, either. The heaviness only added to the distinctive shroud of mystery that surrounded its long-awaited reception. Once he had placed the package on the nearest countertop, he grabbed a knife, equipped with a well-sharpened and serrated edge, from the kitchen drawer. The tape snapped with abrupt, constricted groans as he sliced through the miniature gap in the fold.

The packaging within the interior was minimal. Nothing had been stuffed inside in the interest of addressing fragility or maximizing protection. There was only the bare brown of the cardboard, as well as a case of twenty-four Vitriol-branded water bottles, neatly bound in a tight plastic. Abortmyshits placed his hands on his hips, as his expression twisted into a puzzled scowl that was almost involuntary. He mostly drank tap and, if he were to ever purchase bottled water, it would never be bottled water sold by Vitriol.

A low, cybernetic buzz emanated from his bedroom, indicating that his device had registered the reception of a new notification. When he looked at the phone’s display, he could see that there was someone trying to call him. The user’s handle was RabidCrocodile7, a name that he immediately recognized. He decided to take the call on his computer, in the potential case that the conversation would be lengthy and require an active participation. He sat down in his chair again. The headset fit snug over his cold ears, insulating them. The two options presented on-screen were answer and reject. He opted for the former.

“Hello?” a voice inquired.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“A little birdie told me you got my gift.”

“It wasn’t wrong.”

“It rarely is.”

“I appreciate it, but I don’t get it.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s water.”

“And?”

“And it’s water. Vitriol, for that matter.”

There were sounds of screechy, inhuman static as their connection dipped. RabidCrocodile7’s words were a tad fuzzy, garbled.

“A highly reputable company.”

“I don’t mean to be rude saying this, but I guess I was expecting something a little more unique. Something useful.”

“Water is more than useful. It’s necessary.”

“It’s readily available. My need isn’t exactly urgent. I can get it from the faucet.”

“Yeah, but it’s not an automated utility. It’s a gift from me to you.”

“A strange gift, is all. Almost like a gag gift. Not that it’s bad.”

“I don’t think that you think it’s bad. I just think that you’re misunderstanding my intention.”

“Maybe, but that suggests that I understand your intention, which I don’t.”

“Did you know that our bodies are 60% water?”

“I think most people do.”

“It’s even higher in infants.”

“Uh-huh.”

“I’ve given you something that will contribute to your survival.”

“Alright. I guess that’s technically correct.”

“I’ve known you for a very long time. Think of this as an expression of my desire for you to continue to exist.”

“I suppose I’m flattered.”

“Let me know how it tastes going down.”

“I will.”

“What are you doing now?”

“Sidewinders is coming on in a few minutes.”

“That breakdancing program?”

“Yes. It borders on blaxploitation, quite frankly.”

“I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Have a good night.”

“You too.”

The call disconnected. The sudden absence of an active verbal exchange was noticeably jarring, and he felt a slight emptiness. He stumble-slid his way towards the living room. In course to the couch, he grabbed the universal remote that had been bundled into the extensive and all-encompassing home entertainment system that he’d purchased, on credit, six pay periods ago. He threw himself down and, in his brief free fall, pressed the orange power button that was nested into the top left corner of the remote, just above the outer edge of the numerical keypad. The television flickered to life, instantly reverting to the most recently viewed cable channel, which had been the International Cable Hub for Football Networks, or ICHFN. He often mistakenly spelled out the acronym as ICFHN, to friends and strangers.

Sidewinders aired on the International Cable Hub for Musical Theatrics and was several hundred channels away from the currently selected position in the Watch Guide. Thankfully, Silvergrade Home Theater’s All-Access All-In-One came equipped with a highly sophisticated favorites management system, which allowed the user to name, group, categorize, alphabetize, and structure streamlined lists of channels and networks marked as favorites on the customer’s subscriber account. He paid 139.99 every two pay periods for this feature, and more. He selected the customized label, Sidewinders, from his personalized list of items and was successfully redirected.

Sidewinders was hosted by Terrence Carver, a tall, black man in a matching black suit and glasses, who was remarkably energetic and upbeat, in that overt gospel kind of way. His enthusiasm was only matched by his charisma, which he seemed to channel through his movements and expressions, from body to camera, and ultimately, to the eyes of the viewer. He would invite the live audience to ‘come on down to Carvuh’town’ as he smiled and clapped, in rhythm, to the beat thumping in the background. Audience members would then crawl onto the stage in groups of two and four to join him. If one or two were either selected in advance or just plain lucky enough, Terrence would ask them a couple of questions about themselves and then dip the mic in their direction.

The chosen one this week couldn’t have been any more than sixteen years of age. His grin extended from ear to ear. They bounced and clapped, as they both spoke.

“What’s your name?” Carver asked him.

“Andre.” the kid replied.

“And where you from, Andre?”

“Brooklyn.”

“Well, what do you say we get on down, Andre from Brooklyn?”

“Let’s do it!!”

The camera began its cyclical transitions through a plethora of calculated angles as Andre began to spin on his back. The slickness of the stage aided his fluidity. He had rotated almost seven-hundred and twenty degrees when Abortmyshits noticed the thirst. He was torn between quenching it and watching the entirety of Andre’s performance. The faucet was more than several steps away. It occurred to him that the Vitriol bottles were still in the box, resting on the countertop that was just behind him. He got up, his eyes glued to the screen, as he made his way over to the opened case. He hadn’t put the knife back into the drawer, which was convenient, and allowed him to quickly cut through the plastic with an effortless ease. He pulled out a bottle, then jumped over the couch and landed on his side, in an at-rest position. He unscrewed the lid and took a swig. He could feel the liquid splash between his teeth. Water on his tongue generated a satisfying sensation, like an alleviated urge. The swallow cooled his throat.

His attention was fixated on Andre’s eternally pivoting helicopter legs. Their speed was so tantalizing, so consistent, that Abortmyshits wondered whether or not Andre would begin to levitate, and then ascend, carrying himself up and out of the camera’s field of view, until his fleshed blades raked and slammed against the steel rafters that ran in perpendicular rows within the domed studio. He noticed the way that Terrence Carver’s lips peeled back when he beamed at the audience with the most exuberant of shit-eating grins. It was genuine, at least parts of it, while the others contained semi-artificial ripples of showmanship and company man-ness. The way that his skin folded and curved at his cheeks, as well as the almost extraordinarily invasive shapes of his prominent, unmissable white teeth gleaming at him made him giggle. The thought was like a feather, tickling a susceptible hippocampus.

The colors in the background were progressively transforming into hazed spectrums. Light was bending in ways unethical to its own laws. This realization developed into additional soul-bred laughter. From his core, there was an eruption of amusement and heavy breathing. Tears were prevalent at the corners of his eyes. When he shut them, he felt the solution compress and mix together, but he hadn’t noticed the light sting through his constricted gasps. The funny of it all hit a wonderful plateau and then began to subside. Chuckling, he felt a unique vertigo. The freight train of nausea that came afterward induced a feeling of cockroaches squirming beneath the skin.

He hadn’t anticipated having to sprint to the toilet. As he turned to enter the bathroom, he stubbed his big toe against the solid edge of the door frame. The nerves burned through the length of his left leg, then seemed to numb and deaden. He kneeled and threw himself over the toilet. He could feel the rim’s cold ceramic protruding out and kissing at his stomach. The vomit came in organic waterfalls. Between heaves, he would open his eyes, and see crusted pools of red floating within the center of his internal soup.
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