I have never felt fear.
Well. That’s not entirely true.
What I mean is, I’ve never felt fear in the natural sense. Not in the way my ancestors would’ve experienced it for thousands of years before me.
No sudden surge of hormones coursing through my system at any moment. No chills running down my spine whenever I think something has darted across the room out of the corner of my eye. No sort of sixth sense for what my body might consider being ‘dangerous’. Death itself isn’t something I’ve ever associated with a feeling of discomfort.
Actually, I haven’t associated it with any sort of feeling at all.
Before I was finally able to understand fear myself, I was stuck in Biology class learning about the different types of hormones the adrenal medulla used to secrete back when the ‘fight or flight’ response existed. But I’m not actually listening. Nobody is. It’s not like it matters though since no one seems to give a fuck anymore.
‘Any questions so far, class?’ Professor Fredrickson asked, his voice running my train of thought right off its tracks.
‘Yeah. Why are we focusing on all this stuff when we can just go out and experience fear for ourselves?’ A student from the back of the class called out.
I’m not sure who it was – I didn’t care enough to turn around and connect the voice to the face – but I could tell from the slight cracks in their otherwise baritone voice that they were taking the piss just to get a rise out of Prof ‘Free-dick’ – that’s what Puck likes to call him.
‘I know you’re only trying to be clever, Mr Childers, but I’ll humour you anyway,’ Fredrickson smirked. ‘Mr Childers – and in fact the rest of you who weren’t paying attention during the last hour – the reason we teach you about this is so that you’re aware of what fear was, its history, and what to identify as potential symptoms in the event that you believe to be experiencing fear. You also need to be aware of all the protocols that have to be followed in the event of-’
‘I heard there’s a way you can make yourself feel fear. Like, there’s this stuff you can take and it does all sorts of shit to ya.’ Childers shouted, interrupting Fredrickson again.
With Fredrickson’s immediate silence after that comment, there came soft murmurs among the entire class that quickly escalated into a crescendo until the bell for the end of the period went and everyone fell silent.
‘That’s just a rumour, Mr Childers,’ Fredrickson bluntly stated in response once he had a moment to find his words.
The class groaned with a sort of anticlimactic disappointment and began to pack away.
‘Good class today, everybody,’ Fredrickson shouted while we began to leave. ‘Remember, final exams are coming up so make sure you revise. I don’t want to have to make you guys re-sit. Again.’
‘Wow, that was so pointless,’ I muttered as left.
As I was walking towards my next class, Morgan, another guy from last period, began walking alongside me.
‘You know what they said in class just now was true.’
‘You mean that whole thing about being able to make yourself feel fear using some kind of stuff, that’s all true?’ I raised my eyebrows for a moment before shaking my head, ‘No way.’
‘If you don’t believe me then you can go and see for yourself,’ he grinned before handing me a folded sheet of scrap paper.
‘Go there and you’ll find the stuff. Just make sure you have some money.’
‘Wait, you have to buy it?’
‘Yeah,’ He laughed, ‘they’re not just giving it away. What they got there is very hard to come by.’
‘What makes you think I’d be interested, anyway?’
‘Look, man, this ain’t no secret. I’m tellin’ everybody. Look, you don’t have to buy anything. You can just go for educational purposes.’
Morgan winked at me before he moved away and attached himself to the side of another lone student in front of me. Left with my thoughts and the crumpled, scrap piece of paper which I continued to fiddle with for the rest of the day, I made a decision in hindsight I shouldn’t have.
From the outside, nobody could tell what was going on. I guess that’s the whole point. The Market was supposed to be hidden in plain sight.
It looked like every other nightclub in the city: blacked out windows, a persistent mist of pungent smoke, completely covered by rubbish that would slowly decompose and join the rest of the sludge that formed pools near the entrance. They even had the stereotypical bald, muscular doorman who had a lit cigarette resting between his fingers while he told some majorly wired guy, who was begging to be allowed back inside, to piss off.
Inside it seemed much bigger – probably because every crevice of the building was saturated with countless bodies sectioned off into different areas that made the dark room seem much larger.
With the help of the slight light from the coloured strobes, I could faintly make out the stalls that were set up on the side across from the dancefloor. That’s where the really big crowds were.
‘We need to get over there if we want to get something,’ Tiana shouted into my ear.
I rolled my eyes but before I had the chance to respond I was already being hauled over by Tiana.
As we approached the stalls, my eyes adjusted and I could start to see what was there: lots of tiny, translucent bags that all had different things inside. Some bags had pills, others were fine powders or tobacco-like substances, all in various colours. Each bag was labelled but the markings that were too small to be able to read from where I was standing.
Of course. The Market was selling fears in the form of common drugs you could buy with ease from any corner shop across the country.
It all made sense now: the guy outside earlier, the people on the dancefloor who were all of a sudden leaving to go and sit alone in the corner with their heads in their hands, the smoke machines that caused a pungent and colourful mist to fill the entire room.
My heart started beating so fast I could feel it in my ears. Each individual hair on each arm had stood up like they were commanded to. I could even feel my stomach drop causing the undigested food to jump up and get caught in my mouth.
Without thought, I’d grabbed Tiana by her arm away from the stalls and told her we were going home. My mind was so scrambled I didn’t think to see if Tiana had managed to get anything from the stalls. I even forgot Puck was meant to be with us.
That was a night filled with mistakes and, whether we choose to be accountable or not, we were all about to experience the effects.
Word Count: 1,178