Weekend Fiction: Picking Up a Script (Part 2)
Just let go.
So what’s your plan then?
Plans are not my department. I deal in self-preservation.
Soon the pain in his fingers and forearms brought the argument with his subconscious to a conclusion
Jim dropped. Not like the cat of his imagination, more like a heavily tranquilized sack of spuds. In his state he barely registered that he had been falling for longer than he had expected. His balance failed him completely.
His left foot hit the floor well before his right, which was still falling. If he could have seen himself, Jim would have found the sprawling high-kick pose funny but this only lasted for a moment. Under his entire bodyweight, the knee buckled and twisted.
An almighty flash of bright yellow agony burst up through the lumpy barrier that the pills had created, right into the core of his brain. The rest of his body landed heavily, as if it were a jumble of separate pieces. Jim was aware of these additional impacts but they were secondary. Just drops of rain washed away by the torrent that flooded his senses. He located his forearm, shoved the leather of his jacket into his mouth and screamed a long guttural howl.
Laying on his side now in a twisted foetus, his scream, with nowhere to go, suffocated and died. He removed his arm and allowed long draws of air to fill the void the scream had left. He stayed like that as the minutes passed. Then he held his breath, set his teeth and straightened his crumpled leg, trying hard not to let another flash of pain overcome him.
‘Calm down.’ He spat as his jaw unclenched. ‘Just take it easy.’ He allowed his head to rest back on the floor, still gasping. Gradually his breathing returned to normal.
Silence again. Not silence, a bus swished its doors close by. That meant there were people out on the street. Just outside there, oblivious to his pain and to the cold sweat that felt like it would drown him.
‘I’ve just fallen into a chemist shop.’ He almost smiled at this. ‘The best place I could have landed.’ Then he felt down towards the source of pain, fearing the worst. The bones and kneecap all seemed intact and he didn’t seem to be bleeding. He smiled more fully this time. The only reason he was lying here in this state was his quest for pain killers – the medical establishment’s finest product. If he could find what he was after then he would probably be able to skip home, even if his leg was broken. If he couldn’t then he would just have to lay here.
No, he was going to get this done. He rolled on to his front and pushed forward with his arms and his good leg. He needed to get behind the counter but that could wait a few minutes.
The darkness seemed to lift as his eyes became accustomed. He spotted the display of old lady products: corn plasters, foot scrapers, Scholl insoles, and stuff he had no idea what to call or what it was used for. He crawled his way over and started rummaging through the packages. He them ripped open while they were still on the display stand: tubed bandages, knee supports and surgical tape. After a few minutes of winding and knotting, the left leg of his jeans bulged at the knee that was now completely encased in support products. He couldn’t bend the leg at all but that meant he couldn’t spark off any more of those searing bolts of pain, nor was he likely to cause any more damage.
Now he was ready.
His eyes were now used to the gloom and he could clearly make out the counter on the orange glow that leaked in from the streetlight. Behind that counter was a doorway and, just as in any chemists, that was where all the real action took place. That doorway led to a secret place, the backroom where the Pharmacist himself spent his days hidden away doing…what? Counting pills into bottles couldn’t be all there was to it. Could it?
Jim had imagined the room as the laboratory of a cackling mad scientist or sometimes the lair of a medieval alchemist labouring over a cauldron of bubbling potion. But then it was difficult to match these images to the middle aged Indian who had handed over the little bottle that afternoon with an even, non-judgmental smile. Jim felt the slightest pang of guilt and for a second he hoped that the pharmacist was covered by good insurance.
‘I’m only stealing his stock, not his wife’s jewellery.’ Jim surprised himself by speaking out loud. His leg was sorted and he was close to his goal now. This knowledge filled him with a renewed energy.
The vials weren’t even locked away. True they were in a draw that was secured with a key, but it wasn’t exactly a bank vault. The catch in the filing cabinet held firm against the big screwdriver for a show of only token resistance then gave way.
‘Jackpot,’ Jim murmured as he pulled out the small cardboard boxes and stuffed them into the pockets of his jacket.
‘Diamorphine Hydrochloride. He scores.’
As he cleared the last box from the draw, he hesitated. His fingers trembled as he lifted the cardboard flap and pulled out a small glass vial. The sight of it, barely reflecting the dim orange light, made his knee scream again – as if calling for the instant relief this tiny glass bottle could bring. For a second he cursed that he’d left his works behind, then he smiled. He was still in a chemist shop.
‘I’m gonna treat myself tonight,’ he whispered.
About the author
Russell McAlpine abandoned his polymath ambitions to concentrate on writing and living a quiet life on the South Coast.
The Angel’s Head is his second novel.
He is also working on the screen play of a low budget zombie movie for children and writes poetry that will go to grave with him.
He spends the rest of his spare time watching the horizon.
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