ALTERED • by Kaolin Fire

Jenine looked at the little pill, nonplused. “All of that, in this?”

“All that and more.” Jev laughed.

“You’re a God.”

Jev laughed harder. “All that and more, babe! All that and more.”

“So when should I take it?”

“Whenever you’re ready.”

“You mean, like, now?”


“Well, how long does it last, again?”

“As long as you need. Just as long as you need.”

“That’s kind of scary.”

“It can be. It can be very scary. But it’s never more than you can take, it’s never more than you need. You can be sure of that.”

“Has anyone died?”

“Only to be reborn, babe.”

“Well, set and setting. What’s best? Would music help?”

“Anything that makes you ready. Anything that makes you ready. What sort of music do you like?”

“Country, some funk.”

“Huh, I don’t have any of that. I’ve mostly got hip-hop, some classical.”

“No, no that doesn’t sound good.”

“That’s okay, then. Let’s roll.”

“Wait, all that — this isn’t just a form of e, is it?”

“No, e’s for mortals. This — this is a whole different language, an entirely different conceptualization of reality. This doesn’t enhance. This. Fucks. Shit. Up.”

Jenine popped the pill and swallowed. Her tongue convulsed around it, surprised by the texture — it was furry and slimy, like oil over fine spikes. Quickly, it crawled down her throat and her mind exploded — fear. What the hell had just gone into her?


Time elapsed.



She turned to look at Jev and suddenly everything was normal.

“Is that it?”


“Is that all there is? How long was I out?”

“What are you talking about?”

“That sapphire I just ate.”

“You ate a sapphire? Who told you about them? Where’d you get it?”

“Jev, you’re scaring me.”

“I’m sorry. Tell me — tell me your reality.”

“I just ate a sapphire. The one you gave me.”



“Work backwards.”

“You gave me the sapphire. I ate it.”

Jev waited.

“You told me about the sapphire. You gave me the sapphire. We talked some. I ate it.”

“What got me to tell you about the sapphire? Jesus, I didn’t even know you did drugs! Sorry, you’re flipping me out a bit. Maybe this is my trip, you know?”


“Well, fuck. I mean, I don’t remember how I got here, okay. I’m scaring you, you’re scaring me, this is — well, I don’t know what this is. There’s no such thing as a bad trip, okay?”

“If you say so, Jev, but you’re making me doubt my own existence. Or is it you’re doubting my existence? Am I going to fade away when you wake up?”

“Or you me? You I? Shit, I don’t know. Look, Jen, you’re a great girl. I’m glad Matt introduced us, but — ”


“Oh, umm, did you know him as something else? I know he goes by a lot of handles. Milk? What? What’s that look?”

“Unadulterated fucking fear. You’ve got to be putting me on. We met at the fair grounds, on the whirly twister. Right?”

“Okay, so we’re missing some common ground. I don’t know.”

“Well, I don’t fucking know. You’re the drug guy. I was just curious.”

“Look, I’m not a drug guy. I just had this from my roommate.”

“But you told me all about it!”

“He told me.”

“Have you even done it before?”

“I don’t know. I was thinking about it.”

“What does that mean?”

“Well, maybe I did. Maybe this is all just some extended wish fulfillment.”

“It’s awfully nice of you to say that.”

“Look, there’s nothing to be afraid of. You know, if either of us are rolling, then this is just what we need. Let’s, you know, roll with it.”





“Let’s go somewhere else, though. I think the picnic mood is a bit past dead.”

“Yeah, I’m feeling that. My place? Your place? A movie?”

“I could really use some music.”

“What do you like?”

“Something heavy, noisy, chaotic.”

“Me too.”

“Well, I don’t have a roommate.”

“Your place it is, then.”

“It’s funny. Everything’s shifted, but I think this is what I needed.”

“Yeah. Me, too.”

Kaolin Fire is a conglomeration of ideas, side projects, and experiments. Web development is his primary occupation, but he also programs open source games, edits Greatest Uncommon Denominator Magazine, and occasionally teaches computer science. He has had short fiction published in Strange Horizons, Tuesday Shorts, Escape Velocity, and Alienskin Magazine, among others.

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Every Day Fiction

  • Gerard Demayne

    So on my fifth read through I read it backwards from end to start. Much better. Seriously, it works.

    Start to finish it grew on me as well but the wall of dialogue was just a little stark, which coupled with the bordering on surreal last third made it an awkward read. I actually really appreciate what you were trying to do there though.

  • Gerard Demayne

    Actually I think I’m stupid. Was it actually supposed to be read backwards, as implied in the dialogue? Yes, this is my sixth read through. I’m kinda wishing I’d gone for five stars instead of the four I gave it.

  • Oscar Windsor-Smith

    Hey, Kolin, quit messing with my head, will ya? This is a trip that changes everything. But I have a suspicion I’m never going to get this for real unless I pop a sapphire or two. Dunno about reading backwards, Gerrard, I’ve tried that, and standing on my head looking a mirror.

    BTW, Doesn’t mean I didn’t like it! 🙂

    You were kind about my sub, but I didn’t quite ring your bell. Now I understand why – I was in the wrong zone altogether. Next time…

    😉 scar

  • S. Warren

    No ending. No story. No lie.

  • I like this, but I just have this vague feeling that there’s slightly less to it than meets the eye. Still, it’s fun.

  • Avis Hickman-Gibb

    It reminded me of the old Abbot & Costello routine “Who’s on Third”.

    If you’ve not seen this google it and it’s on web. Somewhere.

  • Jen

    That was excellent. Trippy, for lack of a better word.

  • I think I woke up with that chick one time, too…


  • Whoa…gnarly….

  • Weird in a good way.

  • TW

    Takes some patience, but it gets there. Good job.

  • I really appreciate EDF’s taking the chance on this one. 🙂 It’s not meant to be too much of a riddle to the outside observer–everything’s shifted–altered. It “sync’d” them, their minds, and reality changed around them. I’ll have to try reading it backwards, though. Anyone try syncing it to The Wall? (no, I haven’t 😉 )

  • And Oscar–I don’t know that GUD would, were we to take staff submissions, publish something like this. Best thing is to get a PDF of an older issue cheap. 😉

  • Bob

    Maybe it’s just me, but it seemed to be just a lot of dialogue in search of a plot.

  • TJ

    Great story, Kaolin!

    I didn’t see the backwards thing, it was interesting, but I feel it works much better the other way around.

  • Gerard Demayne

    Bob – kind of how I felt about it on first reading but it’s one of those higher concept doodads that’s either going to click with you after a number of readings or not. I’d like to see more of this sort of thing on here.