Gem was sweating by the time he reached the clearing. It was hot, it was sticky, the humidity hung in the air like a global spray; but none of these things were causing Gem to sweat from what felt like every pore of his raggedy body. He needed a hit.
Insects buzzed around him and the loud noises of the jungle flooded his senses until he wanted to block his ears with shaking fingers. His sense of smell was similarly inundated with stimulation: the damp and rotting vegetation, the stench of his own body. Gem wanted to vomit. He needed a hit.
He paused as he entered the clearing, looking up for the first time in his journey so far. He looked up with a face full of consternation as if expecting that his longed for salvation would have disappeared. Gem looked, and acted, like a man who had not had much luck in his two score and some lifetime.
But the building was still there. The rickety door flung open to the elements. The uneven wooden walls were green with damp and the roof sunk inwards towards the middle of the building. It was only a matter of time before the jungle reclaimed the materials and filled in the inside space that barely remained human.
Gem pushed his way through the beaded curtain, it failed in its sole purpose of keeping out flies, and hesitated as his tired eyes struggled to adjust to the darkness within the building. The beads clattered behind him, announcing his presence in a semi-musical fanfare of plastic.
The barman, thick set and bored looking, glanced at Gem and instantly frowned.
‘He’s not here.’
Gem staggered to the bar and lurched over to get closer to the barman’s face, as if proximity would improve the words. ‘Eh?’
‘You’re here for resupply?’
Gem nodded, his mouth was too dry to speak despite the dank atmosphere. He hadn’t been here many times before and this man was new to him. His delight at his arrival in the clearing was rapidly disappearing, sinking into his stomach in a torment of unrequited desire.
‘He’s not here yet.’
‘When?’ Gem gasped.
The man shrugged. ‘Who knows.’
Gem slumped onto a bar stool, swivelling slightly in a fidget of indecision. Should he stay here or should he try one of the other supply huts? The nearest hut was several days journey away, though. And, even if he could last that long, who could say that the same situation would not apply there too?
There had been a time, not so long ago, when resupplying was straightforward – just a matter of being in the right place at whatever time. Not any more though. Gem had noticed a drop in the standard of the actual product too and he couldn’t work out which of these facts was most disturbing to him.
The barman, keeping one eye on Gem, greeted a customer who entered without disturbing the curtain of beads, piquing Gem’s interest for a moment. But the newcomer was just a drinker, you could tell by the shape of his eyes. Gem turned back to the bar and started pulling off splinters that lined the edge of the disintegrating wood.
CHARACTER: a middle aged male addict
LOCATION: A restaurant in a jungle
SITUATION: Being far too early