Here's part of the first of three chapters for a story I'm submitting to the AR Archive. It's called Ilikia Retrocaine, though I'm thinking of changing it to Lickies if people reckon that would work better. A quick summary for those wondering if it's worth reading for their tastes: male AR, PG-13ish, very gradual regression and some mental rejuvenation to complement the physical.
This segment is a draft. If you'd like to critique it, I'll take your thoughts into account as I refine it for submission. The full story is near completion, but then, it's been in that state for around a week. It will end up at around 20,000 words. And now without further comment, here is the teaser for hype and views.
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Lachlan held the five tablets between thumb and finger, scrutinizing them so the tiny things became huge to him, which they were anyway, not so much physically (they were the size and shape of Skittles), more for what they represented. His first psychoactive. The carpet on Nadia’s floor was hazy, out of focus. Here was all of his attention, the centre of his universe.
Ilikia retrocaine. The perfect starter, so she claimed.
“So,” Lachlan said, “what does it do?”
Nadia was watching with arms folded and one foot propped back on her window, which was made of brittle glass and looked out over a four-story drop down to pavement. “It does,” she said, “exactly what you asked for. I searched far and wide for this one, Lachie. You owe me twenty.”
“Huh?” Lachlan glanced up, for once ignoring the use of his old pet name ‘Lachie’, which always sounded so childish.
“Well, normally I’d say you owe me one,” Nadia explained while she brushed her long black hair and leaned harder against the window. Beyond the glass the night was gloomy, and her ambient-dim room matched the theme, with a lampshade shining over ghoulish cartoons, an alarm clock bordered with grinning Jack-o-Lanterns and a bedside mirror that reflected holograms of ghosts at certain angles. “But it’s worth way more than that. Hence, you owe me twenty.”
“Right.” Lachlan had never cared less for his friend’s wit. His heart tapped fast against his chest and his gaze kept flicking to the wall-length mirror mounted against the closet, where a scratch on the glass obscured the beard he trimmed neat and proper every morning. He couldn’t believe the young man there, sensible mellow Lachlan Arthur, was actually trying this. But sure enough, there were those widened green eyes looking back, and that stony _expression_ trying and failing to hide nervousness. He glanced at his rat-tailed blond hair, the wildest thing he’d ever done. Was he really going through with this? How much did he care about losing face if he backed out? This wasn’t high school after all; he was twenty-two and she, an experienced tripsitter, was three years his senior. If he walked away now, the worst he had to worry about was disappointing her, but if he downed these things...
“When you say they’re exactly what I asked for...” Lachlan prompted, stalling for more time to think because suddenly, the five months leading to the decision didn’t seem enough.
Nadia rolled her eyes. “It creates the perfect illusion that you’re tripping back in time, reliving deeper memories for every dose, vivid and full of psychedelic insight, guaranteed to blow your fucking mind, anytime, to paraphrase the late Freddy Mercury. You’re also gonna get euphoria, blissful lightness, ego obliteration, blah blah. Now are we gonna do this already?”
Lachlan peered down at the pills as though for guidance. The colour dye was rubbing red yellow and blue over his sweaty fingers. That did sound like precisely what he’d been looking for, but... “What if something goes wrong? I mean... the dangers...”
“Lachie. Drugs are dangerous. But I already asked, do you get migraines? Are you poppin’ pills? Heart condition, seizures, strokes? No? Then you’re fine. I’ve been sitting since Year 10 and I know what I’m doing, so, leave the rest to me, okay? So come on. Let’s go.”
There was nothing else to it, just his mouth and the pills. Ilikia retrocaine, street name ‘lickies’. How come he’d never heard of it before? But Nadia was right, she knew what she was doing, and he trusted her. She’d always been as rogue as he was tamed, but that was just how things were on their sides of the fence, until now. They’d been friends since he started uni and she’d made a point of not offering to hook him up with acid like everyone else because she was sure it would fuck him up. Somehow her every assertion was confident, definitive, and always right, where he’d always been cautious, timid even.
But he didn’t want timid, not really, and that was the point. Enough thinking, enough watching it happen to other people, it was half a thrill reading action scenes or trip accounts or whatever, but it’d be a whole other thing to go through a real car chase, right? And more than that, there was a very particular something he was searching for, and not something he was likely to tell Nadia, or anyone...
“What do I do?” he asked, knowing, instructions had to be the final point of stalling.
“You put ‘em in your mouth, and suck ‘em.”
“Yeah. Like a lolly. They dissolve on your tongue. Effects are instant.”
Lachlan took a breath through his nose, as though getting ready to plunge deep underwater. With a jerky swing of his hand, he dropped the pills in his mouth, and sucked.
At once: flavour so intense he nearly cried out in shock – lemon, blueberry and apple, overpowering as chilli peppers, only sweet instead of hot. He had to struggle not to spit them out. From the corner of his eye, he saw Nadia smirk devilishly.
Then the flavours’ intensity subsided into something different but just as powerful, a recognition, he knew these tastes from long ago and along with that came the strangest, almost nostalgic, feeling of freshness. It was still lemon, blueberry and apple, but he might as well have been tasting them for the first time, an experience simultaneously alien and familiar. Lachlan rolled them around on his tongue, beset with something akin to homesickness, a longing like no other.
Nadia leant forward to see his face. “You holding up?”
Lachlan nodded, mutely. His stare was fixed on the mirror but he’d long ceased noticing his reflection.
“Come sit down.” Nadia took his hand and shoulder and guided him to her bed, where the blankets were patterned with a misty night-time forest. He let her, but he was more interested in the emotions washing through him... then he felt the covers under him, and things changed again. The softness, the way it ran from his thighs and hands to his head, he could feel the nerve signals all along his body, understood the structure of sensation and the way one thing affected the next, how he enjoyed the touch and the way it made him feel, how it soothed his heartrate and breathing slightly, how the electrical signals flowed up to his brain and out again, the rush, the complexity, it made everything before it dull by comparison, but he only spared a moment’s thought to that kind of a half-lived life, too absorbed in what was happening, frozen where he sat.
Now the tablets were dissolved, the afterglow travelled through tastebuds, radiating over his whole body. That homesickness was warping into something different, a question: are you ready to change? And the answer, resounding in his subconscious, was yes.
“Talk to me,” Nadia said.
“I can... feel my whole body shifting...” Lachlan rolled his forearm over to see it from different angles. Was the slight hair that had grown there over the last year disappearing? That’s what it felt like. A euphoric ecstasy was sweeping through it that made him aware of everything under the skin, the bones, the muscles, they were transforming!
“Mirror. Get me a mirror!”
When Nadia was too slow reaching for the one on her bedside table, Lachlan thrust himself off the bed to see his reflection against the closet. There he was, enraptured face looking even smoother, fresher, and the nostalgic familiarity of the drugs permeated his body, it was something he knew, beyond question, he was –
“Nadia. I’m getting younger!”
“Okay. Sweet as.”
“It’s not like I thought, it’s... I thought I was gonna go into a memory but I’m actually, physically getting younger...” He was clenching his hands, wanting to get across just how incredible this all was, rejuvenating, and being connected with himself. But, “What if it doesn’t stop? Or what if I can’t get back to normal, I –”
“Lachie. It’s all in your head. Remember you told me to tell you that? You’re not actually getting younger, it just looks like it.”
“Oh – yeah.” But peering closer into the mirror, it was hard to deny what he could so clearly see. A thinner, gawkier Lachlan Arthur, not so broad at the shoulders, less muscle definition... he rolled up his shirt, only a trace of body hair running up to his belly button, and his face, still recognisable of course but he appeared to be at the end of high school, still adult yet with a hint of boyishness that was supposed to have given way to a more mature _expression_. This was a hallucination? He hadn’t expected it to be so realistic. “This is really weird.”
“Yup. Tends to be.” Nadia was upright on the red covers, perky and casual as she watched him. “Just keep breathing slow and remember it’s not real, it’s all for fun and nothing bad’s gonna happen to you.”
“Breathe deep...” Lachlan started to, but halfway through the first intake, he spun around. He felt uncharacteristically hyper; the connectedness was dissipating too but that was fine, it was becoming something different and once again familiar, a surge of energy, adrenaline, as he re-entered his teenage years and he started subtly losing height. “You really can’t see me changing? I’m getting smaller and everything.”
Nadia shook her head. “You look like the same old Lachie to me. But that’s okay, just enjoy whatever comes up, that’s the idea.”
Turning back to the mirror, he saw himself at maybe sixteen years old, lean face and a few inches shorter, skinny and with whisps of a beard over pockmarked chin. “It’s so... I’m so lucid.” And indeed, this was nothing like the dreamlike delirium he’d expected from psychedelics, everything was crystal clarity, his thinking didn’t seem altered at all even though surely it was, because there he stood as a teenager and that was impossible, so he must be imagining it. But what came back just as strong as the appearance was the sense of being sixteen, or fifteen, the adolescent mindset like a backdrop in his brain, school ti_meta_bles and striped ties and junior uniform looking to senior, passenger looking to start driving soon, exam pressure from parents... Mental regression? Lachlan peered at the ceiling as he scanned his brain, but no, he could rattle off advanced mathematical formulas and theorems learnt in uni, yet to part of him, tertiary education had become a hypothetical prospect again, he was more at home in high school. Well. As ‘at home’ as a schoolkid can be.
When his eyes flicked back to the mirror, the scratch on the glass formerly at chin height now rested at his golden hair, but the pleasant awareness of his body warping was fading away. Sure enough, as Lachlan stared at his own young face now partway between boy and man, without sign of facial hair and even lightly freckled near his smaller nose, the process ceased and left him, judging by the last time he’d seen those freckles, around ninth grade.
His shirt draped his shoulders and he was almost a foot shorter. He grabbed his jeans before they could slide down over awkward legs lined with that experimental tone of hair fourteen-year-olds get. But were the loose jeans an illusion too? Well if they were, he didn’t want the illusion of showing off his manhood, now reduced something more like boyhood, to Nadia. Lachlan braced them, pulled the belt buckle around to the last hole, and it still hung loose.
Fourteen. He was eight years younger!
“This is fucking amazing!” he said, noticing his voice was higher and huskier than it used to be, but still passable for an adult’s.
“It must’ve had some impact on you. You never swear,” Nadia commented. “Might want to watch your mouth, or I’ll have to wash it out with soap.”
Lachlan glared at her. “I’m fourteen, not four.”
“Oh, really? Right, I couldn’t tell, you still look twenty-two to me.”
Lachlan bristled, even knowing she was kidding, he couldn’t help but feel indignant, like he’d been mistaken for a much smaller kid. Fourteen felt young enough, thanks. Even if some part of him wouldn’t have minded... But his focus diverted from the quip as he realised, the background awareness of what was happening in his mind and body was ebbing, leaving him stranded in adolescent-land without clue to his turbulent emotions. That was sure to make things hard if he didn’t watch himself, and remember this was all a trip.
A flash of light snapped him out of his reverie and Lachlan turned to see Nadia standing up with a camera poised. “What are you doing?”
“Just taking a photo for Lachie on his first trip,” Nadia said. “It’s a moment to remember, kiddo. One for the family album.”
Lachlan scowled. “You know I don’t like you calling me Lachie.”
“Aw, sorry. Still too grown up?”
“Yeah, actually.” Lachlan went back to his reflection. Something wasn’t right about this. Now the high had worn off, he didn’t feel inebriated at all. Everything was normal, except for this consistent image of a teenager before him, and the background impulses of a teenage boy wanting impact, some drive to sate his need for action. An uncannily familiar sensation, but... shouldn’t his pupils be dilated or something? It was weird, sure, but the weirdest part was how not-weird it seemed.
“So what do you wanna do?” Nadia asked.
“I... dunno...” Even as he spoke, Lachlan noticed his tone was laced with gauche adolescence.
“Oh, come on. You’re fourteen again. You must wanna do something with that new young body.” And she socked him playfully on the arm.
Lachlan cringed away, not used to how skinny his arm felt against the blow. His fringe brushed over his eyebrow and a glimpse in the mirror showed him looking the part of a withdrawn moody teenager.
Nadia frowned. “What’s wrong? Is it going bad?”
“No, it’s just...” He flopped down on her bed, the mattress was springy under his lighter weight. “It’s way too normal...” But he muttered it, and there was a voice telling him she wouldn’t understand anyway. Truth was he did want to do something, there was a mounting urge like he wanted excitement, danger even. “Let’s...” he started.
“I don’t know...”
“You don’t?” Nadia sounded amused.
“Let’s go driving!” He said it was a grin halfway between daring and cheesy, and flashed Nadia a look he hoped was wild.
“Oho no,” she said. “Not on lickies, my friend. That’s why I’m here, to stop you doing stupid shit like that.”
“But I’m thinking clearly and everything!” Lachlan crossed his arms. He wanted to see what it would be like, driving underage, would he still have the muscle memory for it? “We could just cruise around the neighbourhood?”
Lachlan sighed, almost pouting. Then a new idea occurred to him with a tingle of rebellion. “We could get a drink?”
Nadia waved her finger. “No mixing drugs. Not for a first-timer.”
Lachlan rolled his eyes and groaned. It sounded more petulant than he intended, but that, like his rejuvenated body, must have been his imagination. But what the hell, it was like having all the limits of a teenager imposed on him again, this wasn’t what he wanted. A thought crossed his mind that he should grab a beer and take the keys anyway just to spite her, but that wasn’t right, he was more mature than that. But, something.
Of course, something was waiting right there on the bedside table, next to the Halloween-themed alarm clock. Lachlan recalled the flavours, stronger than anything he’d ever tasted before, and the memories they brought back hovering at the edge of consciousness. And what came afterwards, the connection with himself, hadn’t that been amazing, and it had passed way too fast. He wanted that back again.
Nadia followed his gaze to the bag of lolly-esque pills in plastic wraps. “You want a booster?”
“Yeah. Maybe.” Drugs, there was the hit he needed, something truly radical, and this time he was nervous like before, but the nerves converted nto adrenaline, and the adrenaline became intoxicating, a consensus in his mind chanting go for it! The fear, the anticipation, the excitement of sitting on a perch right before the roller coaster’s second big drop. He knew what it was like the first time, now his heart pounded again, made it seem like the perfect idea.
Because going deeper, getting younger? Yeah, that sounded perfect. Absolutely perfect.
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I'm not completely satisfied with how it's turned out, but after many years of struggling with stories, my goal now is to stop being a perfectionist and actually finish one. Well, maybe my writing completely sucks, but if it doesn't, too bad, because no one would ever see any of it anyway! Hence this vow of discipline, which I hope will pay off.
I hope you enjoyed this teaser intro, and if you did, you'll be happy to hear I'll have it done and up within two weeks.