by Andrey Pissantchev
“Power juice!” I yell, getting the attention of everyone in the cafeteria.
I tip the last precious drops in my mouth, then scrunch up the can into a ball. I feel the power juice work its way down my stomach and into my veins.
I put my hands at the bottom of my table and lift, toppling it over. I kick it for good measure.
I look around. My depth of vision changes slightly, making everything seem closer than it is.
I stand up, and the power juice makes moving around so easy, I decide to make it a jump halfway through. I balance on the edge of my fallen table.
Before I know it, I’m on the move. I pass the astonished faces of my coworkers so fast they meld into a single wide-eyed face-caterpillar. As I power down the corridor, I knock on each office door on the way.
I blink and I’m in the boardroom, an unhinged door several feet behind me. There is a holographic projector in the middle of the table. The presenter has gone silent, slack-jawed. I sweat driblets. My attention is immediately drawn to a tablet at the other end of the room, which shows a bit of text saying: “purchase power”.
“Juice!” I add helpfully, pointing.
A Kevlar-clad security guard pulls on my shoulder and I fling him across the room, through the bullet-proof glass which shatters with ease. I can tell from the reactions of others that I’ve committed a blunder so I lunge after the guard to even things out. The sounds of the city punch at my ears as I whirl in bracing mid-air. Behind me, shouts.
I twist and grab onto a passing delivery drone. It buzzes at me angrily.
I take hold of the drone’s rotors at their base, and twist. The world turns into spinning. It feels like it’s the world that’s tumbling round an immovable me, and I laugh.
I hurl the drone away from me and it joins the spinningness, and all of a sudden I’m the one who’s loose and everything else is stable.
I slap against the vertical side of a building and hold on.
I look back just in time to see the delivery drone hit a passing sky taxi, then take another on the way down. A crowd has gathered below.
“Power juice,” I mouth at them. They’re too far to hear so there’s no point in shouting.
The moment of immobility is blissful, but then the urge to move hits me again so I start crawling upwards and only then do I realize the concrete is like putty and lets me knead it with my hands. I continue upwards, leaving hand and foot prints, then finally give up and break into a run.
Almost at the top, I hear a chattering sound. I look around. The glare of the holographic billboards, the incessant swirling of the clouds blinds me. Then I see the source. A swarm of matte black helicopters headed my way. A dark feeling rumbles my insides.
They’re after my power juice!
I plunge my hands into the concrete, tearing a hole through. The building inside is dark. I jump in anyway.
I’m in a dusty storage unit. As I run further in, I fling any boxes I pass behind, trying to block the entrance I came through. I have no time for doors. I burst out of the room through the wall, leaving a me-shaped hole behind.
The corridor I’m in has no lights either. I run left, then next right.
It sloshes in my head as I sprint down corridors that all look the same. Why is this place so dark? I run as fast as I can, pushing through walls that seem like they hide safety behind them.
I’ve been stuck in this building for what seems like hours.
I turn around a corner, and encounter a group of black figures. They look at me with insect eyes, and then one of them shouts and they rush at me. I feel a cable grab hold of my arm and I grasp at it, trying to pull it loose, but then another cable gets my other hand.
“POWERR!” I bellow, “JUIIIIICE!”
I twist around to shake off my bonds. I ram against the wall, crushing one of the things, kick at another, lopping its head off, but then four others come in their place.
A cable slips around my feet, tugs. I lose my balance and hit my head against the wall. Before I can gather myself, something stings my neck. I panic. I flail my legs helplessly and my foot connects to something. One of my attackers flies through my field of vision, mangled and broken. More cables, another sting, then a third one. My thoughts become fuzzy and liquid and I start dreaming of power juice.
I wake up. It’s dark. I open my eyes and nothing changes.
My mouth is sticky and my limbs feel weak as if my blood is reluctant to flow through. My head, conversely, pulses with pain.
I stumble around in the darkness. The space I’m in is enclosed, and there’s no ventilation so my breathing is difficult. Somewhere outside, I hear muffled voices.
I stretch out my hands and run them over my surroundings, trying to find some clue about where I am and whether it’s possible to escape.
I brush up against something. A handle? I press and pull. It’s a refrigerated compartment of some kind. I reach inside.
Is… is that?
My hands grab a can on their own accord. My finger pulls open the tab. Tss. A too-sweet liquid burns its way down my throat.
I flex my fingers as the juice takes control of them. I want to grab things, to poke and tug. I still see nothing so I pretend my enclosure is all purple. I hate purple.
I grab the wall behind me, punching each of my fingers through. I pull, and tear the whole chunk out. Light streams in from behind me. I wield the piece as a weapon, grinning.
I swing it at the wall straight ahead. A few hits is all it takes. My freedom hole is complete, and I jump out feet first.
I find myself in a military compound, hot wind blasting sand in my teeth. My prison was a large crate. A spent parachute hangs off one side.
Then, I notice the shouting.
Men and women wearing fatigues are pointing rifles at me, yelling in an unknown language. I yell gibberish back at them. The attention is uncomfortable so I am ready to leave, but an explosion makes the ground tremble and we all look up.
A dozen crates just like mine fall from the sky, slowly drifting downwards. Another blast hits, closer to us. In between the rumble, I hear a call, clear as day:
Elsewhere in the camp comes a response: “Power juice!”
The soldiers glance around, confused. I smile toothily, join the “Power juice!” cries with one of my own. The woman closest to me gives me a horrified look. I realize I’ve been grinding my teeth so hard I drew blood, and it all splattered dripping out of my mouth.
She lifts her gun at me and the power juice compels me to run in her direction, smiling wider and wider.