There weren’t many warm places to go in the small, desolate part of Russia known as Norwatia. The abandoned, decrepit, and bitterly cold warehouse full of flori-opium junkies was no different. The horrible place reeked with the excrement of men and women who were filthy, tired, and pale faced. Many of them were either in extreme pain or in an unnatural state of complete bliss. The stench of urine and feces caking over their tattered and beaten clothes simmered in the frosty air like fumes of death.
Slumped over on the icy gray surface in a small corner was Israel James. He hadn’t bathed or shaven in months. Scraggly black hair sprawled wildly around his head and face. Crumbles of dirt and grime seemed to hang from every strand. A shadow of a woman stood over him.
“Israel,” the voice said.
Standing over him was a young, short white woman with long black hair and glasses, dressed in a buttoned-up navy blue overcoat. Dr. Michelle Caine was not particularly ugly or attractive. Of course, she didn’t need to be a supermodel to be head of neuro-analysis for Orange Star. She had the kind of face that people looked at and immediately forgot in the same moment. That suited her fine, given her career choice.
Caine continued addressing the pathetic excuse of a man below her, remaining completely unaffected by her surroundings.
“Israel James?” she asked.
The man pointed up at her and laughed, exposing his jagged, discolored teeth.
“YA-HAW!!! You…you ain’t even real, woman,” Israel James said. He voice slurred and trailed off. “You think you’re real?! YA-HAW!!! Not even a real person! Ha! Ha! Ha! YA-HAW!”
Israel’s dry throat made his laughter sound like someone was flossing his teeth with a pair of rusty chains. That and his current mental state were common side effects that chronic flori-opium users developed over time. But patients who exhibited madness never rattled Dr. Caine.
Hopefully, I caught him at a good time and the stuff will clear his system soon. Michelle Caine thought. I’ll be able to make more progress that way, God willing.
“Israel, listen to me please,” she began as she stepped forward. “My name is Dr. Michelle Caine. I represent an organization called the Orange Star. We would like to offer…”
Suddenly, Israel clutched his stomach and began to groan painfully. Then, shaking and shivering, he leaned away from the woman before turning his head. A vile mixture of green and yellow liquid spewed violently from his mouth.
Undeterred, Michelle Caine smiled. Good. It cleared. That should buy me at least ten minutes before his craving start kicking back in.
“Sorry, ma’am…gonna have to decline,” said Israel James. “He wiped his mouth, but drops of liquid still remained on his facial hair. As you can see, I’m not feelin’ too well.”
“Israel,” she began calmly. “Everyone knows your story. You had everything. You had it all. Then you made one bad choice. And it was gone. What we are offering is a chance to get it back.”
“Get what back?”
The doctor leaned down and snaked her head slowly toward his ear, calmly withstanding the foul smells pouring out of him as she did.
“Dignity,” she said softly.
The word hung in the air, as if a juicy piece of steak was now dangling inches away from Israel James’ face.
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