Peter and Eun walked into the gym. Students were chatting and laughing, shimmying to the music and drinking punch. Holly was a dozen yards off to the left, surrounded by a circle of fawning sycophants. Her lips and eyes were working in smooth tandem, accentuating her speech with kinesic perfection. In her left hand, she was holding a glitter-crusted cup.
Bingo. Peter zeroed in on the cup.
“Peter!” Eun tugged his sleeve and pointed toward the center of the gym.
“What are you—” He tugged his arm away, then suddenly straightened. “Is that Kayne West?”
“Nope.” Eun shook her head. “It’s a hologram.”
“A hologram? But—”
“Look closer. Under his left eye.”
Peter squinted. There was something on his cheek. Letters, he realized—they were letters. They were hovering in the air an inch above his skin.
“I pulled up in the Benz, they all got up in;
We all went to the Den and then I had to pay;
If you fucking with this girl then you betta be paid;
As Kanye rapped, rainbow light rippled across the letters, bringing each one into sharp relief:
MADE BY ANOS.
Fucking ANOS. Peter gritted his teeth and clenched his fists by his sides.
“Peter—look!” Eun pointed again. “Now it’s Taylor Swift!!”
“A fucking illusion,” Peter muttered. “Atherton’s students, entranced by a fictitious lightshow. Big surprise. This isn’t art, this is—”
Eun sighed. “Peter, it’s not like we see these every day. Can’t you just appreciate it for what it—”
“You’re wrong,” he snapped. “We see these all the time. Life is a hologram.”
She responded with a dismissive wave and turned back to Taylor, who was now morphing into the rapper Drake.
Peter clapped her on the shoulder. “I’ll be right back. Don’t drink the punch.”
She didn’t reply; she was bobbing along to the music and studying the hologram. Peter took it as tacit acknowledgement.
He didn’t realize she hadn’t heard him.
Peter approached the punch, looking suspiciously from side to side. When he was standing directly above the bowl, he threw a soluble tablet into its depths, spiking the liquid with a customized derivative of LSD, known on the streets as “Double O Negative.” It was a reference to the blood type’s donative properties, meaning Peter’s shit would work on anyone. It didn’t matter what you’d eaten or how much you weighed; you took double O neg and you would see straight into the center of God’s asshole.
Good. Peter expressed a small, satisfied grunt. Time to deal with Holly.
He reached in his pocket, grasped the Fuckrising, and began making his way toward her. She was still chatting with her brainless minions, splaying her fingers against her cleavage, nodding along in spirited agreement. His eyes locked on her face, and he halted in his tracks.
Goddamn. She looks beautiful.
His raging hormones had taken control. He gaped at the love of his life in lust and adorati—
No. His eyes steeled over. You know what she is; you know what she’s done. He forced himself to keep walking. This was too important to let his—
—dick get in the way. Holly was like Sarah Palin, only smart and capable. If he failed to stop her, the world would end in ash and fire. There’d be no escape from—
“Peter fucking Lee!” Blake Turner swooped in front of him. “You wiped the snot off your face! Good job, booger-bitch!”
Peter glared. “Your insults suck, Blake.” He tried to sidestep around the jock.
Blake crossed his arms and shuffled to the right, cutting Peter off. “What’re you—a late-night comedian? Let’s hear what you’ve got, cunt-hair.”
Peter responded with a dark chuckle. “I’m gonna rip your small intestine out from your mouth, your large intestine out from your ass, and use you as a jumprope. Glory in your college years, Blake, because after you graduate, you’re gonna wither away in a suburban Mordor. Whiny brats, a hidden oxy addiction, and a milfy wife who cheats on you with her big-dicked tennis trainer. Your predictable-as-fuck life is about to peak.”
Stevie Winthrop—a member of Blake’s entourage—roared with laughter. Blake shot him a dirty look. Stevie cut his laugh short by coughing into his fist.
The jock turned back to Peter. “You think you’re real smart, don’t you Lee?”
“You’ve just given me so many openings that—”
Blake ’bowed up, pressing his pecs directly against Peter’s. “The fuck you gonna do, huh? You wanna start something? Huh? Huh?” He shoved Peter squarely in the chest, making him stumble a few steps back.
Peter raised his hands, palms out, a gesture that said: I don’t want to fight. He was grasping the Fuckrising between his fingers, but no one noticed; they were too busy trying to climb the adolescent dominance hierarchy. “Look, man: I have business with Holly, so—”
Blake snorted. “Business with Holly?” He looked over his shoulder and yelled, “Guys! Peter Fucking Lee has business with—”
And then he swung. Peter knew it was coming; the move was straight out of Street Fighting 101. He ducked the haymaker and stepped in, catching Blake in a head-and-arm choke. He followed with a sweep, whipping his hips to add extra torque. The jock hit the ground with a pained “WHOOF!”
Peter skipped over him to get at Holly, but Blake—beast-ass wrestler that he was—scrambled up and took Peter down with a lightning-quick double-leg. As he went for the pin, Peter employed his jiu-jitsu (due to long hours of training with Reptar, he was the equivalent of a Rickson Gracie black belt), and pulled guard. One scissor sweep later, Peter had mounted Blake and was sitting on his chest.
“FUCKER!” Blake threw another haymaker. It missed Peter’s face, but knocked the Fuckrising out of his hand. The green-glowing vial arced upward, reflecting holographic light off its curved surface.
“No!” Peter arched back and tried to grab it.
“You’re dead, Lee—DEAD!” Blake bridged his hips, bucking Peter off, then squirted up into a hunched crouch. Peter didn’t care; the Fuckrising was all that mattered. He pushed off the hardwood and sprinted toward it.
Please don’t let it break dear lord please don’t—
There was a tinkle of glass, a chorus of “Oh my God!”s, and the ear-piercing wail of Holly’s scream.
“What the fuck! What the FUCK!” Holly careened across the floor, clutching at her eyes with her glossy red fingernails.
Oh no. An icy ball of dread formed in Peter’s stomach. She was supposed to drink it, not get it on her—
“AAAAAAHHHHH!!!” She swung at no one in particular, trying to coldcock the son of a bitch who’d just thrown shit into her eyes. Students stopped and watched, captivated by her fury. Blake Turner was no exception.
“Peter fucking Lee!” Eun shouted.
He turned around and saw her striding toward him, pure murder emanating from her face. She stopped a foot away and shook a half-empty glass in front of his nose. “Did you spike the punch, you fucking asshole?”
His gaze widened in dawning horror. “Shit Eun—I told you not to drink it!”
She raised a fist and he took a reflexive step back. “I didn’t hear you, jackass! I had three fucking cups!”
“Oh my god.” He cradled his forehead with both hands. “Okay, don’t freak out. It’s double O negative—you’re going to hallucinate, but try and remember that none of it’s real. You’re not gonna—”
“Double O what?”
“LSD.” He flinched back and covered up.
She shook her head, disgusted. “That’s what I thought. The gym’s been fractalizing.”
“Wait…” He lowered his hands. “How are you even functioning?”
She gave him an exasperated look. “Peter, I’ve been doing kundalini yoga for well over a decade. I’ve seen all this before.” She lifted her arm in a casual wave, encompassing the gym with her gesture.
He stared dumbly at her. “Eun—you just drank enough LSD to visit Middle Earth in a Voltron made of X-wings…and you can still talk? How is that even—”
Eun sighed. “Chongha Peter Lee…get over yourself. ‘Enlightenment is the ultimate disappointment.’ ”
He wrinkled his brow. “What?”
Another sigh. “If everything is made of an all-powerful consciousness that chose to limit itself so it could rediscover its own omnipotence, then ‘enlightenment’ simply means coming back to what you already knew. There’s no surprises, Peter. Not if you know what you’re looking for.” She grinned wryly, made a fist, and knocked twice on his forehead. “Wake up, you angry little monkey.”
He brushed her hand away. “That’s not—”
Another scream split the air. Holly was pressing a hankie to her face, vowing loudly that whoever had done this would pay with their organs. A cluster of students had crowded around her, surrounding her with concerned looks and urgent murmurs.
Peter started toward her. It’s supposed to be ingested. Gotta make sure that—
Then she lowered the hankie and her lips spread wide in a vacant-eyed smile.
Peter stopped, unsure of what to do. Paisley Miller was standing behind Holly, talking into a phone, pleading with a 911 operator to please hurry.
Holly placed a hand on her shoulder. “It’s okay, Pais—I’m fine.”
Paisley looked doubtful. “You sure? They’re sending an ambulance right now.”
Holly’s smile grew by another inch. “I’m fine,” she repeated.
Paisley spoke into her phone, “False alarm. Sorry,” and clicked it off.
Peter watched intently, nodding to himself like a B-movie serial killer. That’s just the come-up. Your personal psycho-sphere is about to get beaten and shat on.
Holly stretched her arms above her head, yawned, and blinked sleepily. “I’m okay.” She glanced around at her concerned thralls. “Seriously.” Her eyes settled on the far wall, coated in a wash of dance-hall lighting, and her expression twisted with distaste. “I’m going outside. I need some air.”
Blake (who had declared on numerous occasions that he’d stuff his twelve-inch boner into Holly’s dripping wet snatch) laid a gentle hand on her upper back.
“Want some company?”
She circled her arm, breaking the hold. “Fuck off, Blake.” She started walking to the exit. “I need to be alone with myselves.”
Her last word rang loud and clear in Peter’s ears:
The Fuckrising cometh…
He let out a deep, satisfied breath.
And the Fuckrising fucketh.