In a not-so distant future, a group of scattered souls grapple with their place in the world, and soon discover that their time may be running short...

Content warning: Please note that the following work of fiction contains references to sex and violence.

To many, Jiang Xun was just another face in an endless crowd of somebodies. He was 25, of average height, bearing no distinct physical characteristics. He would have been ill-fated to a life of obscurity were it not for the quality of his professional work, which boasted experience far beyond his years.

Stepping out into the cool night air, Xun rested an arm on the rail of his tiny apartment’s balcony. He didn’t understand the need for such a space, though he was aware that a few considered regular exposure to the outdoors a necessary part of their lives. With a lackluster sigh, he looked across the river that divided his complex from the hazed skyline of a brightly-lit mega-city. How could something so vast be… inexplicably drab?

He reached into the pocket of his jacket and withdrew an electronic vaporizer, along with a vial of shredded botanicals. Pulling back an opening in the blue-gray cylinder, he poured some in, and ran his finger across a smooth switch on its side. He then brought the device to his mouth and drew in a few, heavy breaths.

It had a sweet, earthy taste; hardly anything special.

Xun held the vaporizer up to eye level and studied it for a moment. At least the glowing end of this thing was a novel departure from the common “burn free” models.

He then raised his other arm, looked at it for a moment, and pressed the fiery end of the device into his palm, holding it there for two or three seconds. He winced, but didn’t make a sound, gazing down at the charred circular mark below his fingers.

“I don’t get it,” he muttered into the wind.