Jiang Xun stepped out into the cool night air and rested an arm on the rail of his tiny apartment’s balcony. He didn’t really 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. 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 pants and withdrew an electronic vaporizer along with a vial of finely shredded plant material. He pulled back a slot in the blue-gray cylinder, 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 mildly sweet, earthy taste. But it was hardly anything special.

Xun held the device up to eye level and studied it for a moment. At least the glowing end of this thing was slightly more interesting than the common “burn free” models.

He raised his other arm for a moment, looked at it, and then pressed the fiery end of the device into the palm of his hand, 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.