A door swung open into the market. Talli stepped through into the cold winter night and breathed in deeply. The haze of marijuana soon stifled the illusive sense of fresh air. She peered into the heavy detail of chaos that lay before her. Over-animated traders, merchants and consumers shouted, bartered and shook firm handshakes. Coins passed hands; pounds, dollars, even rupiah and chittra slapped into the happy, sweaty palms of greedy sellers. Talli blinked and narrowed her eyes. She was small amongst the throbbing sprawl of the bazaar, she watched, she observed; she looked for someone.
Jayce slapped a heavy hand on Talli’s shoulder and followed up with a bear hug from behind. Talli struggled out of his tight grip with momentary panic. She pushed him playfully, angrily.
‘You shouldn’t do that. I could have hurt you.’ Talli said, Jayce laughed.
‘Bus was late. I was on time. Guards wouldn’t let me in neither.’
‘You’re always late’ he smiled, ‘what did you want here? There’s some right freaks hanging about tonight.’
‘Stuff.’ Talli said. She started walking.
‘Thought you’d stopped doing “stuff”?’
‘Not for me. Need some Sandman.’
‘Tranqs. Sedatives. Fuck me Jay, how long you been out of the game? Sandman is new shit. Organic. Supposed to do the trick though.’
‘So who’s it for then?’
‘Evie. She ain’t been sleeping properly.’
‘Birthday present for her?’ Jayce joked.
‘For her? For me. If she’s asleep she might shut up for a minute.’
‘I wouldn’t bet on it.’ Jayce laughed.
They weaved between the open flame oil drums and make shift slum stores that sold anything from novelty bongs to worthless trinkets and objects that neither Jayce nor Talli knew the purpose of. They stopped at a food stall and joked about what type of rodent would be in the burgers they bought. The vendor assured them it was squirrel. They continued to meander through the conglomeration of drugs and junk that sprung up on either side of them. The raucous sound got louder and louder; strange, exotic music played, competitive salesmen fought.
Gambling games emerged as they delved deeper into the darker regions of the market. Jayce placed an embarrassingly small bid on a simple coin game and won, much to the dissatisfaction of the games master who had taken offence to Jayce’s garish Hawaiian shirt and ill-matched shorts.
Here, a few stalls sold the more elusive drugs, those that were just emerging onto the market or those that were supposedly from government labs. Rumour on the street suggested some of the ingredients came from another world or another time. Cokeheads always did come out with some shit, Talli thought. She asked about Sandman at several smaller stalls with an inkling that they wouldn’t know what she was going on about. Most looked at her blankly, others mumbled and frowned at her.
‘Sandman?’ One dealer twitched excitedly as she asked him about it, ‘you need the Dreamsmith.’ He giggled erratically.
‘Cheers.’ Jayce nodded at him uncomfortably.
‘Where can I find him?’ Talli asked.
‘The Dreamsmith?’ The dealer leant in, ‘you can’t.’
‘Great. Very helpful.’ Jayce said.
‘He’s not lost.’
‘So where is he?’ Talli persisted.
‘End of this row, purple tent.’ The dealer smiled, ‘I wouldn’t mention that I sent you.’
‘I’m sure we’ll be able to restrain ourselves.’ Talli walked away down the row.