“And I wouldn’t worry too much about those silly rolls of tape they keep on their table either.” said Marco.

“Probably some weird prank, probably. Damned if I know.”

I nodded and reached a hand into one of the six industrial freezers, selecting a smoothie.

“You think they’d at least take their blazers off, given how—“

I felt wetness splash across my cheeks, soaking my shirt and underwire bra before the cold smoothie even manages to touch my lips.

The emptying plastic bottle trundled along the bar floor before coming to a stop under the SU corkboard.

I felt my eyes burn. I felt humiliated and angry. My first shift as well.

Marco dropped his hand back to his side.

“I was going to pay—“

“Not about that.” Marco muttered. “You don’t drink the smoothies.”

He pulled out a Budweiser and popped off the bottle cap with the magnetic opener strapped to his belt. A thimble of foam plopped onto the glass bar as the beer fizzed a bubbling melody.

Marco ducked into the backroom.

I could hear him rooting through cardboard boxes and cursing to himself.

Eventually, he returned with a bright white tank and grey bra.

“Change out back, but make it quick.”

My upset and anger had melted into a hurt confusion as I stepped into the backroom. As I passed him, Marco handed me the beer.

“I’m allowed to drink on shift?”

Marco smiled.

“Sure, why not? Some days, it’s the only way to deal with these shithead students.”

I laughed at that, in spite of myself.

I never actually had a beer on shift after that day. In fact, I’ve never been particularly fussed about alcohol.

It made me stand out like a sore thumb back in my student days.

Tanya Evans, my flatmate, wasn’t quite the same.

I finished my afternoon shift (quiet, except for the Suits) and went back in my little room to work on the Social Care essay that was due in the next day.

I heard the bottle of Babycham splashing around in the bottle before Tanya shoved open my door and stood there in all her horrifying glory.

Sequins on face, sequin bra, rhinestone miniskirt. Nothing else.

“Whaddaya think, bi-atch!” she cried, leaping on the bed and causing my pen to run down the page of the sentence I was in the middle of writing.

“Mmm,” I said.

“Isn’t it just totally trashy?”

I repeated myself, trying to put a note of agreement into my “mmm” that time.

“Well, we’re already in the middle of pre-drinks and Simon’s already passed out, so we’ve got a space free.”

“Sorry, Tan: essay.”

Tanya was already out of the door. “Wetherspoon’s in ten minutes if you change your mind.”

The last notes trilled down the corridor of the student dorms before echoing into nothing.


I passed my trial shift and kept working at the student union bar. It was quiet work, mopping down tables with a rag and cleaning the metrics.

Washing the floor, flushing the bar taps, cutting limes and lemons for those beers with German or Swedish names, prepping syrups and cocktail premixes and so many other mundane tasks that I almost forgot about them.


It was hard, as they were always there. Five suited teenagers, sometimes looking at each other, often looking straight at me. Every other day, I’d be cleaning the bar and I’d feel the hairs stand up on my arms.

Then I’d look up and catch the eyes of one of the Suits.

And they’d never look away after I caught them staring.

They’d just stare back with a certain look. Pain? Anger? I was never sure.

And they just sat there. Five teenagers, five unbroken rolls of Sellotape. Five weird smoothies delivered separately from our other drinks delivery and without any label.

They had names. “Edgar,” “Sophie,” “Nicole,” “Jeremy,” and “Quentin.”

And each one had their own smoothie, although always red, with their name marked on with felt tip across the bottle.

One time I almost got them mixed up and Marco threatened to fire me.

I didn’t make that mistake again.

Jeremy was the worst looking person I’d ever seen. I don’t mean that in terms of physical attractiveness. He looked close to death.

I watched Tanya as she and nine of the others from Flat Wallaby or Flat Flamingo made their way towards the lights of town.

It had all been fun and games during the first week at halls, but we’re over two months into the semester.

And it’s a Tuesday, for Chrissakes!

I brewed another mug of peppermint tea from the kitchen I had to share with four strangers. Tanya seemed to have broken open a few of my peppermint teabags and tried to make a cocktail.

I was mad, but quietly washed the shaker and jug. Tanya kept using my stuff, not understanding that some people aren’t lucky enough to have rich parents and have to food budget and meal plan.

I envy her a little, if I’m honest.

I did a few more pages of coursework, drained the rest of my tea, and went to bed at eleven.

The others got in at 5am, singing and chanting.

Tan’s voice wasn’t among them. Not that that was unusual.

Not judging. This is uni, and things happen sometimes.

The next day, I headed out to my lectures.

It had become part of a morning tradition to have an “after-party chat” in the common room with Tanya, but she wasn’t in.

Which was odd, because even if she’d gone back to another flat, she’d wend her way back at about 5am.

Bag of frozen peas, sick bucket optional.

That was when I started to worry.

I grabbed a strawberry yoghurt from the fridge, along with two slices of toast that I’d cut into strips for dunking.

(Odd, I know, but I’ve always liked it.)

The day carried on as normal. I asked Simon and Mel if they’d seen Tanya during a quiet break at lunchtime, but nothing.

In fact, they claimed not to know her.

I left Simon and Mel in the smoking area and left, assuming there’d been some sort of falling out.

I didn’t see her the next day, either.

But then, I spotted her.

I was cleaning the tables of the SU bar because it was Friday night and Marco expected the place to be heaving by eight o’ clock and I spotted her.

There are raw and red marks around her mouth, as if it had been recently duct-taped.

She’s wearing a suit.

I walk over and try to talk make chit-chat with the group.

“No Jeremy today, eh?”

All five remain silent. Tanya doesn’t look up.

“You know, if you don’t talk to me, then I’m not going to bring your drinks out.”

Again, silence.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Marco gesturing for me to move away.

I turn around and head back to the bar.

I’m glad to see my friend back, but it’s just too weird.

Later, at about ten, I look up from pouring a Coke.

Tanya is crying soundlessly, her eyes bloodshot and wet.

I carry on serving, not questioning Marco about the new smoothie in the chiller with “Tanya” plastered across the front.

The night carries on. I serve drinks. I clean. I close the bar.


Tanya Evans continues to behave oddly. The eccentricities have vanished, her room is spotless, she attends every class and her grades skyrocketed.

I know her teacher, Marvin Delancy, and ask him about her grades on a whim. He tells me she’s the highest in the class, right next to Edgar and Nicole.

The plot thickens.

I know it’s something in their drinks and so, later that month, I check the separate and specialist delivery note to find out where the smoothies came from.

Marco was out of office.

I’d slipped a few diarrhoea tablets into his glass of ginger ale. I’m not proud of it.

At the top of the paper was “Avarice Supplies,” which I Googled but couldn’t find much about. Some shell company for bottle drinks operating out of somewhere in Shropshire. Unhelpful.

I scribbled the delivery number down and left it that.

It wasn’t much, but it was a clue. And I couldn’t keep serving Tanya that red goop. She wasn’t looking well, with bags under her eyes and her hair slowly becoming patchy. She’d also developed psoriasis on her right hand.

Later that night, when I was lying in bed, I looked over the numbers.

Batch 07742.

Lot 3556.

Product 76.

07742 355676.

I think it was some dull sense of desperation that made me take out my mobile and key in the numbers.

I heard a gruff voice at the end of the line.

“Yuh, what you doin’ phonin’ me?”

I had no idea what to say.

“Next shipment’s Tuesday, why ya ringin’ me?”

“Uh, I need an emergency one.”

I still don’t know why I said that.

“You’re not Marco!”

“No, Marco’s recovering.”

Technically not a lie.

“Aye. Well, I can swing by in an hour.”


“Are you there?”

“Y-yes,” I replied.

The line went dead.

30 minutes later, I’m standing outside the locked SU bar. It’s four in the morning and the giant moon cuts a cold crescent against the dark sky. There are no stars.

A truck pulls up sometime later with the headlights glaring.

I see the door open and a man step out, but I don’t see much else.

I hear someone breathing behind me and feel something sharp in my neck. My hand lazily bats up at it and I manage to brush it with my hand. A bee? At night? No, it’s cold. Glass.

I recognise it as a hypodermic needle just as I crash to the ground.


When I came to, it was early morning and sunlight was streaking through the net curtains of my bedroom.

Only I’m not alone in my bedroom.

In front of me are people sitting on chairs. Marco, Martin, Simon, Mel, my parents, Tanya’s parents…my room is filled almost to the door with people. I also see a man in a ski mask alongside the truck driver, looking strangely apologetic.

They explain.

Most people know, at least everyone who needs to. It’s well set up, but of course, it needs to be in order to work.

But these things happen.

Tanya was similar to Edgar, Nicole, Sophie, Jeremy, and Quentin in that she came from a rich background. An ultra-elite and privileged background. They were all partiers. Crazy, drunken, and beautiful messes. All studying subjects that didn’t interest them and they were doing dismally in.

It was started the year before, under the name Project Legacy. And, for all parties, it was a pretty good deal.

Your son or daughter would no longer look like a fool. They’d stay in school, concentrate and complete their projects, and attain the highest marks.

The university received grants and large chunks of money from the parents who enrolled in Project Legacy. Most did it sadly, under the impression they could do nothing else for their child.

I try to get off the bed whilst I’m being told this by Marco, Simon, and my mother. But I’m bound by ropes.

Martin and Tanya’s parents tell me the rest.

The serum they’re given contains essential minerals, vitamins, and a surplus of Omega 3, blended together with a fruit extract and a special drug of Strontium 90 that supercharges the rest of the ingredients at a cost.

I ask what cost, but I already had an idea.

I remember Jeremy, his brittle frame and the way he always looked like a stiff wind would turn him to dust.

It crushes and destroys their bodies whilst boosting their brains. It also broke open their synaptic tissues that allowed speech processing.

They were robots. Dying, crippled, robots.

I was horrified and I remember screaming, but nobody came to the rescue. Even if someone outside heard and called the police…

“The local councilmen and police officials all know,” said Marco, quietly. “You’re accomplishing nothing.”

What struck me most was how Tanya’s parents smiled as they discussed their daughter. How she’d always been such a wild child and a disgrace to their extended family and grandparents, but now had an entire roadmap of her getting better at sociology, acing her subjects, dying, the lavish funeral, and the business it would drum up for Evans Holdings PLC.

“No more wild child daughter for the news to catch up on,” laughed Calvin Evans. “And we can even turn the sob story into cold hard profit!”

Tanya’s own father.

It was odd, but I expected them to kill me. You know, like in the movies, because “you know too much.” But they untied me, and my days carried on almost as normal. And that was probably worse.

So if you’re ever up here, in this lonely little town, then pop on by the SU.

I’m in my last year and I’ve seen quite a few of the Suits come and go.

Nothing I can do, though. They can’t communicate, and both the university and the families have agreed to the death of the kid.

I’m writing this mostly to get this off my chest, but if you feel that you want to pay us a visit, do drop on by the SU bar.

I’ll pour you a drink.