#TonicIslandTonic #Novel in progress. As is. Hot off the press #Creepy Chapter One
CHAPTER ONE: PATIENT ZERO
To the minds of the twenty-seven extremely high clearance bureaucrats and scientist involved in the “Tonic” project, Dillon Fairfax was the ideal subject for testing. The first eight months of monitoring the young man’s online buying, viewing and social habits had confirmed that the recruiters were on the right track. Then followed ten months of full-on, full-time surveillance during which Dillon’s every word and deed no matter how trivial or how intensely private was documented and commented upon. This cemented Dillon’’s name to the top of the initially extensive list of “volunteers.”
What made Dillon perfect and sealed his fate was a combination of his attitudes, interests and physical attributes. His long term girlfriend, one Julie Mann, aerobics instructor and cat lover, liked to call Dillon the “king of placebos.” Fairfax had two shelves in his kitchen cupboard, above the large metallic sink and the dirty microwave-safe dishes and plastic cutlery, full of homeopathic treatments, enhancers, stimulants and vitamins. His bathroom counter had a variety of creams, lotions and washes that were not for sale at Walgreens or Walmart. Dillon was a “special order” kind of guy, and he enthusiastically opened every brown UPS package and patriotic FedEx envelope that was handed him or that he retrieved from the shelter of the back porch (where the regular delivery folks were used to leaving packages when Dillon wasn’t at home). He greeted each new delivery with certainty that the pills or potions it contained would help him to live a better, more satisfied life.
In spite of Dillon’s general laid-backness in areas such as house-keeping and car maintenance, Dillon had an excellent work ethic and could be counted on to be where he was expected on time and appropriately dressed. What made Dillon attractive to the powers that be, however was the fact that Dillon was meticulous about his supplements. He followed the directions on every package insert or label and gave every treatment at least a full cycle (usually about a month) before relegating it to the back of the shelf to be tried again at some nebulous future date when whatever it was that kept the magic from happening during this first dosing might have righted itself.
Another point in Dillon’s favor was his his lack of wariness concerning his privacy. In a way that went much farther than Julie’s “why fight it? They know everything anyway” attitude, Dillon actually believed that there was no threat to his privacy. Why would anyone want to monitor someone like him? Dillon believed that his mundane existence and lack of political involvement was all the protection he needed from the prying eyes of Big Brother.
Without fear of consequence, Dillon jumped right on board with every scientific or technological advance he read about or that one of his favorite sports celebrities or burned out rock musicians testified about on television or youtube or twitter.. While Julie waited to let the public find the bugs and problems with new products, Dillon dove all the way in without even pretending to test the water. If it was new, and he could afford it, Dillon bought it. He was one of the first to get the iPhone and everything that came after. All of his devices were set to the lowest privacy setting. He willingly allowed every app to access his photos, address book and his location. He was a fervent consumer of twitter and youtube and absolutely loved Facebook because it allowed him to feel connected to a large network of people without having to make time for anyone and without having to invite anyone into his home. It never occured to Dillon that he was inviting virtually everyone into his home.
Dillon opened emails with enticing subject lines even from strangers. Yet, to Julie’s amazement, Dillon had never had his identity stolen, and all of his computer software seemed to be running bug free. Dillon like most of the general population, made very little attempt to understand the science behind the devices he used or the supplements he ingested. He was unconcerned by phrases like “proprietary blend,” “secret ingredient,” and “side effects may include.”
He was trusting, and except for the rare abdominal discomforts, transient rashes, and occasional mood-swings, trust had so far cost Dillon very little.
Dillon fit several other requirements of the Tonic project. His age was right. Dillon was thirty-seven years old which made him old enough to show some physical signs of aging. Plus he was right in the middle of the physical fitness bell-curve for his age group. He was reasonably but not overly active. He spent quite a bit of time behind the wheel of his work vehicle, but he was in and out of the car at least 30 times each shift. He had a membership at a local health club, which he took advantage of two or three times a week, usually hitting the stair machine or treadmill for thirty minutes and following with random weight lifting concentrated mostly on upper-body work.
If it wasn’t for his steady diet of candy bars, take-out and beer, Dillon would have been much too fit for the study, but as it was, Dillon was in good, but not great shape. He was average for a man his age.
As a courier for a local medical laboratory, Dillon was in a position to casually influence hundreds of people. He was open and out-going with a personality that invited conversation and sharing of confidences. He was one of the those people to whom bartenders and grocery store clerks shared intimate details of their personal lives as they handed him drinks and receipts.
Dillon was an only child with no living parents, and although he had a huge network of acquaintances, admirers, and clients, he had very few close friends. He lived with Julie Mann, his girlfriend of seven years, but, like Julie, wasn’t in contact with any extended family. This lack of social responsibility meant that if necessary, Dillon’s extraction would be easy to handle and anything unforeseen would be manageable.
Dillon’s decision to order that first bottle of “Tonic Island tonic” was inevitable. The packaging, labeling and website were all designed just for him. The advertisement came as a pop-up that interrupted Dillon while he was reading an article about the drug overdose and death of an 80’s hair band celebrity. Dillon didn’t even notice that the full page that took over his computer didn’t even offer him a way to exit out without choosing to “learn more.”
Dillon innocently clicked on the link and his first bottle of tonic was being charged to his Capitol One card, less than 3 minutes later.
Tonic Island Tonic was reported to be an all-natural completely safe supplement with absolutely no side effects. It was going to make him more muscular. He would enjoy increased stamina and need less sleep. It was all going to be good.