Breathlessly, Gary burst in through the shop door. Profusely sweating, "Hide it!" managed to form itself from his mouth amidst the sharp intakes of breath. An aged hand swept a battered atomiser and juices into a pocket as Gary stumbled into a table causing the cups and water to lugubriously arch towards the empty antique cake stand. Such was life in the underground vaping scene in 2022.
The owner (of what once used to be a thriving coffee shop, before they banned caffeine because it posed serious risks to public order) ushered Old Man Dorn through a cellar trap door. Gary flew into a chair and attempted to affect the pose of a man who enjoyed sitting in a dusty room sipping lukewarm, flavourless liquids.
The Vape Resistance never claimed to be one of the most interesting of underground resistance movements; The Petrolheads had sweet matching jackets, everybody connected to the Loud Sound Squad referred to each other as Lemmys and even The League of Potato Lovers had badges shaped like one of the old McDonalds fries. The VR had one seriously old Kraken clone atomiser that they had to share between all seventeen of them. Hiding out and sharing any scraps that could be pressed into service as a wick they would take turns inhaling vapour that made the old Crab Juice seem exotic.
Life had changed so much since the Cameron Act of 2016. Gone were the freedoms to congregate in groups of more than 2 and the ability to buy alcohol unless it was a £970 bottle of Krug champagne. In fact anything deemed posing a potential risk to the public good was now banned while the inventive and reluctant were forced to find ways to exercise free will under the radar.
The thud of boot meeting door fused with the crash of door hitting wall. The blackened PH paras clutched departmental clipboards in a menacing fashion as they flooded the space. One, the fat one at the back with McKee embroidered on his full left breast, produced the only noticeable sound as he repeatedly clicked his biro.
“What was I thinking?” contemplated Gary as a bead rolled down the arch of his nose. “All those times, all those warnings.” His mind swam with visions of ranting men and angry women chastising him on YouTube for his lack of gumption to protest back in the day. The first time he knew something serious was taking place was after the ECITA and Nicotine Alliance offices had been raided and all the gobby vapers had been placed into internment camps for re-education. “Why didn’t we all stand together?”
For sure, he’d found most of them tediously annoying, but he always reckoned he’d be OK. “They can’t stop me from using my own kit,” he smugly exclaimed at the fresh fish counter in Asda before exhaling a plume the size of Kent. Gary was in denial about many things; he didn’t believe in global warming, held no store in the fears spread by the media and never used the indicators in his long-gone car. He didn’t feel so clever now.
Using the biro as an extension of his digit, McKee prodded the proprietor in the ribs. If a weasel could speak it would have found its soul mate in this man as he demanded to see certifications for the water quality being vended on site. In truth, Old Man Dorn couldn’t have sneezed at a worse time.
Just about managing to squeeze into the passenger seat of the electric riot van, McKee made the call. “I found them, Sir. I found them all – vaping is dead in this country.”