Once upon a time, there was a young man named Lucius. He lived on a farm in the outskirts of a small town deep in the region of Umbria with his parents, where life was pleasantly tranquil. So much so, Lucius didn't believe that anything could break that tranquility.

One weekend, Lucius was downtown, shopping at a local market. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw bright, shiny colors; he became distracted from his task as he looked towards it. In the smack center of the market was a stand he'd never seen before. The stand was decorated with bright colors, ran by a man wearing flashy clothing, and selling drinks of various, beautiful colors. The stand was filled with glass cups with samples, crowded with customers grinning as they tasted a sample.

Lucius was baffled from the sight, as well as uncomfortable; there was something about the stand that rubbed him the wrong way, yet he wasn't sure why. Despite his discomfort, he was also curious; everyone around the stand looked pleased, so there must have been something good about it. He waited until there was a gap in front of the stand, then stepped in.

The man running it noticed Lucius immediately. "Good afternoon!" He gestured to the drinks. "Would you like a sample of one of my concoctions?"

Lucius nodded, then looked down at the cups. There were 3 drinks to choose from; the first was ruby red, the second sapphire blue, and the third peridot green. He took a cup with the ruby red liquid and took a sip. Upon tasting it, his lips broke into a grin. The red concoction was strong, smooth, and sweet; it was like no drink he had tried before.

"This. . .this is splendid!" Lucius exclaimed. "Can I buy a full bottle?"

The man behind the stand handed Lucius a bottle. He paid for it, put it in his basket with his other goods, and once he finished shopping, headed home. On his walk back, he thought entirely about the concoction, eager to taste it once more.

He set the food on the kitchen table before pouring himself a cup of the red concoction. He drank the full cup, then poured himself another. Before he knew it, he had drunk the entire bottle, the sweet taste staining his throat.

"Oh no! There's none left!" Lucius sighed. "Well, it tasted splendid, it was worth the money. Guess I'll buy more the next time I go to the market."

When Lucius woke up the next morning, he felt rather unsettled. He felt irritated without explanation, his head was fuzzy, and he was in such little mood to start his day, he didn't start it at all; he simply kept lying in bed. After some time, his mother knocked on his door.

"Lucius, time to get out of bed! The chickens need feeding and the cows need milking!"

Lucius was forming a reply to his mother's voice, except within seconds, he heard another voice.

(She wants you to die. . .she's ready. She wants to beat you to death. . .)

His eyes widened. He jerked his head around. Who said that? That wasn't Ma's voice. . .

"Lucius!" His mother's voice rose. "I know you're awake! Get out of bed!"

(Don't get out of bed.)

Lucius remained frozen on his bed. He had no idea who this other voice belonged to, but for some reason, beyond any reasoning, he felt very compelled to listen to it.

"Lucius!" His mother jerked the door open. "If you don't get out of bed this instant, I'll drag you out by your hair!"

(See? She wants to beat you. SHE WANTS TO BEAT YOU!)

That did it for Lucius. He shot out of bed, dashed past his mother, and ran out of the house. The voice didn't cease as he ran; it whispered incoherent nonsense as he ran into the barn.

When he reached the barn, he slammed the door behind him. He gasped as he leaned his back against the wall and slid downwards until he was sitting. He sat in dead silence; the voice had suddenly vanished.

That was so weird. . .where did that voice come from? Ma's never beat me, why would someone say that? I should get started on my chores before she gets angrier.

Lucius didn't hear that voice for the rest of the week. When the weekend came rolling around again, he went to the market. In the middle of it was the drink stand, the same amount of happy customers surrounding it. As he approached the stand, the man behind it recognized him.

"Good afternoon, my friend! Would you like to sample another one of my concoctions?"

This time, Lucius took a cup with the sapphire blue liquid and took a sip. Upon tasting it, his lips broke into a grin. The blue concoction was silky, rich, and bitter; it was like no drink he had tried before.

"This. . .this is marvelous! Lucius exclaimed. "Can I buy a full bottle?"

The man behind the stand handed Lucius a bottle. He paid for it, put it in his basket with his other goods, and once he finished shopping, headed home. On his walk back, he thought entirely about the concoction, eager to taste it once more.

He set the food on the kitchen table before pouring himself a cup of the blue concoction. He drank the full cup, then poured himself another. Before he knew it, he had drunk the entire bottle, the bitter taste staining his throat.

"Oh no! There's none left!" Lucius sighed. "Well, it tasted marvelous, it was worth the money. Guess I'll buy more the next time I go to the market."

When Lucius woke up the next morning, he felt rather anxious. He felt worry without explanation, his heart was pounding, and he felt so uncomfortable starting his day, he didn't start it at all; he simply kept lying in bed. After some time, his mother knocked on his door.

"Lucius, time to get out of bed! The eggs need collecting and the dogs need washing!"

Lucius was forming a reply to his mother's voice, except within seconds, he heard another voice.

(She wants you to hurt. . .she's ready. She wants to stab you with the biggest kitchen knife around. . .)

His eyes widened. He jerked his head around. Who said that? That wasn't Ma's voice. . .

"Lucius!" His mother's voice rose. "I know you're awake! Get out of bed!"

(Don't listen to her, she only wishes pain.)

Lucius remained frozen on his bed. He had no idea where this voice was coming from, but for some reason, beyond any reasoning, he felt very compelled to listen to it.

"Lucius!" His mother jerked the door open. "If you don't get out of bed this instant, I'll throw you out the window!"

(See? She wants you hurt. She wants you DEAD!)

That did it for Lucius. He shot out of bed, dashed past his mother, and ran out of the house. The voice didn't cease as he ran; it whispered incoherent nonsense as he ran into a grove of apple trees. When he reached the middle of the grove, he collapsed on the ground. He gasped as he sat himself up, so his back was against a thick trunk. He sat in dead silence; the voice had suddenly vanished.

That was so weird. . .where did that voice come from? Ma's never stabbed me, why would someone say that? That voices sounded exactly like the one I heard last week, the morning after I had that drink. . .

Lucius sighed. I'll ask the guy at the stand if the drink makes people hear things. For now, I should get started on my chores before she gets angrier.

Lucius didn't hear that voice for the rest of the week. When the weekend came rolling around again, he went to the market. In the middle of it was the drink stand, the same amount of happy customers surrounded it. As he approached the stand, the man behind it recognized him.

"Good afternoon, my friend! Would you like to sample another one of my concoctions?"

Lucius hesitated, then took a cup with the peridot liquid and took a sip. Upon tasting it, his lips broke into a grin. The green concoction was tart, fizzy, and sour; it was like no drink he had tried before.

"This. . .this is spectacular! Lucius exclaimed. "But. . .I have a question."

"Yes?" The man gave Lucius his full attention.

"Well, the morning after I had your red and blue concoctions, I started, um. . ." He didn't want to sound too crazy. "Feeling strange."

"Feel strange how?"

"Um, I felt. . .stressed. I thought someone was telling me to die."

The man's eyes widened. Lucius nearly panicked, thinking he was about to be told he was indeed crazy. Then the man said, "Oh, that can't be my drinks. My drinks never cause such terrible effects. It's just a coincidence, yeah?"

Lucius frowned. Something doesn't feel right. . .maybe there's something he isn't telling me. Then again, why would he lie? If I'm the only customer who's heard things, it must only be me.

"I guess. . .thank you. Can I buy a full bottle?"

The man behind the stand handed Lucius a bottle. He paid for it, put it in his basket with his other goods, and once he finished shopping, headed home. On his walk back, he thought entirely about the concoction, eager to taste it once more.

He set the food on the kitchen table before pouring himself a cup of the green concoction. He drank the full cup, then poured himself another. Before he knew it, he had drunk the entire bottle, the sour taste staining his throat.

"Oh no! There's none left!" Lucius sighed. "Well, it tasted spectacular, it was worth the money. I'll see if there's any more flavors the next time I go to the market!"

When Lucius woke up the next morning, he felt infuriated. He was angry without explanation, his stomach was full of blazing heat, and he felt so dreadful starting his day, he didn't start it at all; he simply kept lying in bed. After some time, his mother knocked on his door.

"Lucius, time to get out of bed! The barn needs cleaning and the horses need brushing!"

Lucius was forming a reply to his mother's voice, except within seconds, he heard another voice.

She wants you to bleed. . .she's ready. She wants to tear you open so you bleed to your death. . .)

Lucius scowled. He shot out of bed. That is not Ma's voice. She does not want me to bleed.

Lucius' mother gasped at Lucius' angry expression. She took a step back. "Lucius? Are you alright?"

(Lie. You're a liar. She doesn't deserve the truth. Liiiiiie.)

Lucius' breaths were shaky as he struggled to fight the whispers echoing in his head. "No, Ma, I'm not. I'm sorry."

Before his mother could ask more questions, he dashed past her and ran into the kitchen. The empty bottle of green liquid was sitting on the counter, waiting to be disposed. He lifted and skimmed it, searching for a list of ingredients. He found it embedded in tiny black text, with another statement underneath:

"Contains niacin, a potential trigger for auditory hallucinations. Please drink with caution."

Lucius slammed the bottle on the counter. I knew he was lying! I can't believe he lied to me! There's no way I'm the first one. No way.

That evening at supper, Lucius told his parents all his experiences regarding the drinks. Horrified, they told everyone they knew what happened; to Lucius' amazement, he was right. Others had heard voices in their head after having those drinks, and when telling the man selling them what they heard, were told exactly what Lucius was told. This convinced them that they were the only ones having that problem, therefore being too afraid to tell anyone else. Numerous people, including some who had never tried the drinks, also agreed the stand gave off weird vibes, but stayed quiet in fear they had an unpopular opinion.

After this communal revelation, no one was afraid anymore. Everyone in town slowly (but surely) stopped buying those deceiving drinks. Lucius ignored that stand every time he went to the market. Eventually, the man behind the stand lost so much profit, he vanished without warning. He was never seen in that town again, which didn't bother Lucius, because he never heard another voice in his head for the rest of his days, returning to the tranquility he'd always known. From then on, he put his full trust in his intuition, and wasn't afraid to speak his mind, knowing now that when he had suspicions, odds are, he wasn't the only one.

THE END