This story was first published in the Civil and Military Gazette on September 26th 1884, when Kipling was not yet nineteen, and collected in Plain Tales from the Hills in 1888, and in subsequent editions of this collection. It was his first short story to be published - a tour de force that set a standard which - with a few lapses - he maintained for the rest of his life.
The tale is presented as a monologue by Gabral Misquitta, a half-caste opium addict, six weeks before his death. It describes the life of the opium den, and of the opium smokers, in the Coppersmith's Gully near the mosque of Wazir Khan. In the end, all life for them revolves around the 'black smoke'. There is nothing else.