Universe W-2020: The Psychenauts 1
April 21st, 2020
He steadily flies blind through the void, cast astray in an existence dominated by utter nothingness. It’s nothingness in the purest, most harrowing and inescapable sense of the word, a nothingness that cannot be described in words because words are and this private pocket of reality isn’t. It is just, . He looks back and remembers Cassio lain face up on the rocks, wings broken and blood splattered on the chipped stalagmites pierced through his ribcage like punji stakes. The void takes on a certain cloudiness; he can see–
–white now, feel the soft gusts of air and vaporous puffs of fog bouncing off his body. The clouds open to reveal a silver lining: the golden and purple palace awaits him with an ancient anticipation, the entire fortress emitting a shimmering iridescence that rivals the white sun shining down from above. He slows to a stop, the wooden wings lifting from his back and dissolving into the air in a burst of fiery combustion as he drifts gently to the clouds below. He–
–arrives at a gate guarded by a single pointy-fingered denizen, a machine elf of sorts, who asks him of his companion. The being’s words take physical form as it speaks.
With a heavy heart, he explains the sun-skirting fate of Cassio to the elf, who nods in placid agreement, opening the gate halfway. Confused, he looks at the stoic expression on the machine elf’s faces, seeing only himself in the reflection of the being’s innumerable eyes. He then ducks through the gate, the loving embrace of the kingdom almost too much to–
Tyler’s hand, fueled by little more than pure, unbridled hatred, comes down on the alarm clock. Brand new out of the box yesterday, the small plastic device withstands the blow and seems fairly sturdy afterwards; color Tyler impressed. He sits up feeling groggier than a frog in a bog sitting on a rotting log and attempts to get a look at his surroundings, his left eye open noticeably more than his right eye, as the layout of his bedroom slowly returns to familiarity. With a yawn and a scratch or two, Tyler stands and scrabbles around until he finds a fresh pair of jeans and a flannel to wear, blue denim and orange with alternating black and green squares, respectively. When his hand enters the dojo of the front pocket of these jeans, it does battle with a tribe of dust bunnies who, after taking their licking, offer up a cell phone, the device in turn offering no less than seven messages from Tyler’s neighbor, Sam. Tyler checks the most recent one and sees that Sam will be arriving at his house at 8:00 sharp. It is currently 7:58.
‘Here we go.’
Within a minute and a half, Tyler’s gathered his tent, camping backpack, pillow, sleeping bag, large stash of weed and papers, and a day’s supply of trail mix, fruit, and water all in a neat little pile near the front door of his parents’ house. After doublechecking his pile, Tyler takes a deep breath and sits down to get his hiking boots on. He hears a familiar (read: secret) knock on the other side of the windowless wooden slab – Sam has arrived, and not a second late.
A Weed-Fueled Acid Trip
The annual all day camping trip is a go. Specifically planned at that magical time of year when Mother Quarryville’s forests are both bursting with plant life and slacking on the insect life, Tyler Portman and Samuel Monta are about to embark upon a pseudo-ritualistic camping trip that lasts from one morning into the next in order to give themselves something of a consciousness reset. The weather is stunningly perfect, as Sam comments to Tyler after wishing him a good morning; there’s not a cloud in the sky and the air’s a cool sixty-five, the perfect temperature to usher rejuvenating springtime energy into their dull, sloggily wintered brains. Keeping things moving as to not stir Iz the Great and Slumbering, the pair gather Tyler’s supplies, cross Quarrytown road, wake Sam’s mother back up with their youthful trouncing through her fucking house, gather Sam’s pile of supplies at the back door, and finally exit stage rear.
The boys carry their haul across the Monta family’s back yard and melt into the forest, blazing their way through scratchy patches of saplings until they hit one of the many trails they’ve dug out. Finding themselves weighed down by having nothing better to do after graduating high school, Sam and Tyler burned their free time away carving out a complex and intricate arboretum that stretches throughout the entire forest that borders Sam’s side of the Wanapo Reservoir, complete with campsites, viewpoints, rockstacks, secret campsites, and even a few lean-tos and teepees.
Within fifteen minutes they arrive at the campsite closest to what remains of civilization, which is coincidentally the first one they built. Dubbed The Hillside Commons, this rock-walled-off section of hillside forest was colonized one summer evening a couple years back when Sam and Tyler randomly decided they wanted to sleep under the stars right this second. Now it’s a local hotspot; during the summer, humans from all over and outside the county come to hike to The Commons, The Island, Base Camp, and all the other spots our boys brought into this world. Some of the tourists are even ballsy enough to camp out overnight; believe it or not, they’ve managed to charge a few of these idiots money for the otherwise free experience. Ah cityfolk, you gotta love ‘em. But I digress; we have arrived. Sam and Tyler set their tent up with superhuman speed, and by 8:30 am, they’re ready to eat the tabs.
This year’s annual first camping trip was planned to coincide with a weed-fueled acid trip to commemorate the start of a new year following the Holiblaze, but yesterday was also Sam’s birthday, so the acid’s for that, too. The tiny paper squares hit their tongues right on schedule, and within ten minutes, they’re both halfway through their canteens of orange juice. Next, when Tyler’s finished packing it, the boys will slowly smoke a Cannabowl and meditate on the high for a moment, to appreciate the wonderful harmony that is nature at work.
With bellies full of OJ, lungs full of smoke, and brains rapidly filling with trace amounts of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, the boys who never left town begin their traditional walk up Bored Mountain.
Four proud mountains jut from this great track of Treeringian forestland, Bored Mountain being the closest to the campsite. Our children of the tab always hike at the beginning of the trip because the timing usually works out swimmingly; the physical exertion gets the blood pumping and the major drug effects start to kick in right when the druggers reach the summit, and today is no exception. When they breach the treeline and walk out upon the rocky outcrop, Tyler is taken aback by the unrelenting beauty being launched at his face in the form of light particles reflected off the glacier-carved landscape that is actively stretching out below him.
Meanwhile Sam is sprawled on the rock, giggling uncontrollably and babbling about a fifth mountain hidden somewhere back here with an old man living on it.
Tyler looks down at Sam for a short moment before diverting his attention back to the reservoirs. To the left is the Skunksville Reservoir, a deformed horseshoe of a lake that’s supposedly stocked with fish on an annual basis; it starts out skinny on its north end and as it comes around the bend, it fattens up until it comes to a cliff’s edge where it’s dammed off. At the base of the resulting waterfall lies the Wanapo Reservoir, a flooded Native American heritage site that makes Skunksville look more like a pond than a pool.
Suddenly, Tyler feels the Universe tremble and his vision begins to change. He witnesses time backtrack, the water draining from the lakes to reveal the waterlogged skeleton of the drowned town of Skunksville. It animates into a thriving village scene; rickety ranch-style houses pop up, scattered unevenly throughout the valley like chocolate chips in a cookie. In the middle of the housing cluster is a wide dirt road that serves as the town center, its sides lined with pine trees, mom and pop shops, gardens, and a single big top circus tent. Tyler can see the townsfolk traveling up and down the carriage paths with a twenty minutes late skip in their strides; the town is busy preparing for the annual Spring Fair where they’ll eat fresh bread baked from that special patch of rye with the strange fungus growing on it and rejoice over the splendor inherent in being alive.
Then Tyler blinks and it’s all gone, like the seeds off a dandelion stalk in the wind.
One hour later, the boys are still sitting atop that ancient mountain. Psychedelic melodies of the Beazles ceaselessly erupt from Tyler’s speaker and cascade through the thin and tall grasses sprouting up from soil-filled cracks in the weathered crag. As the album reaches its citar-laden conclusion, a burst of inspiration bullseyes Sam and he leaps up from his spot, proceeding to balance rocks in a neat little stack next to the trail. Tyler walks over and marvels at the sight; how marvelous is it that his friend was able to find all these random rocks strewn about the peak, let alone balance them in such a miraculous little stack. And he caps it with a pudding stone, this naturally purple mass embedded with quartzy studs like a violet amanita muscaria, amazing! So incredible, so architectural, so–
“What the hell is that?” Sam asks, his words splintering both the silence and Tyler’s memory of the shaky rockstack into a thousand different shards of purified intellectual contemplation. Tyler turns to see his comrade standing up, staring at the open sky, and although he’s tempted to join him, Tyler instead asks what all the hubbub’s about.
“I think I just saw a flying saucer, dude,” as Sam puts down the ashy bowl of pot he was holding.
“Duuuuude,” through a mouth stretched not quite as wide as his pupils. “No you didn’t, we’re just tripping on acid.”
“No I know, but dude I swear I saw it, it was a silver disc thing. It kinda flashed in and out of existence when I concentrated really hard. Oh right, that’s another thing, I only saw it when I concentrated realllllly hard at the sky.”
“But like, why did you randomly decide to concentrate on the sky though, dude?”
Why did he decide to stand up and concentrate on the sky?
‘Because I saw a flying saucer, like I just said.’
“Because man, something inside of me just, like, told me to.”
“Woooaaahh… whatever you say, man. Maybe you made your brain have a hallucination, that’s what I think happened.”
“Yeah, maybe… hae–”
Tyler tries not to cut Sam off, but his brain is not yet done with that train of thought. “Like, maybe you like, focused, so hard and your brain just tried so hard with the acid running through it that it projected a hallucination, like you did with that mountain and the old dude in the hut yesterday, and…” Tyler trails off when he gets distracted by a tree doing la macarena.
After a moment of watching Tyler stare at a tree, Sam asks, “Hey do you want to walk again?” adding, “We’re already two hours into this trip,” with imperceivably impatient undertones.
“Two hours, woah man… like, what is time though?”
This conversation continues in loops for another hour before the boys realize what happened. They finally pick themselves up, pack up their speaker and water, and continue along the trail leading over the mountain. This particular path is not often traveled by other humans because of how steep the climb up the mountain is; due to this fact, the boys like to think of Bored as their mountain. Sam loves this peak because of the secret spots he’s found that offer immensely better views than those offered by the standard marked viewpoints, and Tyler uses the mountain in place of leg day at the gym. The top of Bored Mountain, though the trek up is Grand Canyon vertical, is fairly level, covered in a light foresting and abundant with grasses, shrubs, and berry bushes that aren’t quite fruiting when the boys pass them today. From the peak, the trail dips down and plateaus out a couple times before it brings the hiking troupe that travels it to an unnecessarily vertical downslope on the other end, complete with rockslides, dusty dry leaves, and dry leafy dirt. Tyler falls and slides three different times coming down that steep section but doesn’t feel the pain because his spirit had accidentally disconnected from his body during the walk along the ridge. Sam, on the other hand, skips down the side of the mountain, and he does so unscathed, taking a seat on a fallen log at the bottom whilst he waits for his friend to stand up so he can watch him fall down again.
Rethinking this action, Sam decides inaction is an inappropriate action in this moment and starts up the trail to help Tyler, but then he gets distracted when he hears a twig snap behind him. Sam turns to see a large purple bug creature eyeing him up from down the trail.
The thing has a mauve human-head-sized head with two large amber eyes and a small set of barbed mandibles protruding from either side of a human-mouth-shaped mouth, the mouth lacking lips, of course. Its abdomen is composed of thorny purple chitin that resembles medieval plate armor with two thin, segmented yellow arms and legs extending from its body. Its forearms and calves also brandish chitin, the arms strangely enough ending in hands of the five-fingered human variety, the fingertips sharp points rather than stubs with nails on them. Sam is struck frozen, the bug is waving hello at him, and the trees won’t stop shaking their hips.
After Sam rubs his eyes for clarity like they do in old cartoons, about half of the trees disappear, but the bug thing is still standing there… menacingly. The sunlight glistens off its armor, the mouth pinchers sporadically twitch, and it keeps stepping towards, away from, and then back towards Sam. At this point our boy’s about seventy-six percent sure the bugman is real and that it is as afraid of Sam as Sam is of it, so he decides to slowly approach it with a huge, goofy smile on his face. The bug makes a motion as if it was rolling its eyes and turns around, sprinting away at unfathomable speeds. Sam loses sight of the monstrosity in seconds, the taste of its dust bitter and defeating. He totally just saw an alien though, so what’s there really to be upset about?
When a heaving and sweaty Tyler eventually catches up to Sam there’s an awkward silence, as if they’re both so ready to talk that neither can speak. Tyler effortfully attempts to catch his breath with his mouth for a few minutes before sitting down on a log and aiming an inward-facing gaze at the ground. Sam joins his friend on the once photosynthesizing tree and waits for him to return to his body. While he’s waiting, Sam looks deep into a ravine in the bark of a nearby photosynthesizing tree and from the darkness, rainbows flow out of the crack and envelope the spire, each specific leaf turning a different color as the spectrum of light climbs the tree to the top.
Minutes, or as Tyler puts it, infinite endless eternities later, our merry pair of morons are back on the trail and Sam is trying to explain to Tyler that he actually just saw, with his own two eyes, an actual alien. Like, actually. This is proving to be a very difficult task because of the substance floating around in his brain, but darn it is he trying, and just for his words to go unlistened! All the rocks and leaves on the ground are just so intricate and complexly designed, Tyler can’t help but be distracted by nature’s art as Sam unyieldingly yammers on about purple chartin or whatever. Eventually both grow tired of hearing Sam attempt to explain with words what his words mean, and they walk in silence down the trail towards the midpoint between Bare and Bored Mountain – this is where Base Camp is hidden, and as soon as they’re done relaxing in that shaded grassy spot off the trail that looks so nice right now, they’ll head straight there.
The leaves crunch and a few twigs snap under the weight of the dirty hippies as their bodies sink into the forest floor, the sweat of their hairless backs embracing the dirty leaves and leafy dirt with existential virile. Our flower children gaze up at the branches of the various oak, beech, dogwood, maple, and occasional willow trees that collectively blot out the sky with their blooming canopies, the overlapping levels of baby leaves looking absolutely radical as they morph in and out of one another, forming complex geometrical patterns and shapes on the fly, as if they weren’t even trying. Sam keeps pointing out specific branches for Tyler to get lost in and Tyler duly loses himself in the sights even though he has no idea which branches Sam is talking about, or what branches even are, for that matter.
Then, a stray gust of wind rustles the canopy layer of northern Jersey’s adolescent jungle, providing the boys with mind-blowing entertainment for the next half hour, easily; by this time, the insect creature had already gathered up a few friends, and a few guns, and went out looking for the humans.
Our Psychedelic astronauts, once they’ve had their fill of tree gazing, traverse their way to the campsite between the mountains. Dubbed Base Camp because it’s at the base of two mountains, this is the first camping spot Sam and Tyler really put their hearts into. It’s not as large as The Commons but it’s flat, walled in by rocks as tall as shoes, it has a lean-to and a dug-out fire pit, little wooden trinkets hanging from some of the trees by strings woven out of grass; the spot’s got character, an aura about it, and random hikers always tell the boys how great it is when they creep up and bomb on their spot out of nowhere. Base Camp is slightly off the trail, too, fenced in on less than half of its sides by boulders that don’t stand terribly high off the ground; Tyler, not about to circumnavigate a challenge, crouches down and attempts to climb the boulder as if he was at a rock gym, following rules that are only enforced in his head. Sam, who simply walked up the rock, reaches his hand down and hauls Tyler over the boulder which towers a massive three feet above the Earth. Tyler, all the while, is stuck in another thought hole and can’t seem to stop talking about how the Universe is “just a big cycle, man! Just a cycle within cycles within more cycles!”
Sam, more than just aware of the cyclical nature of the Universe around and within him, sits his friend down next to the fire pit and starts excavating a box of matches from his backpack. Twigs and leaves are piled up and set ablaze before they quickly fizzle out, forcing Sam to repeat the process exactly four and a fifth times before the fire properly catches. Once it does though, it’s basically game over; as long as the wispy flames do their seductive dance on the dead willow and beech branches, the boys will stay completely mesmerized. Sam rampantly keeps their new deity fueled as Tyler blankly stares, a bit of drool dripping from his zoned-out mouth. Minutes turn into hours as the fire consumes every loose twig and branch that had fallen to the surrounding forest floor, Sam but a humble servant to the fiery being flickering in the pit. These boys are gone, their very souls melded as one with the fire – there’s really no other way to describe the phenomenon.
As a matter of fact, the boys are so bewitched by their plasmic sorcerer that they didn’t notice the squad of gun-toting insectoids that’ve not only set up a base camp around their Base Camp, but have also been surrounding them with large, otherworldly weapons ever since. Big oof.
Sam is the first to notice the buggy bois and when he does, he just starts laughing. Laughing as if he was watching some decent stand-up comedy, laughing like he just hit his head so hard that he died and immediately came back to life, laughing as if he was on LSD and surrounded by a whole squad of actual ayyy-lmaos. The bugs, which all appear to be more or less identical now that Sam can see a whole little clique of them, have an almost frightened look on their faces. This look uncannily matches the look on Tyler’s face when Sam breaks him from his trance. This is followed by a scream which incites Tyler into leaping into the air and losing consciousness in one swift motion, which is then followed by a thud when Tyler hits the ground.
Chet wakes up inside what appears to be a cold, metallic box. The walls, the floor, the ceiling, the otherworldly equipment; even his bedsheets look metallic, though they’re cozy and warm to the touch.
‘Maybe I’m forcing my brain to hallucinate?’
He gets out of bed and is shocked to find himself completely naked with a myriad of tubes sticking out of his body, accompanied by a very sore ass and a foggy brain. He rips the tubes from his limbs like they do in all the movies, but this seems to backfire, as he starts bleeding profusely from the tubeless holes for about thirty straight milliseconds.
Put yourself in Chet’s shoes for a tick: still groggy from waking up, still heavily under the influence of the acid, and feeling woozy and lightheaded from the sudden blood loss, he tightly clenches his butt cheeks and waddles towards what he believes is a door. Would you have the strength to clench?
The door sides open to reveal an equally metallic hallway which is about ten feet longer than Chet thinks he can walk. Eventually our abductee manages to poopwalk out of what must be some kind of alien trailer or something and finds himself back in the woods, a small pillar of smoke rising from atop an even smaller plateau off in the distance. A gust of wind blows by him and he trembles, falling the ground and releasing the hold he once kept on his posterior. He stares at a leaf on the ground in front of him and watches as a tiny insect crawls up the skyward-facing stem before leaping off and flying away. Chet questions why the bug climbed the plant and then flew when it could have just flown in the firs…
Yeah he passed out again.
Back To Camp
When Laddy comes to, he’s laying outside the tent at The Commons, and through the canopy, he can see the scarlet evening sun beginning its descent. He’s utterly awestruck at the pink and orange hues, how they bestow the expansive evening sky with a certain warmth, the entire horizon looking like a big swath of cotton candy. This thought makes Tyler realize how hungry he is after not eating anything besides paper and chemicals all day; his stomach is digesting itself at this point, as far as the gurgling proclaims.
Quickly standing up ends him back in the dirt, so, attempting to learn from his mistakes, Tyler opts for a different approach. There’s gotta be something around here to use as a prop… ah, perfect! The gigantic oak tree in the middle of the camp. When’d that get there?
Tyler crawls across the forest floor whilst some debris from the decomposing trees making up said floor squirms its way under his shirt, which he is relieved to realize has been returned to him along with the rest of his clothing, and firmly grasps the woody mass that is a tree root. Hoisting himself up proves to be more difficult than he imagined, but after too many failed attempts to count without laughing, Tyler is bipedal once more.
Stranded alone fifteen minutes into the woods and still reeling from his brain floating with Lucy in a sky studded with diamonds, Tyler does the most reasonable thing he can think of: goes into his tent and starts rolling a joint. Whilst digging through his backpack he finds the stash of fruit, trail mix, and other goodies that went completely forgotten about all day. Classic. A dilemma now hangs heavily in the tent air: Tyler could end the pseudo-fast he has going, or he could wait until he finds Sam and eat the food then.
He decides to wait until he finds Sam and continues to roll his joint. This puppy is stuffed too, Tyler has no idea how he packed so much herb into the flimsy paper shell without it bursting. Oh well, definitely not a bad problem to have.
Tyler crawls out of his tent and zips it closed to keep all the dormant insects out. He finds a lighter in his pocket and lights up his happystick, the clouds of smoke burning his lungs in just the right way. He manages to take three more hits before the gravity of his missing friend hits him in the thoughtsack and he decides to sprint off into the forest, the burning joint pinched between his fingers.
Trying to hit the joint mid-stride goes about as well as one would expect, so Tyler slows down to a laborious walk by the time he reaches The Triangle, a large triangular intersection left over from the 1800s when this specific trail was used as a logging road. What was once a dry footpath has degraded over time into boggy mudlane, impassable without leaping from rock to rock that jut out of the slop like stubby fingers from a shallow grave.
Shortly after dodging an inconvenient death by quickmud, Tyler hears a WHOOP bounce off the trees, the sight of the soundwaves traveling through the air stopping him balanced on his left leg. He WHOOPs back. The approaching crunching of leaves brings a smile to his trip-worn face. Sam runs up and embraces his friend in a bear hug.
“Tee!” Sam shouts in his face. “Holy shit man, are you good? What happened, what do you remember?”
Tyler stares back for a few moments as he tries to get his brain as excited as Sam’s is. Then his bum sends a wave of ache through his body, bringing his neurons down a few octaves. “Uhhh… well, I woke up at The Commons like a half hour ago, I hardly remember any of the trip. I’m high as shit though, hah ha’haaaaaaaaaaaaah.”
Sam’s expression falls to a confused pout before he asks, “Wait, so… you don’t remember anything? The spaceship, the aliens… nothing?”
Tyler, one eyebrow cocked, looks at Sam without saying a word.
“Seriously dude? Stop, that just can’t be.” Sam’s composure has devolved into a low-energy mope. He’s been waiting for Tyler to wake up for hours. “Do you remember anything?”
“I remember listening to the Beazles, I remember sledding down the mountain on my ass, which better be the reason it’s so sore, and I remember we started that fire… and then…”
Tyler’s train of thought derails. He’s trying to think back to the moment before he passed out, when he was staring at the fire. The beautiful, incredible fire, each individual flame dancing in harmony with the next resulting in a beautiful blaze of destruction as fluid as a river; what made him get up though? He heard Sam laughing, so he stood up, and… aaaaaaannnnddd…
“I think I remember getting lightheaded from breathing in too much campfire smoke and passing out at Base Camp. Then I woke up at the Commons, that is it-a-mundo.”
Sam stares back in disbelief, Tyler unwillingly catching the vibe and empathizing on an existential level because of the LSD.
“Thanks for bringing me back, by the way, that was really chill of you.” After a pause, “So what’d you do all day, buddy? What was that about… aliens, did you say?”
With a mind still slightly fragmented on account of the tripping, Sam tries to piece together what happened as he speaks. “I, I uh… Ty, as crazy as this sounds, we met a squad of extraterrestrials who call themselves… uh… well, I didn’t get their names, or maybe I just can’t pronounce it right now, um… but. Uh. They’re camped out down near the Res’, got there this morning, apparently. They said that originally they were just going to kill us and eat our corpses because we creeped them out…”
‘What the fuck?’ Tyler thinks to himself, frantically trying to check out of this haunted-ass hotel.
“…but then they saw the size of our pupils and recognized the effects of the eL-eSs-Dee. Apparently in space, Psychedelics are the shit, they don’t even call them drugs out there. They’re called, hahah okay believe this shit or not, they’re called Moksha Medicine out there, just like in that book Island. It’s wild. But anyway, yeah, they changed their minds and we all chilled, smoked some herbs. I guess at one point you said you weren’t feeling too well, so one of the ayys probably took you to a medical room in their camp and tried t’fix ya up and probably probe ya, but it didn’t work great so we brought you back here to rest.”
Now Tyler says, “Woah dude, that’s… well it definitely sounds crazy! I really, really don’t remember anything that happened today, besides the fact that we did some great acid. You could have chilled with aliens when I was zonked, I don’t really know. Tiny Tim was probably hitting that pipe with you. That’s sick though. Hey, do you want to head back to camp and eat something though, maybe smoke something? I’m starving, and in more ways than one,” but Sam has a feeling this isn’t exactly what he means. Sam is the type of dude who spends a lot of time observing other humans, and this rings especially true during conversations. Throughout this conversation with Tyler, Sam noticed his dear friend nodding along a lot, smiling extra wide, being very attentive – almost as if he was trying to seem like he was being genuine. In all of Sam’s years spent observing the outside world from inside his own head, he’s learned that for the most part, when a human wants to do something, they don’t really have to try; they just do it.
Sam, pushing his truth like an avalanche up a hill, “Yeah, we can hike back to their camp right now dude, they’re still there. I told ‘em we might come back, too. You wanna go?”
Tyler, who had already turned around and started backtracking, replies “Oh shiiit, for sure man, but not right now. When I said camp I meant where we set our tents up, not deeper in the woods where there’s no tents. It’s okay, don’t worry about it. I’m really hungry and tired dude, don’t you wanna get back to the tent and relax for a while?”
Sam pauses for a moment, his mouth momentarily drooping into a frown before snapping back up to Smileville. “Yeah man, let’s go back. It’ll be dark soon, we should get some sleep.”
The next morning, Tyler wakes up at the crack of dawn. His body feels stiff as a board balanced on Bored from sleeping on the uneven ground, and his brain is infinitely more exhausted than he previously imagined possible. He’s pretty sure he slept on a rock too, ugh. Even opening his eyes feels like a struggle, the morning light is far too eager today. After fumbling around in the twilight in search for his stash, Tyler opens the zipper and emerges from his tent victorious, body clad in dirty clothing and hands full of Cannabic paraphernalia.
He walks over to the fire pit and sits down, getting right to work on grinding up his wake and bake session, quite possibly the best part of this annual camping trip he gets dragged into every year. He chances a glance behind him and notices that Sam’s stuff, and Sam in general, is gone, nothing left but a large dry square where the tent shielded the soil from the little gnomes that paint the ground with moisture by hand in the night. As Tyler indulges in the smoke, he wonders what the deal with that could be, feeling every last cell in his body collectively breathing a sigh of relief upon a steady, smooth exhale.
Tyler sits there in front of the smoldering fire pit for a minute, then two, then five, then however many, he’s not keeping count. The bowl goes from green to brown to black as night, then he caches it and packs it again. Then, as he begins to smoke, a familiar voice accompanied by crunched leaves approach from behind.
“Hey Tyler, good morning. I already brought my stuff back to my place so I could help you with yours when you’re ready to go.”
He turns around and tries to not act surprised. “Oh cool, I was just wondering about that. Thanks,” through a cloud of smoke before passing the bowl to Sam. In a half question he says, “You didn’t uh, you didn’t have to do that man(?).”
Sam takes a small hit and gives Tyler his bowl back. “Yeah I know, but I don’t feel great. I kind of want to get home sooner rather than later today.” He pauses for a moment, then, “If that’s okay.”
Tyler, caught further off his guard than a circus employee when the Tiny Tim cage is open and empty, says, “Yeah man no problem, say no more. I’ll just finish this bowl and we’ll mosey on outta here.”
“Cool,” Sam answers, already halfway inside Tyler’s tent. “I’ll start rolling up sleeping bags and stuff, take your time.”
“Yeah, uh, sure man…”
Tyler studies his neighbor-filled tent. He’s a bit put off by Sam’s acting so strangely; don’t get him wrong, Sam acts strangely all the time and it’s very rarely an issue, this is a strange kind of strange though, a strange that’s almost normal but eerily not so. He decides to chock it up to the post-trip friedness and torches his bowl like nobody’s business, inhaling more butane than Cannabis smoke but loving it all the same.
By the time Tyler is done smoking, Sam has the entire campsite packed up. Bearing their spot a fond farewell, they both take turns taking a piss in the fire pit for tradition’s sake, and then they dip. They’re out of the wilderness and back to the Portman home in twenty minutes flat, making Tyler feel extra appreciative at the fact that their neighborhood is more woods than it is ‘hood.
Tyler drops his half of his belongings in a messy pile on his floor and collapses onto his bed before Sam gets halfway up the stairs. Sam goes to say something but shakes his head instead and smiles a little, carefully piling up the rest of Tyler’s stuff.
“Successful trip, bro. Rest up, I’ll see you soon.”
Tyler attempts to return the kind words, but they come out as a series of grunts and mumbles, the boy taking pride in his embodying of the reality that humans really are just cavemen, after all. Sam’s long gone by the time Tyler’s brain registers the speech anyway, oh well. This may not have been the most memorable trip that Tyler’s ever taken, but it was definitely odd – what else could he ask for? He makes a mental note to write about it in the trip diary he’s been planning to buy for a few years, knowing all too well that he’ll never get around to buying it. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a trip diary, maybe it could just be a normal diary. Maybe then he’d buy it.
Regardless, the past half hour was about all the consciousness Tyler can take for the day. His eyes droop closed and he returns to that magic purple and yellow kingdom of his dreams.
We Should Keep Him
Jarius groans, slapping the silence in its toothy maw.
“They’re so not coming. We said the summit, not the summit at freaking midnight. Where are these things?” before cracking open, downing, and belching up a can of fizzyD. Its shell is tossed in the general direction of the fabricator’s IN funnel.
“I don’t know, but shut up dude, complaining won’t make them get here faster,” Bill snaps back. “Besides, it’s hardly midday. Ain’t not a thang stopping you from enhancing your perspective without them.”
“But!” Fleurna chimes in from the back of the group, “How cool would it be to enhance our perspectives with freaking humans? They’re capable of a lot more than we like to give them credit for. They’ll be here.”
Jarius rolls his eyes and goes to speak, but is quickly cut off by Zaxus. “You’re literally just saying that because you’re still high off bedding that humey with the goatee.”
“You… are not wrong, my friend.”
“I still don’t think they’ll sho–” Jarius starts before immediately cutting himself off. “OH SHIT, NO WAY! HERE THEY COME!”
“REALLY?!” Bill excitedly shouts, falling out of his seat.
“YEAH! Quick, open the door!”
The door to their saucer slides open and a platform extends to bridge the gap between the ground and their floating silver disc – not too fast, but not too slow either; they want respect, not fear.
A lone human being wandering through the mountains of an evacuated town walks up the platform and the doors close behind him.
“Wow, I should’ve known it would be you guys. What happened to the bugs, though?” human says as he unloads the Cannabis from his pockets, feeling the aliens staring through him the entire time.
Zaxus explodes into a throaty chuckle, then shouts, “Jokes and Cannabis? This thing’s a riot! We should keep him!”
“Zax! How can you just spoil the plan like that?!” says Ace with a mischievous smile before he stands and approaches Sam. “Howdy, you’re looking healthy. But… something’s off. There were two of you the other day. Where’s your friend, humey?”
|May 2nd, 2020|
Well it’s been a week since all hell broke loose, and I survived, contrary to my previous predictions. It was a long, daunting week that I spent constantly trying to get Sam’s face out of my mind, that I spent wishing I just answered that last text he sent me, that I spent constantly feeling guilty for… that I spent… oh, fuck it. Seeing the words just makes it real again. It was a week nonetheless, I guess. Time goes on after all
I’m writing this from our “relocation home” we moved into today; when it was assigned to us in Jaskell, I imagined it would be a tiny room in some shitty hotel. I was wrong – we’re in a medium-sized room in a shitty motel in some middle-of-nowhere mundane-ass town called Mundon in West Virginia. They said it’ll be temporary, just until they find a more permanent place for us to squat. I have a feeling I’ll never getting out of this motel alive
I still haven’t heard from Missus Monta. My sister hasn’t spoken to anyone since Jack died, she’s hardly said 2 words to me, and my parents… they’ve pretty much disowned me at this point. I’m stuck here, diary. I don’t know anybody in this town. I have nothing to do, nowhere to go; there’s nothing for me here
Is this life now?