Universe W-2020: The Psychenauts 4
April 26th, 2020
The Happy Camper
“Have you ever taken a voyage guided by the hand of the Flower?”
The room, the interior of the Psychenaut’s ship and everything occupying it, turn inward a’look Sam. The walls, the computers, the table, the jars of Cannabis, the smoke dangling hazily on the air, lazy, like it has nothing to do with itself; the faces of the violet giants surrounding him on all cushions, expecting a reply. They all watch him diligently.
They’ll never stop watc–
“Uh yeah, actually, the first time I ever smoked I had… well, I guess you could call it a voyage.”
“There’s no guessing about it, humoy,” Zaxus warns, shuffling in his seat. “These matters are as dried and cut as my Cannabis buds; either you voyaged or you didn’t. Which is it?”
Ace leans back, puffs the pipe. Jarius and Bill have yet to phase back into reality since the leaving of Earth, so they don’t react.
“Zaxus,” Fleurna warns, her warning carrying an aura of warn unlike that which Zaxus’s was capable of hauling, an aura which Zax heeds for the moment.
“Yeah dude,” Sam says, wildly jabbing his poker stick into the campfire. “What’s your deal, anyway? Like, you’re so serious about the whole calling it Cannabis and taking it seriously to an asinine degree thing, like, don’t you get what weed’s all about?”
Sam’s back hits the far wall of the spaceship, his poker engulfed in flames.
“You fool!” Zaxus shouts in his face, spittle spewing from his maw. “Cannabis is one of the most powerful forms the Moksha Medicine takes in this Universe, you must respect it! There ah–”
“There are many forms it takes, too,” Ace interjects, revealing what appears to be a vine from behind his back. “The twin Cannabic sisters, TetraHydroCannabinol and Cannabidiol; one reawakens the soul, the other rejuvenates the body, and together, they enlighten the mind.”
“Yeah I knoh–” Sam tries to interject.
“But not all Cannabis plants are the same, my children!” as Ace loosely coils the vine, tying a lasso as he speaks. “Sure, they all have those leaves that everyone recognizes and they all smell like a skunk got high on some potent-ass loud, except for the Cannabis strains that smell like flowers and candy, that is, shoutout to forbidden fruit, but the different plants produce different quantities of chemiculars. At this stage of the game, the majority of strains are hybrids; that said, you’ve got Sativa-dominant plants, they produce more Tee-Ache-Cee, and then you’ve got Indica-dominated plants, they’re stronger on the Cee-Bee-Dee side. Anyway, then you have hemp, capable of about a trillion different worldly applications. Especially when you have fabrication technology, am I right?”
The ship turns herself off for three consecutive moments in order to communicate something to Ace.
“So anyway,” the captain continues, gesturing to the vinelasso. “I have this hemp rope here, and I’m gonna quickly take a quick spacewalk real quick.”
“What?! Ace, why? We need you here!” as Sam doesn’t notice that he’s the only one to react.
“I bet you really think that, too. Anyway, because it’s painfully obvious. Bye.”
Ace leaves the room by lifting the coil of hemp rope above his head and dropping it. The coil vanishes before it touches the floor.
“As I was saying,” Zaxus transitions, “Cannabis is a Psychedelic through and through, and unless you use it properly, you won’t get any of the good effects the plant offers. You need to call it Cannabis, first of all, because that’s its proper name; referring to it in any other way is an act of disrespect, and you internally set up a preconception that you’re not ingesting a potent psychoactive key for your brain to receive, you’re just doing some narcotic whatever to make yourself feel good. There’s only one being out there, one being, to which this rule doesn’t apply to, and trust me, kid. You ain’t him.”
“Who’s he?” Sam asks, getting his word in edgewise.
As Zaxus almost begins to speak, Fleurna doesn’t even give him the chance. “He calls himself Hoontr The Weed God, but it doesn’t matter. He rarely pops up anymore. Tell me more about the vision you mentioned earlier though, I’m very interested to hear about it.”
Zaxus folds his arms and adjusts himself in his seat. Ace left the pipe in front of Fleurna when he hemped out and that’s on the other side of the table from Zax. He can’t just reach across because that would be rude, and sparking a lighter as Sam begins to speak would be, like, homeworld invasion rude. But lo, how the pretty pipe calls to him…
“Oh, before you start,” Fleurna says, grabbing the bowl.
Zaxus watches silently as Fleurna passes the bowl to Sam and lights it for him. His arms fold tighter.
Once Sam’s finished hacking up his elated lung, “Okay, so it was me and Tyler, uh… did… you guys know Tyler, right?”
The aliens silently inform Sam of their unawareness of Tyler.
“The dude who I was camping with earlier in the week, you know. The one uh, the one we all probed?”
“Anally?” said a bit louder than he intended. Then, catching himself, “And uh, and together?” looking around the room. “Like, I mean uh, we, we were all there, right? That… was that just…”
“Listen, Samuel,” Zaxus says, putting a hand on the human’s shoulder. “We’re gonna move right along and hopefully forget to ask Ace by the time he comes back. Anyway, so you and this Tyler?”
“And before you start,” Fleurna says, looking through him, “take another hit or two.”
Sam takes three. Zaxus conveys some sentiments to Sam over telepathy that I’m not quite comfortable scribing, but it convinces him to pass the pipe. Zaxus holds the pipe firm in his right hand and raises his left hand open above the bowl. He closes his eyes and breathes, focuses. When he opens them, the bowl is packed and untorched.
Sam waits a moment, ensuring everyone’s heard enough of their own voices. “Right… so it was Tyler and I, we were sitting on top of this mountain on the other side of town at midnight. It was way back in the woods, like, my part of town is backwoods but this part is back behind the backwoods. We parked in an old dirt parking lot and kept the music low enough, nobody bothered us. From the lot it was about a thirty-minute hike, but that doesn’t matter, I guess,” leaning back. “I just remember it so vividly all of the sudden.”
Zaxus smokes on. Fleurna nods.
“It wasn’t a particularly warm night, but it wasn’t cool either, it was right there in the middle, y’know? I could have been sitting in a temperature-controlled building, it was that perfect outside. The spot was called Low Point, a joke our forefathers play from their graves; it’s the highest or second highest peak in town. When we first climbed up, we were just kind of awestruck; the woods has a different energy to it at night. Everything is very still, very quiet, except for the wind. I wouldn’t say it was blustery that night, but we couldn’t light our lighters at the very top. We had to find a spot.”
A gust of wind sends a ripple through Sam’s shirt. He shivers.
“Tyler and I had explored around up there plenty of times during the day, but like I said, it’s different out there at night. We had the flashlights on our phones and this crappy little battery-powered lantern that didn’t light for shit, but the stars and the moon and, oh, the fuckin’ Old York City skyline was like… the towers looked like glowing stalagmites of ice reaching up at the mouth of a cave after a big snowfall begins to melt, and the light from the skyscrapers carried all the way to Low Point. It was so light out that it could’ve been dawn.
“But anyway, so yeah we torched around with the shitty lantern until we found this little drop-off to the side of the peak. Oh, I didn’t mention, so the entire spot is a big rocky outcrop. It’s literally the top of a mountain, like, the little point? It’s not a point as much as it is a dull rocky lump with some flora thrown in between the cracks, but I think you guys know what a mountaintop looks like, you’re The Psychena–” cut off by a dead leaf caught once in the wind and now in Sam’s windpipe. He chokes it out. Smoke follows.
“So, we climbed down this little drop-off on the side opposite the direction the wind was blowing, the air was perfectly still. Tyler takes his bowl out, he called it Aphroditty after the Greek goddess of beauty. I tried to get him to change it to the right name but he kept it to the left of him, whatever, it doesn’t matter. We packed it tall and burned it down and got high up high on that mountain that night. The smoke wasn’t even harsh, ‘Ditty hit smooth and the ashes flew.
“After a minute or two I felt the comeup, but I didn’t know what was coming up, y’know? At first I just felt energized and I was up and about, like, climbing rocks and stuff, being hyperactive, but as the plant took hold, the energy became… awareness, I suppose you could say, and I simmered right down. Joined Tyler in a sit; he had already smoked a few times at that point so he was ready, although he said it effects everyone differently. Now I know that, but at the time I was a noob. But yeah, then uh, then I leaned my head back against the mountain and closed my eyes. Felt this spinny, rushing sensation behind my eyelids and then woosh, I was somewhere else. In a forest somewhere, it kinda looked like Treering’s woods but it was different, more southern, and uh, and I was a squirrel. There was another squirrel with me, we were in some bushes and the other wanted me to climb a tree. So we climbed, and by the way, having a tail is wild, but we climbed up and saw a few dudes sitting on a log. And they had Cannabis, like, they were smoking, and I look over at the other squirrel and he’s pointing at them whilst nodding at me. It just so happens that we climbed an oak tree, and hanging right above us was a ripe cluster of acorns; locked and loaded, we fired the first round. It hit the one of them with bushy black hair, I think he represented order because the other two were a brunette and a blonde, like balance and chaos, but I digress.”
“Yes,” both Fleurna and Zaxus agree, “you really do.”
An asteroid swerves to avoid The Psychenaut’s ship. In return, the ship travels to unfathomably deep space, so deep the Earth appears a pale turquoise dot in the backdrop. The asteroid never swerved ‘round the ship, but the ship did travel.
“So anyway, we hit him again and they all scrambled, and when they were gone, me and the other squirrel hopped down the tree and picked up a bunch of Cannabis flakes off the ground, and we both hand an armful and a half.” To Zaxus directly, although Zax tries to avoid it, “The humans were so sloppy dude, you would’ve had a conniption.”
Zaxus makes a fist, cracking his knuckles without even trying. “You really do digress a lot.”
Sam stares directly ahead. “So I look at the squirrel and I think, So what do we do now? And the other squirrel opens his mouth and says, in clear English, Nothin’. We’re squirrels, you fuckin’ ass. And then I woke up, and a second later, so did Tyler. We looked at each other as if we had shared a very strange experience, but when I asked him about it, he denied zonking out in the first place. I don’t know, maybe I just imagined it all… but yeah, that might have happened.”
Fleurna, her lips parted slightly, looks to Zaxus. He doesn’t raise his eyebrows, but he does take another hit. The message gets across.
To Sam she says, “Interesting. That sounds like it may have been what we’re looking for, but it may’ve also just been a vision. It’s hard to tell the difference when you’re not perceiving it.”
“How do you tell the difference when you are?”
“Don’t even bestow words to something so drall,” Zaxus says through an exhale of smoke and a flick of his wrist. The light in the room is dimmer than it was when Sam boarded, the haze is thick indeed.
Hopefully, “Have you experienced anything else like it?”
Sam wants to give Fleurna something to work with here, but he’s drawing a blank. There are so many weird instances to choose from; it’s like he’s playing a shooter video game and he runs up on two squads of four guys each but he doesn’t know where to start shooting so he just sprays the air between the squads to pieces whilst the squads both turn around and waste his stupid ass.
Then, he respawns. “I can think of one time that was probably definitely a voyage, but I don’t know if I want to talk about it.”
Zaxus and Fleurna have differing opinions on this statement. Sam leaves the deployment.
“Bullshit,” spawnkill. “You brought it up. Not in detail, but you referenced the event in your mind and made noises referring to it. You gave it words, you’re exposed. Now do better.”
Mortified, Fleurna rushes in with a defibrillator. “I think what Zax is trying to say is exactly what he said, to be honest, but what I want to say is that you can talk about whatever you want, or you can just think about it and I’ll read your mind.”
“I’ll pass on that one, chief,” Sam states, and boldly at that.
A quick glance is shared, but not with Sam.
“So uh, coincidentally or ironically or whatever, this happened the last time I smoked before I started hanging out with you guys, yesterday morning, really early. It’s still April down in Treering so the mornings are frigid cold, like, only twenty degrees or so above freezing. But I was sitting up on my roof in whatever clothing I was wearing, probably this, I don’t even remember, aaand I was sitting there,” broken off abruptly when a gust of wind rustles Sam’s hair, landing a couple hundred strands in his face.
“Oh, and what’s with that by the way? Why do I start to feel like I’m there in the moment when I’m telling you guys these stories?”
Zaxus stands, shakes his head. Fleurna looks at him like no but he walks, oh does he walk, he walks all the way to the wall and then he continues to walk, he walks and trots and polka-dots all around the room; for a solid extended moment that shan’t have came about in the first place, the entire interior area of the cylindicular contained space is stepped upon by Zaxus and stepped upon again and again. Fleurna watches him with that same no look and Sam doesn’t know what to do, doesn’t even know what’s happening. All he did was ask a quest–
broken off abruptly when a gust of wind rustles Sam’s hair, landing a couple hundred strands in his face. He parts the mess and tucks it behind his ears, then, “So I climbed out on my roof real early in the morning and I was just sitting up there in the glow of twilight, and I smoked my pipe… this pipe actually looks just like Starry Night. It might be the only pipe I use out of my collection, and I have like… well, had thirty of them. I built this sick thing in my desk, and…”
He trails off as the Cannabis starts to take hold. It’s not that he wanted to stop talking, it’s not even that dude forgot he was talking, he just didn’t need to anymore. He’s at one with Madame Universe, a’follow of her commands, trusting where she’s leading him and not looking back as he’s led there. He’s come this far, no? Sitting in an extraterrestrial spaceship telling stories to purple-skinned aliens that do Psychedelic drugs to embody and manifest the bringing of light and enlightenment alike to the frayed swatches of Existence where the threading’s run loose; he could be dreaming now, though he’s positive he’s not. His dreams are much realer than this, this is just life. This is where he’s ended up – Sam climbed a mountain with a gun and a jar of herbs and forced himself to make a choice.
And he chose the herbs.
Fleurna and Zaxus eagerly wait for what Sam has to say.
“It… it all just seems so far off now.”
“All what, Samuel?” Zaxus pries.
“That, the whole Samuel thing. Like… my old life, I guess. Being the human who I was, thinking the way I did, embodying the cycle I lived. Like, we’re off the planet, we’re sitting in a spaceship that can leave space if it wants to; nothing that’s happened, nothing that I’ve gone through up until now even matters anymore. It all ran its course and… I lived. And now I’m just kind of here, sat in wait of what comes next.”
Zaxus passes the faux Starry Night to Sam. Little mamma got plenty.
Sam takes a hit and holds it in for a few seconds too long; he can suddenly taste the combusted plant matter inside his eyeballs, of all places, and has to exhale, coughing out lungs, a gall bladder, and half of his removed appendix. He sucks in air trying to catch his breath, but the smoke lingers within this craft – he might as well have taken another hit. Coughing ensues, so much that Fleurna and Zaxus start fake coughing to make Sam feel better about himself.
When the human returns to himself enough to open his eyes and focus on what’s in front of him, he gazes through the smoke and peers unto another world. No, not another world, another time, the last time he smoked before he started hanging out with Ace and his The Psychenauts, yesterday morning, really early. The sun’s outer glowsphere had barely eclipsed the curvature of the horizon and the air was a deep blue, closer to black than purple, cold to the touch. Sam’s baked as a chocolate cake but he’s not gone, he recognizes what he’s seeing, knows what the Cannabis is trying to convey. She needn’t make it so exaggerated though, reality would do just fine.
‘What you’re seeing is reality, Sam,’ rings Fleurna’s voice in his mind.
Reality begins to crumble and crack, a swarm of microscopic meteors scatterblast the ship and effortlessl–
focus on what’s in front of him, he gazes unto another time. An earlier time, not long ago but still far away; a time where he was sat atop the roof of the house he grew up in, sitting in nothing more than underwear, trembling as if he had Parkinson’s disorder and speaking to the open air next to him. One hand is in his pants, one is on the bowl, his hair is scraggly and long and it keeps going in his mouth as he rambles on and on but he doesn’t stop rambling, in fact it’s like he can’t even tell what’s going down, he hocks loogs and spits out saliva as if his hair isn’t there and it catches it all, it’s a hardening gooey blanket of mucus and spittle that you could probably grind up, snort and travel to fuckin’ Pluto with once it solidifies, and it’s not what actually happened, it’s not even remotely close other than the fact that the roof is the dojo, but yet it’s reality all the same, it’s what the Cannabis is showing him, and show him it does, regardless of his readiness or willingness to understand the vibrations between the strings, regardless of his ability to hear what they whisper and despite his inability to learn, this is what She has to show him, and show him She does.
And he sees.
“I have to stop smoking Cannabis, don’t I?”
With eyes wide shut, oh how he sees…
Zaxus evidently had enough during one of the collapses because he’s gone, like, poof and a puffa smoke gone. Sam and Fleurna sit alone in The Psychenaut’s spaceship, the pipe on the table beside them and the Moksha Medicine flowing full force.
Fleurna leans in close and whispers into Sam’s ear, “Now why would you ever think that, my child?”
After hitting the pipe, “Well, because the vision in the smoke. I saw myself smoking on my roof and it… I thought the Cannabis was trying to show me what it really does to me, the things I can’t see.”
“She,” Fleurna begins with extra emphasis, “doesn’t do anything to you Sam. She is a Psychedelic just like eL-eS-Dee, just like Dee-eM-Tee, just like Psilocybin. The Lady Cannabis is an incarnation of the Moksha Medicine, a divine force endowed with universal intelligence that vibrates above all beings but one, and the same can be said for that one. She has a consciousness, She is not an it, Sam, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of yourself for making the mistake.”
“I shouldn’t?” he says, hearing Zaxus loudly disagreeing within his own head.
“No. How else would you learn and progress? The vision you saw through the smoke wasn’t the sharpening of reality’s lens nor was it a prophecy of the future, it was a display of your inner feelings about yourself. As Moksha incarnate, the Cannabis merely taps into your brain and cranks up the dial – what you experience is generated within your own head. Each of the incarnations move in different ways, but they’re all powerful, and because the hallucinatory effects of Cannabis are subtle doesn’t mean for an eighth of a second you should underestimate Her; if anything, Cannabis should be held at a higher regard than the rest of the Medicines for how easily she blends into humanity’s baseline consciousness flow.”
Samuel Monta falters. “What??? What the, where the hell did all that come from Fleurna? Are you suddenly Zax or something? What do you even mean, how the hell do can even know what the baseline consciousness flow of humanity is like?”
Fleurna wills the human to take a hit. He thinks it was his idea.
“Listen to my words, child, do not watch me speak them, else I’ll seldom speak at all to generate the effect myself. Now, say you walk into a public place, a park, a bar, a rock-climbing facility, and you strike up conversation with a random. You get to talking about how the other unwinds and you mention you smoke Cannabis, and if she doesn’t as well, then she tells it to you, but doesn’t admonish you for your differences.”
“Sure,” following along.
“Go back the next week, repeat the process. Replace Cannabis with eL-eSs-Dee, and the outcome?”
“The hasty end of the conversation, probably.”
“Two incarnations of the exact same being, one treated as a part of Existence and one held in the languic purgatory of taboo, the first step of being cast into nonExistence. Language does not hold control over reality, but it shapes it, or shapes the lens at least; delete a word, eventually the thought will follow suit, and everything in Existence was brought here from thought.”
Lagging a bit but keeping his pace steady, “Wait, but… then what’s nonExistence?”
“Where do you think thoughts come from?”
“I have absolutely no idea… seems logical enough though, there are two sides to every coin. Translation has to start somewhere, and the missing link is our consciousness; how else would we know we were engraved into a coin in the first place? We’ve been on the other side.”
Sam’s lost track entirely.
A sigh, not a loathsome one. “As a being aboard our ship, you’re clearly one who occupies himself with the matters of the conscious and the spirit. You embarked on the journey long ago and you’ve come farther along the road than most dare, in fact farther along the road than some are even aware is paved! You may feel like that’s because you paved it yourself as you journeyed, and that may be true to a degree; as for to which degree, well, the degree of temperature of the fresh asphalt you laid over the archaic tarnished layer that you had to walk on to trek down the path. It was hard going but going nonetheless and now you’re here, in the present moment, along with everyone else because that’s the only place we can go, the only place where anyone can be. Nobody really travels, nobody really climbs up or down any ladders, nobody planet-hops to slingshot their craft through a wormhole within a wormhole in hopes of popping out in a different universe because we’re all just here, experiencing what makes up the right now, and it’s never what shouldn’t because it is, and so too it should, and so everything that happens, no matter how minute or expansive in scale compared to the vessel from which you perceive it, everything that happens happens because it is meant to happen, as it always has been and it always will be, and you know this, you’re more than painfully aware, and even if you don’t accept it, you’ve held the thought in your mind and sent vibrations into the Universe because you’ve seen various wordings of the esoteric mantra all across your life, and then you saw it clearly through the lens of the Moksha Medicine and you thought you understood, but you didn’t. You thought, in order to be at one with the spirit and the Universe, to ascend to the higher levels of consciousness and to experience Existence for the asymmetrical, limitless infinity it is, you thought to experience Existence you had to be walking with the spirit of the Moksha, but that notion is guided by fear and nothing else.
“Life itself is a Psychedelic voyage that began before your birth and will end when it’s ready to begin again. Each collapse gives way to what comes next, and what comes next when all’s already come is often a ques–
“Have you ever taken a voyage guided by the hand of the Flower?” Fleurna asks, passing Starry Night to Zaxus so he can fill her bowl.
“Yeah, I think I have,” Sam answers, a vivid image forming in his mind. He has the words, he’s just missing one. It’s not that important of a word, but it’s still good to know, he should still know it before he tells his story.
“Well? What’s the holdup, humoy?” Zaxus demands, all three of his lungs seeping smoke into the rest of his body. Jarius gives him a high five and Bill rolls his eyes over the wordplay of this sentence. Ace stands without a word and hemps out to smoke drugs with an alien of the edge of Earth’s atmosphere. Fleurna smiles warmly.
Sam. We’d all love to hear about it.”
“Well, it was the last time I smoked before I started hanging out with you guys, um. Friday morning, really early, the frost was still on the ground. Just realized frost is just frozen dew; okay, so I was smoking on my roof. I remember I laid back when the sun started rising and I just blinked out, like, I went somewhere else. Somewhen else too, it was definitely future compared to what I knew as present, I was an adult and I was in a hospital. My mother was hooked up to a machine that kept her vital organs going, I don’t even know what happened to her, yanno? She was just there, and I was cleaning her toenails and putting nail polish on them, and I got this overwhelming feeling that I had been there before and that I had kept winding up there, and it just… this is the first time I’m facing this. Wow. That… that actually happened. It must’ve really scrambled me, because all I remember is how gorgeous everything looked that morning, like I had never seen it before, like the Universe had never before looked so beautiful.
“So, so after the voyage happened, I got into it with my brother and my mom and the whole shit with my estranged dad went down, and… well, I climbed a mountain with a gun and a jar of herbs. And I had a choice to make.”
Sam the pipe, unscorched.
“And I chose… the spaceship.”
Everyone nods slowly, eyes shut tight so
Sam may open his own.
Ace returns to the ship and the Universe goes on without missing a beat. He asks, “What whole shit with your estranged dad?”
Sam, without missing a beat, says, “He reacted in a certain way to…” and then sighs through his nose. “He did what he thought was right. There was no operational precedent, he did the best he could in the situation. It doesn’t matter, I left the gun on the mountain and we’re all here on the spaceship, and I know y’all hate when I ask questions, but I’m tryna fly this thing one day, so if’n y’all do or do not mind my asking, if I can voyage with Cannabis accidentally like that, then I should be able to do it, like, purposely. Right?”
“And so it begins,” Ace damn near mumbles with a wide smile, like he’s been wanting to utter the words for iterations, like the very quarks bubbling in the nuclei of his atoms have been anticipating this moment for eons, and now that it’s finally arrived, they’re so taken aback by the fact the shit’s actually happening that their grip slights and the entire execution goes off the rails.
“And so it begins??? Hold the fuckin’, that sounds like I’m the chosen one.”
Sam is very, very excited. “Am I… did you guys come to Earth for me specifically??”
Everybody just kind of looks at each other. Ace says, “We came to Earth to give Chuck Leary a Psychedelic trip and help him sever the last of his ties to this Universe so he could continue forward and fulfil his next purpose. We also wound up breaking the pile of locks off your brother’s doors of perception, and we provided you the opportunity to avoid hard resetting your life and death cycle early, again. Anyone is capable of doing what you do, of doing what we do, even, but not everyone puts in the time required to sharpen the edge just right. This is not about you,
Sam, there is no you.
“But yes, you can voyage on command, that’s part of why you’re here. For the record, a lot of humanity used to be able to do this, it would happen naturally, usually by the time you aged into your late thirties, early forties. Your body starts to slow down but your mind still goes straight ahead, so you adapt the ability to fully use it; now, humans just do whatever the fuck they want and nobody knows what’s going on anymore. I knew that we’d be taking you with us when we left Earth after I met you in the bunker below your basement, but we didn’t come to Earth for you. We didn’t come to Earth at all, we were just kind of there. Are you… do I need to keep going?”
Sam stares blankly ahead, not looking at anyone or anything but just avoiding eye contact altogether.
“You’re one of us now, newboy humoy,” Bill says, patting
Sam on the back. “Welcome to the club. Now, I have this here pipe; she’s a pretty one, came out of this nutso human’s collection, but it’s just made her stronger. I’m gonna hand her off to Zax now, the resident herbyboi.”
Bill hands off Starry Night to the resident herbyboi. The resident herbyboi hands her off to
Without being asked because everyone forgot, Ace explains, “Ah yes, so
Sam, that device you installed into your friend Tyler, it’s likely activated by now. The branch universe has formed and it perpetuates along with the rest of ‘em. Why don’t you voyage there and take care of business?” Sam hesitates. Everyone around him gives him encouragement. Bill pats him on the back some more, Zaxus rubs his head, Jarius scratches under his chin, okay they’re treating him like a dog lmao. He pushes them all away and asks, “What do you mean take care of business, what business do I have with Tyler? I thought my old life was long gone.”
“Oh it is,” Ace assures him, “but Tyler still has business with you. See, that’s how this all works, being on the Psychenaut level of consciousness with us and the Chuckster. You can be summoned by any other consciousness who needs you, even if they don’t know they need you. Even if they don’t know you; my guess would be that Tyler’s conjuring you first because he both knows you and knows he needs you, because he’s got himself into some pretty trippy shit and you were always better at dancing with the Psychs than he was.”
“What do you mean he’s conjuring me, like, how do you even know all this, Ace? And the Chuckster is one of us too, now? Where is he, then?”
The Psychenauts look to their captain. They’re very interested in what he’s about to say.
Ace smirks, looks through
Sam’s forehead and directly into his third eye. “Do you not hear the siren’s song?” Sam exhales the hit he didn’t realize he took and falls back, but fights the urge to close his eyes. How it is strong…
“Are you sure?”
Sam asks, pleading for guidance.
“Sure as not,” Ace offers on the end of a string.
“What do you mean?” as he grasps for it.
“Perhaps I don’t,” Ace shrugs, dropping the pole.
Sam closes his eyes.
When he opens them, he’s at The Hillside Commons.
There’s a hole in the ground in front of him. Within it,
Sam sees a forest in another land set ablaze, hears the roar of a monster in pursuit of the scream of a child. The scream approaches and the child falls through the wormhole, and he thinks, ‘Son of a bitch, it’s really him!’ Sam saves his old friend Tyler Portman from eating Existential shit and closes the wormhole in one foul swoop, but T’s out cold. It’s okay, this’ll do. Sam lays Tyler in front of the tree in the center of the campsite, and then he runs up on the big rock and floats lotus, not sure how he’s floating but floating all the same.
A moment passes, then another.
Sam accidentally falls into meditation and it all fades away.
Eventually, “Yo! Yo uh, who… who are you? What’s going on here?”
Sam opens his eyes and it all comes back to him. Without turning around, “Hello, Tyler. It’s been a little while, hasn’t it, buddy?”
He hears the sounds of Tyler backpeddaling, losing his footing and falling down. After a few seconds, …No. No, no no no, that’s… that isn’t… you’re dead, you… you committed suicide on your younger brother’s birthday, you… I thought you were dead.”
Sam almost laughs out loud but keeps it contained, transmuting the energy into physicality in the form of a joint clutched ‘twixt his teeth. He turns and smiles at Tyler to let him know everything’s going to be fine, but this gesture sends Tyler spiraling.
Apparently kindness is too much for Tyler right now.
“Oh my god, I’ve gone crazy. I’ve literally lost my mind. Sam, is this real? What even is real? Who is Sam? What am I? Who is what? Help me.” Tyler gets on his knees and crawls up to the rock and he starts to grovel, as if he thinks
Sam’s brown upon his nose will help him along his journey.
“Tee. Chill dude, stand up. There ya go,” with a pat on Tyler’s head for the hell of it. “The only crazy thing you’ve done is suspect that I killed myself just because you found a gun on top of my mountain. Without the accompanying body, or even bloodstain, that would be present if I did kill myself. You jumped to a conclusion, man, and that conclusion brought you next to the edge. Then you jumped off that too, and here we are.”
Apparently he landed on his tongue when he made that jump too, because all Tyler can muster is “But… but I–”
Sam, picking up the slack, “And to answer your question, yes, this is real. Everything is real, my friend, at least until it isn’t. Unless it never was real, then… yikes. You wouldn’t be aware of it anyway, in that case.”
Tyler begins to leak tears. “Sam, what’s going on?”
Ace’s words echo in
Sam’s mind. ‘Take care of business.’ Then, staring Tyler in his dribbling, leaking eyes, Sam says, “Nah, let me ask you something though. Remember when your family evacuated Quarryville? Because of the Zerocian invasion ship?”
Tyler remembers it clearly, he just refuses to view the memories. “The… what?”
“The big alien spaceship that appeared over Treering, right next to our houses? Remember?”
He presses play, one clip at a time
“Okay, good. So,” feeling himself perhaps a bit too much, “do you remember seeing any aliens since then? Any at all? Has the word extraterrestrial come up even once since you dipped out your mom’s basement and changed your name? Because ever since I left my mom’s attic, dude, I’ve seen nothing but spacemen.”
“Um, I… no, I don’t think so. Nobody ever really talked about it, I don’t even know if–”
Sam’s heard enough; he coils and springs.
Sam tackles Tyler through the air and pins him on the ground beneath the center oak tree. He wills Tyler’s eyes open and forces him to stare into his own, and so he does.
The look on Tyler’s face describes that he’s borne witness to God; though misinterpreted, the sight’s not misunderstood.
“Sam, what the fuck is this?!”
Sam leans in close and whispers into Tyler’s ear, “It’s not Sam anymore, Tee. It’s Sam,” before hovering off him and resuming the lotus position.
When Tyler’s up and about,
Sam adds, “So, see that rock in your hand?” and then wills a Dif Zoral Tryptamine crystal into Tyler’s hand as his brain processes the vibrations from his ears.
“Woah,” stricken, “where did–”
Sam materializes an entire cast iron bed frame in his hands, then shaves off three of the sides. Then, he crops the top third of the remaining length off and grips the hilt of his new blade tight. Tyler hasn’t noticed the frame yet, good.
“You’ll know what to do and when to do it,”
Sam assures him. “Don’t worry, you got this. I believe in you.” A smile as grand as Cannabis is green, then, “Now,” winding back with the bedframe, “Without further adeau,” ‘Motherfuckaroo,’ “toodle-loo.”
The left side of Tyler’s skull caves inward with a CRACK under the blow of the bedframe, entirely unlike the crack Sam’s skull made the night he caved it in because there was a lot less force behind the swing of his head. The boy once known as Chet falls to the ground and dies in Universe W-420, but that is what it is and it’s fine, just fine – life does not end when the long curtain is drawn. There are other univi than this.
Sam adds the word, “Asshole,” over top of his breath.
Then he closes his eyes.
When he opens them, he’s back in The Psychenaut’s ship and everybody is frozen, time itself is frozen. Fleurna, Bill, and Jarius are huddled together mid-sesame in the opening of a door, Zaxus lays against the far wall between the two broken halves of the center table, and Ace levitates amidst the air, body stretched to full length. He’s reaching, his hand consumed by Dif
Zoral Tryptamine crystals and morphed into a grotesque beastmit armed with seven slender claws; the point of the longest, not his middle finger but his ring, is inches from the soft throat of the strangest creature Sam has ever laid eyes on. It looks… almost human, but yet… not. As if… it’s as if Sam is staring at the template that would eventually go on to create the human body, if one could figure something so daft. Or at least the mold.
It wears no clothes, skinned an off-brown that fancies tan over orange, and it has a strange white webbing between its fingers, toes, under its arms and between its legs, but not from the large sombrero cap on its head. No, no wait, that is the thing’s head, the cap is part of it… it’s like it’s a ten-foot-tall human crossed with a mushroo–
‘Fret not, young one,’ the Stropharian telepaths, seizing
Sam’s consciousness by the silver cable and wrapping it ‘round his throat. ‘We’ve palaver to hold.’
I uh… I had some weird fucking dreams last night. I was like… we were living in this fucked up version of Mundon, except there wasn’t a we, it was just me. And my name was Chad or something
I had this shitty convenience store job, which is fucking STRANGE considering how I picked up an application for one yesterday, and I had these shitty friends that smoked all my weed… or, Cannabis, rather. I should be more respectful
And then… we went on a camping trip and… I think it was Tiny Tim, he came out of nowhere and killed my friends. I ran and wound up at the old Commons campsite and fell… I don’t even know, I guess I fell through it? But Sam… Sam was there, he caught me. Told me he didn’t kill himself, gave me a crystal. Then, he uh… well, then I woke up
It was… I feel so different now. Like I know what I need to do. Treering’s probably safe to live in again, I need to go back home. Get a real job, a corporate position of some kind, maybe at the WDJ. Have my own place, live my own life. I don’t want to leave Iz or my parents, but… I don’t know
Weird fucking dream
Might start collecting crystals
Also, what’d I do with Sam’s gun after I found it in that bush?