Updated: Mar 7, 2020
There aren’t any words to describe what happened. Honestly, this isn’t a job for words. You could try staring directly into the sun for about ten years while someone pours oatmeal into your ears through a funnel. To be clear, that’s not what it felt like. But that might open your senses to a degree of perception that would allow the inference of the idea to exist in your mind… However, we don’t really have time for that, so I’ll give language a shot and do the best I can.
I found myself falling off of the face of the world, like my mind had been a 1-dimensional cup of coffee stretched out and remastered into 3D, played backwards on a network of computers that could only be used by beings with eyes that see in reverse. My coffee--the thoughts--spilled out all over the table (there’s a table in this simulation. Right next to the bowl of fruit.)
Time was slowed down for me. I could control it. I could make it stop, if I wanted to. And yet, I was acutely aware that the timeflow for everyone else and everything else was still ongoing, and while that may seem like, for all intents and purposes, time was still moving normally for me as well, I can assure you, that time was… shit, where was I?
I looked around me and realized that I’d slipped out of my body long ago. I’d forgotten it back at the gas station, in a closet, surrounded by swarms of dick-gnats. And I’d left my wallet and keys and phone on my body, so I was truly naked now in the most literal and metaphysical way possible.
I was somewhere inside of an infinity, and my brain was somewhere inside another infinity, and my body was somewhere inside a different infinity, and in some ways, I was infinity. I felt the universe’s cruel love and understood that I was just a molecule in an exploding star. The world didn’t need me. I could live and exist among the cosmos forever. There was a gorgeous, shining light, and I was part of it. All the pain my mortal body had ever endured was so small in comparison to forever. I was at peace. This whole stupid scary gas station thing was dumb anyway. Maybe in the next life I could be a bat. Some bats eat fruit, right? I could do that. Sleep all day. Eat berries all night. Fly in a group with friends. Live forever. Solve mysteries. Ride rollercoasters. Bats ride rollercoasters, don’t they? If not, they will. I just need to rearrange reality slightly and I can do and be anything I want.
I felt a shock. The universe pushing back against my absurd attempt to interrupt the melody. The song was already in motion. I couldn’t change it. Only listen and enjoy. Close enough. I settled in to ride the wave. To see what the storyteller had in store for--
Jerry smacked me across the face.
“DUDE! Snap out of it! We gots shit to do.”
I was back in the gas station supply room, sitting in the corner and drooling all over myself. How long had I been gone? And where exactly had I gone to?
Yen knelt in front of me and shined the red flashlight into my eyes. “His pupils are dilated,” she announced. “Did you hit your head?”
“This could be a sign of traumatic brain injury. We need to get out of here and find a hospital--”
“Nah,” Jerry interrupted. “It’s just the drugs finally kicking in.”
I sat up, and the entire world sloshed into place after me. The room had some momentary lag to it. And strangely enough, I could see everything as clear as ever.
“What drugs?” I asked.
“Okay, so, promise you won’t get mad,” he said.
“I will not promise that.”
“Okay, well, if you promise you won’t get mad, I’ll tell you. Remember how I requested to work tonight? Well, the reason was because I needed someone responsible like you to be here in case things got heavy. You know, because I trust you to make sure I’m safe and not call the cops if I have a bad trip.”
The world finally snapped into place around me. Everything was back to normal, except for the fact that I could suddenly see everybody’s aura. Looking back, that seems rather strange, but at the moment it felt perfectly inconsequential.
“What did you do?” I asked.
Jerry’s aura was a strange kind of sunny yellow and pink, swirling with vibrant energy. It was a controlled chaos, like a Picasso painting in a blender. “Well, as you know, Halloween is sacred to me, and I wanted to make sure I did something special for it. So, I made some hallucinogenic tea, and I may have been microdosing for the last few days to optimize my high. I thought it would let me see some other worlds, but for the most part it just showed me truths about how tiny we are in the universe.”
"I know right!" I said with excitement before snapping out of the spell. "What was in that flask you gave me?”
“It’s a special homebrew. There’s a few different ingredients. Primarily…” he mumbled a couple of words under his breath as his aura shifted to purple and baby blue. He didn’t want me to know.
He couldn’t look at me. “I said, primarily ayahuasca and peyote.”
Lucy let out a loud and inappropriate, “Ha!” Yen gave her a disapproving mom face, but Lucy shrugged. “What? That’s actually funny. You know, in a we’re all gonna die, but at least you’re high kinda way.” Her aura was bright orange and fire red.
Yen’s was cool blue and wavy. “I’d prefer we find a way out of this where nobody else has to die.”
My tongue felt funny. “I don’t know a lot about recreational drugs.”
Jerry seemed almost offended by my choice of words. His aura made a frowny face as he explained, “These are not recreational. They’re spiritual and medicinal. Native Americans used peyote to treat influenza, snake and scorpion bites, even blindness. Because it helps you see out of more than just your eyes.”
Yen nodded, “Actually, he’s not completely wrong. Ayahuasca has been used for ages by indigenous peoples to combat tropical parasites.”
Lucy said, “Great, so we accidentally dumb-lucked our way into the antidote for zombism.”
Yen was quick to distance herself from where the conversation was headed. “Wait, we’re not honestly saying Bart is some kind of… reanimated corpse. That’s absolutely absurd. He must have simply had a weak pulse that I couldn’t detect. The blood loss probably left him confused and disoriented. And that brain injury from the sword must be what caused him to break the glass in an effort to get away. There is a perfectly normal explanation for everything that’s happened tonight.” How annoyingly rational of her.
Lucy scrunched up her nose. “You may be right, but I’ve seen enough weird shit in my life to know that monsters are real. I don’t suppose you guys have any more of that stuff, do you?”
“Alas,” Jerry answered. “Jack power-chugged it like he was a freshman at rush week.”
“Not as sorry as you’re gonna be. There’s a fuse before that stuff hits all at once, and if you’re not used to the effects, well… You may find yourself falling in and out of corporeality. That’s normal. If you end up in the other place, look for the mescalito spirit to be your guide. He doesn’t always appear for first-timers, but considering how much tea you drank, I think he’ll pretty much have to show.”
I nearly jumped out of my skin when we heard the sound of a knocking at the door, and with those drugs coursing through my veins, such a thing felt very possible.
“Who is it?” Jerry said in a strange, high-pitched voice.
“Open the door!” blasted Owen. Or, at least, something using Owen’s voice. Yen jumped for the door, but Lucy snatched her by the wrist with both hands and stopped her.
“Let go!” she said. “Owen’s out there in that mess!”
The voice on the other side of the door was desperate, “Come on! Let me in! These things are everywhere! I can barely breathe!” He started coughing loudly, convincingly, then continued, “Please! I’m hurt! I’m bleeding really badly! You have to open up!”
Yen shook her hand free from Lucy’s grasp and said, “We have to let him in! He’ll die out there! I know he’s a shitty person, but he doesn’t deserve this!” Her aura was glowing white hot. But something else was drowning it out.
I could see the aura of whatever was standing on the other side of the door, and it was monstrous, hungry, and angry. It was shaped like a human, but it radiated an unholy energy. Now I understood; this must have been what Jerry saw when he looked at Abrahm. It acted human, presented human, but it was not.
“Hey,” I said, pulling myself to my feet. “That’s not Owen. If you open that door, we’re all screwed.”
Her aura went red the moment she made up her mind. I knew what was coming, but I didn’t have the time to stop it. “You’re all crazy!” With that, she lunged forward and slid open the lock.
The door swung open immediately, and the thing, the vessel that had once been Owen, stepped inside our room. His face was covered in lines of green dots, racing around and over one another, crawling in and out of the holes where his nose and eyes used to be. His once-handsome face was now skeletal caverns for the highway of insects, wearing away to the bone as the mobilised army of infant mayflies took millions of tiny bites. He lifted his hands, one of which had been degloved at the wrist where the zip tie had held him in place. His fingers caught Yen by the throat and squeezed her screams into silence.
They both went down. Yen hit her back against the floor. That thing landed on top of her, still squeezing. Its jaw opened as a pair of long, thin appendages reached out, dangling from the other side of his teeth, inches above her face.
The swarm of insects invaded the room. Jerry launched onto Owen’s back. Lucy grabbed the flashlight and broke it against Owen’s face. The thing released its grip on Yen just long enough to grab the other two and throw them into the hallway. When it turned back to its victim, the Queen was already halfway removed from Owen’s mouth. Its eyes staring at the poor woman crying in front of it. Its fishbone legs scratching the skin of Owen’s mouth away in chunks like it couldn’t wait to free itself.
Suddenly, they were far away.
Or I was far away.
No, no, no, not now! Keep it together, Jack! You can trip later! They need you!
The room was gone. I was standing outside. Cold, wet air blew against my face, filling my nostrils with the smell of wood smoke and sand. The sky above me was filled with crisp stars reaching