The Brighter Truth

"It is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence--that which makes its truth, its meaning--its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream--alone." 
Conrad, Heart of Darkness

“Man, I’m sleepy,” admitted Rodrigo.
            “Here,” said Dan the Man handing him a mirror with a fat line of coke dished out on it from across the modest living room.
            “I don’t know, man.  I really need to get some sleep, I think.”
            “Nonsense, just take it.  Free of charge.”
            Rodrigo rolled his last twenty into a cylinder and inhaled the line right into his nasal cavity. 
            “Good to go?” asked Dan as he cut up another line for himself.
            “I think that helped.  I can’t tell though.  I’m way too fucked up.”
            Dan smiled and snorted his own, fatter line.  For a few moments, he didn’t notice Rodrigo collapse to his side on the dull yellow-carpeted floor and start convulsing uncontrollably.
            “Shit!” cursed Dan.  “Not now, not now, holy shit!”
            Dan hastily hobbled over from across the room, rolled Rodrigo over on his left side and propped his head up with a pillow. 
            “Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit,” muttered Dan as he watched Rodrigo convulse violently on the floor, bashing his head against the wall a few times and causing a head-sized dent in Dan’s beige stucco wall.  Dan dragged him by his feet over to the middle of the room as Rodrigo flailed in abrupt motions.  The horror struck Dan down to his center of being and he sobered up quickly. 
            OK, OK, OK, thought Dan, keep an eye on the clock.  After five minutes, I’m dumping him and calling an ambulance.  Can’t handle this, no, not now.  God no!
            After three and a half minutes, Rodrigo finally stopped convulsing.  He looked dead.  Dan crouched down beside him and felt for a pulse: nothing in the wrist, nothing in the neck.  He put his fingers below Rodrigo’s nose: no breath either.  “Ffffffuck!” yelled Dan as he hobbled into the dirty white-walled kitchen.
            Dan fished in the freezer for the pre-drawn adrenaline needle stashed somewhere behind the popsicles.  He grabbed it and, as quick as he could, returned to the living room.  He rolled the flaccid Rodrigo over like a gigantic joint and injected him with the needle between the ribs and straight into the heart. 
            Now it was a waiting game.  He would eventually regain conscious, he has to, thought Dan.  Bastard better!  OK, OK, it looks like he’s breathing normally now, thought Dan after about five minutes.  Pulse?  Check.  Consciousness?  No dice.  Alright, alright, just breathe, just breathe.  This has happened before, but not like this.  Last time, it wasn’t my fault.  Fuck it.  Forget it.  Look, things are gonna be OK.  Just breathe.  Inhale; Exhale. 
            “Whoa…” Rodrigo eventually muttered.  “What happened?”
            “You just OD’d, brethren,” answered Dan in an uncomfortably relieved tone.
            “How do ya feel?”
            “Strange…to say the least.”
            “You cool, daddio?” said Dan as he placed his hand on Rodrigo’s shoulder.
            “Yeah, I’m cool, I’m cool.  I think I better hit the sack,” said Rodrigo as he sat up.
            “Alright, friend.  The couch is all yours.  I’ll take this party into the bedroom.”
            “That one bitch comin’ over tonight?”
“Ha…who knows.  She’s about as reliable as a Pinto.”
Dan left the room cursing himself for having let that freeloader Rodrigo stay for so long.  Now he was definitely stifling Dan’s groove.  He had half a mind to drag the stupid bastard’s ass out of the apartment and leave him in a dumpster behind Burt’s Bar instead of wasting all that good epinephrine.  There was no way in Holy Hell that Rodrigo was going to be able to sleep after that adrenaline, thought Dan.  Oh well, maybe he’ll come join the party later…although that may not be the best idea.  Dan stopped in the kitchen and refilled the Emergency Shot.  “I hope I never have to use this,” he said out loud.  It was his ritual to say that every time he refilled it.  This time wasn’t as close as it had been in the past. 
Dan distinctly remembered back in the day, when his heroin hookup was top-notch, that he needed to use the damn thing three times in one night.  A bunch of lightweight kids partying at his apartment.  Stupid fucks, he thought.  I told them not to take so much, but “No, no.  We can handle it.  We’ve done this plenty of times before,” they had all so eagerly insisted.  Everything was always a dumb-ass contest in the junkie life: “I can take more than you, I’m more fucked up than you are, my dope is cheaper and better.”  Dan checked the consistency of the flow of the needle and placed it behind the popsicles again before retiring to his meager quarters.
Rodrigo closed his eyes and all he saw was a limpid blue.  “Goddammit,” he said aloud and walked over to Dan’s pinewood bookshelf with a limited selection.  He took out Dan’s yellow copy of Naked Lunch and began to read it.  Rodrigo felt like he had read the thing before, only it was probably in a Dream.
Dan got his four-foot water bong from the closet and loaded a bowl, not before submersing himself in the decadent aroma of his high-quality buds.  The entire right half of the bowl was glowing orange in a matter of minutes and the long, yellowed chamber was brown with smoke.  He pulled the bowl out of the stem and took the entire hit in one go before lying back on his bed.  Two seconds.  Five seconds.  Ten seconds.  A white cloud eventually emerged from his mouth and elegantly dispersed in ever-changing shapes into the ceiling fan.  Dan’s eyes grew heavy as he smiled, letting the THC ships cruise through his rivers of blood, delivering them to his brain from his lungs. 
 After fifteen or so minutes, when Dan had calmed down a bit, he trudged through the apartment to find Rodrigo engrossed in Naked Lunch
“The naked lunch is natural to us,” informed Dan, “we eat reality sandwiches.”
“What?” said Rodrigo.
“Come hit this bong.”
“Alright, man.  I still feel sick, though.”
“No better cure.”
“True,” said Rodrigo, putting down the book.
Rodrigo found that adrenaline and marijuana reacted to each other with force.  He had never been that high off of weed before.  Orange waves flowed past his blurred cartoon-vision and his heart was fighting its way out of his chest: Ba-thunk!  Ba-thunk!  Ba-thunk!  The last speedball was growing dim in his conscious.  He had to have another.  Were he and Dan on the same page?  Or was it a hallucination that Dan was hooking up to the IV again?
“Hey man, let me have a taste,” begged Rodrigo.
“You got any money left?”
“Yeah, but I’ve been using it as my shooter.”
“That twenty?”
“Yeah…” said Rodrigo as he looked down on the ground, ashamed of being so broke.
“That should cover it.”
“Man, why you gotta be so steep with me?  I thought we were brothers!”
“We are, brethren, but even I have to pay my rent,” said Dan as he poked himself in between his first and second toes of his right foot with the IV needle.  He inhaled with Craving and exhaled into Euphoria.
Rodrigo looked on in envy and fought the desires in his head in vain.  “Alright, alright.  Here.  Now hook me up,” he said as he tossed the rolled-up twenty at Dan’s feet.
Dan did not feel a bit remorseful for exploiting a fellow addict like that. Rodrigo would come down again, and Dan would kick him out on the streets, where he belonged.  Besides, the sun was rising and the dope fiends would be filing in, one after another, in search of quality product.  He made Rodrigo wait twenty minutes before even attempting to prepare the speedball, which took him another twenty.  “Keep ‘em waiting, keep ‘em coming back” was the motto Dan lived by.  The sense of addicts coming down from their highs was looming in the air on that early morning.  Dan would have to kick him out after Rodrigo’s drip was done in a couple of hours (Dan had only partly filled the bag). 
The cheapskate’s actions did not go unnoticed, but Rodrigo was at an all-time high Craving and just wanted his Fix.  He had thought to rip the needle out of Dan’s foot and stick it in his own arm awhile back, but didn’t want to mess up his relationship with the best dealer in town.
Finally, Rodrigo was plugged into the “Train to Paradise,” as he liked to call it.
After thirty minutes of staring at the wall, Dan piped up, “You know, there’s a way out of this.”
“Yeah, methadone and Hell.”
“Nah, something better.”
“A new treatment?”
“Sort of, I heard about it from a friend.”
“What is it?”
“The Brighter Truth.”
“The…what?  Sounds like a cult…”
“Better…it’s a hallucinogen.”
Rodrigo suddenly became interested, “A hallucinogen that kicks a junk habit?”
“Yeah, when you take it, brother, it’ll be the last drug you ever take.”
“How could you possibly know that?”
“Stories…every one of ‘em.  Heard of it from many sources.  Last one.  Every time.”
“What…does it just fuck you up forever?”
“I’m not sure,” Dan lied.
Rodrigo stared at the flowing wall, feeling the lethargic junk swirl throughout his body and conquering his innate Craving, while the high-strung coke slapped him in the face with restless delusion.  “Where do you get it?”
“Hoopa Valley.  In the northwest corner.”
“Strange, I’ve never heard about it.”
“Yeah, only heard of it from crazy people…reliable crazy people,” Dan corrected himself.
“Heh, OK then.  I’m intrigued.”
“Apparently you gotta go through some absurd ritual with the Indians while you’re on it.”

 “Stop, stop, stop, stooooop,” I mutter aloud at the eighth spaceship that passes me in the unforgiving rain of the desert outside of Bako.  It does.
“Hey, buddy!  Come in out of the rain!” the spaceman beckons.
I say nothing as I climb aboard the craft that is to deliver me to Alpha Centauri C, or so I hope.
“Watch the bottles on the floor,” he says a little late as my foot kicks them all together making a clink! clink! clink! sound.  Coors Light is stinking up the stagnant car air polluted by some awful classic rock music.  Great, this guy’s wasted.  Oh well, maybe he can at least manage to get me outside of Fresno, there I’d be sure to find someone else with the balls to pick up a junkie like me.
“Name’s Crisco Disco,” he says.
I don’t ask.  “Rodrigo.”
He yanks his eyes up to the ceiling of the car as he downs the last of a can of Coors.  I see the mountains are no longer blue and suppose this guy has a death wish.  “You want one?” he asks. 
“I’m straight for a little while,” I say, not lying at all.  You can hardly feel a beer or two when on smack anyway.  Let the man get buzzed, he deserves it: blue-collared, trucker-hatted, goateed, and reeking of beer and snuff.  Almost as soon as I think this, he hands me a can of Copenhagen. 
“Why the blazes not?”  I hate swearing in front of new people, especially those as kind as this gentleman.  Wonder if he has a family back in Bako.  I’d ask him if I didn’t think it would distract him from the wavy road in front of us.  I stare out the window and wonder about Her.  She’ll never take me back, even if I am clean.  Those damn palm trees are preposterous, nothing like that could ever grow out here in the plains of never-ending dirt and sand.  Dirt and sand.  That’s what’s flying through my veins now, I cringe in anticipation of the next ride.  I wonder if he’d notice an IV bag slung over the back of the chair.  I try it.  He pops open another beer.
“Man, gotta love women,” he says out of nowhere.
“Ha…yeah, when they’re not sleeping with your best friend.”
Silence.  He has nothing to say.  Hell, he probably didn’t even hear me.  I think of Her.  Then the H hits me harder.  Gotta love an IV.  Once you begin to come down, boom!  Are we slowing down?  Are the tires flat?  Everything feels funny.  Oh yeah, never mind.  I don’t think my heart’s beating anymore.  Oh well, not the first time.  Maybe this guy’s got epinephrine in the backseat.  I look back.  I think those are Doritos. 
“Chiiiiiiips,” I mutter, trying to be incoherent.
“You sir, are a genius!” he exclaims slamming his right hand down on the steering wheel, causing the car to jerk to the left and almost hitting the concrete barrier.  We’re in the fast lane now.  I think one of our headlights are out.  Is he swerving or is the road turning?  I try to look beyond the headlights but all I see is the Infinite Darkness.  So comforting yet so awful.  The horror lies just beyond the dark of night.  Beyond?  What’s beyond?  How about the here and now?  I squint.  Nothing.  Red lights in the distance growing brighter and larger.
“Stoooooop!” he repeats as the brakes squeal.  I forgot about brakes.  What a genius invention!
There are houses on the right and on the left now.  Crisco honks the horn vehemently, multiple times.  “Goooooo!” he screams.  My ears burst and my ear drums fall out and violently flap on the floor of the car.  I try to stomp them out with my feet.
“Ahhhhhh!” I scream, they’re everywhere now, crawling on the windows and sliding down into the Abyss.  I take a beer bottle and bash through my window.
“What the fuck!” Crisco says as he pulls over.  “It’s fucking raining!  Are you insane!”  My whole right side drenches in seconds.  I see flashes of light in the distance telling me to go straight down to Hell.
“Not yet,” I say.
“Get the fuck out!” he says as he pushes me to the side of the capsule, into the star-filled glass.
My ride is over.  I grab the IV bag and watch Crisco peel out, swerving down 99 into the congregation of red-eyed goblins.  In mere seconds, a minivan pulls up to me and asks if I need a lift without question.  I tell them I’m on my way to Fresno and they say I’m in luck, they’re going to Sacramento.  And I say I’d love to be along for the ride.  It’s a middle-class family on their way to visit family for Thanksgiving, I lie and say I have family in Sacramento too.  We’re on good terms as long as I don’t disturb the sleeping kids in the middle seats.  I climb into the way back and covertly hang the IV drip on a coat hanger before leaning back and closing my eyes.
The van feels like a torpedo being rocked by the ocean.  It’s just the wind, it’s just the wind.  It better be.  Damn, I’m lit up.  I could use a Coors now, Crisco.  Thanks. These people look too straight to offer you anything fun, boy.  Just lay back and enjoy the sterile Christmas tunes and quietly humming car swaying in the Waves of Endless Momentum. 
            The seat next to me keeps becoming occupied and emptied over and over.  I see Crisco, I see Satan, I see Her, I see Donna, Sally, Dan, Mordecai, some morbid Beetlejuice, and a cowboy-lizard-man, sucking the air through his tongue.  His eyes are yellow and he makes me anxious.  “Go back to the drawing room,” I whisper. 
He says, “Time for another riddle.”
“Go back!” I urge.
“What’s blonde, has tits, and wants your cock?”
“Up there,” he nods his glistening head toward the sleeping wife riding shotgun.
I look up and look back to find him gone.  He’s right.  But I couldn’t get up if Farrah Fawcett herself came back from the dead to give me a blow job. 
I keep looking back to see the raging lava-wolves following us with their eyes of white getting closer and closer and then disappearing.  “Drive faster!” I scream.  Everyone wakes up.
“What’s the matter, are you OK?” asks the demon-clown-husband.
“Who is that, mommy?” asks a small gecko-boy.  Everything’s so dark now.
“He’s our friend, Daniel.  Now go back to sleep,” orders the angelic-haloed-wife.
“Wolves…” I mutter and close my eyes.
I hear them whispering up front, the demon-clown-husband saying, “I know!  I know!” but that’s all I hear.  The gecko-children are awake and are scared of me.
“He smells!” protests gecko-Daniel.
Apparently, that was enough to leave me on the outskirts of Fresno in the midst of a flooding highway: I raised my head. The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky--seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.  This world, in all its glory and progression, has but a selfish heart of darkness.  The forbidding Blanket of Black makes me cringe with The Fear.  It’s November Cold up in Fresno. Forty maybe thirty-five degrees.  Too cold for the ragged sweater I have on.  I pull my hands into my sleeves in clenched fists.  The H is being restricted by The Cold.  I need warmth.  I search for something, anything.  Maybe an awning to sleep under, or if I’m lucky, a Y. 
I walk through the abysmal suburbs, despising the too-early Christmas lights on display.  Way to overdue the whole Spirit thing.  You can’t prolong the inevitable death of Christ and all he stood for on this Black Earth with your lights unto the Infinite Darkness.  If the heart is dark, how can the body emanate any light?  I forcefully kick over the nearest lit-up reindeer and spit on its remains.  I need to get out of this freezing rain!

“Hey buddy,” the man says as he nudges me beneath the wooden park bench.  “You can’t sleep here.”
I open my eyes.  The smack must’ve rocked me to sleep.  Good, it has been three or so days since I have slept.  “Sorry man,” I say and pull myself out from under the bench.
“Do you live around here?” he asks.
“Nah, I’m from…uh…up north.”
“What are you doing down here?”
Hm.  Perfect speech.  Must be some sorta yuppie businessman.  “I’m lost,” I grin.
“Yeah, right.  Well, I’ll tell you what.”  I put on my interested face.  “If you tell me where you need to go, I shall pay for it.  You can not stay here,” he said matter-of-factly. 
This is my lucky break.  Shit, shit, where was I going?  Oh yeah, Barstow.  No, no.  Hoopa Valley!  Yeah, that’s it!  “Hoopa Valley,” I say.
“That Indian reservation?”
“Yes sir!”  Then I notice the Craving.  Fuck, where’s my drip?  I frantically try to remember what I did with it last night.  I’m pretty sure I put it over the park bench to give it a nice flow when I was underneath.  Ugh!  My back!  The solid, wet concrete was not what I needed!
I could tell the man wanted more out of me but for some reason decided against it.  “Alright, if you come with me, I’ll pay for your bus fare.”
“You’re so nice,” I admit.
“Think of it as a holiday gift,” he half-smiles.
Shit, shit, shit.  I check my arm to see if the needle’s still in there.  Nope.  I can feel the man’s eyes roll over my track marks and I can also feel him squirm with regret for helping a junkie like me.
“C’mon,” he urges.  OK, he still wants to help.  That’s good.  I don’t have a back-up needle and syringe.  Fuck, some junkie must’ve swiped it from me in my sleep!  I’m torn.  Should I stick around and grab some supplies, or go with him and make my way closer to The Brighter Truth?  Wait.  I pat my pockets.  All of them.  Where in the Hell’s my H?
“Shit, shit, fuuuuuuck!”  I scream.
“What, what’s the matter?” he asks in an overly-concerned way.
I exhale audibly and say, “You wouldn’t understand.”
“Come on,” he says a bit more forcefully as he grasps my shoulder and leads me to the bus station.

The November Cold was nothing compared to the H Cold infecting my body now on this damned bus.  The heat’s on full blast but I’m still shivering.  An old black woman is looking at me while her husband snores loudly in the seat next to her.  She seems concerned in the putrid body odor we are surrounded by.  I am leaning forward in my seat with my head in my hands because my back has been greeted by the Devil of Pain.  I know I look crazy.  I don’t care.  Maybe someone has some skag on here.  Him.  He looks relaxed.  Shit.  Maybe he’s just a normal guy, too poor to drive but too smart to give a fuck…about anything.  Or.  He’s got what I need.  I lean over into the aisle toward the unkempt black man sitting diagonally adjacent to me.  “Hey,” I say, “you know Dr. H?”
He looks at me and smiles.  “He not in right now, can I take a messij?”
“Yeah, tell him I’m sick.  Real sick.  I’d like to see him.”
The  man scrutinizes me.  Up and down.  I feel sicker just looking at him.  He has Absolute Power over me.  We’ve been on the damned Greyhound for two and a half hours now.  I’d do anything and he can sense it.  “Come ‘ere,” he orders.  I oblige and pop a squat next to him.  “What yo name?” he asks.
“Wus’ good wit ya?”
“I’m in a bit of a fix, my friend.”
“Can you spare a hit?”  He looks out the window pondering the critically-challenging question.  “Look, I’m on my way to treatment right now.  For the last time.”  I pause and can feel that he still doesn’t make eye contact behind those dark sunglasses.  “I’ve been an addict for twenty years now,” I twitch a little violently and The Cold sweeps over me like the Devil’s Touch.  “I’ve had ten overdoses in the past two years and I just need a little bit to get me through to Sacramento.  Please.”  He looks over and scoffs at me.  “I’ve tried methadone, couldn’t kick it, went to NA, didn’t help.  Please…please.”  Now I’m begging. 
He exhales with impatience.  “Move,” he orders.  I get out of the way and watch him head to the bathroom.  I feverishly scope out some other people who might be able to help me.  Nothing but sleeping old men or mothers with little, whiny children.  The Cold hits me harder and goose bumps appear all over my arms and chest.  My core muscles cringe in Hurt.  The Fear has taken a hold.  The clouds overhead tell me to “Give up, just give up.  You should be under the bus, not inside it.”  My hands are in my hair and my feet are beating on the ground rapidly like I am in a death metal band and have a double bass kick. 
The man comes back and whispers in my ear before sitting down, “Behind the toilet.”  My whole body leaps with excitement as I rush to the bathroom.  Try to stay cool.  Be cool.  Don’t let anyone in on what you’re about to do.  And then The Fear hits as a young boy nearer to the back of the bus gets up ahead of me and beats me to the bathroom.  I stand in shock for several moments.  What do I do, what do I do
“Only one person is allowed to be out of their seat at a time!” yells the gargantuan bus driver.
I sit back down next to my Savior and start fidgeting.  The Cold has me by the throat and won’t let go.  I’m going to die, I can tell.
“Be coo’,” advises my Savior.
I look out the window at the eternal gray sky for a split second before jerking my head back to the bathroom door.  What if the little bastard finds the thing and tells his momma!  Shit, even worse, the kid somehow knows what it’s used for and shoots it himself!  I’d be an accessory to murder!  Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!  He takes forever to get out, and as soon as he does, I’m pushing my way past him to get into the bathroom.
“One at a time!” yells the bus driver, though I ignore him.
I hastily lock the door and search for the Holy Grail.  Where is it?  Where is it?  There it is.  Untouched.  Hidden well.  There is a God.  I vomit almost subconsciously onto the floor, completely missing the toilet.  The bastard didn’t leave me a tie-off.  Oh well.  Straight into the neck it goes.  I breathe in Hell and exhale Eden.  I forget about the vomit and casually walk back to my seat past all of the golden angels in every row.  I smile and nod at the boy I pushed who is cradled in his mother’s arms.  She is giving me the Death Stare even though she looks like Eve.  I realize halfway down I didn’t flush and only took about twenty seconds in the bathroom.  Oh well.  Up ahead I see the demon eyes of the bus driver pierce through me like a savagely thrown spear through the rearview.  He glares.  He’s driving us all straight into Hell!  Not the angels, not the angels…  “Not the angels!” I yell.  Everyone looks at me as if I’m not trying to save them.  I start to cry.
            “Sit down!” yells Lucifer up front.
            I find my way back next to my Savior.  “Nex’ time,” he says, “you gonna owe me a favah.”
            I blow him in Sacramento and again in Redding, gaining a taste each time right before The Cold can take the Reigns of Feeling again.  It takes him a lot longer the second time and he almost misses the bus.  He tells me, “Lata’ baby” before heading to Eugene.  I have to find a way to Hoopa Valley via 299.  I cough up semen for ten minutes in the bus station bathroom before making my way to the road. 
            It’s dark again but the carnival is in my head, at least for a little while.  I do not at all feel like walking, my limbs are heavy and my mouth is so dry I think my tongue is about to fall out.  The November Cold is abundant but I do not care, it is a stocking stuffer compared to the H Cold, which is on its way, I can feel it.  My thumb is barely able to move as I limply hold out my left arm while walking down 299.  Several submarines pass by without hesitation.  No one wants to pick up a lonely man on a lonely road at this lonely time on a lonely, freezing night. 
            Thirty minutes later, I realize I’m wrong.  A beat-up station wagon pulls over with a couple of modern Indians in it.  They ask if I need a lift.  I say “No, my thumb’s just broken,” before getting into the backseat.  They smell of cigarettes and bad whiskey.  Great, just what I need: another drunk driver.  I eventually learn that only the passenger is drinking while the driver chain smokes all along the mountainous road.  The whiskey bottle beckons and I succumb to a couple of swigs here and there.  We get to talking a bit and I quickly find out they’re going to the same place as me.  There is a God.  “A coupla Hoopa Indians!  Who’da thought?” I say to no response.  We shoot the shit about random life and I’m surprised at how down-to-earth these guys are.  I realize I’d never talked to Indians face to face before.  They aren’t all about Mother Nature and The Green, Growing Earth like I thought they’d be.
            “So what’re you headed to Hoopa for?” the sober one asks an hour and a half into the drive.
            “Well, I’m in need of a spiritual miracle, a real life-changer,” I say smoothly.
            “Oh yeah?  Like what?”
            I look out into the furiously swaying trees admitting to me that the Last Storm is brewing.  “The Brighter Truth, man.”
            Silence fills the air and for the first time in a long time, my head is on straight for a moment or two.  I listen intently for their answer.  Are my ears popping or are they finally breaking free from my destructive head?  I think…I think I’m in Heaven.  And then the Wave of Lethargy comes and I wonder whether there’s an answer for me there, at the reservation, or inside my own head.  It’s all mental, it’s all mental.  It’s all…me.
            “Tonight’s your lucky night,” says the sober one.
            “How’s that?” I ask.
            “It’s Buddy Here’s Night of Reckoning as well.”
            I don’t know what to say.  Neither does anyone else.  It’s all on the floor.  All my life has led up to this coming-moment.  I watch the dark, foreboding mountains overshadow our moving fortress and launch us forward into outer space.  We’ve come this far, to Mars at least.  Let us keep moving forward.  To Alpha Centauri C!

            The Cold strikes again as I’m tied around a wooden pole on the opposite side of Buddy Here, naked.  There is a ring of fire around the pole, about two meters away from me.  I know I’d be hot if it weren’t for The Cold.  I spasm in the full moon light with only one regret: waiting too long.  The tribal drum beat echoes through the mountains and reverberates in my frozen heart. 
They’ve taken me blindfolded to a secret location, a clearing of sorts.  Right before they unveiled me, they stripped my clothes and tied me up.  I did not fight.  My fate was in their hands.  They bade me drink from a steaming bowl of clear liquid.  I took a mouthful and the fires were lit all around in a whirlwind of orange and yellow.
            It takes thirty minutes or so before a demented black bear pushes me to the Outside.  I see the whole congregation below me: dancing to the beat with their elaborate, feathered or skinned costumes, brilliant body paints, loin clothes, and breathtaking headdresses.  The whole works.  A closer look at myself reveals that I am in a crucifixion pose.  I no longer feel The Cold but everything hurts in a cleansing way.  I am curing.
            Something red jets me up even further into the sky until I am no longer in the realm I was.  I see everyone, but no one I know.  I see things such as: bird-beast-men clawing their eyes out, large antlered snakes and lizards blowing smoke in dazzling, detailed shapes, and the black bugs all over everything, representing my sins.  I try to stomp them out but have no feet.  No, not  anymore.  They black out everything around me and I realize all that I have ever done was a mistake.  I was never in God’s Stream. 
            A purple, hazy tornado appears in my periphery, destroying the bugs and coming right for me.  I try to back away, but I can not move.  Soon enough, I synthesize with the tornado and revisit my entire life.  Every mistake makes me cringe with The Fear.  The horror!  The horror!  What have I done that wasn’t strictly for myself!  What have I done to better the world!  What have I done!  What have I done!
            Every needle I have ever used jabs me in every pore of my body, yet the dope is not released.  I don’t even bleed to let out the pressure.  The Devil of Pain is back with a vengeance!  I feel remorse for every time I shot up.  Every.  Single.  Time.  And suddenly, I can feel the cool streams stemming from the needles enter my body.  Everything turns a Dull Yellow.
            And I see myself lying in a dull yellow hospital bed in a dull yellow room with an IV bag hanging next to me though not inserted.  They can’t use it.  I’ve too many track marks, my veins are shit.  I can feel that I have AIDS.  I don’t know how, but I know it’s true.  I got it from my Savior on the Greyhound.  I accept it.  It is my fate.  I never deserved this life, nor do I deserve the next. 
And then it’s Her, visiting me in my last days.  Her face is sad but firm.  She’s strong, or not interested, I can’t tell.  I can’t tell anything anymore.  She walks up next to my bed, squeezes my arm though I feel Nothing.  I can only feel Nothing forevermore.  There is no bargaining, no pleading, just a stolid acceptance of all there was, all there is, and all there will ever be.
            The gray fog rises over my vision and I am rushed higher and higher, just like I always wanted, until I reach pure, undefiled White.

            He touches me.  I awaken.


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