The wind sighed softly as our four shadows (and backpacks) trailed in silhouettes against the setting sun, marching steadily up the steep incline towards the crest of that hill dominating the darkening sky. The soft thuds of our boots on the hardening earth meticulously sang in rhythm to the whistling of the wind. Above and beyond, nothing could be seen but barren rocky outcrops drinking the last of the sun’s light, fields of green grass turned crimson by the light of that setting ‘autumn’ sun and sheep grazing in the meadows below. Yeah, a beautiful setting surrounded our four shadows as we continued to march towards the impending freedom of insanity that awaited the other side of that ridge. “Just a few more feet,” a wheezing voice echoed inside my head, as I struggled to regain my breath as we continued to head upwards towards the setting sun, which was sinking slowly but surely behind the hills directly above us. “Fuck me, how much longer man?” I wheezed, out loud this time. “It’s just this crest here,” the reply was delivered by the wind, which was beginning to pick up speed the farther on we climbed. It was also getting darker, much darker.
Our little gathering this evening included Dic Nugget, a short man in stature, but what he made up for in height and weight, he more than compensated for in the size of his black, tangled dreadlocks, which far surpassed his shoulders, and probably his waist too. It was hard to tell for sure right now due to the all-encompassing and rapidly advancing darkness, as the sun had more or less all but slipped off to slumber behind the hills by now. Dic wore his signature turquois khakis loose around his waist and his signature headband striped and tarred in the ever familiar colours of the Jamaican national flag adorned across the top of his head, through which his dreads hung and weaved around like they would the roots of a tree.
Then there was Neil Davies. Neil was a large man, well over 6 ft. but almost as skinny as those liberty caps he loved to consume so much. He sported a mangled mesh of brown hair which was never particularly long, just bushy. But anyway, we were all scruffy looking bastards with an appetite for psilocybin mushrooms really. Why the hell else would we be traipsing up the side of this mountain at nightfall for?
The third in our party was John Strebora, another lover of eating mushrooms. He was short in stature, around the waist and maybe around 5”7. He wore short and trimmed down black hair, and was always grinning like a fucking Cheshire cat on acid. And then there was me, Omar Awana. A strange name, I grant, which may also indicate that my parents were stoned when they named me. I stood at 5”7, and tonight wore a navy blue t-shirt with the inscriptions ‘GWERINAETH’ (REPUBLIC) written in white lettering, pair of jeans as black as the night sky with two gaping holes above both knees, a pendant wooden necklace fashioned in the shape of the African continent and a headband tied around my head. Again, through which my dreadlocks hung loosely around.
Eventually, our feet felt even ground as we arrived at the top of the crest. Still, the jagged outline of an endless hilly skyline slid and spiralled for countless miles farther on. I glanced around to take in my panoramic surroundings; to the east, west, north and south an endless web of hills and ridges encircled us. Directly above us stood the jagged peaks of the tallest giants grinning in the shade of the pale full moon light that had begun his day’s work of ejaculating light into the dark corners of the world. Below us it was just about possible to make out a menacing orange glow in the distance that indicated the direction of the nearest town.
“Well then, let’s brew some fucking mushrooms,” a voice booming and brimming with excitement came bouncing out of the darkness towards me from out somewhere to the left. It was possible to make out three immovable shadowy figures standing solitude around me, but to make out faces was impossible.
“Let’s make camp then; Dic take the stove out. You got the mushrooms right Neil?”
“Yeah, yeah, they’re here. Hurry up though; I’m fucking freezing out here.” The wind was picking up speed, and unless we began tripping soon, we would probably freeze to death. It was hard to move due to the stiffening cold that was like some monster wrapping its icy tentacles around our throats, slowly preventing our ability to breath. We all sat down almost simultaneously on the cold, hard earth, crossing our legs and adjusting our positions so as we sat in a near perfect circle that was soon to become our cooking area. Rucksacks were tossed violently out on the ground, the stove removed from one dark-blue ‘sack and carefully placed down in the middle of our circle. “I’ll find some stones to create a small fire-pit,” I announced. “Yeah, cool. We’ll put that tent up ‘en,” Dic replied. Our moment of stationary respite was short-lived, as we all reluctantly lifted ourselves onto our feet again and began to get productive.
Through the darkness I prodded on awhile from the camp, scanning meticulously for any signs of rocks that we could use to build a fire pit. I walked for perhaps a hundred meters before reaching the cliff edge. I stared down for what must have been a minute and a half in silent admiration at the sheer depths of the abyss that seemed to drop endlessly below. A profound feeling of despair and loneliness took hold as I looked down into the endless darkness dropping so many hundreds of meters. But somehow it felt almost like I’d imagine looking into the depths of Hell and hearing only contented silence whilst knowing full well that somewhere out there you can still hear the screams of a million tortured souls, silenced by shadows. A despair so strong, but yet a freedom so pure. Fuck. Back to the rocks. I picked up a pile of suitably round and medium-sized rocks from the ground and carried them back to camp.
Again I prodded back towards camp, towards the flickering light that had suddenly appeared out there in the ocean of darkness that encapsulated everything by now. This flickering light must serve as an indication that the gas-canister powered stove had been turned on and the mushrooms brewing. “Here are some rocks. We carried some firewood up in them rucksacks did we not? Those mushrooms brewing?”
“Yeah, mushrooms on the stove. Yeah, we have some firewood out here,” came the reply by John who had meticulously laid out the firewood down on the ground. The tent was also up, albeit flapping viciously in the wind. It was hard to make out the colour of the tent in the dark, but it was around the size of, well … I guess any normal-sized four man tent. Our intention was to sleep in the fucking thing. No good navigating the treacherous slope back down to civilization until at least dawn.
After surveying the tent, my gaze was then drawn back down to our make-shift kitchen. By now a metallic saucepan sat centre-stage on the stove; within it lay countless little caps, bobbing lightly on the surface of the bubbling water, wrestling for space up top. “There must be about a thousand in there. Jesus.” I exclaimed, half in awe, half in shock. “Yeah, soon to be some more,” grinned John as he ever so casually protruded another handful of slimy mushrooms from a pouch and dumped them into the broth.
Again, we all sat down cross legged on the hard earth, staring at the brewing broth while John assembled the stones and set about lighting a small fire; a feat he accomplished within minutes. The new found warmth and light emulating from the fire, albeit small, was indeed welcomed.
Up above, the moon sat watching, waiting, sniggering at the little people playing on the top of his hill. The moon knows, the moon listens, and the moon waits.
30 minutes later ….
I dipped my plastic cup into the broth, scooping up as much of the mushroom juice that I could fit into the thing, wiping away any excess pieces of mushrooms still sticking around the rim of the cup. “Iechyd Da!” I exclaimed as I raised my cup into the frosty air and drank the fucking thing down in one. As I tossed the plastic cup onto the side, I had to resist the urge to throw the whole thing back up! “Ugh, tastes like shit!”
“Yeah, … to..o … right!” John wheezed and coughed and spurted, trying desperately to get some words out of his mouth in between strained gulps of mushroom juice. Dic and Neil had already drained the last of their cups, and were already headed for the sanctuary of the tent to wait for the trip to kick in. “Yo, in the tent,” a near-distant voice tried to compete against the groaning, lashing wails of the wind. John and I ran, rucksacks in tow, with murderous intent the twenty meters or so to the sanctuary. “Quick, quick, get in. That wind is savage.” We all scrambled desperately into the sanctuary that the tent provided against the whips that the wind was dishing out at us on all sides. We slammed our rucksacks down victoriously on the ground-floor of the tent. “Here, here. Take some of this. It will clear your mind a bit whilst waiting for the trip to kick in.” Dic was waving around a salt shaker, half filled with cocaine. I took the shaker from his outstretched hand and sprinkled some of the divine white powder onto the palm of my hand, and then proceeded to snort the substance up my nose. I handed the shaker over to the shadow on my left. “Well, now we wait,” said Neil. “Now, we wait”, a chorus of echoing voices preceded and nodded in agreement. “Here, take some of this,” a bottle of blood, red wine was being passed around. I took the bottle, drank deeply, and passed on to the shadow on my left.
“You know, we should seriously think about sabotaging the Israeli water supply with magic mushrooms. It would do those fuckers a world of good, plus maybe they’d leave people alone then,” it was Neil who broke the ‘political’ flood gates, apparently.
“Yeah, sure, send that little fascist Netanyahu a bomb while you’re at it too. Magic mushrooms would be the last thing that I’d think of unleashing on those fuckers,” I said. “No, no, no, no, no. Bombs won’t solve the Middle East out. Netanyahu’s death won’t solve anything; he’d just be replaced by some other guy. Spiking the water with shrooms though? That’s a good idea. Make them look and perceive life differently. Make them appreciate and value the lives of other humans a bit more,” it was John this time who took the argument further. The wine bottle was again passed to me; I took another swig and passed the bottle on. “What we need is peace and harmony. World peace, not politics and violence. Just learn to love and respect each other as humans. Why can’t we just do that?” John pleaded passionately, advocating world harmony.
“Exactly, there’s got to come a time eventually when people will begin to realize that hatred just breeds further hatred. The cycle of violence continues only because we allow it to continue, and it will stop only when we want it to stop, get me?” Dic spoke out for the first time during the conversation, primarily because he was busy slicing up lines of cocaine on the top of his I-Phone. He passed the phone along with a rolled up £20 bank note to me, complete with adorned Queen of England’s face curled up and ready to accept the white tsunami headed her way. I grabbed the phone with a trembling hand and proceeded to hoover up the white dust up my nostrils before passing it on to my left.
“Hey! I feel a little weird. Something’s happening; maybe some fresh air would be nice.” Three silent nods nodded in approval. We all walked out the flap-entrance of the tent into the waiting arms of the night.
The air outside the stuffy tent felt cool, and somehow milder now than earlier. However, the wind still kept howling at the moon, lashing its savage whip down upon the mountain-top that we stood upon. I looked up towards the sky; it was dark, and full of clouds, but every now and again the full moon would pop out, send us a wave, and pop back into the clouds again. I looked at the faces of Dic, John and Neil, and it was hard to make out their faces completely, but I could make out just enough to know that they were all grinning. “I feel like taking a walk,” I said, glancing upwards towards the ridge above us extending all the way up to the sky and the stars beyond. Of the latter, it was hard to make them out due to the density of the clouds above. “Let’s go somewhere,” agreed Neil. I looked down on my hands, which I noticed were trembling a bit, or was I just beginning to experience some double-vision? We started walking in unison towards some unknown direction; I couldn’t quite make out if we were headed up, or down, or nowhere at all. Hell, my mind didn’t even know where we were going, let alone my body. I couldn’t be quite sure, but I think we were headed towards our fire-pit, and my suspicions were realized when we sat down in front of the slow, burning embers.
We all sat in complete silence for a while. I think we were all at that stage just before real lift-off. You know? That point where the rocket’s about to take off, you feel a sharp, gut-churning feeling in your stomach, like some little gnome is going crazy with a pair of shears in there. Certainly the cocaine helped level out the feeling a little, but if anything, the red wine had made it a little worse. Shit. The bottle was still in the tent.
“Fuck, fuck, I need to … I..ne.ee….d to … yeah!” I sat up from my hard-earthen chair and headed for the tent in some haste with my arms outstretched with, I believe, the sole-intention of pushing Mr. Wind out of my way. I tore open the tent door and slid inside, squatted in the far corner, untied my belt and pulled my trousers down to my ankles. I squatted in the corner ready to take a shit before a momentary moment of sanity returned to me as I realized that I was about to take a shit in the tent and decided to retract the thought from my mind; the moment of sanity was short lived however, as the following seconds were preceded with loud cackles. I lifted my trousers back up (but not completely) and proceeded to piss into the corner of the tent. I watched in sheer amazement as a yellow lake began expanding in between my legs, the yellow liquid dripping and streaming all over the place. As I watched the river of piss begin to flow in my direction, I decided it was time to vacate the premises, to abort the mission. I pulled my trousers up, fumbled with my belt and walked back out into the night.
I scanned the new horizon that suddenly confronted me. No one was in sight; everyone had taken off running in unknown directions. Now this WAS lift-off. I couldn’t quite make out from which way the sounds were coming from, but somewhere out there I could hear distinctive, but muffled cackles ringing in my ears. I began to follow the sound, but somehow got tangled following the trail. Up above, the moon was indeed laughing this time. Pissing himself with laughter and amazement, looking down at us shroomed-out little people playing at the top of his hill.
Now, reality was really beginning to distort itself, to erode and dissolve into something really quite different. Everything became distorted; sound, smell, reality, perception of size and distance. Still no sign of anyone else, only this faint, muffled cackle in the dark and this terrible ringing in my ears that was beginning to get annoying. That fucking cackling sounded like some drunken witch had taken a wrong turn home and had gotten lost on her broomstick while trying to find her destination. I decided to walk a little towards the light I could see in the distance. Of course, this light that I was seeing in the distance was the light pollution emulating from the nearest town, which meant I decided to walk further down the hill. Where the fuck was everyone else? I could hear their cackling, but it was impossible to interpret in which direction it was coming from. I decided to take off down the slope regardless.
… A little later
I got as far as the plateau, just before the ridge begins winding up from the valley floor towards the hills above, having lost all sense of being at this stage. My initial mission of re-grouping with the others was certainly forgotten for now. “Whaawe, fuck!!” From the corner of my eye I saw a movement, a figure darting just past my screen of vision. I craned my neck to try and get a better view at this ‘figure’ that was stalking me in the shadows. My neck wouldn’t crane far enough to catch up with this shadow, so I tried craning my body instead. The move was attempted too quickly, and I slipped on a strip of wet mud and fell flat on my arse as I tried to move my body into such a position that would’ve enabled me to face this creature following me. As I lifted my head forwards towards the sky, I could sense a presence lurking nearby. Was it the creature? It was close; I knew the thing was close. I adjusted my eyes, gave them a sharp rub and BANG! It appeared before me. The creature; staring down at me with open bemusement, with these pale, green eyes, and yes! It took me a few seconds to distinguish what these green lanterns seemingly just floating in the darkness were. They were eyes, no doubt about it.
I slowly attempted to get back up onto my feet, using my hands to steady myself. The creature remained immobile, it just perceived to be watching me with keen interest. Its white skin contrasted starkly with its eyes; its green, green, pale eyes floating in the darkness a few feet away from me, but its skin was as thick and white like winter snow. My gaze suddenly became fixated on something else, somewhere out there behind me. It was some intriguing noise that drew my gaze, some scurrying noises out there in the tall grass. My gaze was turned maybe a couple of seconds before my eyes found that of the creature’s again, which still hadn’t moved, it was just staring intensely at me. Except this time it didn’t look like an animal at all. In fact, it wasn’t an animal. It was … whha… The… fuu… it was a washing machine! I rubbed my eyes again. Yeah, those eyes were …what…digital..green..screen. No, that can’t be right?
I tried to speak to the machine, but words failed me. Only an ad-hoc combination of gibberish came out. I was in disbelief as to what I was seeing up here in the mountains. But to my bewilderment, the machine did speak, grinding its metallic teeth, churning, sinister, and dark. I couldn’t make out what words this mechanical beast was spitting at me, but eventually I found the courage to confront this monstrosity. “Who the fuck is you to try and intimidate me man?” I screeched at the mechanical monster. “Get out of here,” I put one foot in front of me, and waved my hands and arms around like a mad man to try and frighten the beast. It worked; the beast retreated, scurrying off on its mechanical legs into the darkness somewhere. This was indeed a victory. However, I still had other problems to face.
I turned around to try and catch a glimpse of whatever it was that I had heard scurrying around in the undergrowth. The valley had suddenly become deathly quiet. Even the wind had stopped whistling, the moon had stopped laughing and the trees had stopped sighing. It was time that my attentions turn to re-grouping with the people that I had left behind at the top of that hill. Glancing upwards again towards that crest in the distance felt like I had just completed walking the Pacific Crest Trial and asked to go back to the start to do it again. I began walking.
The Top Again!
It must have taken me at least an hour and a half to get to the top, but when I eventually arrived, it was deserted. The moon and the wind were the only company there to greet me. Where in the world was everyone else? I arrived at our make-shift campsite; the burning embers of the fire had all but died down, the tent was still flapping viciously in the wind, but nothing else seemed to have changed that much since my last visit a few hours ago. Nothing … apart from … I ran towards the tent, unzipped the door and peered inside. It was empty, and only one dark-blue rucksack stood within. This was bizarre. They wouldn’t have gone back down without me? Would they? I zipped up the tent door, sat inside and pondered. We were four shadows trailing up that hill weren’t we? My mind began racing with worry, with confusion, with fear. Why was there only one rucksack in the tent?
I sat within the tent for what must have been a good half-hour in complete silence, without even moving a muscle. The salt-shaker and the bottle of wine were still littered on the floor. I grabbed both, took a swig of the wine, and proceeded to chop up a fine line of cocaine. I was beginning to think that I had gone mad. I unzipped the tent door again and walked out into the night.
It was cool out here; the moon was beginning to yawn and ponder going to bed, and the wind had by now dropped to a steady breeze. I decided to walk towards the cliff edge slowly, shouting out the names of those who had abandoned me. It took me a good twenty minutes to get there due to my snail-sized steps. When I eventually got there, I again studied the enormous depths of the abyss that dropped so many hundreds of feet below.
Whilst deep in thought, I heard a voice, a whisper. I looked up, around and below to try and determine the source of this voice. “Over here,” it whispered softly. I looked out across the cliff edge, and sure enough, there was a man standing there, half consumed in shadow. “Who are you,” I whispered back. The man stepped forward, revealing his face. It was Bill Hicks. He was standing in front of me, cigarette in mouth, chugging away, but somehow floating above the cliff edge. “Remember Omar, all of this, this is just a ride. It is just a ride.”
“Wwwhaat? … Why are you here? I just came up with some friends to trip man,”
“What friends? They’re in your head boy. They’re in your head. You walked up this barren land with nobody and nothing. You will leave here with even less,” came Bill’s voice, as cool as a cucumber drifting through the early morning breeze. This cryptic message left me dumbfounded and confused. “I don’t understand,” I said. “You will, in time. It will all became clear, because remember! This is just a ride. You see the bottom of this abyss here?” was his reply.
“No, it’s too dark to see the end of that tunnel,” I answered his question. “It’s time to join me, to join all the rest whose time on Earth has run its course,” was Bill’s cryptic response.
“But Bill, what does that even mean man?” I said. “Come. Place your foot in front of the other, and walk out into the darkness,” was his answer. And then, as soon as Bill’s spectre had appeared, it dissolved and disappeared. I was left again in silence, an eerie silence that scared me more than anything else. I looked over the cliff edge at the darkness that lay down the bottom, took one last look at the yawning moon, and as Bill had instructed, I spread my arms wide like an eagle, placed one foot and then another in front, and walked out into the darkness.
It felt like I was falling for an hour when in actual fact it might have been more like twenty seconds. But either way, it was just a ride. The morning breeze felt cool on my face as I fell into oblivion, into a final sleep.
…The yawning moon’s gaze was now drawn to the scene of the boy falling off his hill to his final slumber. He began laughing. A laugh so coarse that it could frighten the shit out of anyone; he has seen the lives of billions go before, another death won’t faze him. The moon sat and pondered a while after life had left the boy, thinking of his own immortality, thinking that if his lights were to go off forever, so would the light of everyone on this planet that he watches over. The moon closed his eyes and slid off to sleep, thinking his final thought for the day; for the boy now;
…. There is only darkness.