You ever been high on yage? It’s some real crazy shit, man. Super fucking spiritual. You trip way the fuck out and start seeing the weirdest goddamn shit you’ll ever see in your life, like visions or something. Most people say it’s an enlightening, eye-opening experience. Of course it’s a lot like sex in that it’s often only as good as how you prepare yourself for it.
Just then, I was having a few problems with that part.
I glanced around frantically, panting, my pupils dilated. I was scared shitless. It felt like I was being painted over by a brush, the palette seeping into my brain through my eyes. The world had become an ocean of sound and color, and I saw things in there that made absolutely no goddamn sense. Felicity turned into some kind of humanoid fractal whose pieces were constantly grinding and rotating around each other like gears that made her look like some kind of machine-elf without a face, Yoshirō had morphed into some kind of hairy dragon with its intestines hanging around its teeth, and Marq’s face looked like it was melting, just dripping away like a wax candle as he shouted at me in a slowed-down bass tone that I couldn’t understand a word of. Oh, and Kichirō and Sostene had apparently swapped bodies while I wasn’t looking as well. Even though they were the only ones who looked normal, they were speaking in each other’s voices and sounding just like each other. I couldn’t tell who was who.
This is what’s known as a bad fucking trip.
My vision swam, and I heard a high-pitched tone ringing in my ears. Nothing made sense in relation to one another. Right was left, up was down, and colors bled into each other. It felt like I was falling without actually moving. I was vaguely aware of the sense that my stomach was about to rebel and stage an intestinal revolution in my lower abdomen, but the weird mindfuck visions suppressed that feeling. I briefly remember hearing my teacher’s voice saying that I needed to throw up, that it would help the visions, but I ignored her.
I was gonna regret that part later.
“Al!” Marq shouted in that ultra-low bass tone. “Are you listening to me, you frog fucker? I want you to go back to our compartment-compartment-compartment-compartment-compartment-”
I rubbed my eyes (no idea how that was going to help with my hearing. The time loops were starting.
“-and then call this number, we need help!”
I shook my head frantically. I’d heard that sentence repeated almost fifty-three times, but I was still tripping balls right now! If he told me there would be no way for me to know if the number I heard was the number he actually said! Come to think of it, was I even sure this is what he was asking me to do, or was this just another step in the mushroom samba?
“When they pick up, tell them to blow the whistle! Do you hear me, Al? Tell them to spin around, stop, double-take three times-”
I rubbed my eyes, although I had no idea how that was supposed to help with my hearing. Guess it’s just that kind of drug logic.
“-Whistle! Blow the whistle!”
I nodded, and scrambled out the door before Yoshirō could notice me. I tripped a couple times but I ran like hell. Sostene wouldn’t let him catch me, right?
The dragon roared, and charged at me. I winced, and felt something hot on my cheek. Visions of my own death flashed before my eyes. Did he get me? Was I dead? Maybe I just couldn’t feel it.
I patted my stomach, and I felt my hand sink in. Oh shit. I’d been torn wide open. There was a hole in me. There was a fucking hole in me!
“Al! The fuck are you waiting for?” Sostene yelled. “Just go!”
“I can’t! I can’t do it!” I screamed, convinced I was dying. “Shit! He got me, he fucking got me!”
“Can’t do…? No he didn’t, you dumb shit! He got me!”
That’s when I realized I wasn’t dead. That blood wasn’t mine, and my hand wasn’t actually in my stomach, it just felt like it. Yoshirō had gotten to Sostene after he jumped into the way to protect me. I could see Yoshirō’s talons dripping with fluid as they ripped out of Sostene’s back. His intestines spilled all over the floor in front of me, along with pints of blood. They turned into snakes and slithered away, and flowers popped up where his blood had fallen.
Slamming the door shut I was immediately blown back into the railing by a shockwave that felt like a one-two punch of getting kicked in the gut and then hit in the back with a baseball bat. I threw up all over my new suit. My good suit. I felt it convulsing through my body like an undulating slug passing a kidney stone (which reminds me, do slugs have kidneys?), and I must have thrown up at least two or three more times before I looked up and saw a giant mushroom in the distance with multiple dangling erections. It was smiling at me and… farting. Then it spat at me, and winked.
What was left of my cooked brain pieced together that the mushroom was a mushroom cloud, which meant that the farts and the dicks were… oh no.
I tried to take cover behind anything I could find as the next shockwave hit. There were no more trees and bushes to be uprooted, so what happened looked more like a giant broom sweeping away all the dust and debris from the first blast and the blasts prior, picking it up and leaving nothing but smooth earth in its wake. Then the spit I mean debris hit, and I avoided it instinctively like I do when anyone spits at me, much less giant naked mushroom people. It punched through the steel platform I was squatting on like buckshot, and I just narrowly avoided getting hit (although the brim of my hat got a nice fat hole in it).
Seeing how close I’d gotten to being swiss cheese, I… threw up again. This time I think I tried crawling back up my leg and into my throat, but I brushed it off. Then it hissed at me, and I think it evaporated.
The cross-walk connecting the cars looked about as reliable as a noodle with the way it was slowly growing thinner, 3D beams giving way to a 2D line, so I decided to just jump over it, praying that the distance wouldn’t suddenly increase in midair. I couldn’t take much more of this shit.
I slammed through the door that wasn’t even locked and stumbled into the dining cart, which was full of people still eating breakfast. That’s right, I forgot. They wouldn’t have felt or noticed the shockwaves in here unless they pulled aside the window blinds. To them I must’ve looked like a nightmare, but to me… well, they also looked like nightmares.
There was a man with a horse face, a woman ate her food by stabbing at it with praying mantis arms, and the children were playing the floor is lava in a terrifyingly literal way, burning each other alive before time reversed itself and they started all over again.
I stared at them, dazed and confused.
“Hey. Hey buddy!” the spider-mustachioed arachnid man behind the bar counter shouted, snapping his fingers at me. “You okay? What the hell’s going on out there?”
I couldn’t think of a response. Suddenly I’d lost track of everything I was supposed to be doing. There was something, something important I should’ve been doing, and I knew that I knew what it was (I never forget anything y’know, except maybe when I’m high as balls) but I just couldn’t settle my brain long enough to catch hold of the idea and grab on to it.
“Huh? Oh, uhhh… I think it has something to do with… the thing doing… y’know, the other thing,” I said weakly, slurring my words, “and someone wants me to call a phone, so if you could direct me to the nearest banana I’d… that’d be okay great! That’d be great…”
He raised his eyebrow at me, and one of his mustache’s legs touched the corner of his eye while the other tucked itself in his mouth. His compound eyes stared back at me, unblinking. I tried to think fast, tried to think of something to say that would make sense.
“EXPLOSIONS!” I yelled. “Mushrooms! Big dicks! Outside big dick mushrooms!”
Yeah. That oughta do it.
I could hear the voices of the diners in my head. Hear their thoughts. Laughing at me. Wondering what the hell was wrong with me. You don’t even know, lady. You don’t even know.
“Yeah, I think you’re on shrooms, pally,” the spider-man said to me. I laughed.
“Oh no no, sir. I’ve been on shrooms, and I can tell you with one hundred percent certainty that this is much much worse! Or am I going to be on shrooms? Will be? May be? Past tense or preterite…?”
“Okay buddy, I think you need to go.”
I jerked back, backing up just like a real drug addict would. “Nuh-uh! No way, spider-man! You can’t put me away! I got shit to do! Vidi vici veni! Aut mortem mihi libertatem! Carpe diem! Si hoc legere scis nimium eruditionis habes!”
I ran past everyone in the dining car, the fat webhead giving chase. As I left, a group of men in white suits stood up and left the car out the door I’d came in through.
I ran down the hallway, banging into everything and everyone I could on my way.
Gotta get to the phone. Gotta get to the phone.
The door to our compartment slid open, signalling the beginning of the end for me.
“Al?” Annie said, poking her head out the door. Oh no. “What’s going on, Al? What’s wrong? You don’t look-”
“No time to talk!” I yelled, grabbing her by the shoulders. “The bees! Gotta get to the bees! The bees are after me!”
I don’t even know what I was trying to say at this point. I looked around, panicking and scratching my itchy shoulders. I could feel something crawling inside me.
“Where is the banana?!” I screamed, shaking Annie back and forth.
“Al, what are you-”
And then I threw up on her. I threw up all over her and on the floor, prompting her to scream and drop me as I lost control of my arms and legs. I slipped and fell to the floor, landing in a pool of my own vomit.
“Oh my god Al are you okay?! It’s the cocaine, isn’t it? I knew it was the cocaine!”
Sometimes, I thank God for my sister’s ignorance about drugs and alcohol. My eyes wandered to the potted plant decorating our compartment. A fern. I pointed at it, arms outstretched.
My consciousness left my body. My soul transcended. I was no longer Alfonso Anastasio. I was the plant. His name was Richard, and I lived his plant-life. I met a plant-wife and seeded two plant-kids, and then suffered a plant-stroke when someone left me out on the windowsill for too long. I died and left my body again, and watched my own plant-funeral as my grieving plant-kids returned me to the earth as plant fertilizer.
My consciousness flooded back into me, and in that brief moment I had been Richard the plant, I had also still been Alfonso. And now I felt more like Alfonso because of it.
I got up, ignoring my sister’s worried cries and obvious distress over being puked on.
“Excuse me…” I said, way too calmly. I said I was Alfonso, but I sure as hell wasn’t lucid.
I dialed the phone.
The phone rang, the timing between each ring randomly shrinking and then growing as the sound dropped down to inaudible lows that made me feel like I was losing control of my bowels before shooting up so high it was like blowing a human dog whistle. My head hurt. Please, just let this end.
Finally, someone picked up on the other side, and it was a voice I knew all too well.
“Ohmygod finally listen I need you to-”
“T-Theo?” I gasped. “What the hell?! How are you… why are you…”
“How am I still a part of this and why in these circumstances am I the one this phone call was meant to reach?” Theo responded dryly. “Is that what you were about to ask me, Alfonso?”
Her tone of voice never changed much, but she sounded pissed.
“… are uhhh… are you okay?” I said pathetically.
“More so than you, it would seem. Your concern was both inadequate and unwarranted. Or perhaps it is the other way around. The Marquis has been keeping tabs on me since before I even left. I even received a package from him on arrival in Montreal. I may or may not also have rendered a few of his men non-operative in my confusion, but this is irrelevant,” she said dismissively like it was no big deal. “I understand the gist of the situation as it currently stands. As our relationship dictates, I respect your motives but I must question why you would choose to keep something this important a secret from me. Perhaps you think me too fragile or incapable of handling myself? Or maybe you let your own opinions and desires take precedence over mine in a matter concerning my life. We will discuss these things next we meet.”
She was definitely pissed.
“I uhhhh… wait no, listen Theo. I’ve got a mess-mass-massage-message from Marq. He says to blow the whistle. Do you know what means?”
“Yes, I know what that means,” Theo spoke softly. “Take care, Alfonso. I shall see you soon.”
The homunculus hung up. Surrounded by the still unconscious bodies of the Marquis’ men, she reached into the envelope addressed to her she’d found waiting at her bed and breakfast and retrieved a necklace, or what looked like the tip of a goat’s horn on a chain. It was a dragon whistle. Carved from a dragon’s tooth, sanctified with the ashes of a dragon-slayer, and enchanted enough to sound like a bullhorn to any dragon within its range.
Theo stepped outside into the snow and raised the whistle to her lips, blowing softly. The tiny horn trumpeted, blowing away the snow all around her for fifty feet to reveal fresh green grass in the middle of an unexpected snowstorm. The sound traveled for miles, and then further still beyond that, and everyone could hear it.
“Let us see and hope this works, Marquis,” she said, keeping an eye out for any expected visitors.