It has been a while since I shared anything of merit with you dear reader, so rather than giving a detailed explanation as to why that is I thought it better to share with you a piece of that “why” here on the ol’ facets of you blog page. It has been a pretty interesting few months to say the least, but I have spent it busy I assure you – much of my time not earning my place in the world has been spent on this manuscript that will perhaps be the death of me. I am going to share a bit of it with you, but I will not say which bit just to keep it interesting. I will be more active in the coming weeks – thank you for your patience. WARNING/DISCLAIMER: Mention of use of illicit drugs is prevalent in this excerpt. The writer does not partake in nor does he condone the use of illegal substances. Reader discretion is advised.
“I don’t know why you worry so much,” Samantha said with a smirk as she buckled her seatbelt and got situated in the black sedan. “I am a very safe driver- in fact Parker; I have been in far less accidents than you have mister.”
“I know, I know,” Parker looked down his nose at her wondering how many times they would have this conversation. “It is just – well you know how I feel about the passenger seat.”
“Yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that you have been drinking mister man, and far be it from me to escape my duty as designated driver,” her dark green eyes gleamed as a wry smile formed at the corner of her mouth, “being sober has got to count for something.”
“Fine,” Parker said with apprehension, his slate gray eyes meeting hers; hands clasped together, “but this is the last time.”
“Whatever you say Dr. Kennedy,” Samantha laughed as she put the car into drive. She knew this would not be the last time, and so did Parker even though he liked to think so.
Parker and Samantha Kennedy had only known each other a year when they were married. Their proximity to one another at the lab in which they work made it possible for their love to blossom out of a combination of physical attraction and a common interest – brain chemistry. Six years ago today, Samantha became the newest addition to the Neurochemistry research department at the University Of Las Vegas. Her expertise and experience in psychological trauma on chemicals in the brain was surpassed by none, and her no nonsense approach to research made her an asset to the department, and to Parker. They were married on the anniversary of her first day on the job, and they had shared so much life, laughter and love ever since.
On this day however, the two were not in the lab, but out on the town for the celebration of their fifth year in wedlock. All of the work and stress of the job would have to wait for another day as they set out for the local sushi bar to celebrate half a decade of wedded bliss.
The road hugged the hills, like a lazy black river in the darkness as the two shared a few moments of comfortable silence; the hum of the tires on the road the only sound. It was Parker that broke the still of the moment.
“How did it go with subject six today?” He spoke to her, though his eyes were on is phone searching through tables and charts, email and various other items of interest for the statistical data that would match with the topic at hand.
“Well I think. Though it is still unclear whether or not his symptoms of PTSD will be eliminated as they were in subjects 2 and 5,” she stated pushing a piece of her copper hair behind her ear. “It seems that the cocktail of 5-Methoxy-N-N-dimethyltryptamine we harvested from the bufa vulgaris toad in conjunction with alternating doses of MDMA and Psilocybin are actually generating the bliss-state associated with near death experience that accident victims claim to experience, thus helping him accept the tragedy of the loss of his platoon in Afghanistan. It turns out that the afterlife may be nothing more than a chemical signal in the dying brain.” Her gaze was cold, as it was hard for Sam to reconcile the years of Catholic school with her understanding of the brain, and how she now experienced the world.
“Now, don’t get carried away,” said parker as he placed a hand on her leg in comfort, “Just because this chemical signature is present during the process of death, doesn’t mean that is all there is – it is just all we can see from this side of it.”
Parker, though not a religious man had spent much of the last few years travelling to the amazon to study ethnobotany and the practices of shamanism in the jungle. His views on the afterlife had, by accident been altered by the things he experienced while in the care of the Iquitos – a tribe in the Peru. It was during his time in the upper Amazon he theorized that the experience of transition; the white light and passage into the afterlife is a result of a series of chemical reactions in the brain that function as a coping mechanism for humans as they die. It was upon this logic that Parker theorized that the release of these chemical was a sort of conduit into another realm of existence, one in which the physical existence was replaced by an ethereal one. A theory which Parker had not been able to prove as of yet, but had high hopes that one day the two of them would prove his claims – whether Samantha believed it or not.
Samantha, her eyes on the road tensed a little bit at the statement made by her husband. “Two possible scenarios Parker,” her eyes grew colder as she took a deep breath, “the most likely is that it is nothing more than a psychoactive hallucination due to chemicals, but that does not mean we cannot use the experience of death to help people to cope with life after trauma.”
“Just don’t rule out the possibility is all I am saying love,” Parker smiled as they approached a stop light, “Please don’t let your own experience of loss rule out the possibility of something more than this. Einstein said –”
“What Einstein said is irrelevant,” she sneered, her voice growing with irritation and disdain, “just because energy never ceases does not mean that life never ceases. Just because you had some life altering experience with a medicine man in the middle of the jungle doesn’t mean I did.” Her words were cold, as Parker reached up, wiping a single tear from aside her countenance.
“I know it still hurts baby, I didn’t mean – ”
“No. I am sorry Parker; it is your optimism that makes me love you. It is not your fault that she died and I do not blame you. I just cannot hold on to the idea of life after this because we lost our baby.”
It had been a little over three years since the death of her daughter. Though Selena was not Parker’s flesh and blood, he loved her as such. Their little girl was only 7 when she was hit by a drunk driver while playing in the cul de sac one evening. It was with Parker’s help, and the help of several sessions with MDMA, psilocybin and therapy that Sam was able to accept what had happened.
“If that son of a bitch hadn’t died Parker, I would have killed him myself.”
“I know, baby.”
They drove in silence again, though this time not quite as comfortable. There was heaviness in the air, a tangible feeling that neither was willing to accept. This time it was Samantha that cut through it with a coy laugh, wiping the sparse tears from her green eyes. “We are supposed to be celebrating damn it, let’s put this topic away and try to enjoy the rest of the night,” she said through the slight sniffles as she regained some semblance of composure.
“If I didn’t love you,” he said through a forced smile, “I swear I would never eat sushi, but it was your turn to pick. Thank the heavens for tempura.”
“I can’t figure out why you don’t like it,” she said as she returned to her festive state, “it is not like you dislike fish or anything.”
“I don’t hate it, I just like my food cooked is all, besides there is plenty of good food to choose from that is cooked so don’t worry I will be fine.”
They stepped out of their respective doors and entered the restaurant hand in hand as they reclaimed their night of celebration, the lamps of the parking lot hanging above as orange beacons lining the path to their destination. The street and the restaurant we surprisingly empty for a Saturday night, but they did not complain. This was their night, and they were going to enjoy it one way or another.
For the next few hours, Parker and Samantha laughed and talked like they were the only two people in the world. Parker marveled at the beauty of his wife, her slight yet curvy body hugged close by the modest burgundy dress she chose for the night; her faced framed by her wavy ginger hair – her piercing green eyes wise and pained, beautiful and powerful and his favorite part of her entire body.
“You look beautiful tonight Sam,” He said looking her deep in her emerald eyes – waves of soft emotion emanating from his gaze.
“You don’t need to butter me up Dr. Kennedy, you will get lucky if you play your cards right,” she gleamed with a coy grin, “There is no place I would rather be sweetheart.” She touched his cheek with her pale soft hand and pursed her lips – two pink petals set against her creamy complexion. Samantha didn’t really wear makeup, but the lip gloss she chose did a good job of highlighting her plump lips. Her gaze hardened as she looked seriously at Parker, “I just wish you were not going back in on Monday, you know how I feel about it.”
“Honey, we have talked about this,” Parker said sweetly to his wife, “The best experience we can get to validate our theories is first hand, and since you dislike the experience – that only leaves one of us.” Parker, never breaking eye contact with a kind smile on his face reassured her, “It is completely safe, and besides it has been a while since I was in the presence of the other.”
The other, is what Parker called the presence he felt while in the psychoactive state. Taken from the many lectures he attended by his philosophical hero Terrence McKenna, the other was the nickname that Parker borrowed to explain it. Though Sam did not like to admit it, she felt the presence while under the influence of the chemicals they used in the lab as well. Like a set of eyes she was unable to see, she felt the gaze of the other every time she was influenced, and it freaked her out.
Taking the chemicals though, was not the reason that Sam loved her work. She loved her work for how it saved her from the brink of depression and sorrow after the death of her daughter. It was through sessions of psilocybin and MDMA in conjunction with psychotherapy that she was able to accept the truth of what had happened to her baby, and how she could not change the fact. It was in the timeless serenity, in the presence of the other that she realized that her life must go on in honor of her daughter’s short life.
She was thankful for the other, but it did not make the idea of confronting it any easier, and it was the part of the research she liked the least, for fear that there would be some sort of repercussion from altering of brain chemistry that they so often participated in. Sam knew though, that she could not change Parker’s mind when it came to going into the psychedelic realm, she just hoped that this would not be the time that the 20th century propagandists would be correct, and her husband would be lost forever.
“Well, if it must be done,” she sighed, “but you know I wish there were another way.” She knew there was no changing his mind, and come Monday morning the lead researcher on the Precipice Project would be under the influence and suspended in his favorite isolation pod, which he lovingly referred to as R2-D2.
“I will be careful,” he said taking her by the hand, “besides, there are so many questions I need answered. You know as well as I do the other has the only answers we seek.”
“Yeah, I just wish I knew what It was. The whole idea of talking to disembodied entities – whether real or hallucination gives me the heebie jeebies.” Thinking back to their many conversations like the one in the car earlier that evening, Sam wished she had bitten her tongue on that topic.
“We have learned so much from the other,” Parker’s eyes were a blaze with interest as he spoke, “what about Steve Jobs? What about Watson and Crick? They all claimed that the used of psychedelics helped them to come to conclusions that otherwise would have eluded them. We wouldn’t have the iPhone, the double helix –”
“Alright, alright I give up. You are going to do what you want, and there is nothing that I can do to stop you. We can agree to disagree. I know where you stand, and you know where I do.”
“You know, Sam,” Parker cleared his throat, deepening the gaze upon his partner, “you cannot let one bad experience scare you away from what could be monumental to our research. There has got to be a point in time where you leave the mundane plane again, and face your fear of the other.”
He was right and she knew it. The only problem Samantha could see though is how bad her last experience was. It had been two years since her last excursion into the psychedelic realm, and she had since sworn off of that leg of their research.
While in the isolation tank, intravenous pharmahuasca (Parker’s pet name for the synthetic version of the Amazonian Ayhuasca he created in the lab using Syrian Rue and Phalaris plants harvested in the wild) flowing within her, Sam had the most terrifying experience she ever felt in the psychedelic space. Surrounded by a black void – absent of all things she was confronted with the presence of the serpent. A snake larger than the void, and blacker than night itself save for red eyes as bright as coals in a waning fire. The Serpent paralyzed her as it spoke to her mind.
“We are the consumer of all things,” bellowed the serpent, though it spoke no words, “We took your child, and We have come to take you into the void.”
“This is not real,” shook Samantha unable to move as she was consumed by the void, “this is a hallucination and you are a manifestation of my subconscious.”
“Oh are We little one?” the serpent sneered as it encircled Sam with its blackness, “If that is true then why do you fear us so? You are too weak, too frightened for this place. We will keep your spawn, but dare not return little one, else be consumed by the void.”
“She is not yours to take,” shouted Sam with fury in her eyes, “She is my flesh and my blood, not yours.”
“This is not the place of flesh and blood,” smiled the serpent, its maw a glow with white daggers, “this is our realm. Do you need to be reminded of where you are little one?”
Just as the serpent spoke within her mind, Samantha felt the crawling under her skin. First the crawling, and then the stinging of her flesh – as the centipedes came from bloody caves carved in her skin by the mind of the other. What started as small holes turned to large gashes in her soft white flesh until not was left but gore and bone. She was not allowed the relief of death, as this place was somewhere beyond life and death. She was only allowed the fear – the fear and the pain. As quickly as the experience of terror began, it ended and she was back in the mundane plane of existence.
Samantha shook her head with fright. Too many times she had relived that experience, and she told herself never again would she go back to that place, for fear that her hallucination was not so easily explained away. Back in the present she eyed he husband, softened her countenance and regained he composure.
“You know how hard the last time was for me,” she said, still shaken by the memory, “and I am not ready to face it again. Not yet anyway.”
Parker smiled at her. He knew what she went through, and he knew that the thought of him facing such terror gave his wife a chill – but Parker also knew what he experienced in the realm of the other. His experience was nearly always one of growth and self-discovery.
The last time Parker enter R2-D2, he used a pure DMT solution in an intravenous drip totaling about 15mg. Upon his injection, Parker felt his ego dissolve away – tearing off like so many sheets of paper, leaving what he later described as the infinite part of himself to be present in that space. It was during this trip that Parker was taught the truth of his creation.
“This is not a chemical Parker,” spoke the other not quite letting itself be viewed by him, “it is a technology giving you the power to enter this dimension of existence – one in which physicality does not exist, and all is pure energy. This is the timeless place your kind goes to die.” Parker was in the presence of a beautiful bird, whose wings were a blaze with the light of the sun, its voice that of pure love and kindness.
“Unbelievable,” muttered Parker, in awe of what he saw and felt. The world he was witness to was a vivid realm of impossible geometric shapes and colors, with beings benevolent and formless of light blinking in and out of being, touching his very soul, but he knew – never ending.
“You will be the one,” spoke the being, “the one who bridges the gap between our worlds, and takes with you the knowledge of the ancients.”
And with that – the geometry faded, the beings faded, and as soon as the experience began – it ended. No matter what Parker did he was unable to find that place again. You see, it was not that Parker had not tried to enter that ethereal realm again; it was just that every time he tried he failed. He was determined that Monday would be the day that he reentered that place, and claimed its secrets for his own.
Parker looked across the small table at his wife, at his love. He looked at her and smiled as he wondered what she would be like in another five years, in ten, in twenty. “You are the best thing that ever happened to me,” he grinned as he pulled out his wallet to pay the bill. As the waiter came back to the table, Parker glanced at him with a wry smile and asked, “do you accept rubber checks?”
“Oh shut up Parker,” Sam teased as she punched him on the arm, “Don’t worry good sir, we promise not to stiff you on the bill.”
“I was not worried Miss Kennedy,” said the waiter, a slight man with jet black hair and piercing eyes almost as dark, “besides you are our best customers, your credit is always good with my family – And stop with that sir stuff Sam!”
“Why thank you very much Chan, you know we will be back as soon as it is my turn to pick again,” Sam beamed a smile up at him that could stop the heart of any man.
“Hey don’t get too cozy with my girl Chan;” teased Parker, “I might let you keep her! Just curious Mr. Chan. How does a Chinese man end up running a Japanese food restaurant?”
“I am sure you are not that generous Dr. Kennedy. Have a safe trip home. Oh and it is my wife who started the restaurant. She is Japanese,” bowed Chan as he left the table and bid them a good night.
Parker and Samantha left the restaurant, arm in arm as the shroud of night enveloped them, save for the orange glow of the street lamps guiding them back to their car. The street – the very world itself seem to be still and sleeping as though it waited for night to pass before resuming existence. Parker paused just before they reached the car as he heard the gravel tone of a strange voice whispering yet screaming a powerful command.
“Give me your wallet asshole,” growled the stranger, his face obscured by his hooded jacket and the cover of night, “don’t make me tell you twice – I am not afraid to shoot your pretty girlfriend here.” The man grabbed onto Samantha as he exposed the shining pistol to him, a glowing reminder of who had the power at this moment.
“Just relax buddy, you can have whatever you want – just let her go,” Parker’s voice quavered as he reached his back pocket realizing that his wallet was still on the table inside. His heart sunk, the breath caught in his throat as he planned his next move. It was just then that he noticed Chan running up behind them a smile on his face and Parker’s wallet in his hand.
“Dr. K, you forgot your –”was all Chan managed to say before the attacker turned the gun on him and fired, striking him in the side of his head. The blood sprayed out of the exit wound a shining mist of crimson in the orange glow of the parking lot lights. Chan’s body lay limp on the ground the inky pool of red growing until it practically reached out for the captives.
“See! I am not fucking around, your money – Now!” The man shook with a combination of fury and terror, and Parker was not sure if he and his love would make it through the act of this desperate man.
“Whatever you want man, I just have to get my wallet from over there,” Parker said as he motioned toward the moat of blood surrounding the body of Chan.
“Make it fast, I haven’t got all night. In fact, give me your keys too,” snarled the figure in the shadows with Samantha still held by the hair.
Doing as he was instructed, Parker retrieved his wallet now covered in the blood of the former waiter, and preceded to hand their captor what he wanted – his whole body tremored as he released his wallet and keys into the hand of the hooded man.
“Now please, let her go,” Parker whispered his voice alive with the fear and gravity of the situation. “please –”
The dark figure slung Samantha to the ground and in the same motion, struck her across the temple with the gun, the shining reminder of the inequality of their arrangement. He struck her, and shot her twice in the chest before he turned the gun to Parker and without any hesitation, emptied the clip into him hitting him twice in the thigh, once in the gut and once in the chest.
As the assailant drove off in their car, Parker writhed with all that he could manage to reach his Samantha. He could see her breath coming in short gasps as she held onto the last threads of life. His eyes filled with tears as he too felt life slipping from his grasp. It was surprisingly painless, despite the hot rivulets of blood pouring from his wounds shining red under those orange beacons in the night.
“Hang in there baby,” Parker coughed out to his love as he grabbed her blood soaked hand, “I hit the panic alert on my phone – help will find us soon.”
Samantha never spoke, her shallow attempts at breath coming less and less frequently until not at all. Her once vibrant eyes shone a hollow and terrified glare, never leaving Parker’s gaze; her hand becoming more and more limp in his. With a sob, Parker pulled his wife close, holding her limp body in his arms and awaited the inevitable darkness to overtake him as it had Samantha.
In what were clearly his final moments, all Parker could think about was how he had failed Samantha. How he had not been quick enough or brave enough to stop this terrible moment from happening.
“If only I had been more aware,” he thought as the blotches of black grew in his vision. First a thousand pin pricks of darkness, the dots of dark turned to holes of blackness, until they covered everything – all but Samantha. “I could have saved her.”
In the distance, Parker could hear the whine of the ambulance siren, though as clouded as his perception had become, he was not sure what was real. As Parker lay in the growing pool of blood, the swirling pool of fluids coming from him and his wife mingled indiscriminately on the black top in the stillness of that night. He relaxed his form and let the darkness of the moment overtake his struggle to hold on to existence. Lying still, Parker loosed his grip on the world of the living and let the darkness have him. The ever waiting darkness would have them both, just as it should be. He closed his eyes and took his last breath as twilight enveloped his being.