image by Christopher Hunt
Excerpt of Chronicle III of Hell Bottled Up: Chronicles of a Late Propaganda Minister [Far Gone Books, 2016]
Ahhhh…tired, brain-dead, need stimuli badly–and not the kind that the University would ever sanction. I put out the feelers, and trusted my instincts regarding cost, quality, risk of deception… All the things potential drug-buyers must be aware of in advance.
There were twenty hours left in London, and they had to be good. Either a rabid gang bang, involving no less than twenty seniors at neighboring St. Mary’s Preparatory, or a high-speed helicopter cruise to Faroe Island, stuck between the Upper Hebrides and Iceland, or…
Through cigarette smoke, I saw a black beret rising slowly up the hotel stairs from the vantage point of my room. It was Felippe, which meant trouble of some rare and virulent form. And I knew, just out of simple goodwill–in the Christmas spirit–that I would buy whatever he was hawking and consume it instantly, in large quantities, and remained dazed throughout the tortuous eleven-hour flight back to LAX.
He carried a duffle bag with a huge Masterlock around the zipper. I felt a little giddy. Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway played on a stereo nearby. The company was an odd mix: three guys in the program, but not terribly close friends…just that ‘hey, it’s the last night here, so let’s figure out what this guy is all about, anyway’-type crowd. Which was neither good nor bad. In fact, it presented a unique challenge in coping with three mere acquaintances with a head-steam of black microdot. Which was what Felippe was carrying.
“This stuff’s burning my fingers, man!” he complained. “Take all you need. Cheap. Only five pounds a hit.”
Put on a simple sliding American/British scale, that wasn’t cheap. In fact, it converted to $8 a hit, compared to an average of three bucks in the United States…for acid. LSD. Yes, that’s what we’re talking about. Haggling over a five-dollar difference for a drug that will make you instantly forget such things as Money and Responsibilities and Basic Reality for at least ten hours.
So we bought a paltry five hits and shooed Felippe off like a dungfly, and then moseyed on downstairs to a larger room shared by Sam and Barry and Charlie. Sam preferred Marlboro’s to LSD, so we counted him out, and divvied up five hits between myself, Charlie–a happy-go-lucky leather/rocker, with the hair of Buffalo Bill and the temperament of Robin Williams–and Barry, who was a bit harder to figure.
Our first meeting hadn’t gone well. After cracking something about welfare bums and Social Security fraud, in one of Professor Schwartz’ lectures, Barry remarked that his father was on constant kidney dialysis, and that their family unit would not have survived without Federal assistance. And I felt bad. Not because of my opinions or theories, but that I might have caused this young man to consider his dad a loafer, a cheat and a parasite. Which wasn’t my intent at all.
And now I had to make it up to this figure with long stringy hair, two-inch black-painted fingernails, and the capacity to lash out an essay before the start of a class–longhand–half scratched out…and set the course curve. I admired Barry, although I wouldn’t trade whole lives.
Charlie was clearly game. But Barry was nervous, so I asked him if he’d ever taken mushrooms.
“Twice,” he said.
“No freakouts? No random spurts of yelling or thoughts of instant reincarnation into an Albanian bladderwort as being a beautiful thing?” I probed, hoping he could handle it.
“Nope,” he said simply, looking at the five children’s aspirin-sized pellets being crushed into a fine powder by Charlie, as he gleamed at the mock petri dish, “it was fun.”
Get it on.
Sam Rogers looked at us, around the twenty-third minute, observing, and puffed languorously on a stogey as he read the London Times. “You guys better tell me where you’re going,” he smiled, “in case I have to come get you.”
Charlie was totally absorbed in Benny Hill, and didn’t even hear Sam. I began laughing and couldn’t stop. Laughing hard. Until my eyes teared, and my cheeks flushed and my sides hurt and my head bulged and I couldn’t get a breath. We’ve all been there–not everybody to 300 micrograms of LSD-25, mind you, but nevertheless.
“What’s so funny?” Sam asked, taking small, consistent puffs on his fire stick.
“C-cc-come get U U U U U U U U S S S!” teehheeeehooowwwwwl, “Oh, shit…”
I just couldn’t quit laughing. Because it was so true, and I had been there before. Sam might have to come get us. The odds were riding around dead even. Anything at all is possible under the influence of acid. Hop a plane to Belgium on the credit card? Why not? Jump onto a steamer from the bow of a bridge overlooking the Thames, at midnight, clad only in jockey shorts? Who knows?
Sam just smiled. “God, you guys are going to be a mess pretty soon.”
Barry was listening to a mid-pitch electric crackle, coming from the bare, overhead lightbulb. “Hear it?” he said, getting up on top of the bed, craning his neck to get a better angle on the irritating emanation.
Charlie just liked the tits.
“Let’s get out of here before I break something,” I said “I think my cells are changing shape.”
I jerked the knob assembly on the TV set, jarring Charlie’s preoccupation with two sets of white hanging mammaries, and we jettisoned the Kensbridge out into the cold of London. A heavy mist had formed, giving us about fifty feet of visibility, and lending an eerie tint to the atmosphere, which felt something like standing in a very large cardboard box or a tiny theater, alone on stage, after everybody else has gone home. You might not know the feeling.
Ku Klux Klan serving hot soul food,
And the Band plays, ‘In the Mood.’
The cheerleader waves her cyanide wand;
There’s the smell of peach blossom and bitter almond.
Caryl Chessman sniffs the air, and leads the parade. He knows,
innocent, you can bottle all you’ve made.
There’s Howard Hughes in blue suede shoes,
Smiling at the majorettes smoking Winston cigarettes…
And as the song and dance begins, the children play along,
With needles–needles and pins.
(Peter Gabriel/Genesis 1974)
“Where are we going?” Barry laughed at the whole dingy spectacle–three nearly grown men, laughing like idiots and tripping over nothing, except that my shoes felt like iron, and when I could walk, I didn’t…merely moved on some type of conveyor belt. Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’, keep those dogies rollin’…
“Just turn right, past the Bentley dealership, there’s a cool road,” I said, having led many acid tours with no casualties and great confidence.
They did as they were told, like sheep, and turned right, just off of Elvaston Place, and onto a cobblestone walk. And off the walk was a mews, or a more narrow walk, whose entrance is an ornate, gabled archway. Very Saxon architecture, mysterious, almost medieval…and it was sucking Charlie in.
“What the fuck!” he shouted.
No. This can’t be. But it is. “Charlie, can you make it outouuuout?” I echoed.
“What do we do, Barry?” I asked, worried for Charlie’s future.
“I guess get a drink.“
“No, no. About Charlie!”
“You motherfuckers,” he yelled, as the voice began to fade, slipping away down the dark, scary path, “I’ll kill you if I ever get out of this…some friends you are…” And then his futile calls stopped.
Violence. Evil Karma.
I wanted to run, but my feet had taken root, and I was laughing way too hard. “What was that?” I asked Barry, who had started to approach me with caution and general apprehension. “They don’t make sounds like that…forget it. We’ve got to get Charlie,” I said, pulling my feet out of something thick, taking his arm and running down Elvaston Place, parallel to the pathway.
Hard to tell where the mews might end. Maybe in a grungy cellar, full of spiders and English earwigs. Or in somebody’s crash pad. Could be it would lead to the cockpit of a 747, or to the Bay of Bengal or…the Harrington, of course!
What a great gimmick. A conveyor belt that pulls you from the street into a bar. What a society!
But that still didn’t explain the terrible noises erupting through a silent, distilled air. And the Harrington didn’t look like the same warm, friendly bar I had gone to on my first night out in South Kensington. A rapacious strain of suck moth, the size of a young cormorant, dove and buzzed ears of passersby, trying to jab their filthy proboscii into somebody’s head.
Still holding Barry by the elbow, I hurried inside the club to see if Charlie had made it in yet. The band played a fairly loose variation of the Stones, just adequate enough to get paid for.
“Good God!” I muttered, not accepting what I was seeing: a huge, hideous sore on back wall of the bar. Not some stained-on section of wallpaper, but a sore. A gaping, running, hissing, spitting, live anus, planted right square in the middle of the fucking wall.
Barry gave it one look and jabbed his fingernails into a corkboard and turned into an advertisement for Smith’s Crisps, leaving me all alone to deal with all this weirdness.
I kept my distance, ordering a double rum and pineapple and a shot of Ouzo, just to bring my temperature down, trying to somehow adjust my hammer/anvil/stirrups in such a way as to hear the band whilst filtering out the gnashing, angry sounds coming out of the creature.
I winced, as the thing started spitting someone out, or tried to, or part of him or her–maybe just a tennis shoe. That’s all that came out. The rest was reabsorbed into the lining, as the poor human kicked and shrieked in a sickly, muffled terror.
I finally had to look away, concentrating instead on a tight little cocktail waitress. She seemed sweet, and personable, and very much the kind of gal I would have liked to become a boyfriend to. But I was leaving in seventeen hours, and she was already being flirted with by a Preppy/Banker type. So I looked around the room to see if maybe there might be some other beauty to take back to the hotel and gruel on until I had to leave.
But that was it. Just her. I saw sad old men with moist eyes; girls who looked like they were lost, dressed strangely all in black with white face tint. And then the a table full of junkies–far gone needle freaks–shooting up around a standard bar table and fighting over the syringe which one guy couldn’t hit because he didn’t have any veins left. So he stuck it in his neck, and pumped in something like 3.5 cc’s of what didn’t look like vitamin B12.
A vile belch saw Charlie, and a mass of after-birth, to the bar floor. He signaled a thumbs up and sprinted across the room, yelling for the bartender to get out of the way, and vaulted off somebody’s back, hitting an incredible two and one-half reverse gainer into an open-necked jug of cider.
The barflies applauded and gathered around the jug to see how long he could hold his breath. Charlie stepped and shuffled playfully on the sediment bottom, in no hurry, then started twisting and spinning, slowly at first, gaining speed, whirling about with incredible force, causing a layer of bubbles to begin rising toward the lip of the jug.
The bartender yelled, “Get back!”
He’d seen the trick before. Underestimating the ceiling height would result in a broken neck.Pppop!
Charlie missed the ceiling by three inches, not bad for a bloody Yank, and landed on the bar, pressed, starched and donning a Savile Row banker’s stripe, with an orange polka-dot tie. I tried to correct him on basic color coordination, but he wouldn’t hear of it.
“Whimsy is in,” he smiled, grabbing a cane and started in on a soft-shoe, as the band began to play something by Tommy Dorsey.
The addict in the corner had had enough. Hang it up. Miller Time. Bleeding profusely about the main artery under his chin, he chose to die with dignity rather than on the floor of the Harrington, without proper burial…just left to be looted and chewed on by twelve-pound black rats.
The cancer knew, and secreted a grateful cry. Stripping down to the nude, the junkie bowed out, and stuck his head into the ugly vacuum, as his friends dove for a measly amount of heroin and divvied up his clothes amongst each other.
“Hey, Todd,” Charlie called from across the bar, carrying a gorgeous redhead on either arm, “let’s split and go to the Hippodrome!”
“Sorry, Charlie, I can’t handle the mohawks and nose-rings…it’s just too bizarre. I’d better hang here,” I said, and waved him on.
The sore then began chewing on an ankle bracelet worn by the friendly waitress. She slapped it lightly. “You know better than that.”
It grinned and ceased sucking on her lower leg.
“Come on, sweetie,” the upwardly-prep crooned, making me even more nauseous. If that human turd can score on her, they all deserve what they get.
“I’m really a gentleman, we’ll have a great time.”
“Who says I want a gentleman?” she smiled slyly, cocking her hips.
Its displeasure was apparent. The waitress sat down with the young man anyway.
“Here’s a drink on the house…I didn’t mean to be so cold,” she said, laying down a scotch and soda, then circling around the table to throw the rotting circle some scraps.
“No!!” she shrieked, “not me. I’m your friend!”
TELL HIM TO LEAVE.
“Okay! Okay, ‘look, you’ve got to leave, it likes me, please go I’ll call you tomorrow’…”
A current filled the room, killing off those of weak constitution–booze-hounds first, then the addicts…a couple street urchins. Drinks began overflowing, and the room became very warm.
I hurtled around, jumping out of my seat, and walked slowly, backward, toward the door, keeping my sight locked on the sucking gap in the wall. Pure, unrequited Evil. I stared through the vortex and into the Void, hearing a trip-hammer somewhere in the bowel, summoning up a 400-ohm electroid heart attack.
The blister eyed me curiously, sensing, perhaps, that I had bargained from strength.
GO NOW. AND TAKE ALL YOU LOVE.
I knocked over three tables and pulled a black thumbtack from the bulletin board, and placed the Smith’s Crisps ad in my notebook, carefully, so as not to injure Barry. He would be safe until I could slide him underneath his door. And I ran down Gloucester Road, toward the Kensbridge, hearing the wailing and crunching and all the carnage.
Suppressing some vomitus in the upper portion of my esophagus, stumbling, dazed, I bumped into a puffy old man with a stupid grin on his face. He could barely speak. Both knees were bleeding from countless falls up and down the road. I could see patches of blood on the sidewalk.
A stranger asked, ‘do you know me?’
The question rang of hollow head–
to which I might have said, ‘you do not know yourself’–
but instead bade pity on the wretched man.
His cloudy eyes reflected not a lucid thought;
his tattered clothes revealed a drifting set of paths
toward a dream once clear.
And after the many pints imbibed,
the stories told but not inscribed,
the laughter, drunken as it were, had turned a solemn overture;
He cried, and left me knowing not much more
than when, by chance, he first arrived.
I was now given to a sobbing fit, and aimed my wretched husk for the hotel. I had needed to let loose various body fluids and wastes for the last hour, or day–my sense of time had gone elsewhere–and was afraid that my pants were soiled. Rain was falling steadily, and it was impossible to tell. The potato chip ad had fallen out of my notebook. Probably Barry would wake in a mud puddle somewhere.
By the grace of something much stronger than myself, I wound up staring at my face in the bathroom mirror at the Kensbridge. My irises had gone from jet brown to amber and green, but I was stain-free. And so I worked my penis–shriveled from the strychnine in the LSD–through my fly and collapsed against the wall, ecstatic from the release, and was gripped at the same time with a vicious, clenching chest ache at the sternum. This is it.
I could hear the coroner and my parents talking:
“Mr. and Mrs. Fahey, your son has died…I’m very sorry.”
“Oh, dear God. He burned the candle at nine ends for too long.”
“No, sir. It was by his own hand.”
“How, doctor? Did he suffer?”
“Well, no one knows exactly what might have gone through his mind. LSD is a very unusual substance.”
…the anguish, the heartache–the foul, black cloud of overdose: huddled in this hotel room like a common cat. These thoughts mired on and on until the first ray of sun shone through the curtains, and the panic subsided and I focused on the clock and saw that I had to leave. Dawn was upon me, the blackness having given way to sorrow. And all that I had seen and heard, felt, fathomed and somehow grasped, for one fragmented moment, simply dissolved into the cool, London morning haze.