The key slipped effortlessly in to the lock, that was about the only effortless thing today. He lifted up on the handle and a little to the left to turn the key far enough that the deadbolt slid into the door and he was greeted by the darkness in his place. The small studio was awash with light, the furniture was sparse how he liked it and the surfaces were strewn with projects and half planned masterpieces of every stripe. The sink was full too, it could be modern art but only the most pretentious would grasp the dishes undone. He plopped down on to his only chair, a black leather recliner that was comfortable only when you knew which bits of cracked leather to avoid on the arm rests. A glass of water from the day before sat on the cinder block end table. He downed it and grimaced at it’s flatness and pulled out his wallet. He fished in its creases for the small tin foil package. Tyler had said this was good shit. He had heard that before. What dealer sells and says it’s anything but the best, it’s just bad for business. He searched for a seem in the foil and unwrapped it carefully like those weird folks who preserve the paper when they unwrap Christmas gifts. Inside was a small tab of thick paper with lines drawn across it. He stuck his tongue out and pressed the foil to it making sure the paper was stuck to his tongue he balled up the foil and flicked it the corner.
His reclined in the cracked leather chair and stared up at the ceiling taking a deep breath. It always took forty five minutes or so to kick in. He reached for the TV remote but was interrupted by the buzz buzz of a text message coming in. He pulled out his phone and hammered the pass-code to see it’s contents. He felt strange already the lights on the phone were brighter than normal and he squinted his eyes to try and straighten out the words on the screen. An abrupt knock on his studio door made him drop the phone and he looked up at the door. People didn’t visit him uninvited and they were rarely invited. As he stood up the world tilted a bit and he smiled. Tyler really wasn’t kidding about this stuff being good. He tested a step forward on the cheap rug he bought with his Mom when he moved into the place. Success. The knock sounded again. He approached the door and peered through the peekhole to see who he had to tell to go away. Outside the door he could see the dark wooden paneling and green walls of his apartment complex hallway. Nobody. He turned towards his chair but before he made it there a knock came from his single window above the double bed that rested on the floor without box springs. Being on the fourth floor he assumed this was a trick of the substance building up steam in his pre-frontal cortex. The knock came again from the hall behind him and again at the window then from the floor. He spun in a quick circle and laughed to himself. Okay, okay this was coming on heavy, some music would help.
He hit the power button his old laptop from college and navigated to a playlist he had made for these kinds of adventures. The soothing synths and down tempo bass music was already sounding better than normal to him he grabbed the empty glass and pushed some dishes out of the way to allow enough space to tilt the glass in for water. The cool water never made it to his lips as he started to raise it the rim of the glass caught on the faucet spout and shattered in his hand and the sink. Fuck. He set the broken glass down and looked at his hand, no blood. Good. He went to reach for the dollar store dustpan and broom in the corner but the knocking resumed. This time it was a cacophony of aggressive knocks coming from all directions. The room seemed to shake with them and the window pane rattled in it’s frame. He wasn’t new to the game so he took a deep breath and tried to center himself. It didn’t work. The knocking was persistent and he found himself shouting at the empty walls for them to let him be and to bother somebody else.
The dark brown paint used by the landlord to cover the smudges and mold from the previous tenants bubbled and he watched it run down the walls to pool on the floor where it followed the grout lines towards his rug. He ran to the spot and pushed the chair aside lifting up the rug to keep it clean. He dragged it over near the kitchenette. The walls beneath the paint were made of foggy glass he walked up close to one of them leaving paint covered footprints in his wake. He put his hands over his eyes and peered throught the glass. He could see a figure behind it and before he could make out any features it knockd on the wall right where he was looking through, he jumped back with his heart racing. He ran back to his chair and all but fell into it. Deep breaths, he told himself just ride it out. You’re good. You’re good.
Pinwheels of klaidescopic color spun in the corners of his vision and the more he tried to focus on them the further the moved out of sight. The knocking came again and he could see somebody standing just beyond the wall holding a pole or some kind of staff. The figure raised one arm and brought the staff against the wall. A blade at the end of it pierced through the wall and sent cracks sprawling out in all directions. The blade retracted and came smashing down at the wall again. Refusing to accept that somebody was breaking through his wall with a pole-axe Guerillmo sat still in his chair and thought aout the music playing it’s heavy bass would normally lull him into a trance state where he could appreciate the oddities of a trip. The smashing continued until the figure on the otherside was a figure no more but a knight in plate armor holdng his side he hauled himself through the hole he made and splashed into the brown paint on the floor. ‘Fucking paint’ it said in a familiar voice.
‘Micah? Dude what the..’
‘Wait, shh, Guillermo please listen. I can’t do it man. I just can’t’
‘Wh-why are you a knight though? Aww man I’m really tripping. Are you here?’
Micah pulled his helmet off and dropped to his knees. ‘Look man they don’t give you very long to figure it out. I tried and I failed. They’re coming.’
‘Okay, wow. I’m hallucinating hard here, what the?’ Guillermo rubbed his eyes and shook his head breathing deep through his nose and out through his mouth before opening them again to see Micah still there in the paint and the smashed wall behind him. Through the hole a grey brackish sea washed up onto the sand.
‘Look I fucking failed okay. Please just tell my folks that I love them. I’m as good as dead.’
‘Whoa whoa, nobody is dead. You’re not even here?’
‘Take the axe man, take the armor.’ Micah began taking the gear off and tossing it his direction.
‘I’m sorry’ he said before disappearing, vanishing from the armor as if we’re never there.
‘The armor rocked gently where he had just been standing and Guerillmo was thuorughly perplexed.
The sea beyond the hole smashed into his wall was too intriguing not to follow he grabbed the pole axe and turned it over in his hands, the wood was smooth and the tri blade at it’s end looked lethal. He pushed himself up and climbed through the hole in the wall. The smell of the sea never came only an awful, charnal stench. He gagged at the smell and took in his surroundings. Along the beach were cages sunk halfway into the sand, the bits of rusty iron stood taller than him.
He looked back at the hole from which he came and it seems to be in the air itself a breach in reality. Was he having an out of body experience? He couldn’t understand it all he didn’t even feel like he was tripping but this was all so real. He walked up to the nearest cage but stopped as he got closer the cages was filled with skulls.
‘Nope!’ he said aloud. Guillermo Ramirez you are tripping safe in your apartment all is well. He started walking back towards his place and the ground began to rumble beneath his bare feet. The grey sky above him lacked any detail, no clouds, no stars. The cage was shifting in the sand freeing itself he could see the skulls in it rattle around something was holding them all together. Before he could really assess the situation. The cage began rising up out of the sand followed by two grotesque shoulders a rib cage and arms some kind of abomination with the cage of skulls as it’s head roared out at him and began to pull itself from the sand. It’s grey skin pulled tight showing inhuman musculature the creature screamed in many voices. Each skull added a tone, pitch and language. He turned for the hole leading back to his room but it was gone.
‘What the fuck, what the fuck?’ His questions went unanswered as the abomination before him took a step forward with clawed feet and picked up a piece of driftwood nearby. It swung it like a club and sent Guillermo flying across the sand he landed awkwardly and felt something in his shoulder give. The poleaxe Micah gave him lay nearby. He grabbed it and rose to his feet. The voices of the creature screamed out incoherently within them he could here the voice of his Ex she was scolding him as the thing took massive strides in his direction. He hadn’t heard that voice in so long. He looked up at it the skulls and and asked if it was her.
The creature swung its club again but he moved out of the way as it smashed into the ground sending waves of grit and splinters of wood in arcs. He had heard enough of and he lunged out with the pole-axe. It stuck deep into the ribs of the abomination and it wailed in pain. Her voice cut through the screams telling him he was an asshole and that it was all his fault. Caught off guard the next blow from the club came down hard on his shoulder and he lost feeling in his left arm it seemed to work still because he didn’t drop the axe as he plunged it into the monstrosity again and again. The thing sagged forwards and the voices ceased as it lay lifeless before him. He was breathing heavy, the memories of his past weighed heavily but killing them like this felt oddly liberating.
The next cage a few years down the beach began rising out of the ground and he charged at it before he could figure out what it was supposed to represent, impaling it on the axe, it was his Mom’s voice asking why he didn’t come home anymore. He cried out and stabbed at the thing until it too lay still. The cage beyond started to rise up now, dirty sand spilling out of it, he spent the night charging at one cage after the other killing the monster under the sand each tinged with some awful memory of his past. His grandfather, his college, debt, one demon after the next assaulted him until he fell down in exhaustion with no cages in sight. He breathed deeply and shook from the mental revelations. He sought sleep while watching the waves, he smiled.
When he woke up the leather of the chair stuck to his back and arms from sweat. The walls were normal and the rug was in a heap against the fridge. He rubbed his eyes and felt at his pockets for his phone. It wasn’t there so he searched the place finally finding it under the chair. Twenty missed messages were waiting for him from Tyler.
‘Did you take it yet, if you haven’t don’t. Micah is having a rough time.’
‘Dude Micah OD’d or something, I don’t know, the cops are here and he’s not moving’
‘Tyler, please message me man.’
‘I’m worried they’re going to trace it back to me..he’s gone, they took him to the hospital. I don’t know what that stuff was, my guy said it was new..’
Guerillmo had read enough. He powered off the phone and reached for a notebook and pen to write the nights events but not before firing a message off to the folks from his nightmare of trip. The regrets and bad decisions he battled that night wouldn’t be in vain.
That was a wild one indeed. Used the pic below as a prompt. Didn’t really know where it was going but a story reared it’s ugly head, or should I say cage. Thanks so much for reading if you made it through. I’ll be posting more frequently I think. It’s funny how fickle my muse really is, inspiration to write floats in and out of my grasp constantly. Perhaps that’s just how it is though?