Devolving

The Sky (Photo credit: S.T. Ranscht)

Legitimate research into the benefits of LSD in treating PTSD is currently in the mainstream. The lesser known fact is that this kind of research has been conducted since the 1950s.

So maybe this short story in response to the prompt “Devolving” will strike a chord with you. Maybe not, but I can vouch for the hallucinations, and hey, the realizations sure felt profound. More than that, they’ve stayed with me all this time.

But if you don’t identify with this story, try one of the others over at Writers Co-op. (I am particularly fond of Curtis Bausse’s My Brother’s Keeper.)

We would love for you to join us. The next prompt is “Entitled”. (See Writers Co-op for the very easy submission guidelines.)

From the Highest Heights

by S.T. Ranscht

“Blotter acid?” Damon asked. “What’s blotter acid?”

Robert fidgeted and rolled his eyes waiting for his tab.

Stephanie drew a card and moved her piece to the next yellow square. “It’s just a different delivery system,” she said. “Blotter paper gives you extra fiber with none of the empty calories of a sugar cube. Even diabetics could take blotter acid.”

“Okay, okay,” Robert leaned across the board with his hand out. “Nobody here is diabetic are they?”

“Check your attitude, Bob. If you have a bad trip, it’s gonna ruin it for all of us, and Mom and Dad will find out.” She gave a little square of soft paper to each of the boys and placed one on her tongue. Zipping the rest up in the baggie, she smacked Robert’s hand away when he reached for it.

“Hey!” He looked offended. “You’ve got plenty. I just want one more. What’s your problem?”

I’m not the one with a problem. Don’t be an idiot. You don’t know how strong this stuff is yet.”

Damon held his square between his thumb and forefinger, studying one side and then the other. “How long till we feel it? How will we know if it works?”

“If it’s good stuff,” Damon said, mashing his between his molars, “15 or 20 minutes, maybe less. And you’ll know, believe me.”

“It’s not always the same for everybody, even from the same batch. But Robert’s right — you’ll know,” Stephanie assured him. “Just don’t start laughing.”

“Why not?”

“You won’t be able to stop. Whose turn is it?”

Robert snatched a card. “Mine! Cool, double blue.” He hopped his piece from the next blue to the one after that.

With a doubtful look on a face anticipating disaster, Damon squeezed his eyes shut as he slowly brought the tab to his mouth. Stephanie and Robert watched him chew and swallow.

“Take your turn,” Robert urged.

Damon drew Plumpy. “Crap!” He moved his piece all the way from Princess Lolly to the bottom of the board.

“You’re going the wrong way, man,” Robert said with glee, jumping to his feet. “I’m gonna go get something to drink. You guys want anything?”

“Do you have Dr. Pepper?” Damon asked without much hope.

“Dr. Pepper?! Who drinks Dr. Pepper?” Robert wanted to know.

“There’s some out in the garage,” Stephanie said. “If you want it cold, I can put it in a glass with ice.”

“That’d be great,” Damon said. “Thanks.”

Robert and Stephanie left the room.

~~~

When Stephanie and Robert returned, Damon was bent over the board, staring intently at the Peppermint Forest.

“Look at this, you guys,” he commanded. “The trees. Are waving. In the wind.”

Stephanie started to laugh and clapped her hand over her mouth instead.

“It’s woooorkiiing!” Robert sang.

Stephanie handed Damon his drink. “What’s this?” he asked.

“Dr. Pepper,” she reminded him.

He took a sip. “Wow. It tastes like… being buried alive. But in a good way.” His other hand swept past his eyes. He looked worried. “What’s wrong with my hand?”

“Nothing,” Robert said. “It’s just trails.”

“Let’s go outside,” Stephanie suggested.

They got as far as the front porch. Robert shut his eyes and leaned back against the house. Damon stood at the rail scanning the sky. Stephanie sat in the rocker but didn’t rock.

“If I don’t move,” she announced, “this is just a chair. I have the power to define my surroundings.” She watched Robert for… ever. “What are you doing, Bob?”

Without moving or opening his eyes, he answered, “I’m”

Fifteen minutes passed.

“sitting”

Fifteen more minutes passed.

“on the”

Fifteen more.

“steps.”

“What do you see?” she asked.

After several minutes, he said, “The temperatures are coming off me in different colors.”

“Cool,” she said. “Let’s take a walk.”

“I don’t think I can,” Robert objected.

“Yes, you can,” she told him.

“I can’t feel my legs.”

“It doesn’t matter. They know what to do.”

Damon whimpered, “I can’t stop them.”

“Who?” Stephanie asked. “What are they doing?”

“The words,” he answered. “They’re marching in my head.”

“What words?” Robert asked.

“Mary had a little lamb its fleece was white as snow twinkle twinkle little star how I wonder what you are ABCDEFG HIJK elemenopee Marry had a little lamb—”

She took Damon by the hand and led him down the steps.

“Whoa,” Robert said. “You just went through me and I disappeared.”

“Can you walk now?”

“I think so.”

“Good. Let’s go.”

Damon looked closely at his hand holding Stephanie’s. “There’s so much energy.” He looked at Stephanie’s face. “Can you feel it?”

Stephanie looked surprised. “Yes. It feels good.”

Robert tripped over something as he passed them. He stopped to investigate. “Look. It’s a rock. But feel it.” He held it out to his sister. He whispered conspiratorially, “It’s not solid.”

“Neither is your foot,” Damon offered.

“That’s right,” Robert remembered. “So my foot should have gone right through it.” He stopped. “Oh, no. I’m in the wrong universe.”

“You know the story about the infinite number of monkeys typing on an infinite number of typewriters for all eternity?” his sister asked him.

“Typewriters?” he countered.

“Eventually, they will type the complete works of Shakespeare.”

Damon’s eyebrows scrunched together. “Can they read?”

“No. Monkeys can’t read.” Robert sounded indignantly certain.

“They don’t have to read,” Stephanie clarified. “Their typing is totally random. But if they type forever, they’ll type everything that ever was, and everything that will ever be. In every universe.”

“And a shit-ton of complete nonsense,” Robert added.

They stood silent for no one knew how long.

Looking up, Damon declared, “The sky. Oh my God. I just realized the sky goes all the way to the ground.”

Robert followed Damon’s gaze. “Does it go all the way up?”

Stephanie joined them. “No.”

“Why not?” Damon asked.

“Because of Space,” she said.

Damon’s jaw dropped. “Wow. That’s real.”

Robert turned to look at her. “Is that where the monkeys are?”

She cocked her head and scrutinized him. She started laughing a gasping, unstoppable tsunami of absurd laughter. So did they.

She dragged them back into the house to collapse on the living room floor, briefly aware — but not really caring — that they had lost control. Only Stephanie noticed how grungy the walls looked. Like they were covered with cobwebs. It would take hours to clean them off.

This trip was definitely over.

Bummer.

Join us!

Photo credit: S.T. Ranscht

Something’s happening over at Writers Co-op. The latest writing prompt, Catharsis, attracted some powerful pieces of writing. Maybe you’ll write something for the next prompt: Devolving.

I’d like to share the short piece I wrote for Catharsis with you. Judge for yourself whether or not it’s one of the powerful ones, but please take a look at the others, too. They’re all worth your time. And maybe let me know what you think of mine.

Pivot

by S.T. Ranscht

The second child wasn’t like the other four. Or like any of the other kids any of them knew. Sure, she had two of everything she was supposed to have two of, and one of everything else like most of the other kids, but her mind didn’t work the same way the minds of everyone who knew her worked. Except for her dad’s. More analytical. More precise. More inquisitive.

But even the two of them perceived life, its puzzles and problems, its values and goals, as propositions so different from one another that their perceptions might have been those of species as alien to each other as if one were carbon based and the other were based on silicon. Or antimatter. His admitted only empirical, rational, fact-based evidence as valid foundations for any answer, argument, or choice. Hers appreciated those aspects of reality, but also embraced the intuitive, feeling, and sense of justice and interconnectedness of all things that painted the biggest Big Picture possible in the vastness of the Universes.

But because he was older and more experienced, he made sure she knew there was something fundamentally wrong with her perception. Her understanding. Her questions. Her conclusions. Her choices. Her self.

And because she was younger and knew so little, she believed him even when a tiny, muffled voice in her head, incapable of screaming, muttered, “He’s wrong. Isn’t he?”

She stopped sharing her thoughts with him.

It was her shamefully, never-to-be realized potential, he said, that convinced the educational testing system she should skip a grade and spend the rest of her school career competing with students older than she was. 

Was it any wonder, then, that in a house full of family, in a world full of people, she always felt alone? Unseen. Unheard. Unappreciated. Just like her dad.

Till one budding Spring day, sitting in Trig, as Mrs. Jordan — with a run in her nylons that one of the other girls referred to as “the run in her leg” — worked at the chalkboard to explain logarithms to her classroom of 11th grade advanced mathematicians, something inexplicable happened and everything changed.

She was fifteen and as pure as they say driven snow is. She was healthy and had eaten a nutritious breakfast. Sunshine poured in the windows. But the walls fell away and she was instantaneously surrounded by black sky and stars — with an electric blue e-curve floating in space like an out-of-body umbilical cord, and the unshakable certainty that humans did not invent math, but merely discovered it, and a sense of presence that imbued her with the knowledge that she knew what it was most people think of as God.

~~~

When the classroom fogged back into being, she couldn’t tell how long she’d been gone. Leaving the room at the end of class, she felt as though she were gliding six inches above the floor. She told only her best friend about what had happened, and she gasped, “You just experienced cosmic consciousness!”

Whatever it was, it purged her of self doubt. She kept asking questions and seeking answers for the rest of her life. Self-contained. Confident. Fearless.

She never told her dad.