Unreal Serial: a new series of short stories in serial form.
Wicked Web: 3/6
Dan woke right where he’d been: on the mountainside cabin’s porch above the evergreen valley. His half-smoked cigarette lay at his feet. In the sky, as if for the first time, stars twinkled. When the crisp breeze blew, Dan felt his cheeks wet with tears. It had only been ten minutes.
Dan was astute enough to know the spider’s web caused his hallucination; and he was experienced enough to appreciate there was no comedown or hangover. He actually felt better than before smoking the web – a lot better. He didn’t even feel those beers. He felt cleansed. Whole. He knew he’d metamorphosed – and now he had to spread the word.
Dan’s rural hometown receded into the background as the bus rolled south to the city. He’d scrounged enough money for two things that morning: a loose cigarette for another dose – to make sure last night’s hallucinogen wasn’t a one-off – and a one-way bus ticket to the city to share the news with his cousin, a mid-level drug dealer. Dan wanted to make it big.
Dusty tracts outside the bus window gave way to polished suburbs and emerald-green golf courses. Next came marsh land – a natural buffer between the suburbs and the dilapidated warehouses and run-down rowhouses that gradually gained respectability as the bus neared the city center, evolving into grander and grander townhomes with each block.
Vigorous skyscrapers cast cold shadows on Dan as the bus chugged through the city and into a mirror image of the preceding route: grand townhomes slackening into run-down row houses that degenerated into dilapidated warehouses.
Unlike the first set of warehouses, though, these were living spaces for artists and creatives who found inspiration – and low rents – among the brutalist interiors and gaping hallways as hungry as them. This is where Dan got off.
Dan pounded on Isaac’s massive metal door until he heard the muffled rumble of stomping across the concrete floor on the other side. There was silence as Isaac peered through the peep hole and a low grumble before the door flung open: “What the fuck? I was sleeping.”
Dan rushed past his cousin already rehashing his experience from the now before: how he’d stepped through the cobweb; how he’d smoked it; how he’d been transported in a radiant cocoon to the center of all existence and bathed in all-knowing understanding and awe. “I’m reborn!”
Isaac squinted at wild-eyed cousin for a second before flapping his hand dismissively and saying, “Pshaw! You must have smoked something else, dude.”
“C’mon! You know me.” Dan pulled from his pocket a plastic bag of webbing he’d collected this morning. “Here. Try it.” With a chopstick Dan smeared a few clumps of the gunk on a cigarette from Isaac’s pack — “I’m not sure if brand matters, but we’ll see.” – and handed it over.
Isaac lifted the web-laced cigarette to his lips. He paused and again eyeballed his eager, almost maniacal-looking cousin. Dan just nodded assertively and said. “Go on; trust me…” Thinking ‘What have I got to lose?” Isaac shrugged and lit a match.
Dan studied Isaac’s face to see the web’s exterior effects. First Isaac’s eyes unfocused as a milky haze seeped in. Next Isaac’s strong shoulders relaxed, and his thick arms went limp. The cigarette dropped from his hand and his chin dropped to his chest. One minute had passed.
Isaac slowly raised his face upward. His eyes were now clear and astounded. Isaac’s mouth turned up slightly at the sides. Moments later it widened into a delighted grin: amusement becoming amazement. Twin tears ran down Isaac’s cheek. Three minutes.
For five minutes Isaac beamed into space and cried tears of joy until, a total of 8 minutes after lighting the cigarette, Isaac’s grin softened back into a smile and his eyes went milky again. His chin fell back to his chest, and he opened his eyes a minute later. The milky hue had melted away. Isaac was back in his body. It had been ten minutes, to the second.
Isaac said nothing. He didn’t even look at Dan. He just gaped at the kitchen counter, absorbing what he’d seen, what he’d felt, and where he’d been: the center of existence.
Outside a car honked; down the hall two neighbors’ argued, their angry words distorted by echo and distance; somewhere else a dog barked. Finally, Isaac guffawed, clapped his hand on Dan’s shoulder, and said, “We’re gonna be rich!”
To Be Continued…