The Ecstatic Adventure
Reports of Chemical Explorations of the Inner World
Chapter 14 Flights Go Down
by SUGAR WAGNER
IN RETROSPECT, "bad experiences" often seem to have the inevitability of a classic tragedy. I am the protagonist in this death struggle with the forces of blackness, in which I am martyred by my own mind. The only thing I forget (until later) is that I am also director and author of this heroic little drama. In major or minor ways, it happens almost every time anyone takes LSD. No matter how prepared, there is always the moment of terror at the confrontation with the end. This moment, which generally comes early in the trip, since that is when the effect of the drug is strongest, can resolve itself in one of three ways: (1) if I do not "lose my head" or if my guide is knowing and concerned, I master the panic and dive through into the blissful release of the unitive state; (2) I pull back or pass out and spend the rest of the trip in mental or sensory games of one kind or another, which may be pleasant, useful, revelatory even, sometimes tiring; (3) the dose effect is so strong I cannot pull back, and I struggle fearfully against the sensation of death. It is a fair guess that 80-90 per cent of experiences fall into the second category; usually the person is not even aware of this turning point; the early part of the trip is blank in memory. The first and third alternative happen rarely.
One panics because one cannot control the rush of impersonal energy. It is a natural fearthe fear of dying. The only counterforce to this fear is love. Love creates, death negates. If the person one looks to at that moment for love or reassurance is not there or, worse, creates distance by talking about onethe panic spirals and intensifies. This is what happened in the experience described below.
The energy that is released by LSD can, like any other form of energy, be polarized positively or negatively. Instead of the heightening of sensation, we have absence of sensation, deadening. Instead of the unitive opening up where the mind becomes identical with everything, we have a closing up; the mind becomes a prison, a wall around the soul which nothing can enter. The colors, instead of radiant, pulsating, are blinding, hideous.
Yet, even this experience led to positive change: to quitting a meaningless job and going to a place where work coincided with love. Because it does show you, and leaves you in no doubt where the hell is that you visited, and this showing, this confrontation, this stripping of illusions, is ultimately salutary and life-enhancing.
FLIGHTS GO DOWN
John and me on 10th street looking for a way out of 10th street and all the other dull, dirty slums of our mind. a quick call from the Groceria and up five flights thru a barred door (the hall stinks) we stand there being stared at by this man-boy, somebody's great sacrifice.
half-a-pill=One Trip costs $6 which the man-in-the-suit gave you for saying "yessir" last Friday. John asks, How many micrograms, man? Manboy answers, Forget that bag, man. just have a Good Trip. John fills a rusty can with water, takes half-a-pill. smiles. Scared, i wait.
Down five flights (can flights go down?) across the park to Cynthia's pad we go. i'm saying, How long do you think it'll take? and bump into a cop. (look middleclass) Hey, Mister, i gotta crime in my pocket (giggle giggle).
Cynthia says bi. my fingers put half-a-pill on my tongue and i swallow it. at the kitchen table, John and me wait. soon i blow my nose and my whole INSIDES rushes out of me. wow, babymake it to the bathroom nowyou just know you ain't gonna make it there later. seems like my INSIDES is coming out my hole and hey! where the hell is this room going?
IT'S STARTING Cynthia ... i'm lying on the couch knowing that i wont leave it for a long while. John starts laughing: yes, yes yes, yes. bang on, sugar, you I retaking off. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee! o their faces are so beautiful. gold. lovely. John, John, you are so beautiful. Cynthia of the dazzling smile and luxuriant mane, you're beautiful too. Cynthia says, Thank you. no, no, you don't understand. John has this one large laughing eye and he's an arabian steed, sleek and gold and his eye is large and dark. Cynthia smiles like an angel. but i am alone. where is love? o i am so alone. crying now. they can't help me. Cynthia is walking around while i lie there, the bonds having been cut, and i moan, i am so alone o we're all so alone. tears, tears. John holds my band and that's better. i look up and sniff, you're beautiful i'm alone and he laughs and says to Cynthia o she's really beginning to feel it now. no, John, don't talk about me that way. please no. alone alone alone. John grows more elated ... he dances around ... o this is beautiful, he says. Cynthia stands, helpless, quizzical ... watching the circus and now my head is being sucked down. try to lift hand, grab on to someone... someone does touch band but now its not my hand anymore. i mean, it is but someone must hold my soul and there's no one like that around. alone ... don't leave me... know i'm heading for something but don't know what... inexorable... ineluctable.
purple. in the heart of a purple tornado. oily purple. tremendous whirling velocity. we're going a billion miles a second back and down... can't lift my head now and everyone has drowned in my mind. i know they're out there somewhere but mind has sealed me in cant see or touch or hear. i am unprepared. i dont want this. fight the downward purple pull of the unknown primal mind. John yells from far off, die die die and then he says to Cynthia, Now she's dying. they all do. and i suppose i must have whisper-moaned, i'm dying, i'm dying. then, as they say, nothing. Nothing but everything. too much. how many cells in my fucking mind. o god its like a huge wall around let me out i want to get out let me out, mind, locked in my world with all the air cut off i cannot breathecant tell Themwho, i suspect, are still out there where it doesn't matter any more and that suction is pulling and i'm fighting and i can't hear John screaming die die anymore but know he must be doing it and no i dont want to die dont want to go insane which is the dark and bottomless place and the end of the cone purple oily whirring i'm stuck in no i want to stay up here on the earth and be with people not locked inside this terrible wall all the billions of cells are screaming for air i can't breathe o i cant breathe Cynthia please see me gasping for air the cells are suffocating Cynthia HELP ME they are dying all my mind is dying im at a 45-degree angle to the earth no and still fighting the pull god its black and eternal down there dont want to go dont want to go a million people carrying me off now would leave me there. alone. but i've been holding this one place in the vortex for many centuries now i may not go to hell but i'll have to stay in purgatory until somebody saves me and its so tiring fighting the pull of the unconscious all knowing pastpresentfuturenotime. Now the purple turns black suddenly slashed with lightning flashes of blinding color. hideous. too bright too red too blue too green. maybe it means i'm coming out i dont know have never known so little about anyplace. John's words fracture my wall ... 0, 0, 0, 0 i wish i could feel it like she does. NO my mind screams back, no, John, you dont want this. how could you say that god doesnt anyone know where i am? what do i do with this one-person who is me? years, years. billions of neverending years later i am able to whisper Help Me. whispering altho in my bead i'm screaming, help me, Cynthia. i can't take it any more. then back into the black and more fighting headfirst to stay above the bottom. John is gone. months later, Cynthia touches my hand and they are talking about the pills in my pocketbook and saying things about doesnt she have sleeping pills and tranquilizers? i want to help them but cant speak, except loud in my head where no one can hear. someone props up my head... someone puts something near my mouth... a voice says Swallow... i try very hard and manage to swallow twice.., then John is gone again and before i fall back and fight the purple swirling some more i ask Cynthia, will i come down now Cynthia? and Cynthia's voice says yes, in a little while. But Cynthia! THERE ARE NO LITTLE WHILES IN THIS PLACE! will i come down now will i come down o goodby again its sucking me into the death and all around the earsplitting silence.
sometime later i tried to sit up. after several attempts, i made it. i felt sick. mostly, i was frightened that i'd never feel "normal" again. so soon as i could, i rushed to the phone to call a girlfriend who had been thinking of taking her first trip. I screamed at herimploring her not to try it. i told her i was speaking to her from hell. she thought i was drunk, and laughed.
delicate black lines were squiggling up the woodwork, forming symmetrical patterns. the red stool in the kitchen throbbed and all colors glowed and pulsated. but it was not a beautiful time. it was terrifying. i was given more pills to bring me down.
Cynthia's hand, resting on mine, was huge. her head must have been fifteen feet high. so, too, all objects. but when i looked down at the rug, i realized that it was I who had changed in size. i couldn't have been more than six inches tall.
miserable, i waited for the new pills to take effect. about 4 A.M., roughly ten hours after having taken half-a-pill, i stopped hallucinating and fell asleep.
(Let me tell you. At that time, i was a secretary, i didn't like my job but had no thought of leaving it for several years, although it was apparent that i didn't belong there. i had reconciled myselfor so i thoughtto the double life most people lead... eight hours of unmitigated boredom five days a week in return for Security. i used my child as a rationale for this particularly deadening prostitution.)
and fell asleep. and awoke. and went to work, convinced that i had gone insane and would never be the same old me again.
enter Time & Life building. up forty stories in elevator. enter office. only conscious thought: I am crazy for sure. got to find out what happened to me. Boss says, Good Morning What Happened to You? in that instant, i decide to quit.
Happy Ending. One month later i am assistant editor of groovy newspaper in hip non-office.
How did it happen? i think it was like this: managed to stay at other job as long as inner revolution staved off. Somehow, Bad Trip Experience releases all-that-i-am so thoroughly, that rationalization is impossible next day. or, as He would have itsince i had turned on and tuned indropping out was inevitable.
Postscript. There must be a better way
(a safer way)
to come to life.
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