The Serpent

Ghost Written for Dr. Coke

The sand of the final dune slides through my fingers as I rapidly scramble up its side, clawing at the grains which give way so easily to pressure. I stop for an instant, as the sand engulfs my hand, wrapping it in a cold encasement. The feeling freezes me as I kneel, the coolness of it on my skin. Peter’s voice brings me back.

“My God.”

The reality of my surroundings flashes back upon me as I look up the hill, and see that Peter fallen to his knees, his mouth gaping at what he sees over the peak. Pulling my hand from the sand’s cool womb, I excitedly crawl the few remaining feet to the top.
The full force of the muted sounds I have been hearing for the past miles hits my ears with a roar, and I stare into eternity. The waves, capped with their white crests crash into explosions of mist and spray. Miles and miles of blue and white stretch forever into the horizon, where they are met by the blackness of space, and the stars become one with the mighty giant. It is too large to encompass in one glance, or even two. It is overwhelming to the senses, hypnotizing me, drawing me into its violent, yet serene body. I sit, not knowing what to say, all words taken from my mouth by the sight of that which I have seen many times before, but never in the way that I view it now. It is as if the curtain covering its heart has been lifted, and I gaze upon the entire fury and glory of the ocean.

“This is it. We made it.”

I slowly look to Peter. His voice once again brings me into focus. He flashes his cheshire grin, giggling like a madman. I acknowledge the grin with a disbelieving laugh of my own. No words are needed to understand each other’s awe and terror at the dangers we have put ourselves in to view the heart of the Earth.

 


 

The clock read 11:45 p.m., as my friend Peter and I listened to the beautiful sounds of Michael Nyman’s “Miserere” ringing through the speakers of my stereo. Reaching into his pocket, Peter produced his wallet. Flipping through it, he revealed the six small, rectangular tabs of perforated paper he had been searching for.

“This ought to hit us just before we get to the coast.”

Both he and I placed the paper on our tongues, wincing at the terrible taste that always accompanies the paper variety of LSD. I think the reason I even fried at all, was that it was much safer than getting drunk. Unlike alcohol, LSD leaves you in control of your bodily functions. The danger, as all drugs have, is the effect it could have on the mind. In a way it rests on the question, how well do you really know yourself? If you don’t, you could be in for a very unpleasant surprise.

One hour later found us parked at the Honeyman Campgrounds. We escaped the confines of the truck belonging to Peter’s father, and made our way towards the dunes. I had been to Honeyman many times before, so I knew the only way to reach the lake was via a pathway through the forest. Remembering the one other time that I had traversed it during the night without a flashlight, I began to wonder just whether or not we would make it in our present state of mind.

The canopy formed by the trees blocked out any and all light which the stars might have offered us. There was no moon, so even walking without the forest was an unconscious task. Slowly, we made our way along the winding path, Peter, by using his feet to follow the edge of the paved walkway, and I, by following the very faint outline of his white shirt. As we rounded what seemed to be the hundredth corner it appeared before us…the opening.

Cheers went up from both Peter and myself at the sight of our first destination. We ran from the path, through the parking lot, up the side of the first dune, and reached the top, staring out over the dead lake. There was no wind, which was very odd, for I have never been to the dunes when it was perfectly still. There were no ripples on the lake, just a giant sheet of black glass, reflecting the stars in precise patterns. It was then that I did notice the stars. Here, away from the lights of civilization, we could see every star visible to us in the milky way. So we took it as a sign to push on.

At a steady pace, never quite stopping, we walked over the countless dunes between Honeyman lake and the ocean. In the near black of night, it was impossible to tell where the ground would rise, and where it would fall. The sand was one giant sheet, tripping us with its hidden dips and mounds. Consistently, for how long is uncertain, we made our way in that state, never slowing our pace. Then, where it had always been before, the fringe of grass and trees which marked the final stretch of our journey, formed from the haze before us.

After a brief search, Peter and I found one of the many bike trails that would lead us through the tangled expanse of shrubbery and dunes. These were the trails I had always followed to reach the coastline, and only once before had I been balked by them. It became hazily clear before long, that another failure was in the making. The numerous forks along the course of the sandy motorway began to resemble a giant maze, from the perspective of the proverbial rat. My doubts were crystallized, when one of the endless corners revealed to us its trap. Water. A long, black rivulet of dead water, glimmering in the starlight.
A thought that hadn’t entered my mind in years suddenly decided to plague me then.

“I wonder if there’s quicksand.” Peter gave a small coughing sound from the bottom of his chest, turning to look at me with a ‘thanks a lot’ look on his face.

“I haven’t thought about quicksand since I was a kid. Thanks, Coke!”

I smiled in return. As a child, quicksand was always the hidden danger, waiting to strike at any moment. The sudden thought that no one knew where we were added a sudden rush of adrenaline to my system. Peter looked at me again.

“I really don’t want to walk through that. There must be some other way.”

So we began to traverse the ‘other’ way. It was literally through the trees. As we pushed our way into the first line of undergrowth, all light died. Through pitch black we felt our way along the branches of the various growth. Beneath us was a void. A seething pit of darkness, bottomed by waters of unknown depths. Not knowing which way was which, having no sense of direction in the nightmarish jungle gym, we could only continue to crawl onward. Each step was a test. Would it hold our weight, or would it send us crashing down into the depths below, plunging us into the black waters.

Thoughts of how I got into such a position flickered into my mind. The terror that I felt, the utter helplessness at being lost in a place that no one knew of, began to grow from a pit in the bottom of my soul. I beat it down, knowing that it would only complicate things beyond reasoning, as is common with the bad trip. Yet in the danger there lay a sense of challenge, a sick sense albeit, but it was there.

Then, like the opening of the clouds on a dark day, the world was opened to us by the leaves of our black prison.

We saw the hills before us, the hills over which our destination lay. We stumbled from our trees, walking toward the dunes with a slow, purposeful determination. The sound of the ocean became apparent once again to my ears, and my pace quickened, driving me toward that wall barring my way from the ocean. With no other thought but to reach the ocean, I began to climb. The sand of the final dune slid through my fingers as I scrambled up its side, giving way so easily to pressure…

 


 

I sit here now, having seen this mammoth body of water, thinking of what I have done. Looking back along the path Peter and I have come, I see countless hills, their green grasses perfectly still in the first light of the newday. I am reminded of a Japanese painting, with its beautiful colors an strokes. From my high vantage, it seems that it could all fit into the palm of my hand, and I know how God must feel. The grasses wind about the hills endlessly, like a serpent, wrapping the land in its coils. I can see the scales, uncountable, and it makes me shiver to know that I stand among them.

This is the serpent through which I have come, putting myself through numerable endurance tests, physical danger, and complete solitude from the rest of the world. I know myself, giving me a haven from that aspect of the drug. But what it has made me do, taking away all reasoning from my mind, makes me wonder just how easy it would be to embrace death in the magical dance of Iysergia.

A wind suddenly begins to blow, running its fingers through my hair, and I look back to the shoreline. Peter is there, drawing in the sand. Looking at the serpent for one last time to engrave it in my mind, I turn, and run down the slope, yelling with a whoop, to join him in his endeavors.

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