Shirtless hippies were tossing a frisbee between the sea of cars, and She found herself studying its trail as it coursed through the ether, an undulating spray of luminous fractals left in its wake, unnamed colors rippling behind the iridescent disc.
It’s starting. She could still taste the chocolate, but it had an entirely different flavor than She remembered, chalky at first, then bitter, but smooth and sweet, all at once.
She focused on her hands. They were hers (She was mostly convinced of this), and She controlled them, but somehow they didn’t belong, like they’d come from a toolbox and fused to her intention, forced to carry out her commands and pleased to do so.
A ruddy, scraggly-bearded tour kid in grimy patchwork pants was leaning against a green Outback with Maine plates, his beaded dreads tinkling against the hood. Caput Mortuum, She laughed. I can’t believe he’s still holding that balloon… cerebral sublimation. The balloon held the universe, She decided, and the boy held the balloon. She watched the boy’s eyes slowly open, blinking in the hot August sun. He took another deep huff and sank back onto the car, casting a faint smile and nodding to the rhythm of Franklin’s Tower pouring from the Microbus next to them.
She turned from the scene, walking slowly toward the Waterfront. Though the city felt barren and ghostly, She delighted in the strip of grass between the parking lots, and took off her sandals to enjoy its brush against her skin. It was calmly breathing with her, each blade a microcosm of interconnecting segments, themselves a mirror of their whole. Rising from the humble green-space stood a lone tree, awake and sipping the golden humidity, shivering gently as She stroked its skin.
A wash of ivory swept up to her, materializing as the robed figure of a hoary messiah. Squinting through his dense lenses and stroking his blanched beard, the old hippy held a parched skull up to her face. “Last antelope on the lot!” he declared, beaming at his ware. “You can put it on your dash!”
She smiled out loud and kept walking, pondering both the unusual vertex just offered her and the sounds buzzing in her throat, and She set to humming a happy tune as the gate drew near, the vibrations swelling through her chest and dissipating behind her eyes. She marveled at the translucent waves pulsing from her throat into the space around her, merging with the laughter of fourteen thousand others, each on their own trip to the show.
A benevolent sprite placed water in her hand, guiding her to her place, fifth row from the stage, while wooden prisms and graphite portraits compliments of the Cali kid next to her helped in passing the frames before the music started. The speakers began buzzing over the crowd, erupting into a mass of screams and smoke as She watched, her eye reveling in the fantastic intertwinement of light and rhythm fueling the frenzied flock.
There was tangible joy in those dancing moments, the swirl of dull care above the seething throng coalescing into dense clouds that caught her mind spinning with the show, yawning slowly as the illumination of reality swept past. With each eruption of light her eye opened further, prying itself from matter’s fetter.
In an instant She was transported above the crowd, watching herself static amid thousands of undulating bodies, each pouring streams of negativity upward, tributaries coalescing somewhere beyond sight before cascading to earth in an aubergine arch, saturating her from every direction. Minuscule sparkles of light slowly bled from her body, a creeping, mulled mist, fare for the starving souls in the stadium.
The more of the energetic downpour She absorbed the more light went diffusing into the crowd, and She marveled at the simplicity of it all. She was a transformer. They need me. I can change it for them.
She rushed back into her body and looked up, the dark streams still raining into her, and She glowed with the knowledge of good and evil, that unlikely marriage that binds us all, inviting us to choose which color we will embrace. They must coexist, She mused, as jagged streaks of gold flashed above her. They belong together, like two keys, the sun and the moon, fire and water….
Realizing the band had left the stage, She blinked and scanned her surroundings. All the kids were leaving for the set break, and She looked with new eyes at the scene. The pillars had faded, the mist dissipated, and She studied the images burnt into her mind over the past ninety minutes. The world finally made sense. She gulped her water and welcomed the restoring rush of those more-familiar sensations. The Cali kid next to her tugged on her arm, and She inspected the blue and purple plants in the bag he held up.
“These put the ‘fun’ back into fungus,” he smiled.
She thanked him, downed a few caps and, lifting the squat wooden kaleidoscope he offered, turned to witness the whirling world, this time through a different lens.
This story appears in my book The Philosopher’s Stoned. It was originally commissioned by the magazine “Hermet,” a student publication associated with the History of Hermetic Traditions department at the University of Amsterdam. This story describes the impetus for my dystopian novel Ages, an event so singular that its effect reverberates through almost all of my creative writing, including my forthcoming non-fiction book “Finding the Voice.” Visit my Amazon author page for all of my books, and thanks for reading!