Much against my better judgment I had started smoking the chickweed again. My friend Steve had warned me time and time again not to give in to the temptation. Not to do it. I knew myself from my horrific experiences in the past that I shouldn’t. I knew the price I would have to pay. But the damn stuff was growing everywhere. There was a great clump of it growing only a few yards away from my shack. Must have been at least seven foot tall.
Grabbing a handful of the brown, dried-out leaves from the base of one of the tall plants I went back into my shack and skinned them up quickly. My hands were shaking so bad I could hardly manage it. My tongue was dry as I went to lick the crumpled-up cigarette papers.
And then my hands were trembling so much I could barely manage to light up. It was more of a hay-stack than a spliff but it did the job. I took a lungful of the acrid, burning smoke and held it, trying my best to suppress the automatic fit of coughing that had seized me.
Midway through the third toke the rush hit me. It came up on me just as I remembered it – it was as if I had suddenly become aware of every single brain-cell I had, as if could feel each one vibrating, humming, buzzing.
Then it really hit me. Properly. My coughing fit forgotten about. My burning lungs forgotten about. Time had come to a complete stand-still. The world had stopped. My brain cells were singing now, like a chorus of cicadas in some lush tropical paradise. The singing rose to a pitch, all of the individual notes joining together in one tremendous exultant honey-sweet buzz.
A buzz that swallowed everything up in it. An eternal stretched moment. No time. Only the ecstatic moment. The untidy spliff coming apart in my hand, burning bits of debris falling in slow motion all over my jeans.
Then the second phase kicked in and I abruptly became aware that my old shack was full of the little people milling around the place, darting here and there, doing this and doing that, laughing, telling jokes, singing songs, quarreling, smoking their little pipes…Wherever my eyes fall there they are, a throng of them. The little people.
Some were pixies with pointy hats and funny boots, others were gnomes like old crotchety men with creased, lumpy, misshapen faces. “My friends are back,” I thought to myself. It was as if they had never left…
Things became dream-like then. I was walking up a mountain trail. There were faces in the mountain sides, the faces of giants. Boulders for eyes. A cliff for a chin. A ravine for a mouth. Twisted stunted pines for stubble.
I was labouring painfully up the steep incline, slipping and stumbling over the scree. Sweat running down my face in rivulets.
Then I was in a gully, the sky like grey iron pressing down on me. Crows wheeling overhead. A lizard scuttled past my foot, its scales like iridescent jewels. Its eyes like black holes in time and space. I was talking to one of the old gnomes. I could see his lips moving but I couldn’t make out what he was saying. So close up, I could see that he was grotesquely ugly, his face so horribly deformed I could barely manage to look at him.
And yet despite his hideous appearance there was an immense dignity to him. I was trying to listen to the words he was saying, trying not to show the revulsion I felt. It was so painfully hard to focus.
Finally I managed to make out what he was saying.
“Don’t you know who I am, Nick,” he was saying, “don’t you know who I am?” His tiny eyes looking straight at me from beneath his bulging misshapen brow. Staring right into mine.
Willing me to understand…
Then I was back in my shack and it was dark now. All the little people were gone. Instead, the place was full of ghosts. Black little twisted things. Malign little wraiths, like bits of dark smoke drifting.
The feeling that came with them – the horrible cold, despairing feeling. I remembered those ghosts now. I remembered why it was that I didn’t really like smoking the chickweed. Why it was such a bad idea. Why I promised to myself I would never smoke it again…