The bar had gotten crowded and close, was getting downright pungent, when the lights dimmed, the headliner band announced. The LSD our group had taken on the walk over to the club was just kicking in - for me, a highly unusual state of events. When acid was offered earlier that evening I’d thought back to the only other time I’d tried it, a little bit shared a with a co-worker years before; the only effects seemed to be lightweight, some laughter, with a few flowers that danced off the curtains now and then. I worked three jobs, it had been a long week. So, I said Sure, some flowers dancing might be fun. Famous last words.
Back at the bar, the band, The Butthole Surfers, were just getting going and they were as awful as I’d feared. (It had taken a lot more convincing to get me to come see this band than it did to take the acid, I must admit.) I hated them.
Within a couple notes of a song (and a few more minutes of LSD kicking in) I felt as if I’d traveled to an alien world; on stage there were pale, sweaty, thin people bouncing and thrashing, one singer (could he really be called a singer?) yelling at times and making moaning, eery noises other times through a bullhorn while wearing grey-ish tighty-whitey underwear and I think a short sleeved plaid shirt, unbuttoned, mostly covering a set of too-prominent ribs.
As I turned my head to look elsewhere, anywhere, previously inanimate objects decided to trail along with my vision as it swirled around the room. The smoky layer hovering at the ceiling grew thicker; a fog machine kicked on, the mist rose, twirling and blending with the smoke. Various neon signs hung around the bar were pulsing and bulging, throbbing. I couldn’t see EXIT anywhere. I swallowed hard, anxiety rising.
I stood up and banged my legs against the table edge, spilling the entire round of drinks just brought over. I meant to apologize but grew fascinated by the liquid rivers that foamed, trails fanning out like an estuary. I focused closely to see if the table really was rippling as the spilled drinks spread, seemingly carving mini canyons right through the table top. Behind me, the bullhorn echoed and surged.
I had to get out of there. I walked away from the mess at the table and started toward what I thought might be the door, but the band’s new song transformed into twisted notes that stretched lazily out to lick me; bars of sixteenth notes turned black double-snakes wafted through the air toward me. Was that a black double-tongue flicking? Did something grab my arm? I smelled something burn.
Walking faster to get away from the cacophony of notes-turned-eery-entity, I grew more and more sure the world was ending. NO, it had ended, this was what was left.
I stumbled into a couple walking by, I apologized, then flat-out panicked to find they’d barred my way. They had a snake! No, a leash. A dog leash hooked into the spiked neck of one of the couple, that’s what barred my way. Spikes were growing out of his neck. He was a mutant restrained by a leash! Then he stood up; he’d been crawling along on knee pads; the only other thing he wore, a black leather thong. It matched the other guy’s full leather face mask. Today I might just smile at their theatrics but this was 1985 and I’d never seen anything like them. There were spikes growing out of the guy’s neck. And, the acid.
I closed my eyes; to stop the spinning, to change the film, to take it all back. But closing my eyes just made the world dizzy. And now everything smelled like smoke, like something burning: cigarettes, pot, stale bodies, fog machine, musical notes.
Suddenly, my senses were super-powers. I could smell smells from miles away. Super-power senses in a waking nightmare; I could hear the walls whisper and mock. I could hear them, even as the bullhorn howled. I felt eyes on me. Like, the eyes, they were *on* me. I found the door and ran outside.
Gratefully breathing fresh air, I leaned against the outside wall of the bar. The bricks pulsed with Butthole Surfer bullhorn. I stepped away.
My eyes focused; I could see the brightly lit panorama of downtown Atlanta off in the distance. I began to relax and enjoy the fireworks that seemed to explode from the skyscrapers’ lights. Until I saw the clouds of smoke billowing from all the fireworks and the lights. Until the helicopters that swooped in, converging, circling around and around my hometown. Then explosions, more billows of clouds.
Oh my god, the world *was* ending. Our city was being bombed! The world was ending! I should run back inside. No way am I running back inside!
Things get murky from there.
I know I need to warn the others; my scrambled mind tries to make an escape plan — I’ll rescue people! — but I can’t seem to walk back inside. I can’t stay out here. I can’t go back in there. There are mutants. The torturous noise. The bombs! It’s all over, anyway.
The world is ending, the world is ending.
I kept staring at the destruction downtown.
Eventually, someone came looking for me, but when I pointed out the disaster happening to our city, it was as if the lights had suddenly gone out. Only clouds of smoke were rising that didn’t look menacing at all anymore. They looked like clouds.
We eventually made our way toward home, my mind whirring about the end of the world happening inside that bar that night, the end of the world happening outside the bar that night. Did I imagine it all? Or was I the Chosen One who received the visions? This was our destiny and only I knew? This was the future? Strange wisps of bullhorn echo followed my thoughts. The road undulated under my feet, sometimes catching me before I fell, sometimes tripping me up on purpose. I heard the asphalt laugh.
When I finally fell asleep, safe at home, I was certain it might be for the last time.
The next day I woke up to someone banging on the door. Seconds of terror, then I heard our friend rush in, laughing and shouting.
“You won’t believe it!”
He leaped on the bed, jumping, waving the newspaper about.
“Last night Chuck Norris was filming a movie! Downtown wasn't being bombed! It was a movie! You’re *not* f — ing insane!! Oh, thank god, thank god, I thought you’d f — ing lost it for sure. Brain-fried. Soup.” He makes slurping sounds. I feel nauseous.
Then… I am enveloped by BLISS. The world is Not ending! This beautiful, beautiful world!
“I love You!” I shout. “I love you!” jumping on the bed. Laughing. Alive from my core to the ends of my being. Superpower level alive. We decide to celebrate.
“I’m going to plant flowers and paint paintings and make beautiful things!”
We decide to immediately go get supplies. We hit the garden store first. I’m amazed I feel so great, not one bit of leftovers from taking LSD the night before…
I walk in the door of the garden store — and freeze. I can’t move, the world is spinning so fast.
The colors are so intense!
There are flowers, dancing everywhere!
(…and no more LSD for Anna.)