Each palpitation of bass pushed Walter farther away from himself. But really, who is myself? the shaky voice inside his head asked. I’m thousands of miles away from any type of familiarity. I don’t know these people, their language, this country, this city, or even what type or how many drugs I’m on. I don’t even know how I got here . . . Am I at a rave?
Electronic dance music chomped with the precision of pneumatic machinery, slicing the air around him into rhythmical bouillon cubes of music and noise. Blacklit glowsticks and the smell of Vicks VapoRub pulverized the dark as glistening skin pumped and humped around him in an orgy of neon movement.
What beautiful oddity allured me to this strange plane of existence and time? He pondered but found his most likely answer in the half-naked woman bouncing her buttocks upon his hips. Apparently his females are friends only policy had gone out the window.
In the sobriety of day—from the little he could remember, Amsterdam had been a serene Dutch beauty. But in the inebriation of night, it was turning out to be a shape-shifting she-devil, and not the place to come to in not knowing where you were, how you got there, or where your friends went.
Hello Planet Amsterdam! Walter said to an imaginary audience in his head. You are strange and so am I, so please accept me as one of your own . . . Please?
Tracers of light started to sputter and stop around him, faces within his vicinity started to change and unhinge. He then suddenly felt himself falling, cannonballing down a mineshaft inside his mind. How far above reality was and what waited below was unclear, but if he could somehow find a rein, perhaps he could pull himself out. He just needed to find out when and where reality began falling away.
I am Walter Huxley—for the most part I am Walter Huxley, he started with what he could last remember to be true. I am in Amsterdam. I came here on a Contiki trip… And that was all memory gave him for the moment. Thunderclouds of fright began gathering.
Well, this is a new high, he thought. I’m not even sure if I’m really alive. Am I, really? . . . Great Walter. Your greatest fear about this trip came true. Whatever drug or drugs you’ve taken has made you lose your mind in a foreign country, or possibly killed you or put you in a coma or somewhere in between, because whatever this is, this isn’t real life . . . But then what is it?
No this is real. It has to be real. I just need to find a restroom because not only do I suddenly really need to pee, but this orchestration of strobing lights and merciless EDM is fucking my psyche with the grace of a jackhammer. Once I’m there, I’ll get a good look over in the mirror to reaffirm my existence, my reality, and that will fix everything . . . I hope.
Fog machines then began dusting the dancefloor with a pulsating cloud of color and confusion as the music crescendoed.
“Doooo you know where the bathroom izzzzz?” he yelled to the owner of the behind he’d been humping. Inside his head, his voice sounded like it was being run through a pitch-shifter. The music was so deafening it was not only affecting his hearing, but blurring his vision. Certainty’s outlines kept going in and out of focus.
The behind’s owner looked back and shrugged, then continued rubbing her behind on him. Walter turned her back around.
“Is there a proper place to urinate,” he said, “or shall I just go on this dancefloooooor?!” Punch drunk and now sure he was in a lucid dream, he unzipped his pants and exposed himself in a challenge to reality. “Wheeere do I take this guyyyy?” he said. But before he could start discharging, two hefty and very real security guards hauled him off the dancefloor and out onto the cobbled streets of the Red Light District. “Thank yooooou!” he yelled after they tossed him.
Okay, so I am still in reality, he thought as he petted the hard ground and the industrial stomp of the nightclub receded into sounds of urban nightlife. I’m still in Amsterdam . . . But God, I still need to take a piss. He then remembered a green, spiral-shaped public urinal he’d pissed in earlier on his way to…
The sex show! the memory climbed out of the abyss and began playing like a backwards movie reel. I went to a sex show and... and I ate a banana? No wait, I ate a banana... I ate a banana out of a vagina? That can’t be good. Oh, okay. So I was pulled onstage and ate a banana out of one of the performer’s vagina. Oh, nope. I excitedly volunteered myself.
The memory flow then ceased and his thoughts went back to his bladder.
Setting out in search of a urinal, the air was cool as it hit Walter’s lungs. The roads were polished by a recent rainstorm and were gleaming and menacing as the District’s red lights echoed off them, making them look as if they were bathed in blood. He tried to ignore the blood as he walked, but soon began seeing it everywhere. Paranoia then began squeezing his mind’s eye and voices started cooing and cackling at him from every corridor and from every contorted face of every passerby.
Unnerved, he began running, setting a frenetic pace as he bounced down alleys and roads like a pinball off bumpers. The faster he ran and the more he changed direction, the less time his psychosis had to play tricks with his environment, and somehow by this method, he ran straight into a city urinal.
Shelter! Walter thought as he clambered into the chamber. Surrounded by only green-painted steel and darkness, the malicious animations of his mind had little to work with. The urinal was nothing more than a spiraled shade around a hole in the ground, which after his heartrate and breathing regulated, he relieved himself into, stirring up a foul odor of stale urine, vomit, and spoiled milk.
After finishing, he then fished into his pocket for his cellphone, not to make a call, but for the front-facing camera. He needed to see his face just to reassure himself he was still himself. But when he turned it on, he was only greeted by a black screen. He pressed the screen and his face against the steel walls, hoping to catch some reflecting rays, but the darkness ate them all up. Resolving to using his phone’s primary camera which had a flash, he turned the phone around and pointed it at himself with eyes closed. The flash banged like a loaded gun and an imaginary force of voltaic monsters came screaming in under his eyelids. In reaction, he threw the phone, and after several seconds of blindness, a sad image waxed into view. There, in a pool of public excrement, it lay like his spirit: shattered. He squatted down and picked up the splintered device and its assorted pieces. He pressed the power button with both thumbs as if choking it, but to no avail.
Unable to confirm himself, Walter gradually waned back into the ether, left to swim again with his chemical demons as inner catcalls oozed in from grates above. He fell over and cowered fetally over the urinal’s hole, covering himself and his hands with some kind of mucus coating the floor. Unthinkingly, he then held his hands to his face to cry, putting the filth in his eyes and making himself blind.
But sight wasn’t the last of Walter’s senses to forsake him.
Slowly, he retreated from any bodily sensation until he was only thought, then only one thought: This must be what death feels like. It bounded down the halls of his empty consciousness until it was nothing but a whisper. Then, impenetrable silence.
Now out of the outside world, Walter was left to wander within himself in search of any trace of himself; any proof he had ever existed. An ember of life then flickered. It was the oldest memory he could conjure from the database of his existence. A young woman was humming, the light hush of her breathing and the rhythmic pulse of her heart pressed against his ear. There was no sight, only sound. He was in his mother’s womb.
Walter had always felt unwelcomed by the world he’d been born into, but now, here in her womb, he realized that was never quite true. There was and always would be one person who saw worth in his existence; she gave her life for it. And although he never knew his mother, he’d always known her love: his life.
Soon his mother’s heartbeat became all Walter could hear. It beat like a war drum, until gradually, his outside tormentors withdrew and corporeality returned to his soggy corduroy bellbottoms rinsing in whatever marinade he was sharing the floor with. Still lying on his side, he then picked up his cellphone and pretended it was still operable.
“Hi Mommy,” Walter said into it. Mommy, he wasn’t sure if he’d ever said the word before. “Even though I’ve only met you in pictures and Grandma’s stories, I realize now I’ve been meeting you my whole life. Your love is my life, my love most supreme. And I don’t know the last time or if I’ve ever told you this directly, but I love you. I love you with all the heart and life you gave me, and I’m sorry I forget that sometimes. I love you Mommy. I love you so much.”
He sat up from the floor with a more peaceful mind. He was still high as shit, but at least the monster was manageable now.
“I thought you came here to be inspired and to honor Amber?” the therapist inside his head then spoke. “I don’t think the bottom of this urinal is doing much for either. But I suppose once in a while you do get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right, including a goddamn urinal. But still, you shouldn’t be wasting time in a goddamn urinal reflecting on your past. You should be outside of this goddamn urinal creating a past worth reflecting on; inspiring a story to keep you entertained for an eternity. Because in the end, your life may be the only story you have left to read.
“Now as you know,” his therapist continued, “I’m an advocate of moderate drug use, but you’re doing it all wrong. Traveling the world is already a mind-altering experience and additional intoxicants should be taken with extreme care—especially when you’re in a place you’ve never been before. And while drugs may open the path to enlightenment, they’ll never get you to the destination. But there’s hope for you Walter, and I’m glad I found you when I did. You still have a chance to salvage your one night in one of the greatest cities in the world. Don’t blow it on account of a bad trip. We all have them. But that’s why it’s called a trip, you can always stand up…”