Chapter 13: Madcap Laughs (excerpt from my upcoming novel, The Silver Year)

Good news! I’m on the final leg of my second draft and my book should finally be out in spring to early summer of next year! Until then, I’ve decided to tease you with another chapter. If you haven’t read the book’s synopsis you can find it here. Enjoy!

Chapter 13

Madcap Laughs

Each palpitation of bass pushed Walter farther away from himself. But really, who is myself? the quivering 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. I do know one thing though: I hate this music . . . 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 thumped around him in an orgy of neon movement. What beautiful oddity allured me to this strange plane of existence and time this time? He soon found his answer in the half-naked body thrusting her bountiful buttocks upon his hips.

Wally, Walter’s inner frat boy and drunk persona, had a tendency to “go exploring” when Walter was blacked out and this was a fatal flaw in a city so bipolar as Amsterdam. In the sobriety of day she was a serene Dutch beauty, but in the inebriation of night, she was a shape-shifting she-devil, and not the place you wanted to come to in not knowing where you were, how you got there, or where your friends went.

Hello Planet Amsterdam! Walter thought to himself in a comical, Buzz-Lightyear-like voice, desperately reaching for some former plane of euphoria he had since fallen off of. I am Walter Huxley, and I come in strange, just like you! Please accept me as one of your own. Tracers of light began to freeze in rejection; faces within his vicinity began to change and unhinge. Walter swallowed in fear as he suddenly felt himself falling.

Walter had hung his feet over the edge of sanity before, but tonight it felt as if he’d made a running leap and was now cannonballing down the mineshaft of his mind. How far above reality was and what lay below he was unsure, however, if he could find a tether, perhaps he could still save himself. He just needed to find out when and where reality escaped him.

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 could give him for now.

FUUUUCK! his thoughts groaned as thunderclouds of panic grew. Well, this is a new and frightening high. I’m not even sure if I’m really alive. This feels like a dream . . . Well, I think you did it Walter. Whatever you took it’s killed you, or put you in a coma, or somewhere in between, but whatever this is, it isn’t real life . . . But then what is it?

Okay Walter, get a grip! Calm down! We can handle this. WE can handle this . . . We just need some quiet right now. We need to find a restroom. Not only because we suddenly really need to pee, but this orchestration of strobing lights and merciless EDM is fucking our psyche with the grace of a jackhammer right now. Once we’re there, we’ll get a good look over in the mirror to reaffirm our—I mean my existence, and that will bring we—I mean, me—back to reality . . . Fuck, I hope.  

Fog machines suddenly filled the dancefloor with a pulsating cloud of color and disorientation as if the dream was fighting back, not wanting Walter to leave. As the music began a crescendo, he felt as if the ground was lifting, and if he were to leave, he’d fall to his death.

Doooo you know where the bathroom izzzzz?” he yelled to the girl he was dancing with—or more or less 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 Walter’s hearing, but blurring his vision from the reverberations of his skull. Certainty’s outlines kept going in and out of focus. She yelled something back, whether it was English or not was unclear. “The baaathrooooom—the pisser, water closet. Où est le toilet?! El baaanooo!

She shrugged her shoulders and turned around, waiting to be humped into again. He turned her back, and shouted: “Is there a proper place to urinate, or shall I just go on this dancefloooooor?!”

At this point he was no longer asking to be answered, just needing somewhere to aim his frustration. Punch drunk and certain he was in a lucid dream, he unzipped his pants and exposed himself to the girl in a challenge to reality. “Wheeere do I take this guyyyy?” The girl screamed and everyone turned to see the freakshow unraveling in the middle of the dancefloor. Before Walter could start relieving himself though, two hefty and very real security guards hauled him out of the cloud and onto the cobbled streets of the Red Light District. “Thank yooooou!” he yelled as they sloppily tossed him to the ground.

The industrial stomp of the nightclub soon receded into sounds of urban nightlife as Walter’s mind calmed for the time being. Okay, so I’m still in reality, he thought. I still am in Amsterdam . . . God, I 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 slowly climbed out of the abyss. My tour group and I went to a sex show . . . I ate a banana . . . I ate a banana out of a girl’s vagina. I was pulled onstage and ate a banana out of one of the performer’s vagina . . . Okay, nope. I excitedly volunteered myself to eat the banana. The memory flow ceased. Well, maybe I’ll be able to remember more once all this fluid is out of me, he thought, and set out in search of another city urinal.

The air was cool as it hit Walter’s lungs. The roads had been polished by a recent rainstorm and were gleaming and menacing as the District’s red lights echoed off them. This red-tinged reality, however, soon began to rattle his bearings again, and again the drugs took advantage of his loosening grip. Chemical demon upon chemical demon stuffed itself into his neural network until his head exploded open, and a vivid flood of animated insanity was spilt upon the world. Voices cooed and cackled at him from every corridor, passersby twisted and stretched in hellish facial contortions, while the streets burned in a fire of blood. The monsters of paranoia were encircling Walter and there was nothing to do but surrender or run.

Walter chose the latter, his feet setting a frenetic pace as they bounced down the alleyways like a pinball off the rubbery walls of his imagination. The faster he moved, the less time his senses had to play tricks on him. Anywhere else this public display of lunacy would have attracted notice, however everyone was too busy managing their own demons of the Red Light District to worry about his. He was just one among many madcaps out of their minds—or in his case, trapped within it.

Fortuitously, Walter struck upon a urinal while zigzagging through the city with no other strategy than folly madness. Shelter! he thought as he cuddled against his piss-stained savior. Surrounded by only green 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. The confined space was easier for him to comprehend, and his neurons began to cool after being set ablaze from the friction of so many over-firing synapses.

He rested his head against the wall and looked up into the misty sky, waiting until his heartrate and breathing regulated before finally discharging himself. The piss felt as good as an escaping possession and stirred up a foul odor of stale urine, vomit, and spoiled milk. Now within reach of composure, he had everything he needed but a recognizable face. He needed the stability of someone familiar to reassure himself that he had found the way out of the maze of his mind. But in the solitude of his spiraled bunker, the only face familiar to him was his own.

As expected, the urinal had no mirror. Walter dug through his pockets and found his otherwise useless cellphone. He couldn’t make a call, but it did have a camera. He turned the front-facing camera on, but 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 it was far too dark. He then resolved to using his phone’s primary camera which had a flash, but his eyes and mind were in a tenuous state, still regaining normal function. Using it came with the risk of being sent back into a lunatic fit. So with eyes closed, he pointed the camera carefully at himself as if it were a loaded gun. The flash then exploded and an imaginary force of voltaic monsters came rushing in under his eyelids. Reactionarily, he threw the phone in fear, and after several seconds of blindness, a sad image slowly faded into view. There, in a pool of public excrement, lay his phone 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, he gradually dissipated into the ether, left to swim again with his chemical demons.

As catcalls oozed over the grates from above, Walter cowered over fetally onto the floor. His body writhed as he held his hands to his face and cried. There was nothing to do but cry, cry with the intensity of a discarded newborn. His tears, however, unfortunately soon loosened the film of filth from the floor that had accumulated on his palms, and soon his eyes were invaded with the passion of an army of fire ants, leaving Walter in a deserted, burning blindness. But sight wasn’t the last of his senses to leave him. Slowly, he retreated from any bodily sensation until there was nothing left but 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 finally, dense silence.

Undisturbed of the outside world, Walter was left to wander within himself in search of any trace of himself; any proof that he had ever existed. An ember of life began to flicker. It was the oldest memory he could revive from the database of his existence. A young woman was humming, the light hush of her breathing and the slow rhythmic pulse of her heart pressed against his ear. There was no sight, only sound. Walter was in his mother’s womb.

For a lot of his life, Walter was made to feel unwanted. He entered into the world unwelcomed, and in some sense that sentiment never left him. But in his lonely foxhole, he found he was not actually alone. There was and always would be one person who saw worth in his existence, so much so she gave her life for it: his mother. Nothing could ever change that; he had and always would have his mother’s love.

Soon her heartbeat became all Walter could hear, and it beat with the fury of a war drum until his outside tormentors withdrew. Slowly, corporeality returned to his soggy, corduroy bellbottoms, rinsed in a marinade of rainwater, piss, and the other unknown elements Walter shared the floor with. He picked up his cellphone again and spoke into it as if it were still operable.

“Hi Mom,” he said out loud. Mom: he wasn’t sure if he had ever even said the word. “Even though I’ve only met you in pictures and Grandma’s stories, I want you to know you are still very much a part of my life—a part of me. No matter where I am, your love is and always has been with me. I guess somewhere along the way I forgot that. But however neglected it may be, when I need it the most, your love is always there to shush away my demons, and that is what I’m most grateful for Mommy. When the world tells me I don’t belong, you tell it I damn sure do . . . I don’t know the last time or if I ever told you this, but I love you Mom, and I’m sorry I don’t tell you that more often. I love you.”

Absolved, Walter sat up with a more peaceful mind. He then remembered—and then realized, there was a way out of this mess. He searched his jacket pockets and found a forgotten lighter he had bought earlier at a coffee shop with Curt and Kourtney—however, whatever else he bought there and what happened before and after was still a mystery. He took out the lighter and struck it in front of the glass shards left of his phone screen. There, fragmented but reflected in the flame, was the face he so needed to see: himself. Walter had returned to reality—sort of. He was still high as shit, but at least the monster was manageable now.

“I thought you came here for something new and revelating?” Walter’s familiar therapist inside his head spoke out loud. “Yet, I don’t think the bottom of a urinal is exactly what you had in mind, huh? But I suppose once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right, right? But still, you shouldn’t be wasting this trip in a goddamn urinal reflecting on your past. You should be outside of it creating a past worth reflecting on; inspiring a story that will hopefully keep you entertained for an eternity, because in the end, the story of your life may be all you have left to read.

“Now, as you know, I’m an advocate of moderate drug use, but you’re doing it all wrong. Traveling the world is a mind-altering experience itself, and additional intoxicants should be taken with extreme care—especially when you’re in a place you’ve never been before. Drugs can enhance the experience of life, but too much and you’ll destroy it altogether as you’re starting to do with this trip.

“But there’s hope for you Walter. 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…”