Bad Trip – Short Story (Horror)

The car sped like a bullet down the perfectly flat and mundane country road. Byron let the acceleration wash over him as the THC soothed him into a heady distortion. Jason was driving and looking just as heady.

“Yo, you ever wonder if it’s scarier to know if there are aliens or know if we’re actually alone in the universe?” The stars seemed to shimmer in the darkness when Jason finally managed to mumble a stoner question after three hours of silence.  He was still wearing that stupid beanie since Bakersfield.

“I don’t know, man. I’m more focused on the terrestrial. The here and now. There are scarier things to worry about. Like why I agreed to ride to Santa Monica instead of taking the bus.” Byron moved some of the trash, the empty chip bags and energy drinks, to the back. The car was starting to smell like guy sweat and various chemicals that he wasn’t sure he could identify. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to be after college but it wasn’t anything close to being an archeologist, even with eyes of disapproval behind his father’s glasses.

“Don’t be stressing.” Jason wiped something on his already stained shirt. His hair was starting to look like a used mop under that beanie. “We’ll make it in time for orientation. You’re my best friend. I wouldn’t steer you wrong. You just need something that’ll take you away to another place. Another universe. Speaking of, I think it’s time to take a trip. Bust out your dad’s secret stash.”

“It’s not a stash.” Byron pulled out the set of jars wrapped in leather, knowing full well that his dad would kill him if he found out he stole them. “They’re from the Kilhiachi tribe. Legendary extinct society of prehistoric Mesoamerica. It’s amazing they’re so preserved. My dad found it in a tribal dungeon, buried deep in a mountain. I’m not sure this is a good idea.” He opened a jar, a puff of dust dispersed, and he sniffed. It was beautiful and noxious, like lilacs with a scent of rotting meat.

“Hand it over. I don’t give a shit. I’ll try anything once. You need to try it yourself. it’ll open your mind. You’ve been picking at your nails all day. Drugs are the solution to all life’s problems.”

“I’m not so sure.” Byron curled his fingers to hide his nails. But before he could stop him Jason was already chewing on the prehistoric tribe’s hallucinogenic mushrooms. “They used them for spiritual journeys. My dad was excavating in a tribe land that he was not permitted to,” just like how he had stolen the shrooms from his dad, “in a place that was said to be a portal to other worlds, other realities. But he didn’t believe the myths or even if the Kilhiachi existed.”

“Cosmic portal, woah. Trippy, dude.” the driver made a stoned groan. “I wonder where it led to. These indians knew how to party. I hear they made you eat shrooms when you came of age, so you can take a personal trip of enlightenment. How can drugs be bad if the indians are using them?”

“Native Americans.” Corrected Byron, holding the shriveled up shroom to his face. “Unlike the Kiowan tribes the Kilhiachi used the drugs to see other realities, the realms of the gods, not just for enlightenment. Outer knowledge as well as inner.” Instant regret swallowed him as he swallowed the shrooms…but if teen boys of the ancient tribes took them as rites of passage, he should be fine. Plus, the thoughts of college were starting to consume him. But soon the world would be thrown into a kaleidoscope of psychedelic images or so he hoped. He assumed the fungi was the same as what the modern tribes used but he couldn’t be sure.

Jason took a chug of water and lit up a joint. Over the next hour they waited anxiously, neither one giving into the thought what they were doing was wrong, only that it offered some relaxation to the pain of everyday concerns and fears. After feeling a bout of mellowness Byron closed his eyes and let his mind collapse into sleep.

“Bro, wake up! Bro.” Jason was shuffling him against the passenger window. “Bro, I’m tripping out!”

Byron awoke with an angry stare. The windows had fogged up but it was clear that they were parked on the side of the road. “Wha…what the hell are you doing? Are we stopped?”

“Yeah bro, I got tired and pulled over. We made it up Hidden Valley Mountain. But dude, are you seeing this? It feels so real.”

The car was filled with warm musk as his eyes adjusted. He wasn’t high anymore, that was for sure, and he was well rested. There were no signs of visual distortions, strange shapes, or feeling of euphoria. The dried fungus in the jar was a dud. Jason was shaking, glancing through holes in the fogged windows, eyes darting. “I don’t feel anything. What’s wrong with you?”

His friend stared through him, his chest heaving and sweat dripped from his brow. “I… I don’t either. Thats the problem. But this…this can’t be real.” Jason wiped away the fog on the windshield with his flannel shirt sleeve. And that’s when Byron gasped, trying to conceal a desperate moan.

The mountainous road was still ahead of them but everything else was completely foreign. Instead of an orange sunset there was a purple glow across the valley below. The valley, if it could be described as one, was covered in nefarious looking branches and trees that reminded Byron of a gothic nightmare. A black forest. He was glad they were so high on the mountain. He wiped away the moisture from the passenger window, sweat started to form on his cheeks. The rock formations were even stranger, rising in almost hexagonal shapes. The ground itself was like pillars of hex shapes being pushed up passed each other and the dirt was somehow golden, pebbles shone like gems.

The mountain was like a craggy collection of thin towers, dark and brooding over them. “I must be tripping too…”

“You can see it?!” Jason shouted wildly. “You can see this? How is that we’re not buzzed at all but the outside world is completely different? The trees down there look totally gnarly. This ain’t right, man.”

“Cosmic portals…to other worlds.” Whispered Byron to himself. It was either that or they were sharing some dreamed up psychosis. He put his hands on the door and pulled it open.

“What are you doing?” Jason grabbed for his arm but Byron was already stepping out.

“I have to see…” It was strange standing on a hex tiled ground. The dirt was also awkward to stand on. A smell of rotten eggs came to his nose. He cringed and started to choke. This couldn’t be a trick of the mind. His skin started to burn from the purple sunlight.

“Dude!” Jason threw a bag of chips at him.

Foliage nearby, small bushes, resembled the spiky twisted branches of the trees over the horizon. Byron knew he’d never want to try these types of drugs ever again. His anxiety certainly wasn’t assuaged in any way. The feeling of paternal expectation, college expectations, and general societal expectations became replaced by the simple primitive survival. The drugs weren’t worth this…

Otherworldly, the scents of destruction, death, and cruelty filled the air. What other terrible things lay in wait in the dark corners of this world? But soon he saw the answer. Hidden behind the crooked shrubbery were the eyes of a large predator. Blue and piercing the eyes stared directly at him. It growled through the brush and revealed a long-pointed muzzle, like a dog with a heinous smile and slippery looking tentacles on his shoulders like hairs of fur. It came forward with sharp talons on its four legs, the body hunched down about to strike.

This was turning into a bad trip…He leapt into the passenger seat and slammed the door. A second later a loud bang knocked him into his friend. The door was dented instantly. Both of the men screamed in juvenile whines. The creature leapt onto the hood with a few cackles from its jaws, landing on the roof. More dents formed. They shrieked, Byron shouting that he wanted to go home, any place but this.

“This doesn’t feel like no spiritual journey!”

You idiot, I told you this was a bad idea. Why did I agree to this? Is this what you call a small habit!” Byron was pissed, pissed that he was involved in this at all, trapped in this car coffin. The dog creature jumped off and ran back into the wilds of the dark world.

The next several hours went by with a tornado of emotions. Neither knew what to do. If they drove, they would easily fall off the cliffs formed by the hex pillar mountain. That was if the car started. Their phones didn’t work here either. If they did nothing they would run out of food and water, this planet likely having neither for their sustenance. The stale chips, chocolates, and energy drinks would starve them faster from sugars and sodium. So, they just waited. It seemed like a good plan, one that didn’t involve much thinking, and got high, a routine that removed thinking all together.

Nothing fortuitous came to them. Instead, they passed out, awaking sometime later, Jason awaking first, to find that they were still lost in another dimension. Another day passed without incident. In the distance they saw a cloud that seemed to move unnaturally. Byron swore he saw the eyes of predators on the rocks through the now cracked passenger window but ignored them. They would urinate in empty bottles if they needed to go at all.

That night, after their daily ration of four chips each, they witnessed strange jellyfish creatures drifting over the valley and into the sky. Their blue bioluminescence was itself a head trip. It was like they were in a hippy art painting. They floated over the horizon and out of sight, appearing harmless. Bryon and Jason gesticulated for several hours, even considering they somehow turned the car into an interdimensional transport, and fell asleep afraid and starving. They, like the jelly creatures, were drifting alone and aimless.

Over the next few days they considered leaving the car again but were too weak to even move an inch. Their muscles ached. Their heads pounded. Their lips cracked and they started to moan more than speak.

“We’re going to die.” Spoke Byron in a whisper, his vision started to fade.

“Not in a million years…did I ever imagine myself dying from potato chips.” Jason was staring at a half-filled bottle of piss. “You think I can drink this?”

Byron groaned. “Gross…dude. I don’t think I can feel my legs anymore.”

“You want to get high?”

Byron would’ve smacked him if he wasn’t so weak. Drugs weren’t always the answer. He wondered if it had ever been the answer. Removing the jars from the leather pouch he examined each substance within. “We haven’t…tried everything yet.” Each jar contained shriveled up flora of varying colors. The one they had eaten was purple, like the sunlight of this world. The remaining colors were brown, yellow, red, and blue.

“You ever wonder why the younger generation prefer texting over phone calls? It’s much easier to hide your anxiety behind a text. It takes too much time and energy to pretend to be sociable, to pretend to be someone who’s happy, to pretend to be someone else.” Jason had become delirious and had his head facing the window but, in the reflection, there were tears in his eyes. “But I would give anything to talk to my mom.”

Byron didn’t know what to say in that moment. He pondered whether that was also true about substance abuse. Had Jason stopped using, even for a day he wouldn’t have had the social paranoia that came with smoking a joint. But Byron asked himself the same question. Had he been hiding behind excuses to cope with his own personal issues? He considered this and the irony of what he was about to say. “What if we just tried to take one of these other shrooms?”

But as Jason turned with a dire expression the car was hit with a swarm of black and gray insects. The windshield instantly cracked with the onslaught. They could no longer shout in fear and merely moaned. The insects were jostling the entire car with their combined mass. At first, they appeared like giant locusts but when one landed on the side mirror Byron saw that the gray was actually two-inch razors on their mouths and legs. The insect peeled away the mirror while others started shredding away the metal of the vehicle.

Jason whimpered. “What do we do?”

While the car shook Byron quickly examined the jars. The one they had taken was purple, like the sky. Perhaps the colors meant something after all. Their own sun was yellow so the choice was clear. He tore off the cap, held his nose, and took a bite from the yellow capped mushroom. Jason followed suit in a confused state and swallowed while choking back pitiful screams.

They waited while the insects tore away the cars outer shell. After several minutes, as the effects started to become physical, they drifted into unconsciousness, holding each other’s hands and begging for forgiveness and escape.

Sometime later they awoke with screams in their throats to a beautifully yellow sky. They stopped and stared blankly. They were back on the Hidden Valley Mountain overlooking the peaceful view of humanity, a city down below with normal trees, normal atmosphere. The car itself had been almost completely demolished, the cracks in the windshield still visible. They would need to call for a tow truck but at least they had survived.

Byron turned his aching neck slowly. Sadness had eaten away at Jason until he held his face, wiping away tears. Nothing needed to be said. He would get rid of the shrooms, the drugs, and all other dependencies that could potentially take him to another world of cruelty and predatorial brutality. This wasn’t the end of his life. It could have been but it wasn’t. This was just the beginning.

Jason nodded when Byron took the remaining substances and tied them into a bag. His friend also knew that they needed to find better ways to deal with their problems. The answer it seemed lay in an exercise of self-preservation and willpower. The willpower to finally live for the first time.

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