By Geordin Crosbie
Justin's insides wretched as the onset of the medicine began to take control of his consciousness. He doubled over and clenched his stomach as a rush of nausea enveloped his body. His vision began to reverberate and his pupils began to resemble dinner plates. Every inch of his body poured sweat. The sudden change of reality put him in a panic, so he began concentrating on his breath in vain attempt to navigate himself back into a sense of calm reality. He breathed in slowly, deliberately. This effort was futile though, as he was about to enter another dimension entirely.
Sensing his fear, one of the Shamans kneeled down at his side and began her duties, that of which was to provide him safe passage through the spirit world. She was the lighthouse at the other end of his consciousness that would beckon him home. The voice that navigated him through the rocky shores of self discovery. She placed one hand on his hip, and with the other, began brushing him gently with the ceremonial herbs of the rainforest. Then she began to sing. The sounds of her Icaro floated softly through every channel of his mind and guided him into a trance.
Introduce me into your body
From there I will speak to you
Introduce me into your mind
From there I will enlighten you…
Forty minutes would pass before the psychedelic properties of the ayahuasca really took a hold of him. His vision began to breathe, colours began to warp, and regular consciousness ceased. His heart rate increased dramatically, and the intense thoughts that already pervaded his mind swirled into a contradicting mess of fear, joy, and hysteria. In his minds eye, began a great activity.
…Introduce me into your heart
From there I will give you heat…
The medicine was more powerful then he could have ever imagined. He began to dry heave as another wave of nausea hit him. An intense burning sensation began from the tips of his toes, then to his stomach, and from there to his throat. Mucus dribbled from his mouth and nose as he rolled slowly back and fourth on the gazebos wooden floor. His lungs struggled too satiate his need for oxygen due to the humid Peruvian air. He rolled over on his back and reached out into the distance as the first wave of images began. At first they were nothing more then nonsensical geometric patters and vivid bright lights, but soon after they developed into an alternate reality. He looked around the gazebo at the faces that were once familiar and started to tremble as they began shifting and morphing into some of his greatest fears. The first wave was the spiders.
…My voice will whisper to you
Things you do not think you know
Within you, you will find
The answer to your being…
The massive tarantulas paced around him ever so slowly as if to taunt him. They also hung from the rafters, slowly edging their way down from the silk that suspended them. Justin sat frozen in abject terror. He could not move or speak. The spiders inched closer and closer to him and began to hiss.
The snakes appeared next. They appeared from the floorboards and slithered around every inch of his body, wrapping around his arms and torso in preparation for constriction. One of the snakes slid over his shoulder and twisted its frame around so it was face to face with him, then it spoke gently.
“What is it that you fear?” Justin was still frozen. A single tear started to slide down his cheek. The snake was now so close that its forked tongue was brushing against his nose.
“Do you fear us, or do you simply fear death?” One of the spiders was now balancing itself on his head, the tips of its legs resting ever so gently on his scull as if in a Demi-plié. Another began spinning a web around his arm.
“Why do you fear death?” asked the snake. The final wave of horrors began to emerge from the floorboards–this time in the form of giant beetles, scorpions, and centipedes. They swarmed him. The scorpions pierced his flesh with their stingers, the beetles chewed away at his arms, and the centipedes burrowed themselves into his ears and nostrils. Justin was despondent, yet through the horror he could hear the faintest whisper of hope in the continued Icaro of the Shaman.
…You will hear my snake's voice
Sneaking into your hearing
You will see my light without seeing it
Through you senses....
And my warmth will follow you
Further than the coldest cold
And I will be part of you
Dust cast into infinity…
After hearing these words Justin suddenly found his voice. He began to slowly rise from his fetal position.
“I don’t fear death; I’m afraid of what lies beyond it.” The apparitions sneered and recoiled upon hearing these words. They began to scream in unison.
“You are weak! Cancer has already robbed your children of a mother, and now they will grow without a father. All their hopes and aspirations will fade and decay as surely as your flesh.”
The apparitions lunged towards him en masse with intent to kill, but not before Justin muttered in acceptance of the situation.
“It is out of my control. If this is how I have to go, then so be it.
With these words, the hallucination began to dissolve all around him. A blinding white light obscured his vision, followed by an overwhelming need to purge the fear. Crippling nausea enveloped his body. He then threw up all over the floor of the gazebo and shit himself. Justin wretched until his body could expunge no more, then began to recede into further hallucination.
…Two serpents intertwined,
That talk to you without telling
That tell you without speaking
He closed his eyes and after a few moments a new scene emerged from the darkness. In front of him stood his dead wife, as well as the rest his family. They gazed at him intently. Some were smiling, some were laughing, others were crying. His wife glided slowly towards him. The shimmering, multi-coloured lights that engulfed her blinded Justin from recognition, but once she spoke he knew it was her. She knelt down, pressed her palms against his cheeks, and spoke softly.
“You are walking the medicine path now. More pain lies ahead, but you have to face it.”
“I can’t take it anymore, Leslie,” replied Justin.
“You can, and you will. You have to.”
“Why?” She turned around and motioned towards their children.
“You know why, but the why is not what is important right now. The pain will heal you. That is all that matters.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You don’t need to understand.”
Tears started to stream from Justin’s eyes. “When will I see you again?”
“Much faster then you’d think. In your dimension it will feel like a blink of an eye.” His wife moved forward and hugged him tenderly. She whispered in his ear.
“You have to forgive yourself, Justin. Forgive yourself, and forgive those who betrayed you. It’s the only way you are going to make it through this.”
“Make it through what?” Before she could answer Justin's hallucination dropped him into another scene entirely. This time he was in his grade school gym locker room.
…I am the energy asleep within you,
Awaken me now
I want to ascend
to unravel you,
To cross the zero
To close that circle
Where peace sleeps in a distant dream…
Justin paced around the locker room. Everything seemed familiar to him. He ran his hands along the tile walls as he walked through the corridors and breathed in its musty air. He made his away around a corner and watched as his younger self sat on his teacher’s lap. He recoiled upon recognition of the event. Every fibre of his being wanted to be free of this situation—to be free of the memory. Yet he could not move. Just like the last vision he was frozen in perpetual horror. He tried to look away, but his gaze was locked. Agony and dread flooded his body as he was forced to watch the scene that played out before him. His teacher rubbed the child's back in a circular motion while speaking to him in a muted tone.
“You know you can trust me, right?”
“I know,” replied the child. Justin's heart ached for some form of tangible respite, but nothing came. Even still, the Shaman’s song still played in the back of his mind— the ever present speck of hope.
…When the blue reaches your face
And the moon over your head
We will go to their meeting
and you will forgive those who would betray you
Justin became crestfallen as the man’s hand drifted toward the child's pants. Blue moonlight began to peak through a distant window and illuminated the two of them. The scene was twice as clear as before— the moon acting like stage lights. The child rejected the mans advances and told him to stop, but he wasn’t listening. He pressed on until the sounds of the child's crying echoed throughout the locker room. Justin’s mind went into another bout of mania, but this ceased once his thoughts stopped on what his wife had said.
“You have to forgive him, as well as yourself.”
Suddenly, as if film reels had been spliced together, the scenes in which Justin’s hallucination was taking place in, began flipping back and forth rapidly. In between the scenes of the locker room, Justin caught momentary glimpses of another child going through similar trauma.
It took a moment for him to realize what he was watching, but soon figured out that his gym teacher was going through a similar ordeal. Upon realization, Justin was unfrozen.
“I forgive you.”
Once the words were spoken, everything assumed a relative calm. The sounds of the children crying ceased, and his teacher and younger self vanished. All that could be heard was the low humming and chattering of an air condition unit. Before Justin could catch his bearings he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around, and standing in front of him was his wife and two children. He began to cry as they all stepped forward in unison to embrace him. Through tears, his wife spoke softly.
“This is where it gets amazing. Follow us.”
Hands interlocked, Justin, his wife and their two children started walking towards a paradise. Before they entered, Justin took one last moment to stop and listen.
…And my voice will guide you through the betrayal
Replacing fear with strength
By the power of forgiveness and love…
Photo Credit: Iva Villi
Just a 23-year-old Irishman stuck in the city that fun forgot, cutting through the bullshit one story at a time. My hobbies include pretending I’m a scribbler, navigating sobriety, and consuming lemon-flavoured libations. I imagine myself becoming a famous writer one day, but if that doesn’t work out, I can always fall back on cooking professionally and screaming at people.