Stevie could hear his breath as he drew it in. Felt the degree of warmth as he let it back out. He had never meditated while high. He had been taught many years ago that meditation was a spiritual cleansing; a practice in realigning your thought process and only letting them exist in the moment that they belong. Drugs alter that alignment, they contradict the pure foundation, deceiving the natural order that meditation strives to attain. More importantly meditation required intense focus, while Stevie always found his mind racing to irrelevant conclusions when he smoked. He analysed the past and recreated his future and any moment spent in the present was completely accidental.
He decided to heed the warning of his meditation teacher.
The door to the van opened and Phil entered. “Man I looked everywhere for a place to piss. Still a lot of people around. Eventually I just did it on the car parked next to us.”
Stevie had forgotten about outside. He remembered the danger they were in. Would the Citadel agents be after them? Who might have seen Phil pissing? He was recognisable now, someone might just want to see him and say hello and draw attention to the van.
Stevie felt his blood starting to chill. His knee was bouncing up and down on the ball on his foot. He made it stop; tried to relax the nervous energy that was coursing through him. He reminded himself it was all OK; it was very unlikely that they would be found, and if they were caught there would be no escape in this state so they would simply have to accept it. Either way the best option was to enjoy the time he had.
The crooked logic seemed to appease his anxiety – although one flaw was that pre-emptive escape was probably the wisest choice, but then-
“Stevie.” Phil was calling out. Stevie looked up. “Dude you really get lost inside there sometimes, don’t you?”
“You’re not going to green out on us are you pops?” the other kid, Forest, said with a sarcastic drawl.
“Hey, you don’t become as paranoid as Stevie without having a rich history of recreational drug use, am I right Stevie?”
Stevie laughed, still catching up with the present, “Yeah though it has been a while. It would be nice if we could get a bit of decent music playing to help calm me down a bit.”
“Ugh, I guess you want some golden oldies shit, right?” Forest heaved himself up like a tree coming to life and tearing its roots from the ground. He leaned over the seat and fumbled with the ancient sound system. After some static and foreign languages he found a station playing some decades old space rock. A sparse guitar solo tweaked its way over the infinite echo of some organ synths. “This what you’re after?”
Stevie nodded his head. He felt shivers as he became entranced by the melody. It was like swimming in the beach on a windy day. The water was cool and the wind amplified the chill but as the waves rolled through he felt that reassuring warmth wash over him. This is why he used to smoke. He envisioned a light show of retro fluorescents igniting like firecrackers on the back of his eyelids. The pops synchronised as the saxophone took the lead . It was magical. But as soon as he had melted into his seat the track began to fade out.
He opened his eyes, refreshed – like he had just woken after being massaged to sleep in a sauna. He looked at Forest who gave a nod of acknowledgement, “Good call, old man,” he said solemnly.
“Yeah that was nuts. I gotta download that shit,” Phil said, shifting up into a seated position. “Plus this weed is fucking wild, dude, where’d you get it?”
“Same shit as usual, I just sprinkled some Cupid on it.”
“What?!” Phil’s tone was aggressive.
“Relax man, it was just some dregs I had.”
“I told you I wasn’t going to do any more crystals!”
“Wait, what is this Cupid, business?” Stevie asked, suddenly more alert. He also felt a spike of pride over the idea that he had sampled a new drug, an echo of his youth.
“It’s a hallucinogen, like a dream drug – but you gotta really pump the stuff in your system before you start seeing Demon Jesus.”
“Fuck off Forest, I told you this shit is more than hallucinating. I was dead. I had crossed over and saw what it is like to be dead, but not reborn, like enlightened or some shit.”
“I swear every time you tell me this story you just make me want to do it more and more.”
“No, because I was there but I wasn’t enlightened. I was like a freak of nature in that world. Like a retard. They all pitied me and avoided me. It was fucked.” Phil wasn’t joking and Stevie could see it was an unpleasant memory. Stevie wanted to try change the subject.
“Look, I don’t appreciate this sort of deceit either but the best thing is that we seemed to have outlived the worst of it. And I don’t know why you kids don’t just hallucinate with mushrooms, these cooked chemicals aren’t the right way. Anyway we still need to come up with a plan. How do we save Walter if we can’t find him?”
“Well Flip’s mistress already saved him didn’t she?” Forest said, “but it doesn’t matter, his image is already unsavable. Insavable?”
“Not words, dickhead,” Phil spat childishly.
“Sorry Mr Writer, Mr Blogger sir, but wasn’t it your precious words that fucked Walter over in the first place?”
“Get fucked,” Phil said, unable to retort and instead choosing to stare out the window like a child being driven to fat camp.
“Well maybe we can try fight back on the media landscape.” Stevie said, trying to move the conversation past the childish turbulence.
“Good luck. You’re up against Citadel remember? They own the media.”
“But not the internet. We just need to find an outlet that reached as many people as BullCit.”
“They own BullCit, too,” Phil’s tone was beginning to get annoying.
“Actually BullCit is public domain nowadays,” Forest interjected. Both Stevie and Phil looked up, surprised. “Yeah, someone hacked in and got the password, then they set up this sweet system where somebody writes an entry and then changes the password and gives it to someone they trust. It’s like Chinese Whispers except with blogging and hippies.”
“Do people still read it?” Phil asked, trying to mask his undivided attention.
“I don’t know if it gets the mainstream millions you had, but it’s huge on the net circles right now.”
“We need to get that password!” Stevie said, almost embarrassed at how excited he was.
“Good luck dude, it’s a pretty strong code of silence from what I hear.”
“Well that’s an oxymoron but surely someone in,” he paused momentarily, trying not to condescend as he said it, “The Strays has a connection.”
“Well there’s a rumour that Liberty wrote a couple weeks back, but there’s been at least five entries since then.”
“Yeah she’s one of The Strays.”
“You guys are retarded,” Stevie said, shaking his head. “OK, let’s find Liberty!”