Sex, Drugs and Weirdness.

As I’ve been antisocial in general for quite some time and honestly missed the guy, I finally hung out with my friend, Moe. I had just had my profound psilocybin experience the previous night but wasn’t prepared to say too much about it, as I had not had the time to process it to any length, but as we hung out and shot the shit in my apartment much of what we spoke of seemed to resonate with my trip.
I did tell him about taking shrooms, but as he didn’t ask, I failed to dispense with all the details. I told him I had just one more item on my drug bucket list — and I didn’t even have to name the substance.

“DMT,” he said. He didn’t even phrase it as a question.

He still had my book, DMT: The Spirit Molecule, which I desperately wanted to read again, too. My interest in the drug is due to its associations with the pineal gland, which is believed to manufacture DMT, perhaps playing a role in altered states such as dreaming, Near Death Experiences and, so some believe, alien abduction experiences.

Repeatedly over the course of my experiences there has been the repeating theme of Ajna, or the third eye, which corresponds to the pineal gland. I feel pressure there when I’ve meditated, had experiences involving it during my “astral projections,” and it has cropped up continuously in my spontaneous artwork. It is also associated with a sense of direction, which I certainly lack, and sleep cycles, and mine are almost always out of whack — so I’ve occasionally entertained the possibility that I have a malfunctioning pineal. To learn that it might be associated with DMT only served to increase my curiosity, and perhaps the aforementioned hypothesis.

My curiosity is whether the drug would replicate my “astral projection” experiences (which may have been a form of lucid dreaming, for all I know) or even my alien abduction experiences. Though I truly believe the alien experiences were physical ones, experimenting with DMT may prove otherwise. In any case, I need to know.

I also mentioned to Moe how both my acid trip and most recent shroom experience seemed imbued with sexual energy. In my life I’ve noticed a correspondence between sexual energy and certain seemingly paranormal experiences, so perhaps that explains the synchronicities that occurred in the days to follow. One occurred after I’d gotten the shrooms, I believe, but before I had taken them. This was when an article of mine which I’d written some time ago involving shrooms was quoted on another forum. Other coincidences occurred in the days that followed. On Facebook, I saw two posts within a few minutes, one by Anti-Media and one by Cyanide & Happiness, both involving magic mushrooms. Then, at 5 AM on April 10th, as I checked for videos below the porn I was watching, I saw a porno starring a woman going by the name of Lila — a word, meaning “play,” that I had written several times during my trip.

When I mentioned to Moe the sexual nature of the trips, he immediately asked me how long it’s been. I confessed that it has been my longest stretch since I first got laid in October of 1999: seven long, non-fucking years.

“Don’t make it a decade, man.”

Word.

Constantly I circle back to two things I need to do to improve my life. The easiest to confess is needing to get my unambitious ass in a better job by the time I’m forty, which will be this November. I’ve spent most of my life in shit jobs and over fourteen years in the fast food joint in which I am currently wading and wasting my life away in. If I’m going to be miserable, I might as well be making more money in the process.

Needing to get laid is a bit more difficult to admit, though I suspect it is at least as obvious. I kept telling myself I was happy being single and settled on the fact that it should stay that way. I no longer wanted that war of impulses waging in my head: I wouldn’t make a good boyfriend, had no interest in being a husband, and didn’t think I was responsible and mature enough to be a father. I didn’t like how awkward and self-conscious I felt when I began anything approximating an active pursuit of a female of the species, and typically as soon as I get in a relationship I feel trapped and want to be alone again. So given that context, not getting laid made sense: no chance of getting tricked into the delusion of love again, no pain when it ended, no chance of accidentally impregnating a girl. It seemed to be the safest, most logical route.

Despite that, I did find that I missed having a girlfriend. Sex is certainly a big part of it, and that reason alone would certainly not justify any attempt with a girl, but there were other things I missed. The closeness, the intimacy, the way being in a relationship with a girl I truly cared for made me feel more human somehow, more connected to the world, more real, even. It was an entirely different state of consciousness. Indeed, women were in many ways like an addictive drug, at least when I allowed myself to get close.

To me, though, all of that sounded just slightly less shallow and selfish than wanting a girlfriend for the sole purposes of securing sex. Or was I, as my friend Abbey once accused me, merely trying to rationalize away my humanity? Was all this just natural and I was being silly and immature fighting these impulses? It suddenly seemed as if that aforementioned internal war was still raging in me after all…

Though he is likely to debate the point, Moe has always had a way with women — and women had a way of emotionally scarring him. As similar as him and I were, as much as he seemed to be a brother from another mother, he had a degree of confidence and machismo I never really had. Occasionally I was jealous of it; I always admired it. His guidance in this endeavor, should I elect to go forward with it, would certainly be of great benefit.

He said that sometime in the near future we should go to a bar in town and maybe I could pick up a girl; though I said I probably would drink little to nothing at all, I was willing to give it a try.

Long ago I had noticed that when I didn’t get laid, everything became sexualized. It became a default metaphor for things. My jokes often referenced things of a sexual nature. Jung was right: what is repressed rather than properly expressed is projected. There seemed to be no escaping it.

So I might as well face it and deal with it.

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On Memory Issues With Strange Experiences.

The most unusual experiences of my life were ones that occurred when I was stone cold sober, though they certainly share certain qualities with my psychedelic experiences. In each category, the most frustrating obstacles deal with memory and translation.

Memory is problematic enough by nature and it doesn’t help matters that it is truly all we ever know of experience. Sorry, my dear Buddhists, but we know of no Here and Now. We are always living in the past. There is a time delay between when our bodies receive stimuli and when we experience it, a fact that I think Sam Harris has exemplified pretty well.

As he has explained, when I extend my arm to touch something the signals clearly have a longer journey to the brain than, say, when something brushes my nose — yet if I take my own finger and boop my own nose, I seem to experience both my finger touching my nose and my nose being touched by my finger in tandem. No apparent delay. How? Well, my brain waits until it has all relevant data before providing me with my perceptual experience.

Our immediate perceptual experience, then, is sensory memory, and so we are always living in the past.

On top of that there is the possibility that every time we remember something we are in actuality recalling our former memory of it. In other words, with every subsequent occasion in which we recall something it decreases in accuracy. This may not be the only way in which we can remember, of course — there may be ways in which that root, sensory memory can be directly accessed and it is only that this memory-of-a-memory chain is simply more economical and becomes a sort of default as a consequence — but without knowing how to switch gears or at least differentiate between them, we’re still left with the problem. We’re still left to rely on our increasingly inaccurate memories and often trust them too blindly.

In some instances, however, we aren’t even granted what ultimately constitutes false memories but are instead left with hazy recollections or, worse, no memory at all, save for perhaps remembering that there was something profound that has been forgotten. The easiest example is transitioning from the state of dreaming to awakening — or the similar experience of transitioning from being high on a psychedelic to being sober.

Why are carrying over those memories so damned difficult, however? Part of the issue, I suppose, is that in these cases we have to rely on memory greatly, even entirely, because leaving the state of dreams or the psychedelic-saturated sensory landscape takes away the environment (or the state-dependent perceptions of our environment) that would otherwise assist us in triggering any associated memories.

It may also be a translation problem, which is to say it may not only be that the memories themselves are state-specific but that the manner in which we were feeling, thinking and perceiving while dreaming or while under the influence of a psychedelic may be so distinct from our typical, awakened, sober mode of consciousness that they are lost in translation.

On the shroom trip some things seemed so clear, so self-evident in that state, but later seemed frustratingly out of reach. I get the sense sometimes that these experiences are allergic to language — much as is the case in my unusual sober experiences. It even seems at times that the experience becomes even more confusing as a result of my attempts to understand it.

Renegade Homunculi and the Tug-o-War Puppet Leader of the Soul.

Though it was an amazing trip, there were some scary parts (or at least frightening implications) of this most recent psilocybin mushroom experience, namely the creeping sense I had that my identity was composed of populations of personalities typically veiled from my inner eye, —

“Pay no attention to the gibbering homunculi behind the curtain.”

— that most if not all of what I took to constitute my identity was in fact a consequence of the interactions between these underlying personalities rather than any actual conscious deliberation of my own. The thoughts that I thought were the end products of conversations between various, underlying personalities, or so I seemed to observe. Extensive and detailed processes went into and underliewhat I experienced as the most minute decisions and behaviors. To me, this suggested my sense of personal freedom and individual will was a total illusion and all that I typically considered to be myself was actually produced and governed by the interaction between these lower intelligences. Later I also felt some discomfort when it was implied that I was not only a product of many lesser intelligences but a tool for a higher intelligence as well.

I was a marionette with strings being pulled from two directions.

Am I a passenger dumbly believing he’s the driver? And who am I, anyway?

Is the soul naked awareness, devoid of any individual characteristics? Is this the deepest part of who we are, our ultimate nature, perhaps the only thing we are when we have rid ourselves of all false identifications? The thought is more than slightly terrifying: that I might be someone else could be conceivable, that I might be something more is expected, but to be nothing? To be nothing but awareness, nothing but pure being at the core — to have that the only true and permanent aspect of I? I didn’t suspect it and the experience that seemed to suggest it was one that I never could have imagined.

At one extreme point in the trip, I had the sense that there was nothing left that I’d formerly identified with that I could truly call my own. I was a soul without an Original Face. I got that frantic, desperate impulse to grab ahold of something, to anchor myself, to find something to stand on or lean against to steady myself, but there was nothing there to hold onto.

Did it matter? I mean, fuck, was there anything to steady?

Is it that I’m truly nothing with awareness, or was it only that my means of feedback had gone haywire, that something had disturbed this fluid mirror I call my mind and I could no longer discern the reflection of my own face despite the fact that it was still there?

I hoped for the second.

I thought to myself that this experience might be giving me a good idea of what schizophrenia or some similar mental disorder is like — assuming my brain didn’t stay like this permanently because the psilocybin triggered some latent psychosis in me or something. I didn’t expect that, but by ruling it out prematurely I feared I might be asking for it.

My remaining comfort throughout the experience was that my mind would have settled and my feedback would return after I got some sleep and woke up the following morning. I just wanted to wake back up as me. Or the personality I’d formerly identified as me. Whichever. So I was quite relieved when all was back to the familiar abnormal when I awoke.

I don’t believe that what I experienced was egolessness, but it was certainly closer than I had ever been to that state and it certainly felt as if I were on the precipice. I can’t help but wonder if my mind is a mirror as I’ve always assumed or whether it might instead be a portrait painted by the populations of homunculi hidden in the shadows of my psyche. I float along the river of life that stretches betwixt womb and tomb thinking I’m at least rowing, at least having a hand or two in guiding my own vessel, but am I really the captain of this flesh-vessel or just a tug-o-war puppet leader a bit too caught up in his role?

As I continue on with my short meditation sessions, following the breath for fifteen minutes every day before leaving for work, indifferent to loose thoughts running through my mind and quick to disengage with ones I get mindlessly absorbed in and return to the sensations of air going in and out through my nostrils, I can’t help but wonder if there really is a true face behind that inner eye. All these thoughts I try to witness from a third person point of view: are they obscuring my identity, or do they constitute layers of a thick mask hiding a big, bleak, no one?

Notes on a Trip.

* with some editing for coherency.
2/23/18.

“It is proposed that LSD acts primarily on the pleasure or reward centers of the brain, producing a surge of nonspecific emotionality. If it registers as bliss or rapture, it dominates the sensory flow, the concept of self, the thinking process. This strong emotional discharge overwhelms all mental activity and produces a fusion or synesthesia of the neural pathways: perceptual beauty and glowing light, erasure of the self concept and elimination of rational thought. This is the transcendental state; its opposite, the psychotic state, occurs when the strong feeling discharge is apperceived as horrific and discordant.”
— Sidney Cohen, The Beyond Within: The LSD Story (1967).

“In the LSD state the boundaries between the experiencing self and the outer world more or less disappear, depending on the depth of the inebriation. Feedback between receiver and sender takes place. A portion of the self overflows into the outer world, into objects, which begin to live, to have another, a deeper meaning. This can be perceived as a blessed, or as a demonic transformation imbued with terror, proceeding to a loss of the trusted ego. In an auspicious case, the new ego feels blissfully united with the objects of the outer world and consequently also with its fellow beings. This experience of deep oneness with the exterior world can even intensify to a feeling of the self being one with the universe. This condition of cosmic consciousness, which under favorable conditions can be evoked by LSD or by another hallucinogen from the group of Mexican sacred drugs, is analogous to spontaneous religious enlightenment, with the unio mystica. In both conditions, which often last only for a timeless moment, a reality is experienced that exposes a gleam of the transcendental reality, in which universe and self, sender and receiver, are one.”
— Dr. Albert Hofmann, LSD : My Problem Child (1980).

“How about a positive LSD story? ‘Today, a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration. That we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream and we’re the imagination of ourselves. Here’s Tom with the weather.'”
— Bill Hicks.

At around 5 in the evening I awaken, make coffee, and watch some YouTube videos for an hour or two before reading and taking notes on the “lost civilization” hypothesis. At roughly 8, I do dishes, pour my last cup of coffee, and then make hot water in the coffee machine for Kava tea later on. Not even halfway through the last cup I’m feeling jittery, and regardless as to whether excitement mixed with anxiety played a role — and I’m sure it did — the caffeine wasn’t helping, so I had some bottled water and watched a short Lewis Black clip on YouTube.

At 8:34, I meditated for 17 minutes, following the breath, then made myself a cup of Kava tea and smoked part of a bowl.

At around 9, I start watching Cosmos. At 9:25, I set up the Roku to watch the supernova explosion episode, s1e8, “Sisters of the Sun,” and finally decide to take the tab soon.

I place it on my tongue at 9:33 and start watching Cosmos.

Though I could dismiss it as my imagination, I thought I felt it kicking in just as Tyson mentions “litters of stars,” but upon checking my watch, I find its only 9:53. It’s been difficult keeping it under my tongue and I’m hesitant to so much as sip my water in fear that I’ll swallow it too soon. I’m also very careful as I smoke a cigarette, constantly concerned I might accidentally inhale what by this time constitutes a psychedelic spit-wad.

On the screen, I watch as stars explode with such beautiful violence, blossoming like catastrophic flowers amidst that dark, ever-expanding sea. And we are children of that epic chaos. We are children of the stars.

I watch the episode, “Unafraid of the Dark,” next. As they talk about how the mob destroyed the Library of Alexandria, I mourn a little for all the information that we lost in the blaze, which brings my thoughts back to the whole notion of a lost, advanced civilization and that we are a species with amnesia. If there is a lost civilization, what else might it have done to fight against the collective amnesia that set in after the catastrophe that ended their reign? It’s the same question I’ve asked regarding remembering previous lifetimes and remembering this lifetime once I face that whole death-rebirth process again: how do you ensure that you never forget who you are?

10:28.

I’ve noticed a pattern when I’ve taken MDMA and psilocybin that now extends to LSD. First, I resist taking it, as I want to ensure I’m ready. Finally I gather up the courage to take it and subsequently try and distract myself, though keep finding myself coming back to a feeling of anxiety over having taken it, but sort of an excitement at the same time. Then I think its kicking in, but it turns out I was wrong. As time passes, I feel as though I’ve been waiting forever, that it simply isn’t kicking in, and begin to wonder if it simply isn’t going to happen. Finally my act of juggling fear and excitement exhaust me and I decide I simply don’t care one way or the other. It will kick it it it won’t, and I am neither excited or fearful of it. Whatever happens, happens. I stop emotionally investing in it. If it doesn’t happen, I’m not disappointed; if it does, I’m pleasantly surprised. And that’s the optimal state of mind, methinks.

As I continue to watch Cosmos, I think to myself: much like a young child is very ego-centric, thinking that the world revolves around it, so do we as a collective species in our youth. Our illusions of being the center of anything or laying claim to much of anything is shot to shit increasingly more as we grow in our knowledge.

10:33.

The ancients are thought to have worshipped the stars. And what better focus for worship, if one is doomed to place it somewhere? For we all come from the stars.

10:39.

Peed and smoked a bowl. The tab has now been swallowed and feeling definite effects. This drugs comes on slowly, exaggerating, elaborating upon and emphasizing those familiar perceptual malfunctions — like seeing something out the corner of your eye, finding faces in clouds, misheard sounds you can’t at first discern. Awareness expands as consciousness becomes fluid, contorts, remoulds itself. Intriguing.

For a moment I pictured Elizabeth and I — there were others, but I have no idea who — watching this same episode involving Zwicky and dark matter. Simultaneously it felt as though this event were happening now, that it was a memory, and yet entirely my imagination. I’m fascinated.

I suddenly feel as though I’m inside but also simultaneously external to things; as if I can have multiple perspectives at once and truly appreciate the entirety.

Cosmos on LSD makes me miss my childhood Teacher, Nimi. Where has she gone?

I wish numbers would reach out to me. I wish I could master math.

I need to take notes on every Cosmos episode with my commentary. My reviews, in a way.

I listen to Tool’s Lateralis album. Every morsel of existence, writhing with life. Nothing is still. The particles of one thing dance with the particles of another in this ecstatic pattern underlying everything. Weaving. Interlocking. Interconnected.

I was staring at cover image for Lateralis album as it plays on YouTube, transfixed by the constant swirling and general animation if the image. 5:35 minutes in, I realize this is a still image I’m looking at: it’s not really in motion. This doesn’t stop it from moving, however.

Imagining things, it’s as if I’m living both in and outside the dream.

Every corner
you guide me ’round,
gathering up parts
here and there,
adding to my own
personal
lost and found.

I lay down on my couch, listening to Tool, bliss coursing through me as I thrust and move my body in a smooth, fluid, rhythmic manner. It was like a continuous orgasm. I had always anticipated LSD to be an intellectual drug, which it largely is, but never thought it could be sexual.

At some point a pair of huge, translucent lips approach me, and I am one with those lips while simultaneously remaining myself. The lips pucker as they approach and kiss my face, go through my head, and its so warm and wonderful. It wasn’t just visual, but tactile from both ends. Strange and beautiful.

I suddenly think of that William Blake poem, “Auguries of Innocence,” which I later look up online:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

What has happened, is happening and could happen — all times and potentialities — coexist in the same space.

At around 11:30, I’m staring at the ceiling, which is broken into countless square-tiled reflections of the same pattern (there are no tiles on my ceiling, just paint splotches). All of it, an elaborate tapestry. Interconnected web or net of life.

12:21.

My mind has been through mental gymnastics. Every switch, firing at once. All hands on deck.

You find yourself. Right there all along, right where you could ignore it. Just wow.

Evolution, adaptation: randomness plus small adjustments over an excruciatingly long period of time.

All five major extinction events on earth: just experiments gone wrong?

You and your reality are systematically dismantled down to their fundamentals.

I feel as if my soul has gotten out and stretched.

Speak softly, carry a big stick.

I watch the episode of Cosmos where Tyson speaks about sound waves, where they use those ripple effects so you can “see” sound, and the ripples extend beyond the parameter of the flat screen. At the end if that segment, Tyson speaks with the ripple effects coming out of his mouth. He expresses annoyance and tried to wave the waves away with his hand, which I find to be hilarious. I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in awhile.

Eventually, around ten hours after it was taken, things approximate normalcy and I fall to sleep on my couch.

Restoring Factory Settings.

1/13/18

Pleasantly high and alcohol free, I listen to a hypnotic video on YouTube that aims towards removing unwanted hypnotic suggestions. As I do so, imagery pops up before my minds eye. I watch it all from the witness perspective. Sexual images emerge and fade as well as images of the stars, reminding me yet again how badly I want to lucid dream so I could feel the experience of flying through space again. Finally, I see imagery depicting the violent, consuming waters of a flood inundating the land, destroying things and carrying the scattered remnants away. When I awake, I feel considerably better, more together, more myself than I have in some time.

I listen again the following evening after smoking some cannabis and drinking some Kava tea. Again I recall having had seen apocalyptic scenes of destruction, though this time I’ve retained no memory of what those scenes entailed, or even if they depicted the same flooding scenario.

I presume these scenes are symbolic, of course, or at the very least hope they are.

While the drinking has become less frequent, I tend to overdue it when I haven’t drank in awhile, embracing some lame excuse that brings me back to it, where I subsequently make up for lost time. On such evenings, my brain reverts to writing poetry that I hardly remember writing, if at all. It also seems that alcohol and pot as a cocktail is what elicits my state-dependent tendency to revert back to the erotic hypnosis videos — otherwise, there is no issue staying the fuck away from them. No booze, no problem.

One wonders just how I developed this tendency towards watching and listening to erotic hypnosis, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it was my own manner of upping the ante with respect to porn. I’ve read before how I’m not alone, at least in the most general way: one watches moderate porn, but after awhile suffers from the law of diminishing returns and is then inspired to watch more extreme forms of porn. Erotic hypnosis became the higher rung on my stairway of perversion. The sense of intimacy provoked through sustained eye contact is what drew me in to Hypnotic Haylee and from then on it just got out of control. I began watching other erotic hypnosis videos — always seductive female hypnotists. I was always careful to avoid the exceptionally dangerous and cruel ones that degrade males, absolutely enslave you or try to program straight men such as myself into being homosexual. Even so, who knew what subliminal suggestions were present in any one of those videos? Who knew if a seemingly innocuous erotic hypnosis video might be a Trojan horse?

I tried to transition back to regular, mundane porn while drunk and high, but while drunk, it just wasn’t the same. As a consequence, I started looking for hypnotic porn videos on Porn Md. — and I found them.

Most of these were “alpha male” videos, which I thought might balance out hypnodomme videos. Last week, I came across one hypnotic porn video that seemed innocent enough but fucked me up royally. The following morning, I felt gross for some reason — brain-raped. Who knew what it might have infected my mind with? This shit had to stop.

I’ve managed to keep away from them for over a week, dodging even porn, falling back on old school still images to get my stupid rocks off. Two days ago, I decided to try to find a hypnotic video that would reverse unwanted hypnotic suggestions –and found one.

It seems a worthy form of experimentation not only because of the frightening hypnosis videos but because of how I feel certain television hypnotizes us all with who-knows-what and perhaps it might have some effect in posthypnotic suggestions implanted in my mind by those inhuman creatures…

Job/Work.

Given the cacophonic white noise
of my senses, inspired
by the chronic
static of this mind of mine,
I descend

into the deepest roots
of what my fragile, fractured ego
strives to voice

and so I meet with those old walls
once more, those hypnotic blocks,
my old friends:
dissociative boundaries
colliding again…

“You have to
let this go,
have to help us,
let all of them know.

Be part
of the tsunami
of truth,

building, however slightly,
somewhere out
there in this vast ocean,

an impact
which will prove

to be undeniable
— and unbearable.

Before all this falls,
please find your use.

Embrace
not so much your job
as your work.”

What does that mean?
Help me:
I’m so lost here…

Existential Differential Diagnosis Procedure.

My pathway 
towards truth is evidently
one determined
by a snail-paced process
of elimination:

I know what’s wrong,
though I’m not
nearly as confident
in what’s right —

yet with confidence
ever-growing
as I

continue experimenting,
falsifying, striving
for verification 
in the narrowing

realm
of probability
as possibilities
continue
to fall away.

Into the WILD.

While laying supine on my bed, I listened to the Astral Dreams app on my iPhone as I focused my attention on my breath. White noise layered with tones and what I presume to be subliminal suggestions rushed into my ears through my ear buds. My intent here was to deliberately achieve the state I often find myself in naturally during meditation, hypnosis, or just on the bridge of sleep: a state of sleep paralysis in which hypnagogic imagery begins manifesting in my mind. It turns out that this is the first part of what is known as the Wake-Induced Lucid Dreaming (WILD) technique; all I need to do is try and “step into” the imagery and I can enter into a lucid dream without any breach in the continuity of consciousness.

Once the paralysis began, I felt one of my fingers move involuntarily to touch another — though neither were my actual, physical fingers. I wish there was something less hokey to call it, but calling it an aura or subtle body in and around my physical form is the only language presently available to me. It’s like a full-body form of the phantom limb effect, I guess, though in this case I feel it despite having a body complete with all the typical limbs. And I always feel it — it’s just that states like this make me more sensitive to the sensations.

As the hypnagogic imagery began popping up before my minds eye in a rapid slideshow, I maintained a witnessing perspective, and once the imagery calmed down a bit I began slowly attempting to “step into” the imagery, at which point the images began to gain a sense of dimension. As before, as always, the images appeared as if I were gazing at them through an amber-brown tinted window. Entering into the images was much like entering the mouth of a cave as the closer I got the more the scene seemed to be above and around me until the mouth was finally at my back and I felt as if I was actually inside the image.

I maintained awareness as I entered into an image, a scene in which I was staring at the treetops and the sky, and the scene bursts with color and life. A convincingly real, ideal summer day. I got so excited that it ended as quickly as it began. It was like swiftly stepping out of the mouth of the cave backwards and back behind the amber-brown tinted window of the mind.

Damn it. I was so close.

The Hunting Party.

8/23/08

The four of us had taken our leisurely positions just outside the Main Street Grille and Brewery, my flashlight serving as the makeshift doorstop for the front door. I sat on the steps of the wooden porch, breathing cigarette smoke as I flipped through the random pictures I had taken on the digital camera Mitch had lent me. Eyes hungry to see a translucent orb, a white mist, a mysterious figure. Looking for something, anything, but trying to keep my emotions in balance.

If I suspended expectation, I reminded myself, I couldn’t be let down. It was best to approach with a controlled curiosity, a cautious hope, and I knew that. It was the same reason I was not at all disappointed with how the evening had gone so far, that we hadn’t seen a full-body apparition or a physical object moved, untouched. I was glad Mitch seemed to echo this unspoken sentiment of mine, too. He had gone even further, really, at least verbally proclaiming as much, telling the owner of the place before we had began our ”ghost hunting” that evening that he prefers to go into these situations with the attitude that there’s nothing to it. With an effort of debunking it all as a natural phenomenon, so he can rule out all the knowns, dodge false positives. Still, I felt that he was more than slightly disappointed with the way the night had gone so far, and it was a vibe I caught from him even before we stepped outside the old mill-turned-brewery-and-grille.

Before we had come on the porch, each of our two-man teams had simultaneously been prowling the three levels of the place — or four, if you’re counting that creepy-looking crawl space. There were six of us in all. The first team was Mitch’s brother-in-law and some young-looking guy who’s name I never caught. Mitch’s brother-in-law seemed like a cool guy, fully capable of taking Mitch’s ”So, I’m fucking your sister” comments. On the drive there they talked over the hand-held walkie talkies, seeming more like blood brothers who had grown up with one another than brothers merely through marriage.

As for his partner, the young guy, he was clean-cut, healthy-looking, reasonably-strong, not too skinny and not too fat. Nice, evenly-trimmed hair. The kind of guy that a guy like me holds a secret hate for, but only because he probably has a hot girlfriend he’s banging every night. Throughout the evening, at least from the standpoint of my limited contact with him, he seemed almost two-dimensional, nearly invisible to the eye. A stand in. Like one of the red shirted guys off of Star Trek; the ones that always go down to the planet with the main characters and since you’ve never seen the guy before you know you’ll never see him again. He’s never coming back. That he’s good as gone. No doubt, if this had been a horror flick or a supernatural thriller he would have been the first one to get eaten by the monster, infected with the alien virus, killed by the psychopath. I wish him no ill-will, of course; he seemed rather polite and level-headed. I just couldn’t escape that outlook on him in this context. Needless to say, he survived. Hope I didn’t ruin it for you.

The third two-man team was an odd and interesting pairing. One of the guys was a plump, pasty, baby-faced fellow, looking a bit like a more serious version of the Pillsbury Doughboy clad in street cloths. By behavior alone, you might have considered him the Egon Spengler of the group, only rather than clutching the mythical PK Meter he held the super-expensive thermal camera he had borrowed from the Fire Department where he was employed. Him and I said little to each other, but he seemed to be a nice enough guy. Lurking in the midst of the general populace he might have seemed rather reserved, but him, and almost anyone short of a chronically shy mute, looked downright extroverted next to me. Out of all of us, though, he seemed to be the most wary, the most skeptical, not willing to lean either way regardless. When you got down to it, he was a bit curious, but just a pace away from indifference. That’s what I got from him, anyway. I did find it strange and more than slightly ironic that Mitch teamed him up with the guy I will call Twitch.

Twitch was a friendly though rather wild-eyed guy who had what seemed to me to have a rather child-like naivette. He seemed to go into all this with uncritical certitude; convinced there was something to it. His certainty developed at least in part, I’m sure, due to his disposition coupled with two experiences of his — one took place here in the mill, the other in the nearby Historical Society building. Before becoming a police officer, he had worked in the mill. There had been a break-in one night or some ordeal that made it necessary for him to spent the night in the place alone. Though he freely confessed to having seen nothing, he was adamant about the weird noises he had heard all night long.

”Like this,” he said, turning around and pointing to the floorboards beneath our feet, which creaked and squeaked as we made our way. He told us this shortly before opening the door to the basement, where a light bulb in the stairwell went out before his eyes. I didn’t see it burn out just then myself, however, only that it was burnt out. ”Someone doesn’t want us here,” he said less than half-jokingly, laughing nervously under his breath and we proceeded down.

The other experience of his occurred after he had become a police officer, when he had gone to inspect the Historical Society building one night when an alarm, a motion detector, was tripped on the second floor. “Not the first floor,'”he would say on both occasions he told the swift story that evening, ‘”the second floor.” His penchant for the dramatic was pretty evident, I think; he spoke of things the way you would when telling a ghost story around the campfire to children.

As the four of us were outside, a cop car drove around, said something none of us could hear, and then drove around again, parking beside the building. Two of the group, both Mitch and Twitch, were police officers themselves, so the feeling of paranoia that seems to be a programmed response to officers of the law didn’t hit too hard. Two cops emerged from the car, one which Mitch seemed to know well and who’s name rung a bell; I’m almost sure he’s mentioned him to me a few times. This was Lane, who looked a bit like a buff version of Riker off of Star Trek (and no, I’m not a fucking Trekkie).

With him was some incredibly young-looking officer who made the whole, ”There’s a rational explanation for everything,” remark after discussion arose regarding apparently paranormal experiences. I assumed the kid was some rookie Lane was meant to wean in; though he didn’t seem inexperienced, he did give off that aura of feeling awkward, feeling like he didn’t entirely belong. He buried it in his trying-to-be-a-badass posture, which was almost convincing, but still had that faint air of the contrived. That kind of alpha male body language seemed more authentic in Lane and Mitch. But fake it till you make it, I guess.

As for Lane, he carried a portable coffee mug and, though a smoker, wasn’t nearly the chimney I was. He smoked maybe one or two for the hour I saw him, whereas I sucked down maybe three or four. He had that deep, controlled voice that made me think he would make a good speaker. I couldn’t imagine him stuttering, slurring, or pausing and reversing to rephrase. He was calm and comfortable with himself. Out of the two of them, Lane was the only one to shake my hand and look me dead in the eye. Granted, Mitch had introduced him and I and had not done so with the kid, so I suppose that could be the reason. Still, it seemed as though Lane would’ve shaken my hand given the chance anyway. He was a peculiar fellow; there was something about the guy I just immediately liked, I must admit. He displayed that perfect balance of the humble and confident; he never seemed arrogant, nor did he seem willing to make himself look smaller than he was. His mind wasn’t closed, but it wasn’t so damned open all his brains fell out and splattered on the concrete sidewalk beneath his feet, either.

When Twitch told his story to Lane — “Not the first floor; the second floor,” — which was his second telling, Lane gave him a mildly dismissive but nonetheless sympathetic shrug. He explained how depending on the settings, such motion detectors could pick up mice, even a calm breath of wind vibrating a spiderweb. In other words, while there could be something to it, an alarm being tripped on the second floor and not the first didn’t necessarily constitute something unusual. Without boasting or trying to one-up him, Lane’s experience, by comparison, held quite a bit more water. He had gotten a call at the same damned place. The front door had this old lock — he gave a good description of it, gave its name, but I can’t recall it exactly. Suffice it to say you had to turn the lock quite a bit; in other words, it had to be very purposeful. There was no accidentally locking this door. And while he would lock and unlock doors as he went from room to room, he didn’t bother with the front door lock. Regardless, when he returned, having found no prowler, he found it locked. That was pretty hard to explain away.

Even more difficult to explain away was Mitch’s experience inside the Historical building, which initially stirred his interest. Of all of them, at least by virtue of the stories I’d heard from them, Mitch had perhaps the most qualification to believe — and yet at the same time he was the strictest and most resistant to accept something unusual. He was cautious. It was at his direction that we were now taking half-hour shifts during which four of us would stay outside while the two others had full and free reign inside the place.

Mitch was right, of course; going in shifts like this would decrease the potentiality of false indications of a ghostly presence. The creaking floorboards as the six of us crept around the three levels were a bit difficult to separate from any truly potential unknown. It was hard enough with the whirring of the machines, the sound of them clicking on and off, and even the sound of the rushing water in the back of the place. As Mitch and I had sat in the dining room earlier, we watched moving lights and shadows as cars passed by on the street outside and he noted, after he put some thought into it, how such effects could produce illusions.

Another issue crept up, and came to my attention for the first time, when Mitch and I were interrupted during our first round on the ground level of the place by Twitch and Egon, who wanted Mitch to check out something in the basement. We followed them down and we all paused at the bottom of the steps.

“Do you feel that?” Twitch asked hauntingly. There was agreement all around, and I had to admit a creepy feeling. “Somethings here,” Twitch went on.

Before we started, before Twitch had even guided us on our tour, the boss hovered around the group a bit. He had a mustache and seemed to have that way of carrying himself that existed somewhere in the realm between the laid back and the strict, professional type. Before he went home for the night he told us of his own personal experience. He had been alone, walking down the steps to the basement when he felt an unmistakable presence. As he continued walking, he tried to shake it off, to no avail. Eventually it came on so strong he was stricken with terror. He felt sure something was there and bolted up the steps, feeling as though something unseen was chasing him.

So now, as we all seemed to feel something comparable, we spread out a bit and looked around. Taking pictures, asking questions with our microcassette recorder in hand. That’s when Mitch brought up the issue, which was the issue of electromagnetism. More than once downstairs I’d heard Mitch or Egon say something akin to, “Damn, I wish we had an EMF Detector.” Someone else raised the question; had the case been otherwise, I would have inevitably asked about it. I knew they were talking about an electromagnetic field detector, but I was lost otherwise.

According to Mitch, the presence of electromagnetism can have an odd effect on the human nervous system, resulting in sensations we might, for the sake of argument, wrap up under the umbrella term “the creeps.” Down in the basement, he pointed to the wires hanging down from the ceiling, implying that there might be more conventional factors to blame for the sense of an unknown presence that we all more or less shared.

As far as I can determine, the four of us all felt that feeling at the base of the steps, but when Mitch and I journeyed down there the second time alone I, in the least, no longer felt it in that location. Even the first time, while we were all down there, for awhile something seemed off in the environment and then it just, well, went away. Now, this could mean that a disembodied entity had been hanging around at first and then meandered about elsewhere, but it could also mean that nearby wires or machines that had initially been on had later clicked off, thereby eliminating the eerie atmosphere. I also wasn’t blind to the fact that the expectation of sensing something (provided in part by ever-dramatic Twitch) could have alone produced the initial effect and when the expectation died, so did the creepy sensation.

If it had something to do with electromagnetism, however, I still wasn’t sure how the detector would help us determine it one way or the other. I mean, it could tell us there were EM fields present, but not necessarily their source. So I looked a bit online after the hunting party and found that there are some EMF detectors available that screen out man-made sources of electromagnetism, thereby allowing paranormal investigators the ability to determine whether or not “the creeps” are a true unknown. Damned if I know how the thing can tell the difference, but that’s how its advertised.

Still, we all certainly shared the hope of finding something suggesting the unusual, the unconventional. Mitch and I let the tiny microcassette recorder run, with us, mostly him, asking questions to any hypothetical spirits that might be wandering about as we ourselves meandered from room to room. How old are you? What’s your name? Do you know you’re dead? How did you die? Why do you like this place? Does it bother you we’re here?

And really, out of all of them the only question that made me wince was, Do you know that you’re dead? It might be goofy, but I thought if someone was wandering about here, long since departed, there were two likely responses to that question. One, they did know they were dead and would be angry at the needless reminder as well as at the suggestion that they lacked sufficient awareness to grasp a hold of that fact. They would interpret the question as the act of us talking down to them, in other words. The other possibility is that they didn’t know, or that they were at least in denial of the fact they were dead. In that case I felt this question would either frighten or enrage them, perhaps both in one, foul swoop. Either possibility, I felt certain, wouldn’t make them any more inclined to communicate with us.

Regardless, I must confess that I did feel presences, though I wouldn’t be so bold as to proclaim there was anything more to this than my overactive imagination. On both occasions that Mitch and I visited the kitchen I felt certain something was there. I also felt this in the basement, though only on the first time Mitch and I went down there when the team in the basement wanted Mitch to check out something. Three times between both places I somehow felt we might get a substantial EVP on the recorder. I suppose that time, and Mitch’s initial review of the evidence, will tell.

Lucidity.

Try and slice
into and through this haze,
pierce and flay
the facade’s skin

with your serrated reason,
more precise
and catastrophic.

Stitch it back up
via lucidity:
through your dreams
with the thread and needle

of your sterilized
rationality despite the raw
rage of the animal
in which you are contained,
online with, engaged:

your chronic tendency:
intimacy
despite the distance.