If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in her life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.
- Rene Descartes
Dan checked his bags at curbside check-in and cruised through security in record time. The airport was strangely empty. He imagined Sunday evening on a holiday like Halloween was probably not the most popular time to fly. So he made it to the gate in plenty of time. But he was feeling increasingly strange and disoriented. Had he really had the much to drink? Dan reviewed the evening. He'd had maybe a half dozen glasses of punch, three or four IPAs, a stout and that shot of tequila Kevin shoved in front him. Not a lot, really. Not enough to be feeling this weird. Dan shoved his ear buds in and pressed his thumb onto the wheel of his iPod. He scrolled around searching for something suitable for his strange mood before settling on Leon Redbone. Something low key was needed and Leon's gravelly voice fit the bill perfectly. The lights were still twinkling everywhere he looked,, but he was calmed by the music and the fact that he'd be on the plane soon and so could at least sleep it off, whatever it was.
They called his flight after only a few songs and he got into the stop-and-go line that led down to the door of the plane. As luck would have it, it appeared that he had a row of three seats all to himself. Hopefully, nobody else would get on at the last minute. Dan slid into the window seat and buckled himself in. After the plane took off, the cabin lights were turned off and he tried to sleep but found he couldn't. He pulled out his book and started to read but found he couldn't concentrate, or rather that he kept concentrating on other things. He watched the lights below for what seemed like hours then he fixated on the lights above the seats trailing up the aisle before it was back to the thousand points of light outside his window. The captain announced that they had reached maximum cruising altitude or something like that. When he turned his gaze back inside the airplane, there was somebody sitting in the aisle seat, dressed in all black.
The stranger spoke with a slight southern drawl. "How y'all doing tonight."
"I'm OK, thanks." Dan answered tentatively. Then something struck him. "You know, you look a lot ... I mean a lot, like a stand-up comedian who was sort of big in the Eighties and early Nineties."
"I'm Bill," said the stranger, extending his hand.
Dan took his hand. It was cold and dry. "You know really do look like Bill Hicks. It's uncanny"
"That's because I am." He grinned broadly as he said it.
"But that's impossible." Dan charged. "You're dead. You've been dead. I don't know, something like ten years."
"Good drugs, eh?" Was the stranger's only reply.
"OK, what's going on?" Dan was getting a little anxious. "Who are you really?"
"What's the matter, never talk to a dead guy before?" He said sarcastically.
"I don't know what your deal is, man, but I'm not laughing." Dan said, trying to sound serious.
"Relax, man. Trixie dreams about you all the time. That's why I'm here."
Dan's mouth hung open. He didn't know what to say to that. "This is not real, this is not real, this is not real." He kept repeating. There must be a rational explanation. "Kevin." He thought, yanking the airphone out of the seat in front of him. The stranger just watched silently. Dan fumbled for a credit card and dialed Kevin's number. "Come on, Kevin, pick up, pick up." He wasn't sure Kevin would be able to hear his phone if the party was still going, which seemed likely. After half a dozen rings, he heard a voice on the other end and shouted "Kevin!"
"Dan." Kevin asked with a note of disbelief. "Did you miss your plane?"
"No, I'm on it now. Listen, things have been a little weird since I left the party." He said, his voice sounding more and more anxious and stressed. "This is gonna sound weird, but Bill Hicks is sitting here talking to me."
There was a pregnant pause. "But I thought he was dead. In fact, I'm sure of it." Kevin replied, sounding like he didn't understand.
"He is!" Dan muffled his cream. "That's the problem. What was in the punch?"
"The punch?" Kevin still sounded confused.
Dan tried not to sound hysterical as the stranger just sat there watching him. "It's the only thing I can think of. What was in the punch?"
"Which punch?" Kevin asked him.
"What do you mean, which punch? Was there more than one? I had that purple stuff behind the cooler. I didn't see any other punch."
Kevin laughed. "How much of the purple stuff did you have?"
"Maybe six glasses." Dan answered. "Why?" Kevin's laughter grew louder. "What's so funny?"
"It was laced with acid. A small cup would be about one dose. So if you had six full glasses, then you had maybe a dozen doses. That would explain the dead guy." Kevin cackled and Dan could hear him put his hand over the phone and tell the remaining guests what they were talking about.
"Very funny, Kevin. This is just great. Just great. How long is this going to last?" Dan asked.
"I don't know. Usually about twelve hours but, here's the thing Dan, you took a lot." Kevin said with an air of caution.
"Am I going to overdose?" He asked in a panicked voice.
"No, ... NO. Don't worry. As long as you don't get overly paranoid or believe you're a bug or something, you'll be fine. Your best bet is to ride it out. Try to enjoy it. And tell Bill I love his work." Kevin started laughing again.
"Funny. Fun-nee. OK, whatever. See you next week. If I haven't been committed, that is. Thanks." Dan hung up the phone. Bill was still there. Dan put his head in his hands and rubbed his temple with his fingers.
"You OK?" Bill asked.
Dan shot him a look. "Sure. Great. I got a dead guy worried about me. I'm losing my fucking mind, that's all."
"Look, you're high, OK. You know that. You could look at this with the eyes of fear or love. You could be paranoid and rational and freak out or you could just go with it. Accept that there are some things you just can't understand. A door can be a jar or can be ajar. Do you see?" Bill asked.
"Um, what are you, a fucking greeting card? I'm trying to keep it together here but I'm not sure you're helping. I mean, you're dead, for chrissakes."
"You've got to look past that. Haven't you 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." Bill said, quoting himself. "Besides, it was Trixie that brought me here tonight. She asked me to help you."
"What are you talking about?" Dan said softly, trying not to sound crazy.
"She dreamed you were afraid of something. Of everything. I don't know exactly. But she asked for help and you got me, the dark poet."
"Well I am a little afraid right now." Dan agreed. "But I'm not sure if I'm more afraid of going home or that I'm talking to a dead guy about it. I'm a little too rational to accept something like this but I can't quite explain it away, either. As far as I'm concerned, you're sitting right there and we're having a real conversation. I mean, you're not just a figment of my imagination, are you?"
"Well, yes and no." The dark poet turned vague. "I am part of your imagination but I'm also real, too. At least to you."
"Well that sure clears things up." Dan's sarcasm was returning. "So no one else can see you or hear you. As far as they're concerned, I'm just talking to myself?"
"I think I like you better afraid. But yeah, the rest of what you said is true." Bill admitted. "And like I said, Trixie asked for help on your behalf, so it's yours for the asking."
"I haven't seen her in twenty years." Dan sighed. "Not since I abandoned her after Mom was killed. Right after she witnessed the whole thing. I fled and left her behind in Dutch Wonderland. The last time we talked it didn't go well. I was just so scared I didn't know quite what to do. After that, I never heard from her again. Of course, it's not like I called her, either. With every passing year, it felt harder and harder to break the silence until it seemed, well, impossible. It just seems impossible to bridge that gap now. I don't know what I'd say if I saw her face to face again."
"So you want my help, or not?" Bill asked.
Dan looked up at Bill. There was nothing rational about this. He knew he should be panicking, but it felt as normal as anything else in his life to sit here face to face with death. And he certainly wanted to believe that Trixie hadn't forgotten him. He didn't know why that should be important, but it was. The captain's voice came over the loudspeaker, announcing their descent into Philadelphia. Dan buckled himself into his seat and again stared back at the man in black. "Yeah. Sure." He said, smiling broadly. "I can use all the help I can get."