Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think
- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859)
Dan pulled another beer out of the refrigerator and poured it in a glass, watching the billowing head rise up above the rim. He sat down at the table in the kitchen.
Bill joined him. “How you doing, buddy?” He asked sympathetically, patting Dan lightly on the back.
“I’m exhausted.” Dan replied. “That was tiring. I feel like I just talked for twenty years, not just about twenty years.”
“It was a marathon.” Bill agreed. “Was it worth it?”
“I don’t know. It wasn’t bad. It was good to see her after all. She’s still feisty, maybe more so. She never let me get away with anything and it looks like she’s not planning on starting now.”
“That was cracking me up.” Bill laughed.
“Yeah, I noticed that.” Dan smacked Bill on the shoulder with the back of his hand. I thought I was going to start laughing. You fucker.”
Bill laughed harder. “Sorry about that.” But he didn’t stop laughing.
“Thanks, man.” Dan said sarcastically. “I’m feeling the love.”
“C’mon, man. You have to see how funny that was.” Bill offered, trying to be persuasive.
“To you maybe.” Dan suggested. “But not to me. That was my life in there, once upon a time.”
“But what can you do? You have to laugh about it now. What else is there? You want to end up like me?” Bill asked.
“I guess you’re right.” Dan admitted, giving up. “I certainly don’t want to end up like you.”
“Hey.” Bill said, just figuring out he had been insulted.
Just then there was a knock on the door. Dan and Bill exchanged glances, both silently shrugging their shoulders to indicate they didn’t know who it could be at the door. Dan got up and began walking to the door.
Bill called to him, laughing. “If that’s Muhammad, tell him I’m not here.”
Dan parted the curtains to see who it was, then turned toward Bill. “It’s Weaver.” He said, opening the door.
“John! Hey, man.” Dan said, letting him in. “What are you doing here.”
John hugged him and began to explain. “My in-laws live in town, Reading actually, so I left Amanda and Polly there with her parents. I figured I see what you were up to since I figure tomorrow night there will be more people here.”
“Excellent …” Dan said, affecting his best Mr. Burns voice. “You want a beer?”
“You bet.” John accepted. “What do you have?”
“Let’s see what’s left in here.” Dan replied, opening the refrigerator. “Yuengling Lager, Victory Hop Devil, Stoudt’s Scarlet Lady or Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA.
“How about the Yuengling.” John chose.
Dan pulled out another glass from the cupboard and emptied the beer into it. “Here you go.” John took his first sip, at which point Dan added. “You just missed Trixie.”
John almost choked on his beer. After regaining his breath, he asked. “Really? She was here.”
“Scout’s honor.” Dan said, holding up his hand in the three-finger Boy Scout salute.
“Oh my god.” He said. “So how did it go? What was she like? How did she look? C’mon, tell me, tell me.” John pleaded.
“Alright, alright. Calm down. Let’s go in the living room. The fire’s probably still going. Dan cautioned.
“But this is huge.” John continued. “You’ve been talking about this day for a long, long time.”
“You mean I was, a long time ago that’s all I talked about.” Dan corrected.
“Yeah, I guess that’s true.” John admitted. “That was in the old days, right after you first got out of here. When I was living in Manhattan.”
“Before you got married and moved to the suburbs.” Dan ribbed.
“Look who’s talking.” John replied.
“Hey, I live in a city. A pretty big city.” Dan said defensively.
“It’s the mindset I’m talking about. We’ve both gotten pretty settled.” John explained. “Neither of us do anything wild anymore. You know what I mean?”
“Yeah, I guess so.” Dan admitted. “I’m having a pretty wild week. You have no idea and I really can’t tell you about all of it.”
John just stood there smirking.
“Wait.” Dan stopped. “You’re getting at something.”
John’s smile broadened.
“What.” Dan pleaded.
John produced a small ziplock bag from his pocket, unfurling it with a snap. Inside were small light brown pieces of something unfamiliar to Dan, at least from where he sat.
Bill knew right away, though. “Mushrooms.” He shouted.
“Really?” Dan said out loud.
“Who are you talking to?” John asked, looking a little confused.
“So are those mushrooms?” Dan asked, trying to get back to the subject at hand.”
“Yeah. They are.” John admitted. “You game?”
“Yes, please.” Dan replied.
“But who were you talking to?” Weaver continued, not letting go of his confusion. “Is there someone else here?”
“Well, no … and yes.” Dan began cautiously, unsure of how to proceed.
“It’s one or the other, buddy.” John told him. “There’s no grey area on this one.”
“Trust me.” Dan contradicted. “There’s a lot of grey area on this one, and every other one. I’m not sure how to tell you this, but I have a feeling it will go better after we take the mushrooms.”
“Okay.” John conceded. “I’ll wait. Here, take some, not too much. I got them from my sister. She says they’re pretty potent.”
Dan grabbed the bag and pinched a small amount between his thumb and forefinger, washing them down with his beer. “Ask me again in, what, ninety minutes?”
“Something like that.” John guessed.
“What about me?” Bill looked at Dan with a pleading expression on his face.
Dan held up his finger to indicate Bill should wait. He tried to do it slyly, but Weaver saw the gesture anyway.
“What was that?” John demanded.
“Okay.” Dan started. “You caught me. Give me your keys.”
“What?” John didn’t understand.
“Give me your car keys.” Dan repeated. “I don’t want you taking off while you’re on mushrooms and what I’m about to tell you might freak you out.”
John fished in his pocket, pulling out his keys and handing them to Dan. “Sure. Here you go. I’m too curious now. How is there someone here and not here?”
“Sit down.” Dan commanded. “And give me the bag of mushrooms.
“Alright!” Bill yelled excitedly, coming over to sit next to Dan.
“Now watch this.” Dan said, pulling out another dose of mushrooms from the bag. He handed them to Bill, who took them willingly. Bill swallowed them immediately.
From John Weaver’s perspective, they appeared to float in the air for a few seconds, then disappeared completely. “What the fuck? Where did they go?”
“My friend Bill took them.” Dan said as flatly as he could.
“What are you talking about? There’s nobody there.” John exclaimed.
“You can’t see him, but I can.” Dan added.
“He’s not a six-foot rabbit, is he?” John chuckled, assuming Dan was pulling his leg.
Dan told John the entire story, from the LSD to the plane ride to the whole week with Bill. John wasn’t sure he believed any of it, but he was listening intently, trying to poke holes in Dan’s story. Bill kept throwing in details to add, and offered to answer questions, but John didn’t seem quite ready for that, yet.
But then, as the Psilocybin in the mushrooms began to take effect, Bill became visible to John, too. He jumped back and pointed, and began asking more questions. “Is that him sitting there? Is he wearing black? How come I can’t here him?”
“Yes. Yes. Because he hasn’t said anything.” Came Dan’s responses.
Bill stood up and walked over to John, whose jaw was open and reaching to the floor. “Pleased to meet you.” Bill said, extending his hand for John to shake it.
Almost in a daze, John took Bill’s hand and shook it. “Hi” was all he could manage. Then, turning to Dan, said. “Holly crap. This is some amazing shit.”
“That’s ‘cause he’s really here.” Dan repeated. “I don’t really understand it, either, but he’s been with me for almost a week now. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever and it breaks almost all my understanding of how the world is supposed to work, but there it is. Or rather there he is. As real as you or me.”
“Dude, this is so fucked up.” Weaver offered. “This is huge.”
This went on for about an hour, until John finally had exhausted himself on why what was happening was impossible and remarkable at the same time. Then he started to relax and just enjoy himself. They talked about Trixie, of course, but also life and death and everything in between and even the notion that the concept of in between life and death no longer seemed relevant. From time to time, John would lean over to Bill, saying. “Hey, you’re dead.” Then he’d laugh.
They all three had a great time and it lasted for many hours. Eventually, the effects of the mushrooms started to wear off and they began to feel very tired. John started nodding off so Dan put him in the back bedroom. He passed out almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.
When he got back to the living room, Bill had already passed out on the sofa.
Dan sat in the kitchen until the sun came up, thinking about everything that had happened tonight and what tomorrow would bring. The conversation with Trixie had left him feeling unsettled. Overall it was good and he was happy he’d finally had the chance to see her again, he was also left with the feeling that something was missing. Something was still left to do. But what?
Dan remained wide-awake and watched the sun come up from the back porch. It was a beautiful sight. He knew he, too, would have to start the day as well.