It was official. We were definitely in the ass end of nowhere which, contrary to popular belief, is the best part of nowhere. I had been collecting mushrooms off piles of cow shit for the better part of the day, while my attorney slept in the car and was now cruising down the Thruway dodging through an endless procession of abandoned and rusting vehicles. The Buick was a nice ride, real nice. We each had a ten strip of some really heady acid a couple hundred miles back and decided to hack off the roof with a Sawzall. We needed to travel in style, after all.
I spotted several figures lurching through a muddy field to the left and shouted to no one but myself, “Holy shit! Was that a fucking zombie? Shit!”
Then I paused to wonder to myself for several moments. Did I in fact see a band off the walking dead, or was it just the mescaline I had eaten with lunch kicking in? I almost hit a rolling trash can and looked in my rearview to watch it pass when I found my answer.
Taped to the mirror was a note in my own handwriting. Scrawled hastily it said, “Why yes, those are fucking zombies.”
Now when was that mescaline supposed to hit?
It was all coming back to me…three months ago I was sitting in a smoke-filled bar in West Hollywood, drunk, tired and plenty high. My esteemed associate, Dr. Gonzo, was in much the same state and sitting to my left. He was graying now and still fat, but could he really be blamed for the latter?
He was Samoan after all.
We were watching the latest newsbreaks coming in about the outbreak just like everyone else in the bar. This was big, really big. It would be the story of the century and a doctor of journalism like myself couldn’t pass it up. It’s not every day you get to see the coming apocalypse with your own eyes.
My friend took a long draught from his beer and allowed the last drops to drip down his chin and drop onto his soiled shirt, burped and said, “As your attorney, I advise you to buy a shotgun and a lot of ammo.”
So I did what any sensible man would do in my position. I went to the gun store on East Valley Boulevard and did as I was told. A man should never turn down good legal advice.
Naturally, all the planes were headed in the opposite direction. Human beings are dim, panicky animals whose innate inclination is to run as fast as they can away from danger and into obscurity. Lemmings all. I got a car and made a break for the east coast.
I was heading towards destiny; towards magnificent immortality.
We were nearly to the Mississippi by the time the cocaine and alcohol had worn off and I realized that in my haste I had forgotten to pack. I didn’t care about the toothpaste and the underwear and the cabana shirts. Those could be procured at every corner drug store and backyard clothes line from coast to coast. No, what really concerned me was that I had left the smoggy city on the sea without a single tab of acid, gram of grass, solitary e-pill, or drop of booze.
This was worrisome. The last one could be gotten easily and in great quantity, but the previous three? Those needed connections and I had appeared to have left mine behind in LA. The situation could get hairy indeed. A forty-eight hour road trip is one thing, but a forty-eight hour road trip sober is quite another.
I didn’t think I could take the monotonous landscape of the heartland without some kind of chemical encouragement, so we stopped at a convenience store in Tulsa. I picked up a half dozen bottles of Robitussin and as many blister packs of Benadryl as I could lay my hands on. I needed something, anything, to see me through the next ten hours to New Orleans.
I needed to see a man about a horse.
Three months and several hundred miles later saw me wandering around a soggy Central New York cow pasture plucking those wonderful little caps off big piles of manure.
It is a fantastic way to pass the time, gathering mushrooms. I’d imagine that it’s much like gathering wildflowers in the spring, but colder, damper, and the returns are much more interesting. I was having a good time, except for that prickling feeling on the back of my neck. I was being watched.
Somewhere, out there, I knew there was some bovine monstrosity waiting for the perfect moment to strike. It was out there. Maybe just past the distant tree line watching me. It was going to pounce on me and drink my blood, by the pint, the quart, the half gallon, as I had drunk the milk of so many of its fellows. It must be possessed of some soulless blood lust and out for revenge.
It would be in for one hell of surprise. I would be ready for it.
From far off I heard it; the terrible cry of rage, “Moo.”
I said to Hell with the shoddily concocted battle plans that had been tumbling around in my head and took off back towards the Buick with my hat full of mushrooms. I jumped in over the rough metal edges of the newly-made convertible and threw the idling car in gear. I pushed down the gas and shot down the road fishtailing around clumps of debris and ruined machinery.
My attorney was still sleeping in the passenger seat. All the commotion had not disturbed him. There was a ragged and evil looking bite mark on his arm. It was oozing slightly and had already seeped into the upholstery. I poked at it with a pen from the glove compartment.
Truly it was a vile wound. Did he do that? Did I? Or perhaps the vengeful mutant cow had gotten to him in his sleep?
We had come to this salt city in search of alcohol. Whatever the poison, we were after it. We were shooting for the mother lode; the big score; the El Dorado of booze. And we thought we might just strike it rich here, in this backwater, at a place called Liquor City.
In the distance the ruined skyline stretched out in front of us. The tall buildings’ gleaming windows had almost all been smashed out and looked empty, wicked, and brooding. A nice art deco structure looked like several stories had been blown out and were now just a twisted mess. As we pulled off the freeway, the gaunt office buildings loomed overhead. It was a primordial forest filled with the colossal roosts of vicious pterodactyls.
This, I decided, was far worse than bat country.
From the passenger seat my attorney began to twitch. A small amount of white froth issued from his mouth and his eyes fluttered open. He craned his neck and looked around at his surroundings before staring at me past his Spanish sunglasses. My attorney began to moan.
“He looks hungry,” I thought. “Maybe you should pull over and get him something from the trunk.”
Then, “To hell with that. You don’t want those flying lizards to get you… or that goddamned cow.”
My attorney, meanwhile, was groping at my shirt and crawling across the Buick’s bench seat. He was wheezing. I assumed that he must be dehydrated from the long rest and probably disoriented from the previous three-day bender. He was growing uncomfortably close when a rope of drool fell from his jowls and landed on my shoulder.
I shoved him back against the door and said, “Back, you intolerable pig! Back! Don’t make me get the fucking fly swatter, man.”
He continued to grab at my arm so I slammed on the brakes and brought the car to a screeching halt.”Alright! Alright, you creepy bastard! A pick me up, that’s what you need. Hold on.”
I winced as I saw that the abruptness of the maneuver had caused him to hit his head on the dashboard. It was cracked slightly and a few drops of blood clung to the broken plastic. I then reached into the backseat and grabbed the black attaché case. I flipped open the lid and began to search through its contents.
At last I found it, the last of our black tar. I drew out a syringe, stuck it into my attorney’s arm, and pushed down the plunger. I tossed the needle out the window, snapped the bag shut and threw it into the back seat. I could tell the drug was working already. His movements had become sluggish and he was slumped back in the seat. We careened around a tight corner at speed and he toppled over into my side of the car again.
I nudged him back with my elbow, “Christ, man, I thought you could handle your shit. Are you going soft on me? Or was the medicine too strong?”
“A little of both, huh? Hot damn, we’re here.”
We came to a rolling stop in the place’s deserted parking lot. Several cars lay on their sides with glittering fields of crushed glass strewn on the pavement around them. The building itself was strangely untouched amidst the desolation and destruction that surrounded it. Sale sings still hung in the windows and a hand-written note was taped to the inside of the door.
It read, “Back in ten.”
I jumped out of the car and walked around to the passenger’s side to help my attorney out. He was trying to climb over the door and fell to the ground when I opened it for him.
Looking down at him while he attempted to stand, I asked, “How are we doing?”
He struggled to his feet and let out a low moan.
“Too boring? Let’s see if we can’t fix that.”
I fetched the attaché case and rummaged through it. I pushed aside the vials of cocaine and mescaline and various items of paraphernalia. While I was sorting through our rapidly dwindling drug collection, my attorney stumbled around the car still trying to find his sea legs. At last I decided upon a combination of two and picked out a couple of pills and a few doses.
“Open wide,” I said and threw a couple diazepam and a hit of acid into his waiting mouth.
I popped a second hit into my own mouth and sat on the hood of the Buick, periodically kicking my drug- addled associate to keep him at bay. Everything was quiet and tranquil for about twenty minutes until my attorney’s eyes went wide suddenly and he began to shake. He howled wildly and went lurching off into the parking lot before colliding with a lamp post and falling down.
In situations like this it is important to keep in mind that there is nothing you can do. Your companion will either pull himself out of this psychedelic crisis or he won’t. When a drug goes awry there is only one thing to do: get out of the way. So I decided to go wrangle a shopping cart and left my friend in the clutches of a psychotic frenzy.
He was now busily chewing on a tuft of weeds growing from a crack in the pavement.
Having finally captured a shopping cart, I brought it to the edge of the parking lot and lined up my shot. I started running and brought the cart up to full speed. It was a good cart. None of that fouled up fourth wheel business that you normally have to deal with. It worked better than I could have hoped and crashed through the store’s glass door on the first try.
I waved my attorney over, who stopped nibbling the tattered vegetation and began to crawl back towards the store. I turned away and stepped through the threshold. The glass crunched under my shoes. I righted the shopping cart battering ram and wheeled it off down the first aisle.
I hit the expensive stuff first: the aged scotches, bourbons, brandies, and cognacs. I passed over the coolers on the walls. The beer bottles had exploded in their boxes after months without refrigeration. The cans were bloated and ready to pop. Instead, I made my way over to the rums and tequilas. I was perusing the vodkas when my attorney stumbled in through the shattered door and made his way over to me.
Noticing that the cart was now full, I gathered up half a dozen bottles from the shelf and thrust them into his arms. He dropped them all and they fell to the ground, shattering on impact.
“Look what you’ve done, you clumsy half wit! You broke the fucking booze. The fucking booze, man! A shocking abuse of alcohol; an egregious exploitation of this fair city’s hospitality,” I shouted.
He looked crestfallen. I felt like I had just rubbed my dog’s nose in the mess he had made. It was an ugly feeling, but then again how else was he to learn?
I was about to let loose with another expletive-laden tirade when from all around the store I began to hear a rising refrain of low and rattling moans. I held my finger to my friend’s lips to hush his reply and snatched it back when he tried to take a bite out of it. Listening intently, I judged that they were growing closer. The sounds of our break in and subsequent shouts must have attracted unwanted attention.
I grabbed the cart and took off towards the car, yelling behind me, “They’re on to us, man! We’ve got to get the hell out of here before those jack-booted bastards catch us for trespassing and eat our god damned brains!”
I popped the trunk, dumped the contents of the shopping cart in, slammed it shut and vaulted over the back seat. I turned the key and revved up the engine. All the while, the mumbling and groaning became intolerably loud. My attorney was just stepping through the door when the first of them came around the side of the building.
I pulled the car around and opened the door for him saying, “Hurry up Gonzo! Come on. Come on, you crazed freak. We got to go!”
He stepped into the car and just stood there on the seat leering down at me, but I figured it was good enough and stepped on the gas. The car shot forward and the tires screamed and my attorney was thrown into the back seat of the Buick. Those depraved wraiths were all around us now and crowding the road ahead.
We crashed through row after row, running them down like so many traffic cones. I think one wrapped itself around the right rear tire for several yards. Another tumbled up the hood, smashed the windshield and fell back to the road in a bloody heap. After steamrolling a couple more, I took a hard turn back onto the highway and put the pedal to the floor.
I brought the Buick up to eighty and sat back, “Jesus, that was a close one.”
My attorney finally recovered from our flight and rose to his feet in the back. He grabbed my shoulder and climbed over the seat grinning devilishly, baring his teeth. It was then that I realized that I couldn’t really see through the spiderweb of cracks in the windscreen. I stuck my head out the side and saw that we were rapidly approaching an overturned school bus.
I stomped on the brake with both feet and brought the car to a screeching smoking stop. My attorney was thrown from the vehicle. He spun through the air like a paunchy Samoan marionette bereft of strings and hit a jersey barrier, head first. I sat in the car and watched him.
He didn’t get up.
I walked over to him and stared down at his inert body. I bent down and touched his hand. It was already cold. His throat began to bulge and his lips twitched. A long centipede crawled out of his mouth and lay on the pavement, rearing its head threateningly.
I groped in my pocket and threw my wallet at it. It could have it. It could buy itself a hundred pairs of shoes for all I cared. I didn’t need the money anymore. I waited for a moment and it turned and skittered away seemingly satisfied with the offering. I got back in the car and after a moment pulled away from the bus and drove on down the road.
I would miss my attorney. He was a good friend, a singular human being, and most importantly, a good lawyer.
Even so, I couldn’t help feeling more alive than ever. The world had been remade. It was new and dark and uncharted. It had been washed clean of all the filth we had buried it in and was finally, through no efforts of our own, free. It was there for the taking. No money, no nations, no arbitrary lines or borders. It was wild again, at last a new frontier.
Find the ticket…take the ride.