The Salvia Chronicles
Everything is Justifiable
The Blue Blank Faced Men of the Russian Circus
"Joe? Joe? Are you alright?" said Marissa as I began to slide off the couch and out of existence.
We were in San Francisco. It was the seventh day of our cross-country road trip, and I had purchased a gram of 25x salvia extract in the Haight-Asbury district. Mark had purchased twelve nitrous canisters, two balloons, and a nitrous cracker. Life was going to be weird from that point forward.
As we were drinking merrily in our friends' apartment, I had decided to pack myself a hit of salvia. Nobody knew I had done this, which explains Marissa's reaction when I suddenly began making strange chirping sounds as my body seized up, causing me to slide onto the floor. I was apparently laughing to point where it didn't sound like laughter at all, and my body had gone into convulsions as a result.
While my friends witnessed a scene that caused great concern for my well-being, I became nothing. I did not exist. I was merely an inanimate object, and this was incredibly depressing. I slowly came back to the world as I knew it and the tingling sensation that paralyzed my body began to fade.
When I returned, the group was standing over me. All of them looked confused, and I could tell Pat was holding back laughter. Laughing at a person in the midst of a fatal seizure is not exactly polite, so I appreciate his patience as he waited to make sure I was merely spun out on something before yukking it up.
"Joeeee!" said Marissa, relieved that I didn't die, "Don't do stuff like that. You gave me such a scare!"
"My bad. I didn't want to interrupt the conversation to announce that I was about to smoke salvia."
Mark found this all quite amusing and suggested that we all do a round of nitrous. We did, and I suddenly heard Russian house music bumping heavily in my ears.
I spoke in a deep slow-motion-esque voice, "YOOOOOOOOO. DO YOU HEAR THAT MUSIC? HA…HA…HA…HA HA HA"
"HA HA HA HA HA", responded Mark.
The laughter, contagious in nature, spread throughout the room. Then someone suggested that we do salvia and nitrous together; first as a joke, but alcohol and weed made it seem like a solid idea. I was chosen to be the test dummy. As I see it, the choice was due to my courageous personality and special ability to handle strange experiences with the poise of a war-hardened Navy SEAL. Nevertheless, I was the test dummy.
I ripped the bowl of salvia, quickly grabbing the balloon filled with nitrous from Mark, breathing in and out, rapidly pulling the gas into my lungs, until the salvia took hold, followed by the nitrous—a vicious tag team of disorientation. The next thing I knew, I was being carried through the back hallway of a Russian circus by blue, faceless men in brown overalls. Their heads were shaped like ovals and they didn't speak. I wasn't scared, though. In fact, I was highly amused. Their blue fingers were incredibly ticklish, sending strange sensations shooting throughout my body. This all went down to a soundtrack of Russian house music.
Upon my return, I sat still, staring blankly ahead. Fear present in my mind. I felt like the victim of a haunting. Something paranormal was pulling at my brain, standing just over my shoulder. Everyone was staring at me with curious grins on their faces.
"How was it?" asked Mark.
"Weird," I said, staring past the group. "I think I'm done with salvia."
Return to the Russian Circus and How Salvia Trapped Mark
It was our last night in Yosemite. We were sitting around our campfire, which was burning strongly under a massive boulder. Pat and Mark had gotten into an argument of sorts. I wasn't paying much attention to it, but I knew it was about psychedelic drugs. Mark was talking about how he didn't like shrooms. Pat was talking about why Mark should like shrooms. Somehow, the debate made its way onto salvia, which led to a challenge.
To males, challenges are dangerous things. A challenge from one male to another leaves the one being challenged with two options: the first being to accept and defend one's manhood; the second option, usually the most damaging (societally speaking), is to retreat and not accept. Both can have negative consequences, but Mark, not to be bitched out by Pat, accepted.
"Fine," Mark said, "go pack me up a hit."
Pat looked at me, "Is it cool if we use your salvia?"
"Sure," I replied, getting up to go into the tent.
I handed Pat the purple case that housed the salvia. Pat grinned at me, pinching the black powder extract between his thumb and forefinger, packing it tightly into Mark's bowl. By the size of the load, I knew Mark was in for an intense ride. Pat packed in two times more than the average salvia hit. He was making sure to prove his point (whatever that was) by ensuring that Mark would transcend Earth, Heaven, and Beyond—to "break through".
Mark entered the tent with purpose. He was a man possessed, grabbing the bowl and ripping it like he had something to prove. Seconds after his massive exhale, Mark collapsed onto his sleeping bag, meowing rapidly. He was trying to crawl underneath me. This strange behavior—frightening noises and body movements—continued for roughly fifteen minutes—much longer than the average salvia trip. When Mark returned, it was clear that he had not yet come down.
"I can't feel my legs," he said.
"Ah, you'll be fine in a few minutes," replied Pat.
I glanced at Pat and we shared concerned looks as Mark sat paralyzed on top of his sleeping bag, staring at the roof of the tent. Pat and I both knew how long Mark had been gone, and we both were a bit worried. We hoped nothing was seriously wrong as there was nothing we could do. We were in the middle of the woods; the location of the nearest hospital was unknown to us. The closest ranger station was forty five minutes away.
Twenty minutes passed, not one of us had said much during that time.
"How you feeling?" I asked.
"I…I... I can still feel the tingling sensation. You know? That needle…that feeling of needles in your arms and legs that you get."
"You want to get some fresh air?" asked Pat.
"That might help," Mark responded.
Pat helped Mark out of the tent as he couldn't walk on his own, taking him to the car to sit down and gather himself. I remained in the tent, genuinely worried that we had finally encountered the churlish consequences of salvia use. What if he really is paralyzed? I thought. How would we explain this to the authorities, to our parents?
When Mark returned to the tent, still feeling the effects, he shared similar sentiments.
"What am I going to tell my mom?" he said. "That I smoked salvia and became paralyzed…That I smoked DRUUUGS and can no longer walk!"
We shared a laugh over the statement, but it did not remove the sense of panic that had consumed all of us, especially Mark. After an hour, we had decided it would be best for him to try and sleep it off. The next morning, Mark awoke, completely normal and overwhelmingly relieved.
A few hours before Mark's devastating trip, I had decided to embark on my own excursion into the world of salvia. Yes, I may have said that I was done with salvia a few days earlier, but the decision to come out of retirement, much like Michael Jordan's decision to return to basketball, was primarily due to boredom. I wanted excitement, and salvia would certainly provide that. I was also curious as to what world I would find myself in.
Oddly enough, the trip picked up where the last one had left off. I was back in the hallway of the Russian circus being carried by the blue blank-faced men. The tiny men carried me to the end of the hallway where there were two doors. They placed me down and disappeared, vanishing into thin air along with everything else. But the doors remained; dark brown and old, seemingly floating in a massive black space. I stood there for a minute, hearing familiar voices echoing around me. I couldn't decide. There was something permanent about the decision and I did not want to get trapped for eternity in a world, which I had no desire of living in.
This was the same problem Mark faced in his twenty minute long ordeal. Except that he didn't have any doors to choose from. He explained that he had become trapped in another dimension, our voices calling to him from the other side. Mark just wanted to escape, which explains why he kept trying to get under my sleeping bag. At the time, he was under the impression that it was a way out, a portal to salvation, but the ground and my body had prevented his escape.
What is it about salvia that places its users into a world that they don't want to be in? Why is there always this underlying desire to escape the reality that salvia creates? Maybe it is because the realm of salvia is always uncomfortable. It is never desirable and we try so hard to fight against the reality of salvia. We struggle for comfort in a world of discomfort.
The fact of the matter is that a person never actually goes anywhere. They still exist in the same world, but salvia is able to convince the user that they have gone somewhere else. Salvia makes one believe in the illusion, and in that sense, it is the purest kind of magic.
The Beginning of the End:
Mr. Gimbly, Where Are You?
"Where are they?" I asked, "Where are all the gnomes?" I had wandered into what I believed was a gnome village. The cobblestone walk, the menacing trees, and the overcast sky had convinced me of my location. But there were no gnomes. They were staying in for the night, inside their cozy tree homes. I found this peculiar. After all, it was Friday. Shouldn't they be out, prancing drunkenly through the village square? I thought gnomes were a festive bunch who enjoyed beer and fun just as much as Germans during Oktoberfest.
My delusion slowly faded as the salvia began to wear off. I soon noticed normal sized people only five feet from my location, which revealed itself not as a gnome village, but as a regular suburban home. The regular sized people looked strange. I did not know them at first, causing me to stand in an inquisitive manner. My knees were bent and my upper body moved towards them and then away, towards them and away, over and over, as I tried to adjust my eyes, which weren't able to make out their faces. Who were these people? I thought. And when I realized they were my friends, I found myself facing the worst realization of all: they did not know me, not the other way around.
They were chatting amongst themselves, laughing heavily, slapping their knees, having a blast. They were totally oblivious to the fact that I was only a few feet away, staring at them, hoping they realized I was there.
Oh no! I thought. It finally happened. I'm dead! No! Don't say that. I'm alive! Oh no. I've gone acid crazy. Fuck! This can't be real. But it is! Shit, shit, shit. Oh God! I'll never come down. I'm trapped!
I felt as if there was a glass wall separating me from my friends. We were not on the same plane of existence, and I grew more frightened with every passing second.
I eventually regained the ability to speak. Before, I was grunting, tripping over my tongue as I tried to reach out to them. The words would stop as they got to my throat, mutating into lumps of incoherent sounds, plopping out my mouth like drool. I wanted to cry as I couldn't scream to them from the other side. Once my voice had returned, my demeanor changed. I had returned from the realm of salvia, an alternate reality that exists within reality itself.
"Oh man," I said, "that was fucking weird."
Their eyes had welled up from laughing at me. Laughing at my surrender to illusion, which was my only option as victory over salvia was not possible, at least then. It was a full on assault, and I had become just another prisoner of salvia.
I had knocked on a tree, screaming for "Mr. Gimbly" to come out and enjoy the evening. After failing to draw Mr. Gimbly out of his tree home, I found myself facing the second wave of salvia, which crashed violently on the shores of my mind. My friends said I looked like I was about to cry. My mouth was stuck open, my eyes blank, my knees bent as I raised my hands up and down while my torso shifted side to side. I was more a marionette doll being controlled by a lethargic puppet master than I was a human.
"What was going on?" asked my friend Jon, still struggling to suppress his laughter.
"I thought I was in a gnome vil…it's fucking really cold," I said, "Is anyone else really cold? Like…I."
I ran to my car, started it up, and turned on the heat to combat the cold front that came over me. I began to sweat profusely. When I remembered it was August, I turned the car off, and returned to the group, laughing at myself as I reminisced over my warped perception, which existed only five minutes earlier. The trip had ended.
My world had been completely flipped upside down for a few minutes. I had become completely detached from reality in a frightening and befuddling way, but in hindsight, it was incredible, amazing, and monumentally awesome. Too many people focus on the negatives of salvia, never truly reflecting on what happened to them. Once I finally came to grips with salvia, accepting it for what it is, I felt liberated and an immense level of satisfaction washed over me.
Salvia had reminded me of the human mind's ability to distort, to take what is on the outside, and mold it into something entirely different. Once I had been exposed to this truth it became impossible to ignore it, and awareness is the only way to battle the mind's greatest freedom and its greatest flaw. We are the great distortionist species.
LSD was running wildly through our brains, jumping on the cerebral cortex like a child on a trampoline. Dave, who was tripping for the first time, was acting strange. It was a strange well beyond the kind that comes from acid, and it had put all of us on edge. He found a paper plate that he used to document the group's demented conversation as well as his own inner personal discussion, thinking it would shed light on his existence and purpose for living. It is no surprise that he threw the plate out the next morning.
Everyone was starting to lose their head. Dan was a jabbering mess, constantly picking up objects and putting them back down as he realized he had no use for them. Doug was trying to explain a computer interface that he helped design and build, to an invisible person I imagine, as no one was paying much attention to anything but their own issues of mind. Dave was examining the grease stains on his plate left by long gone pizza. I was rambling incoherently, asking Dan to get me the salvia and nitrous.
This was the cause for his flustered state. The area where we had stored the salvia and nitrous was cluttered with items, forcing Dan to move them out of the way. Given the nature of acid, these things had a tendency to distract Dan. The salvia and nitrous got to me, eventually, and I clumsily prepared myself for the total detachment from reality I presumed would follow. I packed the bowl with 30x salvia extract and cracked the nitrous into a metal canister used to dispense homemade whipped cream.
Sure, all of this seems like a terrible idea, but it is dangerous to give too much credence to assumptions. Once the substances took hold, I felt shockingly different. My vision sharpened, the room was suddenly brighter and more vibrant than it had previously been. The trifecta of supposed mental doom had produced peculiar results.
Instead of an apocalypse of the mind, my brain leveled out. It was not sobriety, though. No, sobriety is far too biased and deceptive. I had reached a new point of drug-induced illusion, a point that was not illusion at all, but truth, pure and untainted. Clarity devoured me. Sanity followed. Honesty shot from my mouth.
"Dave, we aren't saying anything relevant to the thing you're looking for. In fact, much of the stuff that we are saying is total gibberish. We are trying to get a hold of ourselves, we are not philosophizing. You can't find the meaning to life by taking drugs, and if that is what you came here for then you will surely be disappointed by sunrise. Drugs serve two key functions: they enable one to analyze what they know as a means of gaining perspective or they allow one to escape what they know. That's all. If you came here to escape what you know, that's fine, but don't assume things will have changed when you come down. Everything will be the same. In your mind it will be different, but understand nothing changed except for your perception."
"Oh, that's good!" said Dave. "I'm going to write that on my plate!" And he transcribed, to the best of his ability, my attempt at clearing up the situation for him on his paper plate.
"Dan, you found what you were looking for. I have it. Thank you."
Dan began to laugh, "Wow, I had one of those lost moments."
"I understand. It happens," I replied. "Doug, how's it going?"
"Good. How about yourself?"
"Things are good. I don't know how or why, but instead of being shot into oblivion from the salvia and nitrous, I feel really clear headed."
Dave began to jot something down on his paper plate.
"Yeah, I noticed you stopped rambling about whatever the hell you were talking about," said Dan.
I was really confused at that point. Through distortion came clarity. Dan was still rummaging through his dresser for something; Dave sat in the corner, looking like a contemplative chimp as he raked his brain for something clever to write on his plate; Doug doodled; and I thought quietly too myself.
Once the salvia and nitrous cleared my head, I was left with LSD for the next six hours. I had to go outside and get some fresh air. I had to reflect, to analyze what had just happened. The clouds that covered the sky earlier in the night were gone, revealing a vivid array of stars and faraway planets. I stared at them, a giant smile upon my face. Life's worries, responsibilities and societal obligations were nowhere to be found.
I had been exposed to the many masks of reality in less than a day's worth of time. The drugs might have caused the various shifts in my reality, but it was merely an acceleration of the natural progression: a constant ideological evolution. How I perceived the world as a child was markedly different than how I perceive it now; and in the future I can only imagine I'll see things differently as well. Reality is what we make it, and we constantly are changing how we view the world, but never changing the world itself.
Sure, I chose to ingest chemicals as a means of distorting reality, but what many people fail to remember is that there are hundreds of naturally occurring chemical reactions happening in the body on a daily basis. So really, I would be more worried about the people who are under the influence of chemicals and don't even know it.