“No no no, that’s fine,” I interrupted him. “Regular is fine.”
Ryan watched me with concern as I picked up one of the mushrooms and inspected it. It was light as a feather, felt like handmade paper you can buy in stationary stores, and smelled like ass. I made a face.
“You can still back out if you want to,” Ryan said.
“No she can’t, I already gave her the bloody interview,” Killian said.
“Killian – ” Ryan warned.
The guitarist sighed. “Of course you don’t have to if you really don’t want to, luv… but you did promise.”
I looked over at Derek for reassurance.
“You’re going to be fine. It’s gonna be awesome,” he smiled.
I looked at him for a few seconds more… and then nodded hesitantly. “Okay.”
“Alright, then, bottoms up!” Killian said, and began stuffing the mushrooms in his mouth and chewing them, followed by a few swigs of orange juice.
I followed suit, and almost gagged. They tasted like musty dirt, and were as chewy as cardboard. “Ugh, this is gross.”
“Drink the OJ,” Derek said through a mouthful of shrooms, and passed me a glass.
I finally got them down. Then I looked around. “I don’t see anything.”
Both Killian and Derek laughed.
“It takes a while to kick in,” Derek explained.
“Oh,” I said, embarrassed. “How long?”
“Twenty to thirty minutes.”
“Let’s move the party outdoors, shall we?” Killian suggested.
“What are we going to do outdoors?”
“We’re going for a walk.”
“Well, we have to have something to look at, don’t we?”
“Why can’t we look at stuff in here?”
Derek grinned and put his arm around my shoulders. “You’ll see. You’ll want to be outside, that’s half the fun.”
“…okay,” I grumbled, and felt the last vestiges of control slip away from me as we walked out of the cabin.
As soon as we were outside, I heard the dogs barking again and approaching fast. I turned around, and there was Bob waddling along as the happy pack of mutts swarmed Derek.
“You folks going for a walk?” he called from about 60 feet away.
“Yep,” Derek confirmed.
“You should take the dogs with you. They’ll enjoy it, and they won’t be any trouble.”
My first thought was, Walk your own damn dogs, mister!
But Derek seemed happy enough to oblige. “Cool, you got it, Bob.”
The old man waved at us, then walked back to the house alone.
The dogs tore off ahead of us into the desert, streaking over the dirt road into the middle of nowhere. We followed behind them. Though they were out of sight within 30 seconds, we could still hear them barking in the distance.
“Where are they going?” I asked nervously.
“Don’t worry, they know this place backwards and forwards,” Derek said.
“I just don’t want them running off and we get blamed for it,” I said, still nursing a bit of resentment over having to be a dog-walker while I was on psychedelics.
“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.”
“Are we walking the dogs, or are the dogs walking us?” Killian philosophized as he toddled off after them, plinking away at his guitar.
Ryan, Derek, and I followed him in silence.
After about 30 seconds of our footsteps gritting in the sand and dirt, I asked, “This is it? This is all we’re doing, just taking a walk in the desert?”
Derek grinned. “That’s about it.”
“This is what Killian made such a big fuss over last night? Walking around in the desert.”
I sighed and we continued walking.
Thirty seconds later I asked, “How will I know when something’s happening?”
“You’ll start seeing shit.”
I remembered stories from the resident Grateful Dead fan back in journalism school. Like the time he saw a giant alligator skeleton in the sky, and its footprints in the clouds were outlined in pink cotton candy. Or when he was driving and had a flashback, and a fire hydrant sprouted feet and ran across the road.
Though I think he did LSD, not shrooms.
“Am I going to see stuff that’s not really there?”
“No, probably not.”
“What am I going to see?”
“Everything will just be a lot more interesting.”
“Jesus, Kaitlyn, enough with the questions,” Derek said – not exactly mean, but the way you might talk to a three-year-old who kept asking Why? Why? Why?
“Cut her some slack, Derek,” Ryan said. “She’s just nervous.”
“She doesn’t have anything to be nervous about,” Derek shot back. “I’m here, you’re here – it’s going to be fine.”
“She’s never done this before.”
“Well, if she keeps worrying about it, she’s going to end up on a bad trip.”
“A bad trip?” I squeaked.
“Good one, dumbass,” Ryan growled.
Derek rolled his eyes and hugged me close to him with one arm. “You’re not going to have a bad trip, Kaitlyn. Just roll with it, okay? Enjoy it.”
But now I was obsessing over having a bad trip. “What happens if I have a bad trip?”
“But what if I do?”
“But what if I – ”
“Oh my God,” he sighed in exasperation, “just stop, okay? It hasn’t even kicked in yet and you’re fuckin’ freaking out.”
“Derek, why don’t you go take a break and hang out with Killian for a few minutes?” Ryan suggested.
Killian was already a good hundred feet up the road ahead of us. The metallic plinking of guitar strings drifted through the air.
Derek looked over at Ryan, annoyed. “Dude, I’m just trying to tell her not to freak out.”
“I know. But just take a break for a few minutes,” Ryan said soothingly. “Just a few minutes, that’s all.”
Derek glared at Ryan from the corners of his eyes. Then he looked down at me. “What do you want?”
I wanted to say, Don’t go, but the truth was, he was stressing me out. It was weird – I wanted him to make me feel better, but he wasn’t doing that. If I complained about it, I knew it would only make matters worse. And if he stayed, that would make it worse, too, because I was afraid to say anything else that might make him mad.
“You can go see Killian for a minute,” I said quietly.
He huffed as though offended, then took his arm away from me. “Fine. Call me if you need me.”
Then he sped up and headed for Killian.
Ryan looked down at me and smiled gently. “He’s not exactly the most comforting guy ever, is he?”
“He could take some lessons,” I muttered.
Ryan laughed. “Look, I just want you to know that you don’t have anything to worry about. I’m going to be here the entire time. If you need anything – anything at all – just come to me, okay?”
I nodded mutely as I watched Derek and Killian clowning around in the distance.
“But don’t worry, because you’re going to have a great time,” Ryan continued, though I was only half-listening to him. “The biggest thing you’ve got to worry about is pooping your pants.”
What I heard was blah blah blah great time blah blah POOPING YOUR PANTS.
“WHAT?!” I yelped. I wheeled around to face him. He had my full attention now.
“Yeah, you didn’t know that?” he asked, suddenly quite serious. “98% of all people who do shrooms poop their pants. Nobody ever told you that?”
“NO!” I screeched, horrified at what lay ahead for me. “Do Killian and Derek do that?!”
“Every time. They actually feel it enhances the experience.”
“WHAT?! OH MY GOD! Why didn’t anybody TELL me that?! There’s no fucking way that I would have… ever…”
By this point the corners of Ryan’s mouth were beginning to tremble and turn up, even though he was trying so hard to keep a straight face.
“You LIAR!” I howled, and smacked him on the arm.
He burst out laughing. “You bought that one hook, line, and sinker.”
“You’re a jerk!”
“Who, me?” he asked. He was trying to be innocent, but it’s hard to act innocent while you’re choking back laughter.
“Just to be absolutely clear, I’m not in any danger of crapping my pants, right?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say no danger – ”
I hit him again, and he stumbled off to the side of the dirt road in fits and snorts of merriment. “You’re fine, you’re fine!”
“Asshole,” I said, though I said it good-naturedly.
He trailed off laughing and wiped a tear from his eye.
Suddenly I got it.
“You did that to make me stop worrying, didn’t you?”
He didn’t look at me, but instead gave a secret little smile. “Did it work?”
I looked up at him… then hip-checked him playfully.