EPISODE 011: ALCOHOLMAN VS THE MUSHROOM MAN
(Kids, don't try this at home!)
There’s nothing quite like a hot cup of coffee in the morning, like the first feeling of hope, or optimism that you can get out there and do your thing. Maybe you can even save the world.
On the downside, however, is getting called in to see the boss before you’ve finished your first mug of joe.
Waiting in the [Secret Society Sanctuary, location classified] lobby … I tried to get an indication from Agent Yoshimoto [Agent Yuki Yoko Yoshimoto, agent in charge of the Society Command Center, otherwise known as “the lobby”] as to why I was called in, feeling like a school kid in trouble with the principal, but no dice. Her almond-shaped eyes stared at her computer screen as her fingers danced across the keyboard.
My navy peacoat was just starting to feel too warm in the temperature-controlled underground environment when she looked up and said: “Agent Adams, he’ll see you now.”
I walked over to the elevator to the left of her desk. The crazy thing always reminded me of a Mego Star Trek playset I had as a child. You put Kirk or Mr. Spock into a rotating cylinder, spun it, and pretended they transported elsewhere. I stepped into the cylinder and asked, “Any advice?”
She just smiled and pushed the button that made the door slide shut. A few buttons glowed and I was on my way. You can’t tell if you’re going up, down, sideways, and just when you think you’re going to lose your breakfast: stop. The door slides open to a vestibule on the other side. Just beyond that you see a door. His door.
The big boss.
Before I could knock the entrance slid open and a calm voice said, “Come on in, Agent Adams. Have a seat.”
I sat in the chair in front of his desk and tried not to freak out. Sure, I had met the boss before. Sure, I knew what he was, but it’s not everyday you get a private conference with an alien being, not everyday you get to question your sense of reality and sanity on this level, and certainly not everyday you see an alien wearing shades.
He appeared to smile, but hard to tell, his mouth a thin slit just sort of bending above the conservative black suit and tie he wore. The vintage wood of his desk, dark and natural, stood in direct contrast to the silvery metallic look of his hairless skin. He had three items on that desk: a classic round fishbowl with a bright orange goldfish swimming in water, an ET the Extraterrestrial Pez dispenser, and a file folder resting between his hands.
“Relax,” he said, and as he said the words, I actually started to feel calmer.
“This file,” he said in that calm voice, “pertains to everything we currently have on the Mushroom Man.”
“You,” he said, “have encountered this being previous to our recent mental experiment, true?”
“I believe so.”
“I want you tell me everything you know about him.”
“Uh, you know, it’s very hard to recall. There were intoxicants involved, and truthfully, they are not memories I like to stir. I can’t think of anything that can really help. I always believed he was, you know, imaginary.”
MJ-13 reached down on the left side of his desk and opened a drawer. He pulled out what my mind at first wanted to tell me was a bowling ball.
He placed the severed head on the desk in between the fishbowl and the Pez dispenser and said, “This is Agent 109. He didn’t believe in the Mushroom Man either.”
Agent 109’s eyes were missing and the flesh of his cheeks had been ... peeled.
“That,” I said, “is the second most disgusting thing I’ve seen this week.”
MJ took off his shades and I could see his eyes …
“Tell me,” he said. “Tell me about the Mushroom Man.”
Still in the Navy, I thought, I was still in the Navy ...
I had come back home to Southern California on a train, alone, and after swiping a surfboard from my father’s stripper girlfriend, and hitching a ride from a guy with a truck and too much love for blasting AC/DC, I headed down to the Venice break at night, not the best time to surf, but I wanted to avoid the local surfers.
If there’s something you always wanted to do, to be a part of, or get better at, it’s not worth putting off. The older you get the less any of it will make sense in the long run.
The sea breeze blew gently, and the waves barely yawned, but it didn’t matter. I paddled out just to feel it, just to be out there. I floated, trying to avoid the soundtrack to Jaws inside my head ...
... until I heard something paddle up beside me. Shit, I thought, I always knew I would die bloody from a man-eater ...
“Hey surf bum, heard you were slumming in the ocean again.”
Instead of a shark, I had miraculously been hunted down by my old surf buddy Clint “Cowboy” Walker [as seen in the currently unpublished novel manuscript: Nobody Surfs Forever].
After all the yahoos guys make when they haven’t seen a buddy in a long time, we sat in the back of an old VW bus while Clint worked a church-key around the top of a can of UFO Spaghettios to the music of Cat Stevens singing “Miles From Nowhere.”
“Yeah,” he said, “good stuff.”
“I seriously doubt it.”
“Well,” he said, “I have a present here from your pal, Jim Hitler.” [Editor’s noet: Jim Hitler is also from Nobody Surfs Forever, but don’t worry folks—the plot’s about to cook without that cast].
“Jim? Whatever that mad scientist cooked up, I could probably do without. They have me in a program in the Navy.”
“What kind of program?”
“Some kind of experimental thing, vitamin shots and therapy, supposed to make me lose my taste for rum drinks or something.”
“Yeah, well, good luck with that.”
Clint poured some powder out of a bag into his UFOs.
“What the hell?” I asked.
“Some kind of natural mushroom powder. Jim said it would give you a vision quest or something, help you find that mystic blonde you fantasize about.”
“Well,” I said, “I can’t argue with that logic. I poured some of the mushroom powder into my mouth and chased it down with some Mug Root Beer.
Time passed as we talked about “old times” that really weren’t that long ago, but from 15 to 20, well, it can seem like a lifetime.
Clint kept playing “Miles From Nowhere” until I imagined Cat Stevens as some sort of crazy mind control monster, a bearded maniac hunting hippy girls.
“You hear that?” I asked.
I got out of that old bus, and that was the last I saw of Clint Walker that night.
There are other worlds than the “normal” everyday reality we walk around in, not a new perception by any stretch of the imagination, just true.
I walked into a different reality that night on the beach. Sure, similar, still on the beach, but every grain of sand told me a different story. The sound of the waves, foreign music, and the wind felt like electric licorice. But the moon, the moon was a demigod and I was just a caveman.
I took a deep breath.
Snap the fuck out of it.
The laughter down on the shore caught my attention. I could see something, something ...
MJ-13: “Please continue, Agent Adams.”
“Yeah, if you say so.”
“Just relax. There is no need to speak aloud. You were on the beach. Think about that night.”
I thought it was a kid or something, or as I got closer, maybe just a small person, or a dwarf.
Whatever existed out there, it came armed with an ax, chopping at something, maybe driftwood, and singing to itself, a strangely morose tune that seemed to comfort the creature as it worked.
He turned and looked at me, his white body silhouetted against the black ocean in the background.
It looked at me, and it smiled. It opened its gummy mouth and stretched its face into a hideous grin ... as the dark red blood ran down its chin.
In his right hand he held the ax; in his left, he held a man’s head.
I ran like hell back to where Clint’s VW should have been, but he was gone. I don’t remember how I got home that night, but I returned to the Navy, awaiting orders to return to the Program: Plan B.
Standing watch on the USS Mobile LKA-115, amphibious assault cargo vessel, I was a boatswain’s mate and assault boat coxswain, serving the United States Navy, standing watch. What the Officer of the Deck didn’t know? I recently ingested a mushroom stem the size of a pumpkin handle, and the .45 caliber handgun was looking mighty shiny.
The drunks came back and forth from liberty, bouncing up the gangplank as if they wore rubber shoes. Why are they bouncing? That’s not right. Are they human, inhuman? Should I shoot them now?
A voice inside my head, a cartoon voice that sounded suspiciously like Daffy Duck on mushrooms fired off screaming: “Shoot them now! Shoot them now!”
Beware, I thought. Beware.
College, the University of California at Davis. If you paid attention you could actually learn something.
My college roomy said: “I’ve got these.” He held up the bag of mushrooms. “From Berkeley,” he said.
One cheese pizza later and we stared at a tiny saxophone player, playing inside the stereo. Then the music stopped and we wanted the jazz back but couldn’t figure out how to work the machine.
Berkeley asked: “How do you turn it on?”
“You know,” I said.
I looked at him, suspicious. I understood now; he was insane. Perhaps he would have to be eliminated.
“Die,” said Berkeley. “Die, die, die. Delta Iota Epsilon,” he said, then started laughing, laughing, laughing ...
Turning a secret dial, I managed to bring the saxophone man back to life.
I turned to find Berkeley and his bag of tricks, but he had disappeared.
Berkeley cannot be trusted.
Berkeley is clinically insane. I had just better watch myself.
Time is absolutely meaningless in this asylum. There’s no telling how long I’ve been here. It occurred to me, if Berkeley is insane, which confidentially he is, then I too must be crazy.
Plain and simple logic.
This is an asylum and I am insane.
I walked into the bathroom and stared into the mirror.
The horror ...
I really cannot tell you what it does to your heart when you look into the mirror and see the Mushroom Man staring back.
I needed to get the poison out of my body. Monsters love poison. Write that down: Monsters love poison. I grabbed a bar of Ivory Soap and took a bite. (Note: soap does not taste good). It also did not make me throw up. I spit bubbles into the toilet. Avoiding the mirror, I got down on my hands and knees and crawled out of the mushroom/mirror room.
In the dark hallway I could hear the moans and groans from the subnormal freaks chained inside every room. This is not safe, I thought. Here I am, exposed, as the sharp blade of the Mushroom Man’s ax sought my neck. I made a left turn and crawled into my room.
I was swimming in spider-webs, and you know goddamned well what that means.
Plain and simple logic.
I adventured through the webs and crawled onto my bed. As I lay there I realized the chains linking my arms to the bed. Shackled! Was I ever free? Did I ever see a young woman in a red bikini and know I would kiss her in the future? Who is Yahweh? Was that really an alien being I saw in that military coffin down in the cargo hold of the USS Mobile?
College was killing me. All the words getting inside my bloodstream, changing my molecular structure. Satan’s Puppets. Write that down: Satan’s Puppets.
Old-fashioned cuckoo clocks flew around the room, the tiny dead birds popping out tiny dead tongues screaming: “Cookoo! Cookoo! Cookoo!”
Then the gongs kicked in: Bong! Bong! Bonggg!
Holy dead gods, I thought. I’m cracking up. I’m cuckoo. I’m cracked. I’m mad. I’m bonkers. I’m chained to my bed in an insane asylum with no hope for reprieve.
I was with my punk band The Deadly Lizards. We practiced in the back of a comic book shop. We had pet lizards in aquariums and egg container/sound-proofed walls ...
But somehow the Mushroom Man got in there as well as I sang “God Save the Goats” and Davy Downer played the guitar—the world hallucinated around us, and we laughed and laughed and laughed but knew it was a sick old world and we were definitely not safe.
“God save the goat, pig, chickens, and flies. No one goes to Heaven until they dies!”
The band broke up, or turned Japanese. I’m not sure what happened. I started writing punk poetry and trying to drink the Mushroom Man out of my mind.
In a little apartment on Poverty Ridge I imagined a ladder between Heaven and Hell, and decided to climb down and not up and the house caught on fire.
The carpet burned. The air burned. The windows burned. The chair just sat there and laughed at me while it burned, burned, burned.
The little man had returned to the stereo and he riffed while I wrote the following poem:
once more the experiment persists
completely hallucinating now
trying to give everything to art
what is art?
typing in the dark while in mushroom
reality is very hard
arguing with myself is worse
I yell at myself for staring at pieces
of paper and ripping them
I sit in the kitchen and feel like a dick
I am giving more thought, more heart, more soul
to writing than to finding a normal job
bourbon and whiskey help the nerves
but not the spelling
ain’t no sunshine
typewriter keeps melting
eric burdon sings about orange and red beams
and he knows that music, and whiskey
tying bby w
typing by wax candle hard
sometimes I every one is ki
I can”t keep
I cannot write a sentence
people qwant to get high
what is po$
what is poetry
everything should be repeated
people don,t understand musoic of language
some people are afraid to go to sleep
don’t be scared
I fell like I am in Hell
dsont make a fire.
My typewriter lit up. I opened the door to get some air and saw the whole world ablaze, burning ugly, Armageddon-style.
And the Mushroom Man laughed.
How did this happen? How did the Mushroom Man come to follow me?
I thought of my sailor days again. I had been giving away chunks of psilocybin “magic” mushrooms on board ship. You see, I had to vaccinate the crew against the Mushroom Man. Somebody had to do it.
A Filipino guard marched me slowly down the line of cages to my cell. The “scum of the earth” behind the bars whispered in their odd pirate-like voices as I walked.
“There he goes.”
“Yeah, that’s him.”
“There he is.”
“Mushroom Man,” they whispered. “There goes the Mushroom Man.”
I came out of the trance-like state MJ-13’s eyes put me in and felt completely mentally drained.
“Thank you,” he said. “I realize that was a bit, personal.
“I’m going to authorize some down for you. My associate, Dr. Atlantis, has a sort of custom yacht he’s taking out for a few days—exploring something on some strange island. You’re a sailor, thought you might like to go along, get away from the underground a bit.”
He picked up his ET Pez dispenser, ate a grape Pez, and waited for my answer.
“Okay, yeah, sure. I guess so,” I said.
“Good. Now, is there anything else I can do for you while you’re here?”
“Well, yeah, you can assign Devilgirl to that little boat trip, too. I think she’d like that.”
To be continued ...
CLICK HERE EPISODE 12: THE BLONDES
SECRET SOCIETY: MONSTER ZIPPER by Bradley Mason Hamlin.
Episode 011: "Alcoholman vs The Mushroom Man."
Published May 27, 2009 by Mystery Island.
Copyright © 2009 by Mystery Island Publications. All rights reserved.
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