I couldn’t believe who was looking at.
It was Amelia Mitchell, the sweet, strawberry blonde girl I dated in eighth grade, almost eight years ago. I saw her standing alone, sucking on a cigarette by the entrance of the mall as I was about to leave. She was back in my city. She switched schools and I never saw her again, so this was the first time I was seeing her in almost seven years. I almost didn’t even recognize her. Her clothes were all dark grey, contrasting the pink and purple she always wore when we were 13. Her hair was dyed jet black and she wore no makeup, not even the shimmery peach blush she used to wear every day. One thing remained the same, however; her emerald eyes. I couldn’t forget them if I tried, though they were now sunken into the pits of her skull. That’s how I knew it was her, but she didn’t seem to be the person she once was anymore.
Retrospectively, I consider her to be my first love. She was the first girl I ever dated and french kissed. It was a big deal back then. I remember how attached we were to each other, almost inseparable, and how everyone around us could see it. I was the shy, nerdy guy and she was the pretty, preppy, rich girl, so you could say our bond was like that between two intangible magnets. I remember how absolutely torn apart I felt after she left Vancouver. She was supposedly moving with her parents to Fort McMurray, a small, but very wealthy oil town in northern Alberta, as her dad had been transferred there for work. Once meaning so much to me, I couldn’t resist greeting her.
“Hey… Amelia?” I slowly approached.
“Do I kno-…” her jaw dropped. “Lucas?” she asked, her voice slow and monotonous. I could tell she was on something.
“Yeah,” I was excited, but I tried to conceal my sheer joy. “Wow I never thought I’d ever see you again. Are you back in Vancouver?”
“I left Fort Mac after I turned 18. My parents told me to get a job there or continue school, but fuck that. I’ve been drifting around and doing my own thing ever since. Came back to Vancity just to see how things are now.”
It’s so odd seeing people from your childhood as completely different people, it reminds you of the inevitability of time. I almost didn’t want to believe how much the light that once radiated so fiercely from her had dimmed. She was friendly, but just not the same.
“To be honest I didn’t even realize it was you, you seem so… different,” I said.
“Yeah… I guess I just have a different appreciation for life now. You don’t know your true self as a teenager let alone what you’re meant to become. You live, you grow, you change. What about you though, how have you been? Probably a rocket scientist or some shit by now,” she smirked.
“I’m in my third year of biological sciences, but I still know how to have fun…” I feigned a laugh.
“You wouldn’t know fun if it hit you square in the head.” She seemed much more crass than she used to be, but I went along with it. I loved her when we were 13, but now she fascinated me in ways I couldn’t fathom. I wanted to know more about her and why she now was the way she was.
“Oh yeah? Why don’t you show me then,” I teased. I could sense remnants of our once fruitful connection in the air around us.
“Are you sure?” We could go to my buddy’s place that I’m staying at and smoke a few. Please tell me that having grown up in Vancouver, you’ve at least tried weed.” Her voice still sounded mechanical.
“Okay,” I laughed, “I’m a nerd, not a prude. I only do it sometimes after finals, but sure. I just finished buying new socks so I don’t have anywhere else to be.”
We took the SkyTrain to the place she was crashing at. It was her friend Edgar’s, she said. We walked into the musty, cramped, little apartment and took a seat on the grubby, battered mattress that I’m assuming was used as a couch. She swiftly and effortlessly rolled three joints. Though she looked drastically different, she was still as beautiful as ever to me.
We sparked one up and I tried getting more information out of her.
“Fort Mac though, how was that?” I asked in between exhaling smoke.
It was then that she described life in Fort McMurray and subsequently the type of people she got involved with while she was there.
Alberta, although entering a slight recession now, was like the crown economic jewel in Canada because of their booming oil industry, with Fort McMurray at the centre of the hype. Thus, there was a high demand for hard labour workers that were given exceptionally good pay. Many would work six to 10 months straight at a time, make a load of money and go back to their native cities during summer, eventually blowing it all on partying, and then repeating the process over again. Most labour workers were young 20-somethings from the bigger, busier cities like Calgary and Edmonton, there to make “easy” dough.
But life in Fort McMurray was apparently very isolated. It’s a remote town that experiences gruelling, bone-chilling winters, and everyone there was to grind and work. Many workers would go into bouts of depression and start looking for escapes and drugs to numb their inescapable emptiness. Amelia told me she befriended many of these dazed workers at her father’s factory. Quickly, she delved into the malignant worlds of heroin and oxycontin. At one point, she admitted, she was popping about five pills a day and one day, in her bout of oxycontin-induced high, she cut her arm falling onto ice. Dark green blood came out. She told me all of this in a completely casual tone.
Maybe it was just that combination of Fort McMurray’s secluded and gloomy atmosphere and her relations with the addicts that slowly melted her spirits. Maybe that why she was, for lack of a better word, lost.
“But I’m off Oxys and Smack now,” she said. “Six months clean, in fact, on to better things. You said you know how to have fun, right? Ever heard of Sugardash?”
“Hmm… can’t say I have. What is it?” I asked.
“Hold on…” She went into one of the rooms and remerged with a bag full of luminescent white powder. It was too shiny to be cocaine. She held up the bag. “This is Sugardash. It tastes like sugar, but the effects are… you have to try it for yourself and you’ll know. It’s perfect for someone like you.”
“Like me?” I looked at her skeptically. Weed and alcohol were my limit. I had never done anything stronger before and wasn’t planning to. Especially considering I’d never heard of it before. Plus, I was already pretty baked at that point.
“Relax, Luke. It’s sweet like sugar. You just let some melt on your tongue and swallow. The effects are like DMT but shorter. It’s like a 30-second trip. You’ll thank me later. Trust me. This is the reason I even asked to bring you here.”
DMT, for anyone that doesn’t know, is a powerful hallucinogenic and an ancient medicine used by Indian and South American shamans to cure mental illnesses like depression and schizophrenia. If harnessed properly, it’s apparently life-changing, and some people even claim to meet extraterrestrial spirits and entities during their trips that supposedly help guide them to cores of their souls.
I’ve always kept an open mind but I wasn’t sure if I was up to try something as intense as DMT. But having been told that the trip was only about 30 seconds and the feeling of Amelia’s presence comforted and encouraged me to try it.
“You wouldn’t let me die, would you?” I asked reassuringly.
“Don’t be crazy. Sit back and hold out your tongue,” she generously sprinkled about a tablespoon’s worth of Sugardash onto my tongue. It tasted similar to Splenda and was the most effortless drug I’d ever consumed. I felt the tiny crystals liquefy onto my tongue, one by one. I welcomed them.
I laid flat on the mattress, slowly closed my eyes, and mentally prepared myself to let it hit me. This is my best attempt at describing the feeling of it, though there’s no combination of words I can use to explicate it exactly:
At first it felt like a typical out-of-body experience. I was looking from a bird’s eye view and could see myself laying on the mattress, Amelia’s sharp gaze fixed upon me. I ascended higher and higher, drifting into oblivion.
My view started becoming obscured by green and yellow-tinged supersonic ripples that grew larger and larger, oscillating wildly. It was as if I was a singularity, staring out through a single point onto the immeasurable hologram that was the world before me. Time was meaningless, almost non-existent. I had no body, I was a thought; immaterial, infinite.
Slowly, my vision melted into black and a single white dot appeared at the centre. I began travelling towards the dot. It’s not like I was voluntarily moving towards it, but I wasn’t being forced to either, I was just moving with the flow of my ever-changing perception, peacefully.
The white dot became bigger and bigger, like I was entering it. It was as if I was burrowing into another dimension — another universe. Soon, the blackness was gone and my entire view was white. It was completely empty, devoid of anything. There was no ground, sky or landscape, just boundless whiteness. That’s when I saw it getting closer.
It started as just a tiny grey dot, then more clearly was revealed as a lanky, entirely black figure with two arms and two legs a white face that blended into the white background as it loomed closer. I could then make out that it had two black holes in place of eyes. The rest of its face was smooth, lacking any facial features. I remember thinking that it was perhaps my spirit guide here to teach me, and teach me it would. The figure perpetually hovered closer and closer.
“Hey!” I spoke out. It didn’t respond.
“Hey! Stop,” I called out again. “Who are you!?”
It wouldn’t halt. Once seeming minuscule, it now looked massive, appearing larger as it came nearer. I wasn’t scared though, but I wasn’t happy or sad, either. I just wanted more than to know what it was and what it had in store for me. It now appeared to be looking directly at me, it’s thin arms idly laying by its sides.
“Come…” it whispered in a voice that was neither male or female, through lips that didn’t exist.
Suddenly it stood still and moved its head forward towards me. Its dark, endless eyes dilated. “Slowly… slowly…” its whispers continued to resonate. All I remember after that is the feeling of being sucked into them, first two distinguishable circles that then merged into one dark void as I went closer. I sunk into them the way a calm river gushes into a drain knowing that it has just run beneath the sun for the last time.
I reemerged from the trip back into reality and was back in the apartment. I looked down at my watch to see that exactly 30 seconds had passed. But I knew. I finally knew.
“Welcome back” Amelia said softly. She knew that I knew. I sat up and said nothing back.
It wasn’t oxycontin, or heroin, or even Fort McMurray that made Amelia this way, it was something she’d lost there. Something went missing from my being that day, too, and it wasn’t my ego or my pride or anything remotely conceivable. Something had been plucked from between the threads of my existence. Something I knew that Amelia was missing it too.
I looked in the small mirror sitting by the old mattress. My eyes looked like Amelia’s even though her were green and mine were brown. The flecks of gold they once merrily paraded with every blink were all but gone. They were now just two chestnut abysses.
I think Sugardash cured me that day. All my fears and anxieties vacated my body the moment I penetrated those depthless eyes. I don’t think I’ve escaped them since. I don’t think I can. I don’t think I want to. But my purpose in and understanding of the world was clear.
“Pass me some Sugardash before I leave, I know a friend that needs to try some.” She got up and prepared a small bag for me, and with that, I left.