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by Frank Duff

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559 Nathan Abbott Way


The next day his hand hurt like hell. It was fine when he wasn't using it for anything, but as soon as he flexed it even the slightest bit fire shot through it. Johnny skateboarded south through lysergic streets.

In any high school computer class there will be about half a dozen students who know much more than their teacher ever will. These students come in two varieties. The first variety can't resist an opportunity to demonstrate how smart they are. They quickly earn the animosity of the teacher and usually do poorly in the class. Not so poorly that they could bring the teacher's objectivity into question, just poorly enough to clearly give them the message that, no matter how clever they were, the teacher was still the one in charge. The second variety of student is the type who knows when to keep their mouth shut. They invariably finish at the top of the class. In a university class, there are fewer of these students, but they still come in the same two varieties. Johnny was of the second type. In fact, he knew so well how to keep his mouth shut that he rarely even went to class.

He reached the harbour just as his 11 a.m. algorithms class was starting. As the professor wrote "Basic Recursion" on the blackboard Johnny was dangling his legs off the end of the ferry dock, As the professor asked in his ironic drone whether or not anyone in the class could define "recursion," Johnny was placing two hits of acid under his tongue and then lying on his back and squinting at the sky. Ten minutes later, when one of the students was pointing out that the example on the board was missing a semi-colon, Johnny was reaching into his pocket for the inevitable "good measure dose". The acid hadn't begun to take effect yet and he began to become concerned that he hadn't taken enough. In all rationality Johnny knew that he hadn't given it nearly enough time yet to manifest and that he did this every time, but he placed two more hits under his tongue anyway... for good measure.

Another ten minutes passed: still nothing. But Johnny knew better than to get anxious; he turned his attention to the sound of the waves and the boats. Blotter acid usually has an onset of about twenty minutes but it can sometimes take almost an hour to wind its horrible way to the brain. At ten to noon, as the professor was writing that weeks programming assignment on the board, the clouds began to breathe in time with the rushing of the waves.

There really is no such thing as good or bad LSD. There are only three kinds of acid: cheap acid, expensive acid and not really acid at all. There are so few substances that are active enough for an effective dose to be stored in a square centimetre of card paper that it was virtually guaranteed that if it was LSD at all, it was pure LSD. The trouble was that a 'hit' was really a very arbitrary and meaningless quantity. Most kinds of acid these days were double hitters. This meant that you had to take at least two hits to get high. Expensive. As the crests of the waves began to blur together and form recognizable patterns, Johnny remembered how inexpensive this particular blotter was and began to regret those second two hits.

Shortly past twelve, when all four hits had sunk their alkaloid claws into Johnny's brain, he decided that he didn't trust himself so close to the water. He walked up the street to a park that hadn't been there that morning. It was the size of someone's front yard but contained a primordial boreal forest with dragonflies the size of ravens and butterflies the size of, well, improbably large butterflies. Johnny started trying to climb one of the trees but the more he climbed, the more the tree seemed to stretch out above him. Each branch became a full-fledged tree in its own right. The tree itself had become the entire world. Momentarily terrified, Johnny jumped from the tree, unconcerned about the height from which he would fall. Based on the impact his feet made with the ground, it was only about four feet. He lost his balance and fell onto his back anyway. One of the tremendous butterflies alighted on his chest, practically crushing him. It considered him briefly with its insectoid eyes before taking off again. As it did so, the wind from its wings buffeted Johnny's face, forcing him to close his eyes.

When he opened them again, Johnny realized that he had left his skateboard at the pier. He decided to go back for it. He never reached the pier yet somehow, moments later, when he was lying in the sun, he had his board with him again. He had his eyes closed because was concerned that his time perception had dilated to the point where he might stare into the sun for hours without realizing it. He was terrified that his eyelids might raise against his will so he squeezed them closed with all his might and held his left arm across his face just in case. He knew for a fact that the "college kid stares into the sun while on acid and goes permanently blind" story was a myth, but his perception of reality had opened the gates to all sorts of non-existent things, so it was hardly in poor company.

"You're fucked up man," Tinka said. Johnny raised his arm and opened one eye. She was standing over him wearing his Doors t-shirt. She had it tied up in a knot at the side, exposing her stomach. She was also wearing a pair of pink sunglasses with lenses the size of dinner plates and Johnny strongly suspected that she might be about to feed him more acid. He tried not to show his fear.

"Go away, I'm sleeping."

"You took too much Johnny boy, you took too much. You should see your pupils. I can see your brain through them."

"Where did you come from," Johnny asked, since Tinka apparently remained unconvinced he was sleeping, "How did you find me?"

Tinka idly kicked him lightly in the ribs a few times and then scratched the side of her nose. "I stopped by your room and you weren't there. The guy across the hall said you had come stumbling in about half an hour ago, yelled something about a jungle and your skateboard, knocked around for a few minutes making a lot of noise and then left again. He said you left out the east door. You didn't get very far."

Johnny looked in the direction Tinka indicated and saw the east door of his residence about ten meters away on the other side of a chain link fence. The fence had one of his shoes stuck on top of it. He glanced down at his feet and was happy to see the other shoe still on his left foot. He looked back up at Tinka one last time and decided to make her go away. He closed his eyes and put his arm back over his face.

Tinka kicked him hard in the ribs. He winced but didn't open his eyes until he felt the tremendous rush of wind from her drawing her leg back for another swing.

"I'm fine," Johnny said, "I've done this before. I know how to take care of myself."

"I know you do. But it's starting to rain and I want to fuck." He felt a big drop of water hit his forehead. She was right. Johnny pulled himself to his feet, blinked a few times and looked at Tinka as though she had just appeared out of nowhere.
"Oh, hello," he said.

"Yes. Hello. Let's go." She began to lead him east across the soccer field he hadn't realized he was lying on.

"Where are we going?" Johnny asked looking back over his shoulder at his receding residence building.

"My place," Tinka replied. She has a 'place'? Johnny wondered to himself. Then he noticed for the first time that Tinka was holding his black binder in her hand. She noticed the direction of his gaze.

"I grabbed it from your room," she said handing it to him, "the door was unlocked."

Johnny looked at the binder as he walked, studying the glyph she had painted on it.

"Have you internalized it yet?" she asked.

"Yes," Johnny lied.


They were walking under a sandstone archway. There were thousands of names carved in the stone. Johnny stopped to read them. His name was on the list; so was Lyle's. Lyle Melville. Johnny hadn't known that was his name until just then. He looked up. "These brave men gave their lives to defend their country, their family and their way of life" the plaque told him. Surprised he looked back at his and Lyle's names but they were gone. I'm going to die, Johnny thought. He slumped against the stone, clawing upwards with one hand, his nails digging into the grooves of PFC Edward Winstone.

Tinka grabbed him by the belt. "Get a grip on yourself."

She dragged him through the archway and into Hart House. Hart House was the U of T student centre and one of the oldest buildings on campus. It housed a library, two cafeterias, a gymnasium, a theatre and a labyrinth of twisting and turning corridors and tunnels, most of which were sealed off from the public. Tinka dragged Johnny down into the basement lunchroom (completely separate from the two cafeterias). There were three long tables, and half a dozen vending machines in the room. There were two exits: the corridor from which they had come and a door with an electronic keypad lock. Tinka shoved him into a seat while she peered through the window of the locked door. When she was satisfied that there was no-one on the other side, she punched six buttons on the keypad and pushed the door open. Grabbing Johnny by the collar, she pulled him through the door. They turned almost immediately down a side passageway where Tinka pulled open another, unlocked, door. Down a dark, narrow staircase, through an even darker, narrower corridor she led him. Without warning, Tinka stopped. On their right there were a few ladder rungs set into the wall. They led up through a hatch in the ceiling.

Johnny watched with passive interest as Tinka disappeared through the hatch. He leaned his back against the wall opposite the ladder, looked lazily down the corridor to his left, then his right, and slumped down to the floor. He closed his eyes and found himself flying forward through a fractal galaxy of bright red stars. Johnny was skidding and spinning along his second iteration of the Julia set when Tinka calling his name jolted his eyes open.

"Johnny, don't flake out on me!" She was beckoning him up the ladder. Reluctantly he climbed to his feet and started his way up the rungs. Tinka closed the hatch behind him, leaving them in total darkness. She pulled him close and kissed him.
"Me, Johnny! I'm here. I'm real."

With a click there was a beam of light in Tinka's hand. They were standing in an extremely cramped hallway running perpendicular to the corridor they had just left. The walls were covered in dust and there were oak doors every three or four meters on both sides. Each door had a thick iron padlock on it. There was a faint smell of books and mildew in the air. As she led him down to the hallway, Tinka shone the flashlight on the tiny plaque on each door in turn. 1942 said the first plaque; 1943 said the second.

"Archives," Tinka said. 1946... 1947... "We're underneath the library right now. I went up there and checked once. I found the spot by feeling through the carpet with my feet. Are you listening to me Johnny? Stay with me. When I found what I was looking for, I cut a small hole in the carpet between two shelves and peeled it back. Sure enough, there's a trapdoor into each one of these rooms." 1954... 1955... "The carpet looks about thirty years old. I don't know if anyone even remembers these exist."

They had stopped in front of 1960, the last door in the row. The lock on it was new and made of steel and copper. The name Black and Decker was etched on its face. Tinka looked at Johnny, smiled, reached up into a tiny nook above the door, and produced a key.

"I don't know why there are no records of 1960," Tinka said as the door swung inwards, "so don't ask."

She flipped a switch and a small table lamp came on, illuminating a cubical stone chamber three meters on a side. The lamp was sitting on a desk fashioned of milk crates and plugged into an extension cord. The extension cord had been poorly spliced into a bundle of cables and wires that ran along the ceiling nearest the door. In the centre of the ceiling was an oak hatch with an iron ring affixed to it. A steel pipe had been run through the centre of the ring and sloppily bolted into the ceiling on either side.

Tinka followed Johnny's gaze. "Just in case," she said.

Also plugged in to the extension cord were a small am/fm radio, an air filtration system (which Tinka had just turned on) and a space heater. The wall opposite the door was occupied entirely by a red mural of a Mandelbrot set. There was a bookshelf on Johnny's right so full it spilled out into disorderly piles on the floor and on his left, next to the desk, there was a single futon mattress spread out on the floor with black satin sheets and a red felt blanket. Most of the rest of the floor space was consumed by milk crates and cardboard boxes filled with random detritus. In one of the far corners there were two lawn chairs. Tinka pulled the door shut behind them and fastened the padlock to an obviously jury-rigged setup on the inside. People had never been meant to lock themselves in.

"Make yourself at home," Tinka said as she lit two red candles.

Johnny looked at the lawn chairs, decided not to risk the journey through the sea of boxes and sat down instead on the mattress. Affixed to the wall above the bed was an analog clock and a photograph of Tinka and a man who looked about five years her senior. Tinka was wearing a black mesh shirt in the photo through which her nipples could clearly be seen. She was sticking out her tongue, thumbing her nose and hanging off the man's arm. The man was Korean also, and was wearing a sharp black suit with a white shirt and blue tie. His hair was slicked back and he was staring out of the photo with the sort of penetrating gray eyes that Johnny had thought only existed on posters for detective movies.

"Brother?" Johnny asked, turning his head just in time to see Tinka pulling off her shirt.

"No," she replied, pushing him down onto his back and climbing on top of him, "fiance."

Johnny drifted in and out of reality as they made love. One moment he was sweating and squirming in a forgotten archives chamber and the next he was spiraling through a kaleidoscope landscape of his mind. Just as he was about to reach orgasm, Tinka grabbed him by the hair and pulled his head back hard. "Now," she commanded. "The glyph. Project it."

Johnny did the best he could given the circumstances.

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