After three months of mouldering in the Darkness, I saw my face in the cursed mirror. My road to ruin is littered with torn plastic bags, empty pill canisters and dull needles. I hear the Priestess every night in my dreams. Come back, she says. Come back. But I can't do it. I won't do it. Being high is what I know.
But that face in the mirror...I barely know him. Has that much me really slipped by? What else has happened? I check my bank account. Demons that move like liquid over my moods release the Panic. Wild, uncontrollable creatures fill my thoughts. Cynically, the world is money. You can believe this or not. But if you like electricity, cable and internet you must acknowledge this shiny, glowing god.
And I acknowledge.
Everything bad happens. I run out of Unemployment. The IRS sends me a threatening letter regarding a tax bill for a cashed out 401K plan that totals more than $10,000. Do I have gold, jewels or anything tangible to reflect this poor decision? No. I pissed it away on heroin and pills.
I got a blood infection a month ago. Could literally be from anything. But with whiskey came many missed shots and my shooting hygiene has been poor as of late. I went to a health clinic without insurance. They sent me to a hospital. So $300 to see a doctor and have his admin call an ambulance. $7,000 for the emergency room visit. Then a letter outlining my uninsured hospital stay. Days start at $1,200 plus expenses. The food was terrible and they were very stingy with the opiates. Not sure how much of the discomfort was from withdrawal and how much was from sepsis. But man, the agony was intense. I was left alone in the Darkness and surrounded by machines. Here I met a new god I will spend the rest of my life avoiding. Pain.
And now my bank is after me. When Rosie fled the country for taxes or narcotics or whatever, she borrowed money from me. A thousand here, a thousand there. The check she wrote me for $6,500 bounced. When I pointed this out she shrugged and said, "Oh my money is tied up in Costa Rica. Have my car."
She signed over her car to me. I have never actually owned a car and was excited for about a day. Then the car was gone. It disappeared from the office parking lot. My last message from Rosie before her number was disconnected was contact information for the repo company the bank uses.
My only good fortune in all of this was I was too high to go to the DMV to do the title transfer. So at home, I burned it.
My net worth is a negative number. Rent is coming up, there is no food and I have no answers. Well, I have one answer. I shoot up in my right arm which is tricky but I have less bruised puncture wounds on that side. I slip into the nod and another afternoon drifts by. Cottony clouds of cable TV shows slide into my shiny eyes. The warmth of my god whispering only gentle things to me brings a lost smile. Familiar bliss.
When I awake, the withdrawals boil through me like writhing snakes. Besides muscle aches or nausea, a new sharp pain in my gut fill me with dread. Like roof nails driven into my bowels. I double over and groan. The clock on TV says I have slept for almost 12 hours...really? Did I OD? Maybe my body craved the sleep. The couch has a body-sized sweat stain where I twisted and burned.
I feel terrible. My first thought is to shoot up. Just a little...But I remember the visions. I saw her. My little priestess. My guardian. Unlike the ghosts that chase me across the dream plane, the Priestess is forever kind. The Priestess shows me only the paths I need to move forward. Not the ones I enjoy visiting in sorrow. Not the ones that lead me back to forgotten tropical seas. Vast oceans of blue opening up like a ghost scream...
She only shows me the path that is needed Now.
"It is time to summon him" whispers the Priestess. "Your new mask. Your old mask is lost and forgotten."
"Remember! Your boldness. Your confidence. The powerful man from yesterday and the broken man on the couch today are the same man."
But he is gone Priestess. Tortured, withered, dead, and forgotten. But I understand. These problems are my problems, regardless of who wears the mask.
There is a Doors song that is actually a piece of a long forgotten spell. But in the fragment is true power.
"I am the Lizard King. I can do anything."
I awake in clarity.
When your path is lined with poppies, change will come hard. Some choose not to leave. But most do nothing and let the god decide. The farther you walk down the Path of Flowers the more beautiful the madness becomes. Each step into the god's garden is one step farther away from your soul. But do you still care dreamer?
I care. Thankfully there is the Lizard King. I create him with half my soul. I agree to keep one foot in the real world and the Lizard King is my envoy with full powers. I bind the creature that thinks, ponders and pragmatically solves complex life decisions to my lazy dreamer, self.
When I wake up, I cringe at my weakness. My shooting kit is out in the open and a dropped cigarette has burned the couch. I need help. So I summon my creation. Give him a test run.
The Lizard King is weak from all the years of abuse and needs a little opiate to function. I feed him enough to stave off sickness. Two roxies. I go over my options. I need a plan. I get the mail and divide it. Bills on one side and credit card offers on the other. Luckily, my credit scores are based on when I had a salary and zero debt. The Lizard King sorts through the pile. One is especially attractive. $20,000 credit, 0% for one year. I fill it out and call. I give them my offer number and they run my numbers. Everything goes smoothly until they ask about Employment.
"Freelance" I answer.
The process halts. I ask to speak to a superior rather than wait because I am on a business trip to Singapore, lies the Lizard King. A manager gets on and I explain in tech jargon about Nothingness. Nothing to show and nothing to worry about. A Rosie trick. They accept my answer.
Now I have a year. Selfish me wants a shot. Selfish me wants to figure out how to turn the credit card into cash. But the Lizard King hangs up the phone and makes some notes in his planner.
I go out and enjoy breakfast. A bagel bacon and egg sandwich, coffee and Help Wanted ads. The job market looks promising which is positive. Then I go get a haircut. I have rotted inside my tomb of an apartment for three months which means I am shaggy.
A tall Korean woman with long legs and beautiful skin washes my hair and asks how I want my hair cut. Her touch is magical and I realize I have been away from people too long. Just to practice, I start flirting and lie about what I do. She giggles and banters with me. I see a wedding ring so I start shamelessly hitting on her and then I ask her out. She turns me down. But I have made her happy, given the two other ladies cutting hair something to talk about and I realize, I am happy too.
As I leave, I think of Sera. For immoral reasons at first but then I remember an email she sent me weeks ago. Sera has a new job. She is a recruiter for tech companies.
With my excellent credit, I open an account at Macys and purchase a new wardrobe. I must disguise the Lizard King appropriately. Let them see only the bold creature in nice clothes and ignore the sick, frightened invertebrate cowering inside.
Back home, the Lizard King does math. I can live for eight months on what I have if I a spend carefully. Yes, this includes drugs for the Lizard King is realistic about all matters from eating out to the rising price of illegal oxycodone. I email Sera for more information about her work, put away my clothes and feel better. I have taken one step in a direction. Not sure which direction, but I have started moving.
I sit down and open a bottle of beer. Mycroft the fish looks at me so I feed him. The dehydrated blood worms he eats are probably what my veins look like. His giant glass jar looks filthy.
"I'm changing Mycroft's water" says the Lizard King.
Actually doing stuff versus dreaming about doing stuff soon is the true power of the Lizard King. Little motions like cleaning Mycroft's jar beget energy. This energy starts to gather and build momentum. Mycroft flashes around his clean bowl and I rinse his anubias plant island in the sink to clean off the dust.
"I need to start exercising in the morning again. Push ups, sit ups, crunches and yoga to start with" says the Lizard King.
"And we gotta cut back. No more needles. Let the holes heal, dude. You know what I mean."
My gut tightens. No more shooting until the wounds heal is his old trick. After the punctures heal, the urge to shoot has usually passed. Clever. But I don't like the vague cutting back plan for I am a junkie. I need to know where I stand.
"Cutting back?" I question.
"Yeah. With your usual high, I can't function at the level required to trick bosses. Though you barely feel it and would love to be higher, your brain is mush. Zero concentration."
"C'mon we gotta climb out of the hole. I can do this! But I need you."
"Alright, alright..." I agree.
"Look a taper is all I'm asking. No more needles. Scale back the H. Let's get off it and worry about the pills later ok?"
"Ok" I nod checking my computer. "Hey, I just got an email from Sera. She wants to meet tomorrow for lunch."
"Good! This might be the easy way back in. A few temp jobs will get the cash flow back. Plus I'm out of practice. Hey do me a favor and let me talk to Sera before you go into social mode and try to get laid. I have questions on insurance, salary requirements and shit. Oh, and I'm working on your story. Maybe something like you took three months to travel? Need something for the resume."
The Lizard King goes on about other concerns and how to solve them but I grow bored. I send him back to the other side.
Now it is just me. I finish the beer and get my heroin. I have about a gram of tar left. I smoke a tiny ball of H on foil. Haven't done this in ages. The high is not as pleasant and the throat taste is just wrong. But I still have the skill. The foil is barely burned and the smoke rolls off evenly. Very little dragon escapes my straw.
Things are changing. I inspect the Lizard King's work on my updated resume. Very impressive indeed. I print out copies for tomorrow's meeting with Sera. I think of smoking more tar but nah. I'll read in bed and try to relax. Maybe make a grocery list and polish my work shoes. Feels weird to do normal people things but it also feels good. I'll finish this tar and keep the pills for later. I can always get more pills.
Sadly, I find that thought very comforting and use it to anchor myself in this new adventure.
I wake up on Tuesday morning in my usual panic. Dark moth wings fluttering against the windows in my mind. Strange animals screaming and pulling at me...Bills overdue, math not adding up, sinking, drowning, choking doom. The clock says 4:44 am. I am psychotically alert and frightened and...wait.
Wait a second. Remember our pact? Remember all the work we did? Let the Lizard King handle it.
I close my eyes and drift away. A feather falling through starlight into the sea of dreams.