Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clod; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;
To be imprison’d in the viewless winds,
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendent world; or to be worse than worst
Of those that lawless and incertain thought
Imagine howling: ’tis too horrible!
The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ache, penury and imprisonment
Can lay on nature is a paradise
To what we fear of death.
– From: Measure to Measure Act III Scene 1 – William Shakespeare
The ancient Egyptians were renowned for being a very spiritual people. They believed in the weighing of the heart upon death, against the feather of truth and justice. If the heart were too heavy, it would be devoured by the demon Ammut, a hybrid crocodile beast. If it were light, it would pass through to meet a panel of 14 judges, who would ask the deceased to account for their life. If the heart succeeded in this, it would meet Osiris, the God of the dead, who then asked two simple questions. Did you find joy in your life? And did you bring joy to others? Such a simple concept. Yet it is one we forget all too often.
By 6:30 we were all settled in the maloca, ready for the second night of ceremony. Malcolm started off with his usual rally-cry of “Who’s ready for some ayahuasca?” that was always met with much cheer and laughter. Somehow, something inside me felt a bit different. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I was still relieved that the night before, despite being challenging, ended on a good note. Hopefully tonight was the same.
Don Alberto and his son made their way in, with the new batch of Ayahuasca in hand. The ceremony proceeded as it did the night before, and we all received our cups, one by one, and waited. The shamans served themselves last, and with that, the cry of “Salud!” went around the room. Down the vile stuff went. The ayahuasca tasted even worse this time around; more potent. The gagging and coughing and hacking noises went on for a few minutes as everyone cleared the acrid taste from their mouths. When I was sure I wasn’t going to throw up simply out of gag reflex, I settled on my mattress and did the same thing as last night. I began to slowly relax my body, starting from my head and ending at my feet. I must confess, there was a part of me that felt a bit smug that the previous night’s experience had been so good. Perhaps not the best attitude to take.
I sat there and waited. And waited some more. Other people around me were clearly starting to feel the effects. The “mareacion” had begun its work on them. But I sat there and kept waiting. “Did I do something wrong?” I wondered. “Maybe I didn’t have enough.” Forty minutes passed, with nothing happening. I was beginning to feel restless and worried. “I wonder why it’s taking so long.” Suddenly, came the reply. “Because it’s getting ready to kick your ass, that’s why.” The visions started coming on. They were more organic in nature, and less robotic as the night before. Strange amorphous shapes. The theme definitely felt more jungle-like instead of techno-futuristic as the night before. Painted faces peered out of the psychedelic gloom.
The purge was so violent. All of a sudden I felt like I had been hit in the chest by a sledgehammer. I was caught totally by surprise, and I barely managed to grab my bucket in time. Time. Time was instantly lost to me. I felt as if I had been dragged into the abyss. I could barely breathe, and everything was swirling around me. The visions dulled, save for a feeling of swirling down the vortexes of hell. Everything else ceased to exist, except for this heart wrenching agony I felt within. I purged and purged and purged. Incredibly violently. Someone came over to check on me, but I couldn’t even make out who it was. I was in over my head in a world of hurt and fear. “I’m dying” I said to myself. “That’s it. It’s all over.” Wave after wave of nausea and pain smashed against me relentlessly. Just as soon as I would start to think that it was easing up, it would come back and hit me from somewhere else, with even more intensity.
“I’m dead. I must be dead. This isn’t living… this is… hell.” The world around me was dark and evil and angry. Although the visuals weren’t as strong, the emotions were there. I felt such an intense feeling of hostility and hatred toward me, as if trapped in a world of malevolent demons who wanted nothing more but to see me suffer. They didn’t even bother taunting me by this stage. This was a full-on assault on every plane of my existence. Physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental. I writhed uncontrollably as the foul blackness fought to stay inside me. All I wanted was to get rid of it. I purged to the point I nearly blacked out completely; fighting desperately to stay conscious. I had long since purged everything in my stomach, yet I was still vomiting uncontrollably. “What do you want from me?!” I screamed to the medicine. “Take it, I don’t want it! Leave me be!”
All of a sudden my bowels started to act up, and I became painfully aware that there was more purging to be done from the other end. I still don’t know how I managed to do it, but I whimpered for help. The word “help” was so fucking ridiculously hard for me to say that I thought I had gone completely insane. Help didn’t come. The helpers couldn’t see me at all. My torch, of course! My hands fumbled with the desperation of a junkie searching for the syringe, and when I finally found it, I cupped my hands around the light and lifted both hands as high as possible and waved them around like a madman. What felt like hours was probably only seconds. Chris, a rather tall Australian guy came rushing over. I stumbled to my feet, and he guided me to the bathroom. Everything was a swirling, evil, hateful mass of aggressive energy. I felt totally destroyed. I sat on that toilet and grunted and groaned. I could actually FEEL the darkness leaving my body. One would think that this would be somewhat of a relief, only that there seemed to be no end to it. As soon as I purged some of that evil, it just felt like more was waiting in the wings to take its place. “Will this ever end…”
Chris stood outside the door of the toilet and waited with me, gently coaxing me and reassuring me. I couldn’t have possibly felt more grateful for his presence. Without him I was completely lost and terrified. He said to me at one point, “You’re doing good work, Dan, Keep it up.” There was that word again. Work. “Yeahhh, work. What a fucked concept.” came my garbled reply. Any time anyone spoke to me while I was under the aya, it took me a few seconds to actually find the words to reply. The world of aya, to me, was a non-literary world, where things were communicated and expressed through some bizarre form of telepathic emotion. Of course, by brain had to translate this back into human words for me to understand. So deep was the level of communication, that I felt my own language so primitive and coarse compared to its might and intelligence. “How are we doing in there Dan?” Chris asked. “I’m dead, right? Tell me I’m dead. And if I’m not dead, I’m dying.” Eventually the pain in my bowels subsided a bit, and I cleaned myself off. I stumbled out of the toilet into Chris’s lanky frame, and he led me back to my mattress. “If it’s still too much for you, let me know. We’ll get you under the water to bring the mareacion down.”
I thanked Chris profusely and collapsed in a heap on my mattress, puffing and panting from the exertion. I lay there a sweating mess. I had been sweating so much that my mattress was completely soaked. It felt horrible. And then, the second assault began. “Oh fuck no. Not again…” Except this time I wasn’t purging. I was just trapped in extreme agony. I moaned and gritted my teeth as it started pulling me to pieces. “Just hold on, Dan. It’ll be over soon.” I can’t remember how long I lay there fighting the pain. By this stage I was more aware of others around me, and some were laughing and enjoying themselves. Anger flashed in my maddened eyes. “What the fuck is there to be happy about?! Just fuck off with your laughter!” Alex, the only hippie looking dude on the whole tour, lay a few metres to my left. Every now and then he would randomly burst out in bizarre laughter. His laugh was… unusual to say the least. Every time he laughed, I confess I bore him feelings of ill-will, and dare I say it, if I wasn’t in so much pain and anguish, I would have loved to do something violent to him. The dark side of me was alive and well. I felt hatred flowing in my veins. All the years of anger and destruction raged through me. It felt like my blood was quite literally boiling. My heart thumped overtime, pumping the toxic red substance around my diseased body.
The reader may think that this is all an exaggeration. For that, I have no answer, except this. You try containing anger and violence and hatred inside you for three decades. See what that does to your soul. Finally, I could take no more. I summoned the strength to get up and signal again for help. Thankfully it was Chris who came to the rescue once more. “I think I’m gonna need that shower, mate.” Off we went to the shower. I went behind the curtain and passed him my clothes. Chris guided me through everything. I felt like such a fucking baby. I hated being in that position where I had to be helped even in the most menial of tasks. I felt shame and revulsion. I turned on the water, and when it hit me with its icy blast I let out a loud gasp. “Just keep slowly working your body under the water, Dan. When you feel more comfortable, put your head under it and just breathe.” I gasped away like a fish out of water, shuddering under the cold sting. When my head went under, a wave of relief passed over me. I was fighting the urge to cry at that point. “Chris can’t see me like this. He can’t see me cry. I’ve already been so weak. No more weakness!” After a while, I turned off the water, and Chris passed me a towel, followed by my clothes. He shone a torch light through the plastic curtain so that I could see what I was doing, but I still found it so incredibly difficult to even get my underwear and pants on the right way. My shirt had long ago come off because of the heat, and I had left it on my sweat stained mattress.
I muttered to Chris “Thank you so so much for helping me, mate… you have no idea how much it means to me. Fuck… I couldn’t do what you do. Thank you.” Chris laughed softly in acceptance. Back to the mattress I went. I had calmed down quite a bit. The water had done the trick. I sat upright, lit a cigarette, and watched the ceremony. I realised then that we were only half way through the ceremony. Don Alberto and Malcolm were still singing away with great gusto. The Icaros didn’t seem to help me much tonight, I thought. When I was in extreme agony, I did my best to focus on their words and follow the rhythm of the music, for they had told us that doing so would help. Nothing. I sat cross legged, puffing my cigarette furiously. I started to think that, maybe there was still “work” to be done. I felt somehow cheated of a pleasant experience. “Hmm, maybe I should go back in.” Malcolm walked past and asked me how I was doing. I stared at him, face stern and voice deep “I’d like another.” came my reply. Malcolm looked at me as if I were mad, and told me that that wasn’t possible.
Fuck. This night certainly hadn’t turned out well at all. The Australian guy sitting behind me was still making really irritating moaning sounds. He had been making these weird noises on the first night too, and to be honest, it was really fucking annoying. I could recall several times being unsettled by the bizarre sounds coming from him. Earlier on in the day I had asked him if he had purged at all on the first night. His response completely pissed me off; reeking of condescension. “Nah, vomiting is a lower form of purge. I can control it.” Well fuck you too, buddy, I thought to myself. What an ass. I made a point of just ignoring him after that. I moved to the rocking chair to get a bit further away from him and rocked away, glowering at everyone else who seemed to be having such a good time. “Fuck them and their happiness. Why is it that EVERYTHING in my life must be so difficult. Can’t I for once just have it a bit better?!” I felt resigned to my anger. Chained to it. Enslaved. Maybe I would never escape. Maybe this was how it would always be for me.
Matt came over to me, knowing the agony that I had gone through, and told me he would perform a ventiada on me. A ventiada is a shamanistic way of sealing up the energy of a person, protecting it from further attack. It helps the person to restore the energy lost during especially traumatic times. He came to me with chacapa and vampire juice in hand (more on that later), and sang sweet icaros whilst I gazed gloomily ahead. Ch-ch-ch, the chacapa went. On and on he sang. He blew the vampire juice onto my crown chakra first, then my back, then the chest, and finished with my clasped hands and outstretched feet. I felt no difference. All I could do was hope that it had helped me in some way. The ceremony ended. I didn’t want to go back to my room. I didn’t feel like talking about my night to anyone at that point, and Sam would surely ask. Fuck it. I lay a fresh towel on my sweaty mattress, and felt my anger and hatred embrace me to sleep, as it always had.
Doom on me.
This chapter is dedicated to my one true best friend. We endured a lot of pain together, hated the world together. You are always in my thoughts, brother. Miles may separate us, yet we still walk together. May you be free of the anger and pain that has shackled us for so long.