SUB: The Rose Bay Experiment
Can't sleep. Won't sleep, actually. Dreams . . . yeah, not my friend tonight. Anyway, instead of taking a couple of Vicodin and smoking a bowl or two, I thought I'd try to exorcise some of these demons instead. So, let me tell you what happened at Rose Bay, back in '77. Back when Jerry and Frank and I all went nuts.
We did a lot of LSD in the late '60s and early '70s. Everyone was. It was easy to get, and the quality was really good. But when the Brotherhood of Eternal Love went kaput in '71, the slide started. It took a year or so, but eventually, demand got the better of supply, and all of our regular sources dried up. Finally, any high school dropout with a semester of chemistry under his belt thought he get rich off a sticky stack of damp blotter. Somewhere near the end of 1976—maybe it was even early '77—Jerry made a massive score on some tablets. I don't remember where he got it, or who he got it from, but it was, he said, "enough wombwhite to last us the rest of the decade."
Naturally, we took most of it over one weekend.
Frank never talked about his experience, but it pretty clearly broke him. Jerry, as some of you might know, got lost in the Oneiroi, and came back as a wild prophet of the unconscious. I went deep enough that I saw Jerry disappear into the fabric, but I wasn't . . . I, well, never mind. It's not important.
I was the most lucid of the three of us when the weekend was over and, after running interference for Jerry and taking care of Frank for a few months, someone suggested that I check all three of us in to a local clinic. Get some real help. I wasn't as insane as the other two, but I was definitely running close to that edge, and having someone else take care of me (and them) for awhile seemed like a really good idea. The problem was: none of us had any money, and sure, we could get help at any of the county mental hospitals, but they don't . . . you know, they're not so keen on actually helping people.
Enter the Umbrial Consortium. I had gone to school with this guy, Julio Ehrillimbal. I think I got him his first pot, or, maybe, it was the other way 'round. Anyway, we got baked together more than once, and bonded over those last hits of the last roach, while out waiting for dawn somewhere. His dad had been some hot-shit psychologist or something before he died unexpectedly, and last I heard, Julio had opted to follow his father's research. Down in South America somewhere.
Anyway, he had left me with some contact information. A corporate oversight company called the Umbrial Consortium. I don't really know what it does (or did). At the time, though, they took care of us. Julio's brother, Eduardo, was running the show there, and he offered to cover all the expenses of our stay at the Rose Bay Psychiatric Hospital, which was a pretty swank facility up in Claremont Canyon behind UC Berkeley.
Life at Rose Bay was pretty easy. Eduardo had given the hospital pretty specific instructions as to our care and, since he was paying them directly and on time, they were happy to follow orders. It was a nice vacation. I got some rest; Frank got some good help and started to come back to us; and Jerry, well, Jerry became obsessed with the Oneiroi.
His Oneironaut's Survival Guide is either the work of a complete lunatic or a prophetic pioneer. To this day, I'm not sure which, though I'm leaning towards the latter. A lot of his tips have come in handy for me during my oneironautic sojourns. I think he knew. He really knew what it was like before any of the rest of us had even figured out how to submerge ourselves.
And then Dr. Herquiest became the chief administrator of the hospital. What an incompetent blowhard. The sort of middle manager that you find everywhere in administration and politics these days, but back then, it took a certain sort of self-absorbed asshole to climb that far without actually having to do any real work. He would delegate the wiping of his ass to a nurse, as well as having a licensed psychologist write up a grant submission for the process.
Anyway, this jackass had the brilliant idea of double-dipping with the three of us. Well, I doubt he had the idea himself; I think it was suggested to him. As long as there was no negligible change on our conditions—as long as we looked like we were getting "better"—the Umbrial money would continue. Meanwhile, another organization was paying him for access to Frank, Jerry, and I.
Well, actually, I think the other players had access to everyone at the hospital. It was a blanket cover, easier to maintain, and they had access to both test subjects and other schizophrenics. There were three of them: two post-doc interns and the guy overseeing the program.
Versai. That son of a bitch.
Listen, you know that phrase "gone feral"? It comes from "Feral House," Jerry's name for the residents of the second floor of the East Wing. The psychos up there were feeding off each other. They would all squirrel their meds and one of them would be chosen to take the whole stash. While this guy was catatonic from the massive dose of God knows what, the others would bleed him and get high off injecting his blood. Who gave them the idea? Yeah, Versai.
"Trinity House" was Jerry's name for the three of them. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. His own play on the whole Catholic triumvirate. Son and Holy Ghost were interchangeable in Jerry's mind, I think, though I stuck with calling the blonde one "Holy Ghost."
They were experimenting with some new chemical agent, something that maintained its efficacy through the transfusion of blood, something that could survive transmission between patients. What with all this recent discussion about Bleak Zero, I'm starting to think they were trying out an early version of that on the 2nd floor.
Jerry saw too much in the Oneiroi. He took me with him one night and . . . I can't . . . I can't say it. First Rule. I'm not giving it any more life than it already has by writing it down. I wish I could forget what I saw. I wish I could edit it out.
I will say this, though: when they were doped up on blood, they could see into the Oneiroi. They didn't have any ability to shift the fabric, but they could see into it. Jerry got too close one night and they spotted him.
Freaked him out. Not surprisingly, actually. I would have been terrified too. A couple of days later, he stopped sleeping and, before the staff got all wound up about this incident with a table knife, he told me that they were getting smarter. One night, they'd be able to do more than simply see into the Oneiroi.
Three days later, he was dead. I think he was right, and I think he fell asleep.
Frank? Poor bastard. Rose Bay was insulating him from the world, and his brain was starting to repair itself. Until the night that Jerry died. I think Frank saw something. I think Frank was dreaming—sleepwalking, maybe—and he fell into the Oneiroi. His brain had been leaking pretty bad after the LSD weekend, and I think he fell that night. I think he saw what killed Jerry. I think he saw the feral ones. And he ran away from reality. Permanently.
I got out. Yeah, there was a clause in the Umbrial contract that said we could check ourselves out at any time we deemed it appropriate. Herquiest wasn't happy about it, but there was nothing he could do. Especially not with the police crawling up his ass about Jerry. I signed myself out, and jumped the wall. Lit off for the wilderness, and I ain't been back since.
Shit. Such a hollow victory, surviving that. What did it get me?
There is an entry that never made it into the Oneironaut's Survival Guide. Mainly because no one's ever seen it but me. Jerry hid it in my copy of Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. I know, the "Bible of the insane." But he knew it was the only thing I valued, and that it would be the only thing I'd take with me when I left. Even still, it was a few years before I found it. There's no question it is from Jerry. I know his handwriting.
It says: "In the event of a visit from an Armageddon deity: smile, compliment them on their use of skulls as an accessory, and try not to flinch when they take your flesh. They'll only prolong the torture if they think it hurts you. You can ask them to be gentle. It won't make any difference, but they might find the request funny. They might let you cut your own throat if they're in a good mood."
I miss you, Jerry.
"We'd all be taken more seriously if we had black halos."