I watched as Danny Boy sat motionless, just staring off into space. “Is anything happening?” I asked.
He shook his head. “No, nothing yet.”
I stared at him for a moment, then quickly stood up from my chair. “I’m going into the house and grab a notebook and a pen, okay? I’ll be back in thirty seconds. Let’s catalogue the experience, okay? You tell me everything you see and feel, and I’ll write it down.”
Slowly Danny Boy shook his head. I could tell that the Yellows were already beginning to take hold of him. “Yeah. Okay,” he said, his words slightly drawn out but not quite slurred. I rushed inside, grabbed the items, came back out. By the time I’d returned, Danny Boy had stood up from his seat and he was gazing all around him in wide-eyed wonder.
“Hey. Hey. I’m here,” I said. “I’m here. Can you hear me?”
“Everything’s different,” he said, the awe plain to hear in his voice. “It’s like… like the world’s just a picture, and another picture’s been laid on top of it, and it’s impossible to tell which one is which anymore.”
I nodded, scribbled down his words. That seemed consistent with my own experience. “Tell me what you see.” The sky, the creatures that slid through it like a knife through flesh, the hives off in the distance. It all sounded consistent. This is a real place, I thought. These aren’t drug-fueled hallucinations. This is a real world.
I stood there, turning these thoughts over in my mind when the blast of a car horn shook me from my musings.
Danny Boy was walking towards the street. “Whoa! Hey!” I called out after him. “Get back here!” I chased after him, grabbing the back of his shirt and pulling him towards me. He jumped and started swearing once I had my hands on him. “Dude. Calm down. It’s just me. Calm down.”
Danny Boy stopped struggling for a moment and looked at me. He didn’t really seem to be seeing me, but he was at least looking in my direction. “Whoa. Dude. You’re all fuzzy.”
I frowned. “What, like I have to shave?”
“Like you’re not really there.” He reached out with one hand to touch my face, but missed. His hands opened and closed inches away from me. He frowned, frustrated that he couldn’t figure out where I was in relation to him and his world. His eyes were unfocused, one of his pupils dilated until this iris was nothing more than a thin ring around it, the other contracted to a pinpoint. Like Rob’s had been., Presumably like my own had been.
“Hey, let’s go inside. I can’t have you wandering into the street and getting hit by a fucking car. Come on.”
I put my arm around Danny Boy and gently pushed him towards the front door. He didn’t stumble as we walked, but he was taking exaggerated steps to avoid obstacles I couldn’t see. I unlocked my front door, pushed it open, and he paused. I pushed him forward, but he stuck his hands out to grab the doorframe and shook his head. “I’m not going in there, man.”
“What? Why not?”
He violently shook his head. “I’m not going in there. Don’t make me go in there.”
I frowned, confused and frustrated. “What could possibly be in there?”
Danny Boy turned his head from side-to-side, some nervous animal who had caught the scent of a yet unseen predator. “Can’t you feel it? It’s like… like we’re somewhere we’re not supposed to be, and we’re being watched. Like being watched through a security camera, and someone’s got their finger over a button to call in the guards, but they’re waiting to see what you do before they push it.”
I looked through the open doorway and into my apartment. It wasn’t even particularly dark, being lit by a sun that still had a few hours to go before setting. “What do you see in there?” I asked.
“Nothing, man. That’s the thing. I don’t see anything. There’s just nothing.”
I studied Danny Boy for a moment, then the doorway, then Danny Boy again. “You see me, yeah?” I asked. “You can see me, or my shape or outline or whatever?”
Danny Boy nodded, slowly at first, then vigorously.
“Alright. Tell me what happens.” I stepped forward, through the doorway. Behind me, I heard Danny Boy gasp. “Oh, Jesus. Oh, fuck. Man, come back. Hey, come back! Where’d you go?”
I looked over my shoulder. I could see Danny Boy clearly, could see the panic on his face. I stepped back outside, and his shoulders visibly sagged with relief. “What did you see?” I asked him.
“You were just gone, man. Here, then gone. Poof.” He looked over his shoulders, trying to take stock of a world only he could see. “This shit’s weird, man. I don’t know how I feel about it.”
“It’s only supposed to last a little while. You want to just sit here until you come down?”
He nodded. “Yeah. That sounds good. Talk to me, yeah? I’m seeing some crazy shit, and I don’t want to think about it too hard.”
I led him back to the chairs we’d been sitting in. We sat there quietly, me studying his expressions and him looking around nervously.
Danny Boy left not long after the Yellow he took wore off. I watched as he left, and once I was sure that he was gone, I moved a chair to face my front door. By the light of the setting sun, against my better judgment, I took a Yellow. I opened up my tin, not looking inside, trying to ignore how full it felt under my fingertips. It was as bitter on my tongue as always. I sat in the chair staring at the door, waiting for the sky to turn the color of a bruise, for strange creatures to start swimming at the corners of my vision, for my apartment to turn into whatever foreboding tomb had frightened Danny Boy.
The colors of the world changed. The environment became populated with creatures not of this world. But my apartment didn’t change. It wasn’t even overlaid with a hive, as I had suspected it might be. I sat there for what felt like a quiet eternity, waiting to see whatever Danny Boy had seen until at last I gave up. I put the chair back where I had taken it from and went inside.
I walked into my apartment, the world around me completely normal save for the vague sense of surreality I always felt when I took Yellows, and went straight to my bedroom. I collapsed onto my bed, feeling every ache and bruise from my misadventures earlier and wishing that the damn Yellow would wear off so I could just go to sleep in peace. I lay there with my eyes shut when I heard a man’s voice, so soft as to be barely perceptible. A neighbor’s television, I thought. I rolled over, tried to ignore it, when suddenly the man shouted. “I’m trying! Please, I need more time! The production is nearly complete and the network is nearly stable, but I just need a little more time!”
I opened my eyes, the growing sharpness of the world before my eyes telling me that the Yellows had almost completely worn off. I knew that voice. I knew it, but from where?
“I understand. I understand. I’ll return, then. Thank you. Thank you, friend.”
My eyes went wide. It was Rob.
I leaped off of my bed, charging into the living room, my hands balling into fists my side. I turned the corner, my arms raised, and I saw nothing. There was no trace of anyone, or anyone’s presence. The television, the bookshelf, the couch, the coffee table were all exactly as I had left them when I’d left my house hours earlier.
I stood there, my anger and adrenaline slowly fading. As they dissipated, I began to feel something else. A sudden, nameless terror washed over me. I trembled, fell backwards onto the couch. “No. No, no, no, no, no,” I whispered over and over to myself. I was hearing things now.
I was losing my mind.
I sat there shaking, my head in my hands, trying to regain control of myself. I almost didn’t see it, hidden amongst the magazines and empty glasses and used plates on my coffee table as it was. But I saw it, and as my mind processed it, the feeling of helplessness gave way to anger once more. Anger became fury. Soon I was shaking again, struggling to control my rage this time.
A battered mint tin, one that had not been there when I’d left for work in the morning, sat on top of my coffee table, the yellow and white pills that lined it staring up at me coldly, disinterestedly.