The Editor has selected the following section from ‘Lapse of Reason’ for you to sample. She thinks this is clean enough not to offend anyone. This is from Chapter 9 – Vulcan Breakfast. You may also sample the first three chapters at my Smashwords book page: Smashwords.
A fresh breeze carried the smell of rain, and caught Sidney’s hair as she climbed out of the Cadillac CTS in front of Ian’s house. She held a straw fedora on her head and saw flashes in the clouds, accompanied by distant rumbles. “Great traveling weather, Leah, at least it will be in your car.”
He locked the front door and carried his duffel bag to the street, as wind whipped leaves and billowed dust across the yard. “Nice car!”
“Will you drive?” Leah asked.
“I’d love to.” He took the keys and she went to the front passenger side. Sidney got in the back seat.
“This weather will make the trip interesting,” he said. “I hope there’s a big rain.”
“Ian,” said Sidney. “Look to the south.”
Bank upon bank of storm cells lined the southern horizon, leaving a blue-black hollow beneath. “That’s where we’re heading,” he said. “It’s not too late to take the bikes.”
“Yeah right,” Sidney said. “This Caddy will do just fine.” She snuggled into the soft leather backseat.
They traveled west a long distance before turning south to the border. It seemed they might get in front of the storm, but the thunderheads kept pace with their westward movement, and when they reached the turn south, the road led into the heart of the dark chasm beneath. Sidney watched hanging shreds of cloud clot together in a rotating mass ahead of them. Rain pelted the roof so hard they had to yell to be heard. As they lost daylight in the storm, the headlights bounced off a sheet of rain that fell like a screen. Ian slowed but kept going. For the first time, he noticed someone was behind – lights in his mirror. He sped up to stay ahead.
Lightning burst, illuminating the heavy underside of clouds hanging low over the flat, desert plain. Sidney saw crazy twisted shapes silhouetted in the flash – organ pipe cactus looked like alien soldiers – upside-down squids on a battlefield. Thunderous cracks came the moment after a flash, booming right on top of them. She huddled into her seat; while Ian leaned forward, better to see through the rain. Wind whipped the car from side-to-side.
The maelstrom continued for twenty minutes before the sky opened-up. Back-lit by the moon, everything below was cast in black and white, strobing to the pulse of lightning from the storm behind. “No worries,” Ian said, “we made it through safe. Now the air is cool and moist and smells fresh. I’m rolling down my window.”
Sidney saw they were approaching a bridge over a sandy wash. At first she didn’t recognize what she saw. There shouldn’t be anything moving in the wash, but there was. She saw a brown wall of mud rolling at them.
She screamed as Ian drove casually onto the bridge, unaware it was about to be slammed by a raging wave of water. They were halfway across when it hit. A standing wave rose like a wall inches from the car, slapping the elbow Ian hung out the window – it was that close. The impact rattled the bridge, almost bouncing them into the torrent. “Oh, my God!” Leah cried.
Sidney watched a tree surge forward, its broken trunk aimed at her. Ian took the only course of action available: he gunned the car across the remainder of bridge. Water washed in a rising tide over the road, but the Cadillac’s momentum carried it forward. Sidney felt the car float, and then the tires grabbed enough traction when they hit the curb to stop its sideways travel – she felt the car jerk with the impact. They reached the other side just as the tree smashed the bridge, sending a thud through the earth that shook the car.
“I think the bridge just broke,” Sidney said.
They drove in silence for a moment, hearts pounding, stunned by the freakish flood and how close it came to sweeping them away. Ian finally spoke up; “Holy shit! We are so fucking lucky!” he said. He pounded the steering wheel for emphasis. “If we crossed that bridge a split second later we’d be dead. I saw a car behind us. I’m going back to warn them.”
“I didn’t see any car,” said Sidney. “I was looking around the whole time, nobody is behind us.”
He spun tires on the shoulder making a U-turn. At the bridge, they got out of the car and stood at the threshold, watching foam and brown water cascade through a chasm where the road used to be. He couldn’t see anything approaching the far side – he was sure he’d seen them – maybe they turned around. “There wasn’t anybody there,” said Sidney.
Over the roar of the flood, he heard laughter. At least he thought he did, it was impossible to tell with the torrent pounding only feet away, but it sounded like a deep booming laugh from somewhere in the dark. He never saw the lights again.
A half an hour later, driving under clear skies and a brilliant moon, their adrenaline had ebbed and the incident was a thing of the past. He asked, “Leah, why do you want to do this Ayahuasca thing? I mean, if it’s for clinical studies, why do you need to take it?
“So I know its effects. How can I relate to the effects in patients if I haven’t experienced them myself? Of course, I can’t tell anyone. Beside the two of you, no one else knows. I can try it in Mexico, and it stays in Mexico. Besides that, we can have a great time.”
“Well, I’m just wondering,” Ian kept probing. “I mean doctors don’t give themselves chemo-therapy to test those drugs, do they? Did you try electroshock before giving it to patients? I don’t see why you need to take Ayahuasca.”
“This is a psychoactive drug, and I’m studying its effect on the brain – on consciousness,” she said. “It’s different than the physical treatments you’re talking about – these drugs have an effect on perceptions and that can’t be measured with an instrument – I have to experience it to understand it.”
Sidney stuck her head between the front seats, “Ian, are you afraid to take Ayahuasca again? I thought you had a mellow trip, talked to a snake, got really horny afterward. What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know. For one thing, you’re risking your career, Leah,” he said.
“If we all keep our mouths shut it won’t be a problem,” she said. Her voice had an edge they’d never heard before.
“We won’t say a word, will we,” Sidney nudged Ian’s shoulder.
The moon was halfway across the sky by the time they pulled onto the dirt road leading to the Ranch. Ricky never referred to it any other way – just the ‘Ranch’. They stopped at the fence and Sidney hopped out to open the gate. The drive wound through a hundred yards of overgrown cactus before the headlights lit a bare tin-sheeted house. Ricky appeared in the headlights and waved them to stop in front.
“Hello, my friends!” Ricky called. He stood in the lights wearing a red jumpsuit. “Nice car.”
“Nice jump suit,” Ian said, and introduced Leah and Sidney. “Ladies, meet Ricky.”
Ricky herded them into the house. Ian could see it was a hodgepodge of buildings molded together in an amiable sort of structural chaos. Adobe walls surrounded a courtyard with apartments in back. The front house was tin and wood frame, with a large kitchen and veranda connecting the buildings. They were led to a spacious den paneled in knotty pine, where cool air blew from an evaporative cooler humming on the roof. It had a homey, cabin-like comfort that put Ian at ease.
“You can crash in here,” Ricky said. “There are couches and blankets and pillows all around. Make yourselves comfortable. You can meet the old lady and everyone at breakfast. Tomorrow night, I’ll have a better place. She told me there was a big storm and you guys weren’t coming, so I didn’t expect you tonight. Usually, she’s right about such things.”
“Who’s ‘the old lady’ you’re talking about, Ricky?” Ian asked.
“Kay – she owns the Ranch. She’s gone to bed. You’ll meet her in the morning.”
“Okay, well we’ll just crash then. By the way, we did have a big storm hit us on the way. A flash flood almost killed us.” Ian said, as he walked Ricky to the door.
Ricky shook his head, “She’s usually right about things like that. Maybe, it was supposed to stop you from getting here.”