"Hey Mike! Go down the wrong hole did it?"
"Fuck off J, can't you see he is fucking choking? Help me you fat bastard!"
"Alright, but he is fucking dead if he needs mouth to mouth, I ain't bloody kissing him."
"We gotta do the Heimlich Manoeuvre or something!"
"Whatta we do?"
"I dunno! Hit him in the stomach!"
Coughing and spluttering, I lunged forwards due to the blow and took in huge gulps of air.
"Bloody hell, you had me shitting me self for a moment there." Benny sighed with relief. "One moment, you swallow a pill, next second your choking to death. Fucking hell!"
"Seriously Mike, you alright? Look I'm sorry, I thought... fuck, I wasn't thinking alright? You okay?" Jason said, sitting down besides me.
I took a moment to calm my breathing and then I sat up and let out a deep breath.
"What the fuck happened?"
"You were choking. You popped that pill and then next second you were fighting for air."
"You were choking mate, bloody close call too."
"Wait, Benny, you ain't shitting me with one of your dumb stories again are you?"
Benny looked genuinely hurt. "Fuck no! You were fucking dying man! I don't lie about that shit."
"And I'm telling you I couldn't have, not like you say it did. I was like, tripping for an hour. You can't tell me I was choking right after I took that pill."
Jason and Benny looked at each other. Their looks of confusion frightened me.
"Look, Mike. Benny ain't lying. Seriously, one second you were popping, next you were choking. God's truth!"
"There ain't no fucking way you could have been tripping man. That pill was lodged in your fucking throat! It didn't even reach your stomach, let alone you head."
"You sure it ain't brain damage, hey Benny?" Jason tried to joke, but a glare from me quickly curbed his laughter.
I stood up, grabbing my head and paced back and forth. What the fuck had happened? Hell, maybe it was brain damage, maybe it was the beer. But it didn't make sense, it couldn't make sense.
"How could I choke on it though? It was even a whole pill, it was two halves. There's no chance I'd choke on that."
"Hey, maybe it was the beer going down the wrong hole. I'm just telling it how I saw it. Why you being so fucking paranoid?"
"Fine, then where is the pill?" I shouted at them. "Where is the fucking pill? Surely it would have flown out of my mouth when fatty here punched my guts in?"
Jason just glared at me. "Mike, I think it must have gone done into your stomach when we saved you. You're acting fucking weird, it's freaking me and Benny out. You ain't like this."
I collapsed onto the other bed and sighed.
"Mike, this Mystery, its fucking you up bad, I'm going to phone that fuck Toni up and beat the shit out of him. You just get some rest alright, you're on a bad trip."
I just nodded, closed by eyes and curled up into a shivering ball. Benny or Jason, it didn't matter, one of them pull the blanket over me and I fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.
* * * * *
I woke up a couple of hours later with a thumping headache. My throat was like a fucking desert and I tried to yell for Jason or Benny to get me a drink but all I could do was croak. Scrunching my eyes up and opening them again, I rotated round on the the end of the bed, splashed myself with cold water from the make-shift sink and then drank heavily from the tap. Having quenched my thirst, I tried another yell.
"Yo Jason! Benny! You here?"
There was no answer. I sighed and laid back down on the bed. I still felt like shit, but at least I wasn't tripping on Mystery any more. At least, it didn't feel like it and I'd done enough shit to be able to tell the difference between tripping and the mundane.
I was fucked if I was gonna believe it was brain damage. No fucking way was I that badly messed up. It had happened alright, that whole hour in a second. Something strange had happened to me, something not right and then it hit me. I wanted to find out what was going to happen me. I wanted to know what these 'tests' were going to be. I fucking wanted more Mystery! Straight away I slapped myself. I'd be damned if I was going to get addicted to this crap on a single pill. In a burst of rage I kicked over Jason's bong, spilling filthy bong water over the rug in a widening, dark stain. I watched the water seep in for a while before coming to my senses and going into the kitchen to find a towel or something to mop up the mess.
"Fuck! The rugs soaked! Miiiike?" Jason's voice shouted out from the living room.
I'd been so engrossed in trying to find a towel in Jason's shit-hole of a kitchen I hadn't heard him come back in.
"Hey, J I didn't hear you come in."
"Yeah, we just got back. We paid Toni a little visit. And Mike, what is this mess?"
"Look sorry, I was about to clean it up but I couldn't find a towel. Toni, he didn't hurt him too bad did you? I want to talk to him."
"That's gonna be a bit hard." Benny said from the hall.
I heard the door slam and Benny walked in and dropped something on the rug with a wet squelch. It was Toni's bloodied body wrapped in blue plastic bin liners.
* * * * *
There was an awkward silence while they let the situation sink into me.
"FUCK! What the fuck did you guys do to to him? I thought you were going to beat him up, not fucking kill him!"
"It wasn't us! We were going to shake him up a bit, try and find out some info, but when we got round his house his door was open and he was laying, like that on his bedroom floor."
I tried to comprehend what was happening; something didn't make sense.
"Then why the hell did you bring him here? What the fuck is wrong with you? You think I like seeing dead bodies? Benny you stupid fuck! You're a lawyer, what the fuck did you think you could achieve bringing Toni here? Don't you realise the trouble it would cause? What if somebody saw? What-" I yelled before Jason cut me off.
Jason spoke slowly, pulling a crumpled, blood-splattered note from his shirt pocket. "Look, we panicked, we weren't thinking alright? Mike, there is something you'd better see."
I took the note and read it.
Tell Mike to meet me in the white room.
"We found it in his hands. What the fuck does it mean Mike? What's going on? What's going to happen to us?" Benny trembled.
I crushed the note in my hand, unable to take my eyes off Toni's corpse. "It's those bastards, the people behind Mystery. They found Toni, and then they found out about me! Those fucking fucks! God damn it!"
"But Mike, the note, they knew that we'd find it Mike. They fucking knew! Why are we even alive, they know who we are Mike, they know everything that we did, what we were going to do!"
"They want me to take the Mystery again."
"Oh great Mike, we are dead, we are fucking dead! And you want to go on a fucking trip? Fuck you!" Jason yelled at me, grabbing me by the shirt and shaking me.
"Stop it J! Fighting isn't going to get us anywhere. Look, I have some connections through my work. I know some places where we can be safe, we can lay low, hide out for a while." Benny cried, tears in his eyes.
Jason drooped me and gave him a disgusted look. "They know everything Benny. Wherever we go, they are going to find us and they are going to fucking kill us." Jason collapsed to the floor, unable to argue any more.
We calmed down then. A strange, eerie calm where everything just fell into cold, logical focus. We needed to get rid of the body, to bury it somewhere and we needed escape somewhere. Scratch that, Jason was right, there was going to be nowhere we could go that we would be safe. Even though it sickened me, that hunger, that craving for more Mystery grew, even greater now with the possibility of justification. We sat there for what seemed an eternity, lost in complete hopelessness and shock and fear.
"Look. We... we need to get rid of the body. Jason, Benny, you guys go out into the garden and dig a hole... a grave. I'll wrap up the body so it looks... less body-like, I'll be out in a sec."
Sullenly Jason and Benny nodded and walked out through the kitchen. I took a deep breath and begun my work. First, I knelt down besides Toni, the soggy rug soaking my knee, the stench of filthy bong water and blood raising vomit in my mouth. I peeled back the layers of blue plastic, the cracking and creaking of plastic pulling away from sticky dry blood sent shivers down my spine and a fought not to puke as the stench was unleashed from its plastic prison. When I was done and Toni was laying there with blood-stained plastic surrounding him like some macabre flower in bloom, I began to search his body for my prize. I found it in his shirt pocket, a single smoky topaz pill in a sealed zip bag. It had been put there for me, I knew it, the question mark stared back at from behind the plastic. Mystery. I almost scrabbled it into my mouth straight away, but the taste of blood not my own on my fingers made me gag and I returned to my senses. I had a job to do. I shoved the pill in my pocket.
It was hard work, but eventually I managed to make Toni look like a cloth sack containing smashed up furniture. Some pieces of wood and bedsheets and no-one would suspect, if anyone asked we were just burying this junked furniture because the bin men wouldn't like it. Like it fucking mattered, we were dead anyway. We buried Toni at around five in the afternoon. There was a solemn moment and then we brushed the discarded trash that littered Jason's garden around to obscure the fresh dirt. We went back inside and all sat down with a beer. I couldn't help laughing. It started off as a giggle, then it grew in to a full blown laugh, then a guffaw.
"Just fucking look at us! We just buried a fucking body and we're just sitting around here like we just had a fucking picnic!" I laughed.
"Fucking shut-up man!" Benny whispered through his teeth.
"I'm telling you guys," I said, standing up, "I'm fucking telling you, that something happened to me with that Mystery, they killed Toni for it and they'll fucking kill us too unless I take some Mystery again! There is something fucked up about all of this and I'm gonna find out!"
Jason didn't even get angry. He was too tired and too run down. "And how are you gonna fucking do that? How you gonna fucking save us? We ain't got no Mystery."
"Even if we did, how are they gonna know? They aren't watching right now are they?" Benny looked around, fear creeping into his voice, "Are they?"
I whipped the pill from out my pocket and held it out in my fingers. "They don't need to watch! They are fucking inside this shit!" I yelled, pointing at the pill with my free hand. "They are there, they're in the fucking trip! That's how they knew! That's how they fucking knew!"
Jason stood up. "Where they fuck did you get that?"
I stared him in the eyes. "If we get out of this, you can thank me later."
I opened my mouth and tasted bliss.
"Hey Mike! Go down the wrong hole did it?"