8 min read

Rip Van Winkle

It was an ambivalent energy that was fucking with me—a darkness that didn’t fit into language. It’s that which was there before and that which will be there after we're finished with words.
Rip Van Winkle

Odious told me the whole story of what happened with Mica back in 2017, their friend and colleague at The Gathering, who left the scene and the city in a swirl of rumors involving the company’s leader, the Prophet Motive. Everyone knew he got with the interns and volunteers, but there were shadier stories about how he offered government issue MDMA and other substances to inexperienced hotties and then cajoled them into having sex while under the influence.

I myself had been watching for years with a sickening mixture of jealousy and disgust as he stood, slouched and crumpled but wearing expensive glasses as young, starry-eyed women shimmied up to him half-naked and covered in body paint at the glitter-dusted, rave-lite paloozas that The Gathering put on every other week.

“When I asked the team, they just said she burnt out and doled out her open tasks. Here we were always talking about the more beautiful world we wanted to build and it was like she wasn’t even a human, just a color on a chart.”

All these years later, I could see how much it still hurt, how cold it had been.

“Eventually the Prophet Motive took off for an extended retreat in Mexico. Meanwhile, I tried to find her, I stayed up every night trying to track her down.”

“I figured you never did…I mean, I remember asking you back then and you said you didn’t know where she was but only that she wasn’t dead…”

“Yes, I was freaking out so badly in the weeks after she left that someone finally caved in and told me that she was ok and healing upstate somewhere, away from everything. But I couldn’t just let her go. I begged this person for something, anything, and finally they gave me her new number. They said I should text and leave my name, so I did, and after a few days Mica wrote back and invited me to a party in Poughkeepsie a few nights later, on the solstice. I knew you wouldn’t want me to go, so I didn’t tell you and went up with Chance and Grey. Of course we got super wasted. We figured it would be some hippie thing with sleepy eyed yoga kids dancing around a fire and we could just slink around on the periphery, but it turned out to be in a big crumbling apartment building called The Rip Van Winkle that was lit up like a stadium. Before we got there my drunk turned bad and I felt a dark energy pressing down on us, thwarting us. The mountains were out there, I couldn’t see them, but I could feel them tugging us towards them with their gravitational pull. I told Chance that we’d done this before, we drove through the cursed streets of this long corroded city that was named for a queen, we’d done it numerous times—each of us taking a turn at being a queen, or else wanting to be a queen, or being someone who had fucked with and raped the queen--we’d done all of those things and more, over and over. I talked so much he told me to be quiet because I wasn’t making sense. It was an ambivalent energy that was fucking with me—a darkness that didn’t fit into language. It’s that which was there before and that which will be there after we're finished with words. As we drove up and down the side streets, the signals on our phones started cutting in and out and it occurred to me that there were people all around us who were fucking with and amplifying this ancient energy during the dark on dark of the solstice night.”

“Finally, the grey concrete slab appeared between the trees as we were speeding by and I shouted, here, here, and we ended up hopping the curb. I thought for a second we were going to smash into the front door.”

Mica wasn’t just some random girl. Odious had worked with her for years. They were both young when they discovered The Gatherers, Odious had just dropped out and Mica had recently graduated college and was working at a solar panel company, a job she quit the day after she heard the Prophet Motive speak about the idea that humankind was passing through a challenging initiatory stage that would either be the end of us as a species or give birth to a more advanced version of homo sapiens with telepathic powers and a personal, felt identification to the planet as a living organism. “He put into words something I’d been feeling, something I’d been trying to figure out with science and art but he just said it.” Like Odious, she was less “love and light” than the other Gatherers with their appropriated indigenous clothes and feather earrings. She was petite and wore antique tortoise shell glasses from the 1940’s and had straight, naturally blond shoulder length hair, the ends of which looked abruptly and almost aggressively chopped off. She didn't have any tattoos but wore a single, elegant emerald stud in her nose. She didn’t say much, but when she did it was always to make a salient point in complete and grammatically correct sentences without any ah’s or um's. Even the Prophet Motive himself always paid careful attention whenever she spoke.

Her presence seemed to legitimize the entire fledgling operation—if someone like her was willing to give up a potentially high paying gig in a sexy industry to work on building a new age media hub using crummy but well-principled open source software, then maybe they were legit on to something.

When she wasn’t sitting next to Odious at the folding table in the back room of the club where The Gathering rented space during the day, she was out foraging for herbs or mushrooms or at home studying arcane systems of knowledge and rituals.

“Magick,” she said, “the belief that I can create reality according to my will.”

"But how does that work?" Odious asked.

"From the belief that it will!" she said, her smile turning into laughter as she saw the confused look on Odious' face.

She prided herself on her knowledge of substances, having done tons of research and also taken lots of drugs including lesser known analogues, the effects of which she would diligently record in copious notes, compiling a collection of what she referred to as her toolbox.

“Existence is so much more expansive than we’re made to believe… we think of our minds as these limited, battered things we need to protect, but they’re infinite. By exploring the terrain within us we can learn how to get softer; we can open up instead of clamping down.”

When she vanished without saying anything and didn’t answer her phone, Odious was left stunned and frozen and stayed that way for many months. They found it hard to get out of bed—simple tasks like waiting in line at the grocery store or showering seemed impossible. They got in the habit of smoking a bowl or two to try and chill them out before they went outside but sometimes it backfired and they were left huddled in the kitchen for hours with the curtains and blinds pulled tight as they took their pulse. They felt like their body was waving a surrender flag but working at The Gathering was their job and they still had their sense of duty--their continued belief that they were needed for something big that was unfolding, a story playing out across the world. And there was the slouching, chain-smoking Prophet Motive himself, in whom they saw a tenderness despite his mean streaks and sudden outbursts. He worked so hard he often made himself sick, coughing for months on end. As the front face of the company, he shouldered the direness of the its financial situation, their near constant need for funds that left them unable to pay their contract workers or complete their larger mission—to open people’s minds, to stop the pillaging of the earth, to stop this unsustainable, plastic way of life, pervaded by the loneliness of being cut off from others, cut off from the stars and a larger sense of the cosmos.

In time, other women came forward. I told myself it was economically and emotionally feasible to distance myself further from the whole sick scene, including Odious, who was still technically working there.

Finally, I came over and confronted them about it one day after I had a few, but they would neither confirm nor deny.

“I don’t know about any of that, I wasn’t there.”

“It sounds all kinds of fucked up.”

“Whatever happened it’s a grey area, that’s the thing about drugs.”

“It’s actually not grey at all. If someone isn’t sober the answer’s ‘no.’”

“I wasn’t there, I don’t know what happened.”

“But if there are women saying something happened…”

“Look, he’s my friend,” they said, softly. “Once you’ve decided for someone you stick by them.”

At the time I went off, demanding to know what he did to garner such loyalty. What kind of friend would expect them to work at all hours for barely any cash and not give them actual shares in the company or at least promote their writing on the various media channels they helped him build? It’s your labor, I said, repeating myself several times, the way I sometimes do when I’m drinking and feeling dramatic.

And now, four years later, after everything they finally told me about, I was shocked to find out that it seemed they had still decided for him, when they read an earlier draft of this post and asked me to leave out the gory details of what they learned when they found Mica.

“But it’s your story,” I protested, “what happened on the 2017 winter solstice links to the Dies Irae syncs, and the dream you had this past year.”

“Yes, that’s true, but we only realized the connection from the dream. And in the dream, I was healed from all the terrible feelings I had about all of this. The anger I felt towards the Prophet Motive. The guilt I felt about not stopping what happened to Mica, because I didn’t want to see what was really going on.”

(this was the first time they had admitted to this, and I was flummoxed for a moment before pushing forward)

“You might be healed but we still need to tell it.”

“Why?”

“Because it will help other people who have been through shit like this.”

“That’s not why you want to write about it. You want to write about it to hurt him, to get back at him.”

“I don’t care about him.”

“That’s because you don’t realize he’s suffering too. Just like everyone. Even those—especially those—who have done fucked up things to others.”

“Maybe… maybe you’re right. But one thing I do realize is that what he did fuck you up.”

“I was only fucked up indirectly. And I was healed in the dream. A dream that showed me in an instant that everything that’s ever happened is a dream. Whether we think we're awake or not. Why hold on to it? The past is gone, it doesn’t exist. If you try to say that it does, show me where it is? Like the entire past it’s only a memory, a hallucination.”

I started to say something, but thought better of it. They had scored a point, a philosophical victory. But deep down I still wasn’t sure.


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Image: Attributed to Jean le Noir, The Wound of Christ, from "The Prayer Book of Bonne of Luxembourg, Duchess of Normandy," 1349.