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The Wake-Up Call
July 5, 2014. 12:30am
Del Mar, California
It was shortly after midnight on July 5th, 2014. My life was about to change forever. Just two days earlier I had turned 39 years old, on the 3rd of July. One day in the future I would understand the significance of this birthday..
I looked at the clock and saw that it was 12:30am. I was sitting upright in my bed, and my body was vibrating in a way that I had never felt before. The fireworks ended hours ago, but I would not be sleeping anytime soon. Everything around me felt very alive, and the Adderall pumping through my body was helping me to feel alive.
The ocean waves crashed on the shore from a block away, but it sounded as if I were standing right on the beach. The stars thrummed and crackled through my bedroom window. The breeze wove through the trees outside and the leaves whispered my name. I needed to go out and explore what I was sensing. My eyes caught the clock as I walked out of my bedroom; it read 12:34.
Despite the late hour, I had a strong urge to take a walk along the ocean shore. When I stepped outside I noticed that the porch lights were much brighter than usual and ringed in soft halos. Through the heavy darkness, I could even see the bright green colors of the tree leaves. The grass and plants around my apartment complex were sharply focused, like when you try on your first pair of prescription eyeglasses. The whole world pulsated.
This had been happening a lot for me lately; every time I went outside it was as if I'd taken a hallucinogenic drug. I made a sudden connection. I was reminded of how my world looked after that first awful panic attack, when I was hallucinating while sitting on the curb outside of the hospital, with my college roommates as they waited with me for the cab that would take us back home. That was nearly twenty years ago, but in an instant I flew back to that moment in 1995. Why was I having this memory?
As I exited the Beach Colony complex where I lived and stepped onto the street, I noticed a little bunny rabbit on the patch of grass on the sidewalk about ten feet away from me. I stopped to look at it, as I’d never seen rabbits around the Colony, and this one looked so out of place and small and sweet. I love bunnies—they have always reminded me of home and by extension, my childhood. The bunny just looked at me calmly and didn’t seem frightened by my presence at all.
“Hello,” I said and I had the strangest thought… maybe this animal wanted to communicate some sort of message by the way that it was looking, meaningfully, deep into my eyes? I couldn’t interpret the message. I must be going crazy, I thought to myself. My little “messenger” hopped off into the darkness. I turned, continued along the street and crossed Highway 101 to get to the beach. I would only have to walk one short block to get to the low wall that I loved to sit upon to watch the sunsets and to the staircase that led down to the beach.
It was dark. It was very, very dark. There must have been a new moon on this night, because I couldn’t see anything. Or maybe I was seeing too much all at once. As I walked, I put my arms out in front of me so as not to bump into something even though I was walking in the middle of the street. The road I was on leads to the beach and I walked it often at night—there was never any traffic and rarely did I see anyone out this late in my sleepy little beach town neighborhood.
Shapes and dark swirls of energy were silhouetted all around me. They looked like static, if static were to become material. I kept startling at what I thought were people walking towards me in my peripheral vision, but when I looked there was nobody. I blinked my eyes rapidly; vainly attempting to clear what I thought was my altered vision.
The halos around the streetlights grew brighter and wider than ever. The contrast between the streetlights and the darkness ahead of me was stark and ominous. I stepped out of the safety of the lighted sidewalk to head towards the unlit beach. I glanced back at the porch lights and was nearly blinded, so I quickly turned around and approached the low wall that separated the sand from the houses and street.
I was relieved to see that to the right of the low wall a late night gathering was happening at the nearest beachfront house. A few people lingered around a fire pit on the patio and more couples sat quietly in lounge chairs, relaxing and watching the ocean. It was a tranquil party, which pleased me because I'd be able to sit on the wall and watch the ocean without distraction, but at least not entirely by myself at this late hour. This was a welcome change from the nights that I normally spent alone out there.
I arrived to the low wall and hopped up on top, swinging my legs around so that I was sitting indian-style, looking towards the ocean. The night was beautiful. The bright stars punctured silver-white holes in the dark sky. My vision was now even stranger. It was like I was watching a black-and-white movie on an ancient television set—the black ocean, the crisp whitecaps on the waves. Between where I sat and the shoreline static crackled through the air, like I had suddenly lost a signal on my old TV.
I unwrapped my legs and let them dangle over the wall, swinging them above the sand below. The breeze on my calves was like soft fingers tickling me, making me shiver. I saw someone out of the corner of my eye again and jumped in fright, but when I turned my head to look, nothing was there.
I must be overtired I thought. This was one reasonable explanation to the strangeness of this night. Maybe it’s the excitement of the Fourth of July, I thought, as my body continued to vibrate on a low frequency, like a tuning fork, in perfect synchrony with the static around me. It was all so surreal, but I didn't care because I felt alive.
I scanned the shoreline to the north, over my right shoulder, then turned my head and looked down to the far south side over my left shoulder. Something moved far off along the shoreline to the south and caught my eye. The object was very light compared to the darkness all around it. I wondered if it was a couple taking a late night walk along the ocean.
The object got closer and I realized it was three late-night joggers. I could see them clearly, running along the ocean. As they approached the shoreline in front of me, I made out their features and clothing. They were high school-aged young men, maybe 16 or 17 years old.
A midnight Fourth-of-July-run, I thought to myself. That’s so San Diego! Their clothing amused me—all three boys were matching in head-to-toe white: t-shirts, shorts, tube socks, and even sneakers. That's smart, I thought to myself, I guess they didn't want to lose each other in the dark night.
I idly watched as they passed in front of me and continued by, lining up with the house party just to my right. I nearly turned to the couples in chairs also looking out at the shore to make a witty comment, but they didn’t seem to notice the boys. Maybe they’re lost in their own thoughts or conversations or just don’t find them that interesting, I mused.
I took a deep breath and settled into my spot on the wall, still watching the boys run north. I knew that they could only go about one more block until they had to turn around. At high tide, as it was on this evening, the ocean level rises up to mingle with the San Dieguito River waters under the Coast Highway bridge, submerging the rocky trail that leads from up from the beach to the highway. There was no way they could get to the highway unless they swam for it.
To pass the time, I decided to play a little game, counting how long it would take them to run to the end of the shoreline and back to me. I mulled over the idea of taking a walk along the water myself, but wanted to finish my game first. I watched the boys reach what I reckoned was the turnaround point, at the San Dieguito River mouth.
Suddenly, I saw their figures fragment, then dissipate, then completely disappear. They were gone!
I gasped. What just happened!? They were running right towards the edge of the river mouth and in an instant they disintegrated like ashes in the wind! Their bodies joined the static in the sky.
Wide eyed, I looked to the right of me at the party people, still murmuring and watching the ocean. They didn’t even flinch! It's as if they never even saw the boys running in the first place, and they certainly didn’t watch them disappear or they would be as confused as I was!
I started to rationalize. It was very dark outside and maybe I could have imagined the whole thing. That’s it! I thought. I must've imagined it! I squinted, focusing on the shoreline as far as I could see to the north, but they were definitely gone. I could see the whitecaps in the river mouth and even in the ocean far beyond that, but their matching white outfits were nowhere to be seen.
I was shocked. I was frozen. Yet somehow, I wasn’t scared. I continued to study the party people to find any indication that they’d noticed anything. They kept talking as if nothing happened.
I didn't know what else to do, so I got down from the wall and walked over to the hedge separating the wall from the beach house and called to the guests. They turned around.
“Hey! What's up?” They asked. They were chill and friendly, obviously just enjoying their Fourth of July.
“Did you see those boys running along the shore just now?” I asked.
Everybody at the party looked confused.
"What boys?" they asked. They looked at me like I was crazy and seemed slightly amused.
I didn't know what to say, so I just turned away and started home. I was stunned.
As I took a few steps I was suddenly covered by what felt like a cool blanket of electric energy. My skin broke out in goose bumps. It felt good even though I didn't know what was happening.
Out of the periphery of my eyes I again saw figures moving. My heart raced. The amorphous shadows were taking stronger shape on either side of me, but when I turned to look head on at them nobody was there.
I finally started to get spooked. I turned in a complete circle and instantly felt what I can only describe as the blinds being snapped open on my inner being. The world simply looked different now. I played with the fleeting idea of this new way of seeing being something definitive and permanent.
I had an epiphany. The world around me looked as if I were seeing it through the eyes of my three-year-old self. I was remembering how I used to see.
I needed to get home. This was quickly becoming too much to handle. I stared down at my feet and vowed not to look at anything around me until I got into my apartment. I walked as quickly as I could, tuning out all the moving shadows around me, the buzzing in my ears, the vibrating of my body, until I finally got to the steps of my apartment. I ran up, rushed inside, shut the door and locked it behind me. I deeply exhaled. What was happening to me?
I just need a good night’s sleep. I got into bed as quickly as possible, took a Tylenol PM, and drank two glasses of water. I had to sleep. I closed my eyes, and the energies continued to swirl around me like a vortex. I packed extra pillows around my head to feel less exposed, and as the sedative kicked in my breathing slowed down and I began to feel more at ease.
Behind my closed eyes, I began to see colors in every hue of the rainbow. The colors pulsed and swirled together, as if alive and somehow communicating with me. “This is only the beginning”, said a gentle voice from deep inside me.
The words echoed throughout my body as I began to slip away. I watched helplessly as the swirling colors behind my eyes faded to black, and a second later, I was unconscious.
(Stay tuned for Chapter 2 of ANGELS AND ADDERALL)