George and I were walking home from school one day when we met a guy named Peter. We went to the same school, a ‘boys-only’ institution in Houghton, Johannesburg. After we finished our classes, we would skirt the playing fields to avoid any sporting extra-mural activities and head up the long hill which led into Yeoville, where George lived. We were dope smokers by then, sixteen and just shy of our final year at school. George and I used to hang out a lot, for more or less the same reasons that scum collects together at the top of the barrel of clean apple juice.

Peter was a tall, thin guy with long, black, stringy hair who sported a black Metallica T-shirt and grubby blue jeans. He had that sullen look so popular with ‘Goth’s’. George had already seen him around and knew that he attended an Art college in town. So, we got speaking to him that day at the top of the hill in Yeoville, the three of us crammed into a bus-stop while the sky drizzled miserably around us. He was a drug dealer. We vaguely knew that, although we had been trained since youth to fear only the stereo-typical dealer, replete with brief case and shiny shoes. This guy was just a rebel who didn’t give a damn about the world and we thought he was pretty cool.

We had heard a little about LSD from various dubious sources. The most unreliable source of all, of course, was the national booklet released by the anti-drug people. In retrospect, I find it incredible that a bunch of professional people can study thousands of drug cases and come up with such useless, erroneous information. I had read somewhere that most drug users stayed away from LSD like the plague because it was characterized by uncontrollable ‘bad trips’. By now, I know that this is also a bunch of rot. Most ‘people’ will stay away from the stuff because it is pretty damned powerful in the same way that most people will stay away from mortar cannons. Drug-users are a pretty tough bunch though. The point is that I remember thinking that addiction wasn’t a problem because it was too scary a drug to make a habit of. Curiosity, however, is a powerful motivating force.

We followed Peter up to his apartment after he had explained a little about the wonderful gift that was LSD, or ‘acid’ as it was known. He lived at the top of an old building in Yeoville. It was sort of a construction hut built on the roof between the gables, crammed with pigeons and their detritus. He lived with his girlfriend, a very alarmed looking girl who didn’t speak much and seemed uncontrollably jumpy. We felt very uncomfortable sitting there, waiting while he rooted through his room looking for drugs. Finally, he emerged with five caps of acid, five ‘trips’ in the popular vernacular.

We paid twenty rand for each of them; One hundred rand in total. It was an intolerably large sum of money for us, but we felt consoled in the fact that George had stolen it from his mother anyway. We took the caps and hid them with inordinate care about our bodies before leaving, glancing nervously about us as in one hour we had been transformed from young, innocent rebels into fugitives from justice in a dark and secret world.

We were joined in our first trip by three other boys, Rene, Ian and Kevin, who were to remain with us during the four years that followed. We were all just becoming friends then, hanging out during breaks at school and playing a lot of fantastical role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. Our imaginations were piquing. We were investigating witchcraft and the occult with zealous enthusiasm and believed that mental powers were well within our reach.

All we needed was a catalyst and, if anthropological studies on shamanistic cultures were to be believed, that catalyst was the hallucinogen. They were keen as mustard. I can’t remember what I felt at the time, but, coming from a good home, I must have been a little uncertain anyway. We met at George’s house that Friday. It was becoming our regular meeting place, chiefly because his mother was always out with one guy or another and we had the house to ourselves.

The acid had a slightly bitter taste going down. Forever after, I had that same weird tingling feeling in my teeth when I ate those tiny squares of blotting paper. It felt like I was coming off a local anesthetic at the dentist. Shortly after we had dropped the drugs and nothing had happened, we decided to go into town and find something to do. The blotters had been so tiny and unconvincing in appearance that we were pretty convinced we had been ripped off.

Nevertheless, we attempted to spark it off by going to see a really strange movie called ‘Jacob’s Ladder’. It was about some guy who was given a powerful hallucinogen while serving in the army and suffered its effects for years afterwards. The movie alone was enough to cause craziness and, by the time we had walked out of the theatre, we were feeling pretty strange. The world was a darker shade of blue, lights had become brighter and we felt an incredible surge of energy moving through our systems. We spent a few hours in Hillbrow, playing pool and bouncing about before returning home.

Since the drugs were not doing anything significant, we retired to my house. I am Shane. I lived in a quiet, smart area with my parents. They were quite a bit more diligent in their raising of children and we could not push them too far. Being caught on drugs would have been tantamount to a death penalty. So, we all cruised in there, looking unusually bright-eyed and maniacal but nevertheless in control of our senses. We greeted them and scampered up to my room, which was in the loft of the house, far away from them. We sat in the room then, waiting around and talking animatedly. It was plain that the trip was over, and we felt a bit cheated.

It was about at that moment that I suggested we inhale some Aerosol, a product called ‘Cook and Spray’. This was a bit like glue, ether and petrol rolled into one, guaranteed to cause some pretty hefty brain scrambling. They were all a bit nervous so I took the can, filled up a plastic sandwich bag with the greasy, yellow vapor and inhaled it for all I was worth. This stuff on its own made one feel fuzzy and disassociated. Taken in accompaniment with acid, it was an altogether more powerful experience. It was the beginning of my first trip.

I bent over as I breathed out the last of the vapors. Louie Armstrong was playing; A song called ‘Sunny side of the street’. My friend Kevin was standing over me and as I brought myself upright, I remember thinking that he was a royal Prince from some foreign land. He was so pretty and noble looking and he had a purple, velvet shroud about his shoulders. And then the words of the song seeped into my consciousness and suddenly, right beneath my feet snaked a golden path, and there was sunshine, on the ‘sunny’ side of the street.

The funny thing was that I snapped out of it quickly and the experience must have been so far out of my experience that I didn’t realize it was even happening, really. I must have thought I was daydreaming, like when you don’t even realize that you are drifting until you come back and as soon as you are back, you forget the whole experience. Either way, I was sober again, sort of. What made matters worse was that the rest of bunch really were dead, cold sober and remained that way for the rest of the evening. As for me however, the night had barely begun.

The moment I walked out of the room, the sparks really began to fly. I think that I wanted to go downstairs to get something to drink and I walked out of my bedroom, closing the door behind me so that the noise from my friends would not disturb my parents. As a result, it was pitch black on the landing. In that old house we had a lovely, stone staircase which wound down in a long curve to the lower landing with a thick wooden handrail along the side. The paving stones which formed the surface of the steps were heavily textured and interesting looking.

Now, before I continue, you must try to visualize something which will aid you in understanding what I saw. Imagine if you will a cast jelly in the exact shape of a hand and then flattened so that it was a couple of millimeters thick. Better yet, imagine one of those toy rubber hands with long arms that you throw and they stick to any surface for a while before peeling off like undercooked spaghetti. Almost translucent, sticky looking and very rubbery.

Well, the moment I placed my hand on the banister rail, I happened to glance down to the bottom of the stairs and there, in the exact converse position to me, was one of those rubbery hands on the bottom of the handrail. I took a step without thinking and, like clockwork, a rubber pinkish footprint matched me on the first step of the bottom of the stairs. You must understand that I saw this all within a fraction of second, quite literally in mid-step. So, it didn’t click until I was a quarter of the way down the stairs that something was happening, something so completely out of my experience that my brain could not define it.

My first thought was that I was somehow walking toward myself, pulling myself together. In the next instant I had the horrible feeling I was seeing a ghost, a real bona-fide occult experience. One thing is for certain. I believed what I was seeing completely and entirely forgot about the fact that I was on drugs. It was just too radical. Naturally, I turned around then and bolted back up the stairs. In the next second, the creature – whatever it was – had leapt from the bottom of the stairs and landed on my back!

I froze at the top of the landing, too scared to move a muscle. It felt like hot jelly – what I would later come to know as plasma – in the shape of a person standing behind me, its hands upon my shoulders. I whipped my head around, trying to look over my shoulder and it in turn ducked and moved to the other side. Then I reversed and tried to look over the other shoulder, but it did the same thing, always remaining behind me, turning as I turned, keeping just out of my vision.

It was lightning fast and powerful. Suddenly, I had a brain wave and looked in the bathroom mirror which is in the small toilet between my room and my sisters. This may indicate how believable the experience was. I literally thought that it would cast a reflection, like a real person. Nothing doing. And then, for no reason at all I glanced into my sisters’ room. The room was dark, and the door was wide open. Almost as if I had telepathized my intention, I suddenly saw my own reflection, very faint – like faded electricity or one of those kirlian auras – and behind it was the reflection of the creature behind me!

What I saw – in faint electrical green – could only have been the reflection of a tall feline woman, feline to the extent that it had ears and a tail. A super-agile alien cat woman. At that moment, I heard a low, powerful purring growl that resounded through my bones with a delicious, calm tension. A grin spread across my face and I relaxed completely, caught up in a moment that no human being was ever meant to experience. It was so special. I ran toward my bedroom door but for some reason, the creature indicated a certain reluctance, pulling away slightly. I turned again and stared back into the darkness.

The pressure on my back shifted, relaxed. In front of me, the air began to take on shades of translucent color and reality on either side began to fade slightly into insignificance, as though the real world was becoming the hallucination. My vision focused on the area before me as the air congealed and thickened with a strange electrical energy and started to form the shape of a Jade green waterfall in motion, tumbling delicately from the roof and through the floor, transporting me to another plane in another time. Within that waterfall, the presence of the creature was captured, and I was almost certain it was trying to introduce itself. I screamed with laughter and dashed into the room. Wrong.

Stepping back into the room was quite literally like stepping back into my old body. The frame of the door was a sort of portal between the plane to which I had so recently ascended and the grosser world or mortals. In one flashing second, I was stone cold sober, just like that. Bang. I halted my headlong flight, my smile pasted crazily to my face and stared around at my friends. They had that look of guarded concern. I had travelled a long way and somehow life would never be the same again.

It… she… was waiting for me, though, the liquid Jade flame waterfalling in the back of my mind. I tried desperately to explain what had just happened to me, but they didn’t look very convinced. At length, I implored Ian to go outside and see for himself what was waiting out there. He relented and disappeared briefly through the door before returning. He hadn’t seen anything. By this time, I was feeling a little hysterical. I didn’t know what was going on. I forced him out again, told him to wait out there and open his mind to whatever force awaited. He vanished for several minutes and finally returned, looking a bit sheepish. Nothing at all. Just walls and darkness. In a huff I walked back out, slamming the door behind me.

In a flash I was surrounded by Jade tendrils of energy and kitty growls, a feeling of such delicious familiarity rushing through my veins that I wanted to die on the spot. It was all so private and secret. I felt like the first representative of the humankind meeting an alien race. She remained behind me, but tendrils like feather boas began to stroke my sides and pulse down my back. In front of me, a kaleidoscope of fantastic colours danced through the darkness, seeming to speak to me in a language of images.

I tried to communicate with it; not really speaking but projecting my words through my mind. Everything was beginning to fade a little. I knew that I had to go in for some more inhalant or I might forever lose this precious, tenuous connection with the beyond. I tried to convince it to come in with me. It was making the most amazing sounds. Eventually, I opened the door slowly and dimmed the bedroom light. It seemed to stay with me as I walked slowly into the room. I looked at the others and made imperceptible nods with my head, telling them to look behind me. They were all sitting on the other side of the room and just looked confused. I must have looked pretty crazy. I was halfway across the room when this creature nipped in behind me and shot into the clothing cupboard where it was nice and dark.

I dosed up on inhalant and sat down in the poof cushion in front of my cupboard. I was laughing and speaking like a demented man to my friends. I still could not understand that they couldn’t see what I was seeing, and I kept trying to convince them. On the outside, I was looking a wreck, my pupils massively dilated and the inhalant fluid running down my chin in greasy gobs. On the inside however, the evening was just getting better. The woman of the Jade flame – whom I would later come to know as Jade – emerged from the cupboard in the half light and sat behind me, the hot feather boa tendrils snaking around me and embracing me in cotton wool comfort. I totally forgot about my friends entirely.

I lay back into the comforting embrace of this angel and stared ahead at the wall, where colors were once again brightening and forming a slow moving upright whirlwind. This song was playing: I think it was something by the Carpenters and it was such a sweet, romantic song that I felt indescribable love well up in me, as though I had made contact with a long lost wife across a million planes of being.

After a while, I noticed that the wall was becoming transparent, like glass. Through the wall, I began to see faint images of other places. Slowly they resolved until I saw a beach. I was looking out across the sea where the sun was setting in a blaze of plum glory in a land of paradise and peace. I will never be able to describe that moment, a moment of secret joy and meaning beyond anything I am ever likely to feel. I remember this harp or flute seeping into my ears and as the sun set, the tendrils behind me became swan wings and encircled my body entirely, wrapping me in a world of exquisite peace and calm.

I felt that in that moment I would swear my undying soul to this creature in the most sacred ceremony of all. And there, wrapped in the embrace of this Angel’s wings, I slipped into a timeless zone, broken intermittently by the need for more aerosol. In that trance I saw many things which are not all clear or available for recall, but they mainly involved a woman at my side through many different lifetimes. One flash I remember was of standing at the top of a hayloft in the sunlight, looking down at her smiling face and tossing threads of straw down which became little Chinese paper umbrellas. I remember also moving in a procession in a place which was layered in rich velvet and colorful hanging fabrics, a honeymoon in a foreign land. I was sold to the love of this memory.