Riding the Midnight Gloom by John Bruni

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Narrated by Bob Eccles

Photograph by Eleanor Bennett
Photograph by Eleanor Bennett

It’s been either two minutes or two days since I eased the plunger down, and I’m watching the stars through my closed eyes; even though the ceiling and the apartments above are in my way, it’s like the Milky Way is hovering in front of my face.  The floor beneath me changes shape to fit my form, and I feel like I am in the place where I belong.  There is nothing in the universe that I want or need.  I hold infinity in my palm; what more should I desire?

My lover is asleep.  He doesn’t approve of heroin, so I wait until he drifts off.  We sometimes share our dreams, but not tonight.  He probably knows what I’m doing; his mind is closed to me.

I force myself up into a sitting position, and the floor groans itself back into its original shape.  My body does not want to move, but I manage to get to my feet and zombie-walk to bed.  The air feels solid around me, and as I move, I can feel it caressing my naked body like a bundle of hands against my flesh.  My foreskin rolls back, and I extend; it is the most sensate part of my body when I’m riding the midnight gloom.

I slip under the covers with him, pressing into his back, reaching around his hip to make him feel as good as I do, but he sleepily pushes me away.  I drift from the bed and float down to the hardwood floor, where every grain embraces me.

It slowly dawns on me that it’s happening again.  I take what I think are my feet and look down at the nearby coffee table.  My kit is where I left it, and so is my body.  I feel a moment of chilling fear, if such an emotion exists in this state, but I know everything is all right.  My candles are not lit at this late hour, as they would have been half a year ago.  As they would have been before I met Noel, my ex, the one who started me down this path.  He was the one who told me that heroin sometimes makes you leave your corporeal body, but it doesn’t do this for everyone.  No, you have to be special.  Noel was religious, so he believed it was God that made him extraordinary.  I don’t know if that’s true, though.

Noel’s no longer around.  His body is, but not him.  He passed through the flames and never returned.

Thinking about the candles makes me remember something else.  I cast my gaze to every mirror in the room, and I relax when I notice I’ve remembered to turn them all toward the wall.  No worries.

I hover over my body, and I try to lie down, to dress myself with matter once again, but when I try to sit up again, I’m still not corporeal.  This happens, and when it does, all I can do is ride it out until my body will let me back in.

It’s time to play.  I float out the window.  The leaves of the treetops tickle my belly as I move through them.  Birds scatter when they see me; they know I shouldn’t be like this.

There are times when I feel I should check in on friends and family, to make sure all is well with them, but I know I can’t risk it.  Some people have mirrors in their bedrooms.  Still, I want to see Noel, or whatever is left of him in this world.

Instead, I soar higher and higher, beyond our atmosphere and toward the moon and the planets, where mirrors and fire don’t exist.  The astral tether won’t let me go too far, but each time, I can stretch it out a little bit more.  I want to someday see Jupiter’s surface with my own eyes.

Below me, the earth is shrouded in a holey blanket of clouds; I cannot distinguish the continents.  The moon blazes above me, full with the reflection of the sun.  I feel like I can crane my head forward and kiss it.

Noel is the only other person I know who has shared this exhilarating experience with me.  I’ve met my share of fellow junkies, but none of them have been able to leave their bodies.  I think they are too scared.  I tried to convince Steve, my current lover, to come with me, but he refuses to shoot up.  He likes marijuana instead, as if that could offer these stellar sights.

I’m about to reach Mars when my guts, or what passes for my guts, constrict, and I feel myself falling back to my world, toward my body.  I soar through my window, ready to join with my corporeal form once again, except it isn’t where I left it.

When I see my body on its knees between my lover’s legs, head bobbing up and down, I can’t believe it is mine.  Then, I see the joint in Steve’s hand, and the Zippo he’d used to light it up.  Flame.  The gateway.

I try to push back into my body, but whatever is in there keeps me out.  I bounce against my own supple skin, to no avail.  Then, as if it senses my presence, it turns my own eyes toward me and grimaces around Steve’s flesh.  The thing sucks at him like one would suck a thick milkshake through a straw, and I can see my lover’s energy transfer into this creature, and Steve doesn’t even realize it.

There is nothing I can do, but I keep trying to reenter my body.

Then, as if it has been expecting me, the thing holds up its palm, where it has concealed my shaving mirror.  The trap.  My astral shape screams, and I feel like I no longer exist.  The universe pops out of my hand and moves into the creature’s.  I am alone, and infinity is dark.


AUTHOR BIO:  John Bruni’s work has appeared most notably in SHROUD, MORPHEUS TALES, OVER MY DEAD BODY!, THE REALM BEYOND, PRODUCT OF SOCIETY, CTHULHU SEX MAGAZINE, TRAIL OF INDISCRETION, AOIFE’S KISS, TALES OF THE TALISMAN, THE BRACELET CHARM, HOUSE OF BIZARRO, and a number of other magazines including anthologies from Pill Hill Press (A HACKED-UP HOLIDAY MASSACRE) and Comet Press (the critically acclaimed VILE THINGS).  MUSA will be publishing his first novel, STRIP, by the end of the year.  He was the editor of TABARD INN:  TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE, and he lives in Elmhurst, IL.