March 12, 1967. 12:01 am.
West Hollywood, California.
Mike picked his way through the Sea Witch’s smoky confines and ducked out into cold West Hollywood air. The Peanut Butter Conspiracy was really feeling it that night, but he just couldn’t catch the performance's groove. Real bummer to find himself locked outside that vibe.
For months he’d been thinking of the little man in the gray room. Almost obsessively. Worse than that, he couldn’t shake the feeling that the little man had been watching him, too.
Crazy, of course, but only getting crazier. He’d been having terrible dreams that only got worse the longer he went sober. He thought it’d be the opposite. He was hoping it’d been the drugs messing with his head.
He didn’t know where he was going. He was too scared to sleep. He was too scared to party. Too scared to meditate. So he wandered the streets and tried to let the beauty of the starry sky lift him someplace transcendent.
The cold night air and silence were just starting to pacify him when a bus appeared at a crossroads up ahead and turned onto the street, heading his way.
His heart skipped a beat at the sight of the old school bus. It was painted completely black — windows and all, but that wasn’t what bothered him. Strange sights were the norm for that time and place. Just another part of the landscape.
There was something evil about the bus, though. Something that screamed at his psyche to run. This mental impulse wasn’t the high love vibration of his meditations or LSD. This was primal terror. This was reptile brain telling him to get the fuck off that street before the people in the bus got to him.
He bolted into an alleyway between two shops. He made it halfway to the end when the bus’s brakes squealed behind him.
As the bus sat, idling, headlights off, the door opened stiffly. Mike didn’t see anyone inside, but he sensed them watching him.
One of the bus’s windows slid down.
“Hey, Mike!” a girls’ voice called.
Mike laughed in relief and almost called back. He had friends all over Southern California, from the Haight to the border. He was man on the scene, as they say. It wouldn’t be strange at all for a friend to be calling to him, but the reptile brain stopped him from calling back.
The bus didn’t feel right. It felt like the little man in the gray room. Just wrong, that’s all. Real wrong.
“He’s looking forward to meeting you, Mike,” the girl said.
A few more windows slid down. Soon a cacophony of women’s voices called out his name over and over in shrill bird-chirp voices.
“Mike. Mike. Mike. Mike. Mike.”
He turned and ran the rest of the way through the alley, then through some parking lots and backyards, and he didn’t stop until he was on the brightly lit Sunset Strip, just another hippie in the crowd.
He stepped into the first bar he saw and ordered a beer. Sobriety would have to take a break for a while.