ACID CASUALTY 

 

By 

Jim Marshal 

 

 

Jimmy and I were at the stone circle when we realized we had sold out. All we had now were the two tabs we had reserved for ourselves and the big wad of cash we had earned over the last two days of the festival. We’d gotten in for free on a steward volunteering gig and we’d done what they’d asked. In our free time we’d gone to the stone circle and sold this year’s hot commodity: LSD. 

A close friend of mine since secondary school, Jimmy went to as many festivals as he could manage, and made a lot of his income from them too. After I’d returned from university, jobless and in desperate need of money, he’d managed to talk me into coming to Glastonbury with him that year with the promise of a fifty-fifty split of the profits. 

Now our work was done, both dealing and stewarding, and we were free to enjoy the festival and spend some of our hard earned money. Jimmy was carrying the cash, and he quickly totaled it up and doled me out my half of the profit: an impressive £650. 

We’d both dropped our tabs and were about to head towards the late night area, when I saw someone I vaguely recognized trudging up the muddy quagmire towards us, a customer we had sold ten tabs to earlier on in the evening, and he was sporting a profoundly unhappy expression. I nudged Jimmy and pointed out the approaching figure, a young thin lad in his early twenties with a gaunt looking face, comprised primarily of cheekbone. He was sporting the trendiest and most ironic clothes money could buy, and was clearly some kind of music aficionado. 

“Here comes trouble” I said, nudging Jimmy, “looks like he’s on a bad trip or something.” 

As he got closer he began to freak me out more and more. He looked utterly terrified. Through his dilated pupils I fancied I could detect some unusual kind of manic desperation. 

“What the fuck did you sell me?” he demanded. “It’s sending me off the rails, that stuff isn’t acid, its poison. I’m thinking the weirdest thoughts, I’m losing my mind.” 

Jimmy stepped in to reassure the guy. “You’ll be fine, just relax. Where are your friends? How many did you take?” 

This provoked an uncontrollable spasm of anxiety. “How many what? What friends?” The now distraught lad wailed. “I have no idea how I got here.” 

Perfect, I thought. Just what I needed. To have to babysit someone on a bad trip after a long day of work. Especially now I was starting to trip myself. I shot Jimmy a look and said “Let’s dump him at the welfare tent, he’ll be ok.” 

Pretty soon we had dropped him off, with Jimmy trying his best to console the poor guy on the way and failing repeatedly. We told the matronly woman at the welfare tent we had found him wandering around, and she gave us a knowing smile, as if to let us know that she’d seen this kind of thing plenty of times before and was more than capable of dealing with it. 

With the guy gone we finally headed off to the late night area. He’d be fine, we assured each other, they’ll know how best to help him. By now I was tripping quite severely myself, the already mind-blowing light shows and surreal displays of the late night area were becoming a marvelous and intricately animated vista, too incredible for words to describe. I found my ordinary every day thoughts being replaced with bizarre and disjointed contemplation. 

By the time I reached the dance area I was losing all sense of myself, all sense of time and responsibility, and I became nothing more than a madly dancing automaton in this strangely apocalyptic congregation. This was surely the splendid finale to the history of mankind, I kept thinking to myself. I danced to music that sounded completely unlike anything I had heard before. I don't know how long i danced for, an hour or maybe two. My brain had lost all grasp of the concept of time. 

Then something I saw jerked me roughly back to reality: Through the writhing mass of people I saw the guy we had taken to the welfare tent, standing on the fringes of the dance floor completely motionless and rigid. This really put the dampeners on things, my ego came rushing back to me and I suddenly felt terrible about pawning the lad off and not trying to help him myself. I began to look round for Jimmy for some guidance. He was nowhere to be seen. I looked again for the lad and he was gone. 

I couldn’t keep dancing and enjoying myself, now that I knew that the tripped out hipster had broken free of the welfare tent. I’d only put him there an hour or two ago, and judging by the condition we had found him in there was no way he could have recovered in such a short space of time. Not knowing where Jimmy was added to my disquiet. I felt all alone in a completely bizarre and alien landscape 

I decided it was best to take a time out from the dance floor and get my thoughts together. I manhandled my way through the crowd and eventually emerged on the path beyond. By now my mind was beginning to descend into ever darker and more demented thought patterns. I fancied I could see the guy’s gaunt panicking face staring back at me from every dark nook and cranny as I scanned the crowd in vain for Jimmy. Distracted by anxious thoughts, I absentmindedly rolled a cigarette. As I looked up and stowed it behind my ear I noticed the now familiar figure of the lad had suddenly appeared directly in front of me, staring across the crowd as if searching for someone. He hadn’t noticed me. 

At this point I began to panic. I couldn’t rationalize why, I just had to get away from this weirdo. Something about the way he stood there completely motionless with his arms by his sides filled me with abject terror. I tried running but soon found that the quicksand-like mud made this completely impossible, almost falling flat on my face in the process. I trudged off in the direction of the volunteers camp site trying my best to blend in with the crowd of people that seemed to be stampeding down the path like a herd of corralled buffalo. As I battled my way through the clinging mud I kept looking back to reassure myself I had left the sinister guy behind me. I had well and truly freaked myself out, but at least I had the presence of mind to know when to head back, take a Xanax and sleep it off. 

By the time I got to the row of food vendors nearest to my campsite I was starting to wonder what all the fuss had been about. I felt more or less fine. The guy was probably ok, just enjoying the festival in his own weird way like everyone else. 

I glanced over my shoulder and to my horror saw him standing there ominously, searching the flowing crowd like before. I couldn’t imagine what insane, paranoid thoughts were going through his mind—nobody could. He was the very definition of unpredictable, and here he was following me for some reason. I pulled out my phone and gave Jimmy a call. It rang, but nobody answered. Now he was staring straight at me, his unflinching grey eyes wide and pupils hugely dilated. I had to go and talk to him. Where were his friends? He must have come with someone. 

I began to walk towards him, and as soon as I did he turned and began pacing off. 

“Hey mate, you alright?” I called over to him, contending with the rabble of noise from the crowd and the low rumblings of faraway loud music. He ignored me, or perhaps couldn’t hear me, and before I knew it I had lost him in the crowd. 

Despite knowing that he had been following me, the unconcerned mood I had tapped into before prevailed. I looked at my phone: three am. Should I head back to the late night area? I didn’t think so, it was time to head back to the camp site, have a smoke and forget about the creepy guy. Tomorrow Jimmy and I would leave the festival with over £600 each, not bad for a weekends work. 

I realized to my great amusement that I had a cigarette ready rolled behind my ear, so I sparked it up and headed back to camp with a spring in my step. As I got closer to the volunteers camp site the crowds began to thin out and the sound of distant dance music got quieter and quieter, soon I found myself walking down the nearly pitch black country lane which led to the stewards camp site entrance. 

There were a few pockets of activity, here and there camp fires flickered and acoustic guitars strummed. Guided by the faint light of my phone screen I picked my way through the gauntlet of tents and guy ropes leading to where Jimmy and I had pitched up. I plonked myself wearily down in the camping chair under the gazebo we had erected and cracked open the final beer in the cooler. I sat there drinking and enjoying the kaleidoscopic patterns and morphing organic forms while they still lasted. The festival had been exciting, completely unlike anything I had experienced before, and the fact that I had made money rather than spent it was the icing on the cake. It was a city that had sprung up overnight, tragically and ridiculously unsustainable, but filled with the kind of wonder and excitement usually reserved for children. Jimmy and I had been the feudal lords of the city, and all the middle class hippies and spoilt posh kids were our yeomen. I finished my beer, but couldn’t bring myself to go to bed yet. Jimmy had another crate in his tent didn’t he? 

I went over and shook the tent slightly. “Jimmy!” I whispered loudly. “Jimmy!” 

I unzipped the tent slowly and fired up my phone for light. I pulled the zip to its fullest extent and the tent door flopped inwards. I shone the light in and was confused by what I saw. Jimmy was there, lying on the camp bed, but something wasn’t right. Then with a pang of indescribably panic I noticed what it was. Blood dripping onto the ground sheet and pooling. 

Exactly what happened after that point I’m not sure, I screamed, I shouted, I freaked out. I recall someone rushing over to the tent and tried to help Jimmy, before feeling his pulse and grimly pronouncing him dead. 

He was dead, stabbed to death, the murder weapon nowhere to be found. 

Before long a crowd had gathered around me, and soon after that the camp site was bathed in the harsh strobing glow of police lights. I sat there on the floor outside the tent ranting and raving to anyone that would listen, and watched Jimmy being taken away in a body bag. They took me in for questioning and I told them everything, leaving out the illegal activity me and Jimmy had participated in of course. I tried telling them about the strange guy that had followed me, but they seemed more interested in the £650 I had in my pocket. I pleaded with them to look for the wide eyed gaunt faced man, and eventually they did, but in a festival packed to the rafters with thin, twenty something drugged up hipsters, their search was an exercise in futility. They had asked at the welfare tent, and the woman remembered seeing the lad. He had seemed to calm down slightly and she had taken her eyes off him for a second. When she had turned back he had gone. 

Who knows who he was or what happened to him, but I am convinced it was him who killed Jimmy. He’d probably go home with his friends the next day (if they existed), laughing and joking about the mad nights they had all had. He had convinced himself he’d gone insane, perhaps he had decided to fully commit to the part. Perhaps he was a latent psychopath, a coiled spring waiting for its chance to violently extend. Maybe he was just out for revenge against the person who had robbed him of his sanity. 

Now I sit here on the rock hard bed of a police cell in some unknown provincial town. It’s approaching nine o clock in the morning and I’m riding out the last throws of my trip and drinking austere police station instant coffee from a Styrofoam cup. The cops haven’t got anything on me at least. There’s nothing illegal about carrying around a wad of cash at a music festival, and I had managed to hold my own against the detectives barrage of questions, despite the fact he seemed to have known I’d been selling something. With any luck I should be out soon. They might even give me my money back. Poor Jimmy is gone forever though, a fact which is only now sinking in. What will I tell his parents? He’ll never get to spend his half or attend another music festival ever again. 

The window slat on the reinforced door snaps open and I see the eyes of the police constable who’d given me the coffee. “Mr Andrews, would you face the back wall and put your hands behind your back please.” She says, not unkindly. I do as she says and soon find myself handcuffed and being lead down the hallway towards the interrogation room. Whatever this is about it can’t be good. They’d surely asked me everything they could possibly want to know by now. We wait outside the interrogation room for a minute. Through the small square window I see the detective talking earnestly to someone I can’t make out. After a while he glances up at me briefly before gesturing to the police woman to let me in. The door swings opens and there he is, looking as wide eyed and twitchy as ever. It’s him. He looks just as insane as when me and jimmy had dropped him off at the welfare tent, but now he seems less afraid, more comfortable in his insanity. He catches my eye and scowls at me, before suddenly breaking out in hysteric laughter as If suddenly getting the punchline of some hilarious joke. The unimpressed constable leads him away down the hall, but he keeps stopping to look over his shoulder and crack up all over again. I stand there gobsmacked, watching him walk free out the front door of the police station with a mixture of confusion and rage. I scarcely register the detective’s increasingly impatient voice commanding me to sit down. 

I enter the room and sit at the table. Next to me a tape recorder whirrs indifferently. I try desperately to let the detective know who he had just let walk away, but he silences me, flopping an evidence bag onto the table. A cursory glance tells me it’s empty, but with a sudden horrible lurch of adrenaline I notice a tiny and familiar square of coloured paper in one corner. “He says you sold him this.” The detective declares triumphantly. “Mr Andrews, I’m arresting you on suspicion of possessing a class A drug with intent to supply.”