Excerpts

Fractured Fragment Friday: No Matter What You’ve Smoked, “Cannabis Alienus ‘alien dope’” May Be Too Much For You

“Cannabis alienus ‘alien dope’” originated from something that really happened to me (no, not the alien slug.) My family moved out of state before my junior year of high school, and two years later (after graduation) I made a trip back to what used to be home, to try reconnecting with people I knew. Aside from learning that it only took two years for things to change so much that I couldn’t really “go back”, I also had an encounter with a former classmate who had taken a wrong turn, and took me on a journey through woods and corn fields to see where he had stashed his marijuana plant.

Here’s the Blurb

L.D. had always been an unapologetic pot-head, but something has gone wrong and he’s fallen off the radar. Eric returns home for what he thinks is going to be a simple intervention, but turns into… something else. Find out what – read “Cannabis alienus ‘alien dope’.”

And Here’s This Week’s Excerpt

I hadn’t told Mrs. Daniels I was coming, and I wasn’t sure I wanted them to know, so I parked a couple of streets away from the Daniels’ and slipped into the pine woods to look for L.D. The fresh smell of mold caught me by surprise. Something about the odor brought back memories of hanging around smoking with L.D. in our misspent high school years. Maybe it wouldn’t have hit me the same way if I’d spent time in the Texas woods, but I suspect there was something subtly different there. Funny how smells will trigger memories like that.

I headed off in the direction of the corn fields. I’d planned to back-track from there to the tree fort, but I spotted L.D.’sCannabisAlienusCover head above the stalks as he walked between the rows.

“Hey L.D. – wait up!” I said as I wove my way toward him.

He ducked down when I called out, and I lost sight of him.

“Come on, L.D.,” I called out. “It’s Eric!”

“Who?”

“Eric… Little Man.”

 L.D. had always been this tall, gangly thing that stood a head above the rest of our class, even back in seventh grade when we first started hanging together, and I was one of the shortest, so the other kids called us Big Man and Little Man. Even though I got my growth and caught up with everyone except L.D. before high school, he still called me that.

His head floated back up where I could see it.

“Is that really you?”

“Yeah it’s me.”

“Good, that means I’m not hallucinating,” he said. “Can’t ever be too sure.”

I stepped into the row with him and looked him up and down. He looked gawkier than I remembered, and maybe taller, but I think it was just that he was so damn skinny. He wore jeans and a dirty white t-shirt that just sort of hung on his bones. Probably wasn’t getting enough food, out here on his own.

But the eyes were creepy. He barely blinked, and they were all red rimmed and bloodshot like he hadn’t slept in days. Or maybe he’d been doing a hell of a lot of weed, but in the old days he would have covered it a lot better; he’d never been this blatant about it.

“What have you been smoking, L.D.? You look like hell.”

“Hey, I just woke up.”

“From the dead, maybe.”

“Feels like it sometimes. What’s today?”

“Wednesday,” I said.

He counted off real slow on his fingers.

“Wow – I’ve been out for maybe three days,” he said. “Hope they’re not all eaten up.”

We walked silently between the corn rows, no conversation, like we hadn’t been apart for four years. They say you can’t go back, and it’s true mostly – places change like people, and usually not in the same direction. But L.D. and I, it was like it had only been yesterday, like we were tuned into each other and would just pick up where we left off. Part of me was leaning that way with the memories that being there brought back, but another part of me was thinking about Julie and the life I had now, and how if I wasn’t careful I could lose it. I needed to set a stake in the ground before that went any further. I stopped walking.

“I don’t do pot anymore, L.D.”

He stopped and looked down at me with those red-rimmed eyes.

“That’s okay – I won’t hold it against you,” he said with a weak smile, then continued walking. “Your loss, though.”

His reaction didn’t surprise me at all – I could have told him I was a space alien from mars and he would have still been fine with it. It was my reaction, like I was disappointed that he hadn’t tried to talk me back into it. I wondered if I was really cut out for this intervention, if that’s what it was.

“Through here,” he said.

I could see a stand of darker, slightly taller stalks ahead, and we zigzagged through the rows to reach it. The stalks looked odd, black striations running through the green leaves. As L.D. stepped past the outer boundary of the stand, he seemed to get shorter, and then I lost sight of him.

“Watch your step,” he said.

The black-veined corn was growing around the edges of a circular depression maybe twelve feet across, that went down about three feet before it bottomed out. The soil had all these bits of red-black rocks and powder through it. Growing around a basketball-sized, red-black rock at the bottom were three of the blackest cannabis I’d ever seen. L.D. was picking off leaves and putting them in a plastic DeMoulas grocery bag.

“Did you dig this pit? Mr. Withers is going to be pissed.”

“Was already here when I went to plant,” he said. “Seemed like a good place to hide my crop. Dammit, there’s another one.”

He pointed at what looked like a shiny black, thumbnail-sized blob on the stalk of one of his plants. He tried to pry it off with a pocketknife, but it looked like he’d damage the plant if he pressed much harder, and it wasn’t budging, so he stopped.

“That’s a strange looking slug,” I said.

“Not a slug. I’ve tried coffee, salt, garlic – whatever on them, and it’s all useless,” he said. “Mustard’s the only thing that works. Doesn’t kill them – just keeps them away. I have some at the fort – come on.”

He talked on as we worked our way to the edge of the field and into the woods.

“They don’t care about the corn, but they love pot. I have to keep them off it, or they get real

big. Ate my first plant before I figured out how to block them.”

We shuffled through the leaves until we reached the fort. It was ten feet up, supported between three oak trunks that popped out of the ground like legs on an upside-down tripod. It was pretty much the same as when I’d left, except for the shopping cart he had wedged between the trees. The scrap plywood and odds and ends planks looked more rotten and green with lichen than I remembered. I followed L.D. up the moldy pieces of two-by-four nailed into one of the trees that made up a ladder of sorts.

When I caught up with him he was rummaging through the garbage in the corner. He had a sleeping bag on the decaying floor – not anywhere near big enough for him, now, but it was something. There was also an unlit kerosene lamp that I remembered. I glanced around, noticed his old acoustic half-buried under clothes and old food wrappers; the L.D. I knew would never have neglected his instrument like that. I didn’t see any sign he was doing anything but weed, and as concerned as he was about his plants, that’s probably all it was.

“Here we are,” he said, holding up a plastic quart jar.

He opened it and looked inside.

“Enough for now, but I’ll need to get more, soon. For him, too,” L.D. said, pointing at the corner of the ceiling over his head.

I hadn’t noticed it when I came in – it was a little dark in there without the lamp on – but taking up a two-foot-or-so-wide circle up in the corner – what I thought at first was a shadow – was a bigger version of that not-slug from the corn field, with traces of mustard smeared around it on the tree bark and the fort’s walls and ceiling.

“How did that…?” I asked, but he was already climbing out, so I followed him down and back to the field as he talked.

“Found it on one of my plants, when it was this big,” he said, showing his thumb. “Couldn’t get it off at first, and I wanted to keep an eye on it, so I potted the plant and took it up to the fort. It damn near ate the whole thing, until I dripped some mustard on it while I was eating a sub, and it pulled away, so I got a bunch more and drove it off onto that tree.”

“How could it get that big?” I asked. “There wouldn’t have been any plant left for you to remove it from.”

“It was only the size of my hand, then. It’s just kept growing.”

“What’s it eating, the tree?”

“Maybe – the thing’s got a good hold on it, but I don’t think it’s hurting it.”

We’d made it back to the pit. He held some mustard on a stick and was able to back the slug-thing down the plant’s stem to the ground. Then he drizzled some around each of the plants, until the jar was empty.

“I’ll have to get more before it wears off again,” he said as he resumed harvesting leaves. “Maybe you could help me with that; I’m all tapped out.”

“Where did you get that jar?”

“I’d rather not say, on the grounds that it might incriminate me,” he said somewhat sheepishly, but then got defensive. “Hey, as good as this stuff is, there isn’t enough to pay much, yet.”

I was warring with myself. Part of me was saying “No – don’t enable him. You came up here to straighten him out – you don’t need to help him save his crop.” But I knew he’d eventually get caught stealing if he kept it up, and mustard wasn’t too much money for me to lay out to keep that from happening. As long as it was only pot.

Only pot? I guess I’d managed to keep my body straight the last few years, but my head was still in it.

“Well, if it will keep you out of trouble,” I said.

“I’ll pay you back,” he said as he finished bagging leaves. “Let’s go celebrate.”

“I think I ought to pick up that mustard, first.”

“Nah – it’ll keep for now,” he said.

“Better safe than sorry,” I said. “Why don’t you come with me and we’ll get something to eat?”

I wasn’t really worried about needing the mustard; that nagging part inside of me was thinking I came up here to intervene, and I needed to do something to get L.D. a little more normal, even if it was just back to the not quite so scary pot-head he used to be. And I wasn’t so sure how I’d handle him or myself when we got back to the fort and he lit up.

He looked like he was warring with himself at the same time, then finally shook his head.

“I don’t want anyone to see me,” he said. “I’m going back to the fort.”

That put things off a bit. He shambled back the way we’d come, and I went looking for my car. I drove to the DeMoulas by our old neighborhood and picked up a good sized jar of dry mustard (because I thought it would spread easier on the soil), some peanut butter, Marshmallow Fluff, bread, meat sticks, canned pineapple, Doritos, and a couple of cases of water. I thought he might just be looking sickly from not having his parents to live off of, and that if I could just get some food into him he might not look so bad. I got a suspicious stare from old Ralph at checkout; he probably thought I looked familiar, but his eyes had always been bad, and he couldn’t connect the clean-cut me with the dope-smoking kid I’d been back then.

It was getting dark by the time I drove back. I unloaded the backpack that served as my luggage so I could carry the groceries in it. I managed to lug them – and the water – through the woods, but I wondered if it would have been easier if I’d used L.D.’s shopping cart. The fog of cannabis found me before I reached the fort. I set the waters down at the base of the trees and took a deep breath before I started the climb. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t lighting up; even down here I felt stoned – it was that strong. It could have been that I was out of practice, but I remembered how red L.D.’s eyes were, and knew it wasn’t just me; there was something wrong with this weed.

L.D. had the kerosene lamp lit, and was on his back by the corner, smoking. He held the reefer out toward me in slow motion.

“You want some?” he asked.

“No,” I said as I sat on his sleeping bag. “No need – I’m high enough already.”

“Good stuff, huh?”

He took a drag, held it in for a bit, and then let it out slow. The smoke curled up to where the slug-thing was, glistening black in the lamplight.

“That thing looks bigger,” I said. “Do you think it’s the pot?”

“Making you think it’s bigger?”

“No, making your slug bigger. Something’s got to be making it grow.”

What’s about to happen next isn’t good, but, well… you’ll have to read it to find out. “Cannabis Alienus ‘alien dope’” is a speculative fiction short story, and is available at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/392487?ref=NoTimeToThink

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3nhjTD9   

It’s also included in the collection Still Even More Things I Could Get OUT OF MY MIND:collection4cover

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/489509?ref=NoTimeToThink   

Amazon:  https://amzn.to/2RvjpgB

“Cannabis Alienus ‘alien dope’” is also included in collection The Next Three ‘Things I CollectionNext3CoverCould Get OUT OF MY MIND’. (If you purchase the collection on Smashwords with coupon code PF54T, you’ll receive a 50% discount. That’s only $2.50 for EIGHTEEN stories – such a deal!):

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/784952?ref=NoTimeToThink  

Amazon:  https://amzn.to/3jOjMgt

Honest ratings and reviews are, as always, appreciated. Hope you enjoy it!

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William Mangieri’s writing has been published on Daily Science Fiction and The Arcanist. His ninety or so short stories and related collections can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:

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