Mushroom Cloud


The plan was so simple, so elegant, and best of all, it didn’t link directly back to its mastermind. Stievo met with Hanci to discuss her future political aspirations and how he might be of service. Eyeing a run for Texas Governor, Hanci was eager for the support of the religious leader. In exchange, Stievo wanted her to get in touch with her former henchman, Evan Tim. She had put her old life behind her and initially resisted the proposal. Not only did she want to distance herself from her criminal past, but Evan Tim was unhinged (likely bipolar) and a known drug manufacturer and trafficker. If word got out that she was working with him it would end her career. Yet Stievo was emphatic and he shot her a look that rattled her to her core. She conceded, but would never trust him or seek his help again.

The meeting between Stievo and Evan Tim took place in a tavern in the outskirts of Atlanta. Stievo explained that he wanted Evan Tim to leverage his influential customers to stop selling Aricame’s artwork and no longer provide him a platform in their media. Evan Tim’s customer network was so embedded within the media apparatus that he had the ability to suffocate any artist he wanted. Threats of blackmail or simply withholding the next fix would bring them to yield because these industry titans were so thoroughly addicted to Evan Tim’s products. In exchange for this, Stievo would open up his vast following of worshipers to Evan Tim’s psychedelic wares. His churchgoers would not only receive the message of the transcendental from the pulpit, but would soon be able to experience it firsthand. Though he initially had his doubts, Evan Tim agreed to the terms. Stievo didn’t even need to resort to any form of manipulation or bullying. There was a part of the eccentric drug pusher – the part that had always caused him to run afoul of polite society – that was magnetically drawn to the chaotic power that was exuding from this charismatic preacher.

While this clandestine meeting was taking place, Aricame was in the midst of a transcendental experience of his own.

You, my salve / Hue of mauve … Through the eye / Tiger sky … Real oneness / Feel noneness … Yet fleeting / Retreating …
Light withdrawals / Darkness falls … Make it end / Help me, friend … This, too, ends / Newfound lens … Impression / Accession

After an hours-long journey, as the psilocybin retreated from his body, Aricame snapped to his feet, lit a cigarette, and visualized his Victor Strife Board as if seeing it for the very first time. He reconstructed the Board pieces outside the realm of the senses and moved them willfully (forcefully!), letting the game flow through him like the cosmos. He strengthened in all the same ways that Stievo had when he reached the same achievement. Glowing and knowing, parity between the two rivals had been restored. The Champion of Light, however, held one newly gleaned advantage: the perspective gained from his pharmacological experiments.

Hindered by my lower self
Inspired by my higher self
Growth of mental and physical health
Hunger chases prestige and wealth