In 2011, after a night out with my dear friend and mentor—an Englishman with a bottomless tank for Guinness—I came home a bit toasted. My wife was sound asleep with our infant son, and as I sat on a couch in our loft I was stirred by a totally random urge to write something.
When I placed my fingertips on the keyboard I had no preconceived idea whatsoever as to what I’d write. Hell, I hadn’t written anything for over three years. I told myself I would surrender entirely to whatever muse was biting at me, and reject plotting completely.
This experimental bit of prose, called Kaspian Tea, is what came out entirely through stream of conscious, in a single sitting, warm and fuzzy from several pints of Blue Moon.
By Liam Keith
I watched the bits of spices swirling in the hot black broth. The steam crept into my nostrils smelling like incense and nights of sex in a Babylonian brothel.
“It smells exotic, even erotic, but I’m supposed to drink this?” I asked myself.
The longhaired fellow with the shape of a baby elephant, lounging in that jasmine-scented backroom of the bodega, said it would be the best tea my soul ever tasted. His nametag had read “Rupesh” in fat Sharpie marks, and although his accent was Midwestern, he might have known The Answer.
“Kaspian Tea,” he called it. “When ancient wise-men wanted to feel the bosom of God they drank this tea. They would drink and they’d lie in the sands of freezing deserts at night, waiting for starry arms to cradle them in astral embrace.”
What a sales pitch!
It sounded good to me, but I lived downtown in a shitty one-bedroom apartment. If I went outside and laid in traffic, I would either be mugged or run over by a bus. I decided I would try this tea, anyway.
I raised the cup to my lips and sipped the tea like a bee drawing nectar. The brew contained a magnificent essence transcendent of taste. I felt between my ears a flapping of wings, and the dance of sunlight on my tongue. The tea drifted like a summer breeze down my throat.
I wanted more, and this time I drank feverishly, spilling the broth in small cascades down my chin, swallowing even the particles of leaves and stems that had aggregated at the bottom.
I sat on the couch with my black cat and waited for God.
Time passed, but then it folded in on itself, and I was staring at a night sky. I saw the Milky Way flowing like rapids to other worlds. My couch was made of blood red sand and cradled me comfortably. My body vibrated in ecstasy, but I felt an irritating pumice stone stroking my lips—my cat was licking the tea from my mouth. He purred so hard I thought his bones would rattle apart. He walked in a little ellipse and looked back at me with his remarkable eyes, each like a collapsing star.
I sat up and saw a boundless desert of sanguine sand, black pyramids lining the horizon like the teeth of a saw, and an enormous obsidian obelisk rising high on a nearby plateau. I stood on weeping willow legs and saw my cat looking up at me.
“My friend, my beloved friend—let me show you how a beast can move through the eye of a needle,” my cat said, his voice sounding only in my mind.
I followed every step of his paws as he pranced along the crimson dunes. I noticed I had tiny wings growing out of my ankles, and I knew that if it were not for the Nike feet, I would be devoured by hungry sands. As we made our way to the obelisk, my cat stopped and raised his whiskers towards the pyramidal apex of the monolith. His supernova eyes glinted and he ran back in a semi-circle.
“There! The needle is there!” he announced, purring again.
“How do we reach it?” I asked, unable to see the top, let alone the needle that may lie there.
“Allow me,” my cat said.
The feline arched his back and cried out. His spine undulated, his star eyes became nebulas exploding matter like diamond dust in a swirling cloud around him.
Emerging from the star stuff some seconds later was an enormous black lion with great raven wings. He had a deep rumble in his powerful body where the energetic purr once lived. His eyes became coronas again and he spoke.
“I will fly you to the top, and we will depart this plane,” he said with thunder in his words.
I leaped to my friend’s back, between the blades of his wings. As he began to run, the muscles of his body shifted like slabs of stone beneath the black velvet fur—I never knew this is what my cat really looked like.
My winged lion bounded high, his wings catching the desert wind, and I held on with all of my might as we ascended, flying in an upward spiral to the apex of the obelisk. As we neared the top, I saw the needle stuck in the point of the pyramidal tip.
“How do we pass through?” I asked.
“I will give you passage, my friend,” the lion said.
He flew upwards and away, and then quickly turned back towards the obelisk, straightening his wings on either side. We darted towards the eye of the needle at an unreal speed.
I only remember a quickening heartbeat as we neared the infinitesimal gateway.
After regaining consciousness, I saw naked women twirling down in multitudes like propeller seeds from some celestial blue tree. I felt as though I were frozen in stormy skies for years. I finally tried to move and found my limbs were bound; I was wrapped in a chrysalis save for my head, which popped out like a periscope looking for my feline friend.
I soon realized that with the proper amount of strength I could crack the brittle shell. I tightened my fists and pushed against the inside. My arms shattered through, and for a moment, I looked like Christ, or maybe more like Rocky Balboa, depending on the angle.
A warm wind swept the luminescent leaves of the tree and caused them to stir. I took a few steps out of the fractured husk and saw that I was on one of countless many branches of this arboreal colossus. My winged feet moved carefully over the limb, which was oddly translucent, and I could see within it networks of veins flowing with preternatural blue life like neon gas in glass tubing.
I shimmied carefully towards the massive trunk. I saw the propeller seed women more closely—they too were transparent with that neon life inside of them. They sang an orgasmic song over the rustling of leaves. I saw the tree’s veins all originating from a hollow in the trunk, and made my way there.
When I stepped inside the hollow, I saw a queen. A body like ebony, which was traced with that blue life, sat tall and proud on a throne of dried amber. Her wings spread out and filled the cathedral-sized hollow—the wings of a butterfly. Her breasts, as well as her entire body, were laid bare and she motioned to me with slender black fingers that curled like the tongue of a moth.
“Taste me,” she invited.
I walked to her and she leaned her body towards me. I wrapped my arms around her waist like a lover enchanted, and sucked her breast.
After drinking her ambrosia, I became weightless, and floated out of the hollow. I stared at the overcast sky that threatened of violence, and I felt a strange evanescence replace my body down to the marrow. I surveyed my new corpus, translucent and flowing with azure fire.
My feet touched the ground soon, and I was within a forest of enormous blades of grass. There I saw a baby elephant, dressed in a sherwani. He sat on an ornate cushion and smiled from behind his wrinkled trunk. I smiled back and an aurora of lights spilled from my eyes.
“How very wonderful!” he trumpeted as he beat his pachyderm arms together.
“Thanks for turning me on to the tea, Rupesh,” I said, and had a seat on a stone.
A large cricket sat beside the elephant. The elephant extended his trunk to the cricket and stroked him on his glassy carapace. The cricket chirped and rubbed his legs together, creating the sound of a violin. We sat for some time and listened to the cricket play.
When the bittersweet glissandos of the insect quieted, I knew I had to leave. I stood and extended my hand to the elephant. He wrapped his trunk around my wrist and shook heartily, still smiling.
My lion came up to me from behind.
“There is one last plane to escort you to. From there, I cannot follow,” the lion said.
I nodded and hopped on his back.
We took to the sky again, rising high above the celestial tree. We were moving towards an obscured sun, and the closer we got, the more the dull light seemed to consume us. Before long, we were disintegrating.
I came to on a beach. The sand was as white as sugar and the waves frozen. The sky too seemed locked in time. I stepped onto the grey ocean ice and walked out for what seemed like miles. I was all alone, but compelled to drive forward. Soon, I felt my stride slowing down, and knew I was approaching something indescribable, something with unbelievable gravity. I looked below the ice and heard a low moan.
Underneath I could see the shape of a colossal whale. Its size nearly broke the limits of my understanding, but the power it radiated completely blew out the spectrum of my senses.
“God?” I asked.
I heard a moan that excited the blue life in my veins to explode. The great whale moved beneath the ice. The frozen ocean trembled, groaned, and threatened to crack. The light in my body erupted like an atom bomb flash, and I was overtaken. I felt as though I would completely lose myself in this power, that I would drown in it.
The whale turned a moon-sized eye towards me from beneath, and I could see into it clearly—I saw an echo of myself as a fetus in a womb, an umbilical cord coming from my navel. Tears burst out of my eyes and caused the sky to rain torrents of fluorescent blue fire, devouring the ice. I sank into cold shadow, into a black-blue abyss, deep, deep down.
As I descended, the moan of the whale became more and more distant. I suddenly felt robbed of something. I thrashed my limbs in the shapeless depths, trying to swim back up but the pressure of fathoms crushed me. I finally settled at the bottom, shivering and breathless.
I was on my couch again, my eyes focused on the stucco ceiling and the ancient pipes snaking across it. I sat up, my back and arms tingling with gooseflesh. An electric vibration hummed in my bones. I could not move for at least a half hour.
“Wow,” I thought, “I finally understand Captain Ahab.”
I stared at the empty teacup for a moment and then turned to see my cat, curled up and sleeping next to me.