FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS -- A SAVAGE JOURNEY TO THE HEART OF THE AMERICAN DREAM
by Hunter S. Thompson, © 1971 by Hunter S. Thompson
Chapter 5: A Terrible Experience with Extremely Dangerous Drugs
There was no way to cope with it. I stood up and gathered my luggage. It was important, I felt, to get out of town immediately.
My attorney seemed to finally grasp this. "Wait!" he shouted. "You can't leave me alone in this snake pit! This room is in my name."
"OK, goddamnit," he said, moving toward the phone. "Look, I'll call her. I'll get her off our backs." He nodded. "You're right. She's my problem."
I shook my head. "No, it's gone too far."
"You'd make a piss-poor lawyer," he replied. "Relax. I'll handle this."
He dialed the Americana and asked for 1600. "Hi, Lucy," he said. "Yeah, it's me. I got your message ... what? Hell no, I taught the bastard a lesson he'll never forget ... what? ... No, not dead, but he won't be bothering anybody for a while ... yeah, I left him out there; I stomped him, then pulled all his teeth out ..."
Jesus, I thought. What a terrible thing to lay on somebody with a head full of acid.
"But here's the problem," he was saying. "I have to leave here right away. That bastard cashed a bad check downstairs and gave you as a reference, so they'll be looking for both of you ... yeah, I know, but you can't judge a book by its cover, Lucy; some people are just basically rotten ... anyway, the last thing in the world you want to do is call this hotel again; they'll trace the call and put you straight behind bars ... no, I'm moving to the Tropicana right away; I'll call you from there when I know my room number ... yeah, probably two hours; I have to act casual, or they'll capture me too ... I think I'll probably use a different name, but I'll let you know what it is ... sure, just as soon as I check in ... what? ... of course; we'll go to the Circus-Circus and catch the polar bear act; it'll freak you right out ..."
He was nervously shifting the phone from ear to ear while he talked: "No ... listen, I have to get off; they probably have the phone tapped ... yeah, I know, it was horrible, but it's all over now ... O MY GOD! THEY'RE KICKING THE DOOR DOWN!" He hurled the phone down and began shouting: "No! Get away from me! I'm innocent! It was Duke! I swear to God!" He kicked the phone against the wall, then leaned down to it and began yelling again: "No, I don't know where she is! I think she went back to Montana. You'll never catch Lucy! She's gone!" He kicked the receiver again, then picked it up and held it about a foot away from his mouth as he uttered a long, quavering groan. "No! No! Don't put that thing on me!" he screamed. Then he slammed the phone down.
"Well," he said quietly. "That's that. She's probably stuffing herself down the incinerator about now." He smiled. "Yeah, I think that's the last we'll be hearing from Lucy."
I slumped on the bed. His performance had given me a bad jolt. For a moment I thought his mind had snapped -- that he actually believed he was being attacked by invisible enemies.
But the room was quiet again. He was back in his chair, watching Mission Impossible and fumbling idly with the hash pipe. It was empty. "Where's that opium?" he asked.
I tossed him the kit-bag. "Be careful," I muttered. "There's not much left."
He chuckled. "As your attorney," he said, "I advise you not worry." He nodded toward the bathroom. "Take a hit out of that little brown bottle in my shaving kit."
"What is it?"
"Adrenochrome," he said. "You won't need much. Just a little tiny taste."
I got the bottle and dipped the head of a paper match into it.
"That's about right," he said. "That stuff makes pure mescaline seem like ginger beer. You'll go completely crazy if you take too much."
I licked the end of the match. "Where'd you get this?" I asked. "You can't buy it."
"Never mind," he said. "It's absolutely pure."
I shook my head sadly. "Jesus! What kind of monster client have you picked up this time? There's only one source for this stuff ..."
"The adrenaline glands from a living human body," I said. "It's no good if you get it out of a corpse."
"I know," he replied. "But the guy didn't have any cash. He's one of these Satanism freaks. He offered me human blood -- said it would make me higher than I'd ever been in my life," he laughed. "I thought he was kidding, so I told him I'd just as soon have an ounce or so of pure adrenochrome -- or maybe just a fresh adrenalin gland to chew on."
I could already feel the stuff working on me. The first wave felt like a combination of mescaline and methedrine. Maybe I should take a swim, I thought.
"Yeah," my attorney was saying. "They nailed this guy for child molesting, but he swears he didn't do it. 'Why should I fuck with children?' he says; 'They're too small!'" He shrugged. "Christ, what could I say? Even a goddamn werewolf is entitled to legal counsel ... I didn't dare turn the creep down. He might have picked up a letter opener and gone after my pineal gland."
"Why not?" I said. "He could probably get Melvin Belli for that." I nodded, barely able to talk now. My body felt like I'd just been wired into a 220 volt socket. "Shit, we should get us some of that stuff." I muttered finally. "Just eat a big handful and see what happens."
"Some of what?"
"Extract of pineal."
He stared at me. "Sure," he said. "That's a good idea. One whiff of that shit would turn you into something out of a goddamn medical encyclopedia! Man, your head would swell up like a watermelon, you'd probably gain about a hundred pounds in two hours ... claws, bleeding warts, then you'd notice about six huge hairy tits swelling up on your back ..." He shook his head emphatically. "Man, I'll try just about anything; but I'd never in hell touch a pineal gland.
"Last Christmas somebody gave me a whole Jimson weed -- the root must have weighed two pounds; enough for a year -- but I ate the whole goddamn thing in about twenty minutes!"
I was leaning toward him, following his words intently. The slightest hesitation made me want to grab him by the throat and force him to talk faster. "Right!" I said eagerly. "Jimson weed! What happened?"
"Luckily, I vomited most of it right back up," he said. "But even so, I went blind for three days. Christ I couldn't even walk! My whole body turned to wax. I was such a mess that they had to haul me back to the ranch house in a wheelbarrow ... they said I was trying to talk, but I sounded like a raccoon."
"Fantastic," I said. But I could barely hear him. I was so wired that my hands were clawing uncontrollably at the bedspread, jerking it right out from under me while he talked. My heels were dug into the mattress, with both knees locked ... I could feel my eyeballs swelling, about to pop out of the sockets.
"Finish the fucking story!" I snarled. "What happened? What about the glands?"
He backed away, keeping an eye on me as he edged across the room. "Maybe you need another drink," he said nervously. "Jesus, that stuff got right on top of you, didn't it?"
I tried to smile. "Well ... nothing worse ... no, this is worse ..." It was hard to move my jaws; my tongue felt like burning magnesium. "No ... nothing to worry about," I hissed. "Maybe if you could just ... shove me into the pool, or something ... "
"Goddamnit," he said. "You took too much. You're about to explode. Jesus, look at your face!"
I couldn't move. Total paralysis now. Every muscle in my body was contracted. I couldn't even move my eyeballs, much less turn my head or talk.
"It won't last long," he said. "The first rush is the worst. Just ride the bastard out. If I put you in the pool right now, you'd sink like a goddamn stone."
Death. I was sure of it. Not even my lungs seemed to be functioning. I needed artificial respiration, but I couldn't open my mouth to say so. I was going to die. Just sitting there on the bed, unable to move ... well at least there's no pain. Probably, I'll black out in a few seconds, and after that it won't matter.
My attorney had gone back to watching television. The news was on again. Nixon's face filled the screen, but his speech was hopelessly garbled. The only word I could make out was "sacrifice." Over and over again: "Sacrifice ... sacrifice ... sacrifice ...."
I could hear myself breathing heavily. My attorney seemed to notice. "Just stay relaxed," he said over his shoulder, without looking at me. "Don't try to fight it, or you'll start getting brain bubbles ... strokes, aneurisms ... you'll just wither up and die." His hand snaked out to change channels.
It was after midnight when I finally was able to talk and move around ... but I was still not free of the drug; the voltage had merely been cranked down from 220 to 110. I was a babbling nervous wreck, flapping around the room like a wild animal, pouring sweat and unable to concentrate on any one thought for more than two or three seconds at a time.
My attorney put down the phone after making several calls. "There's only one place where we can get fresh salmon," he said, "and it's closed on Sunday."
"Of course," I snapped. "These goddamn Jesus freaks! They're multiplying like rats!"
He eyed me curiously.
"What about the Process?" I said. "Don't they have a place here? Maybe a delicatessen or something? With a few tables in back? They have a fantastic menu in London. I ate there once; incredible food ..."
"Get a grip on yourself," he said. "You don't want to even mention the Process in this town."
"You're right," I said. "Call Inspector Bloor. He knows about food. I think he has a list."
"Better to call room service," he said. "We can get the crab looey and a quart of Christian Brothers muscatel for about twenty bucks."
"No!" I said. "We must get out of this place. I need air. Let's drive up to Reno and get a big tuna fish salad ... hell, it won't take long. Only about four hundred miles; no traffic out there on the desert ..."
"Forget it," he said. "That's Army territory. Bomb tests, nerve gas -- we'd never make it."
We wound up at a place called The Big Flip about halfway downtown. I had a "New York steak" for $1.88. My attorney ordered the "Coyote Bush Basket" for $2.09 ... and after that we drank off a pot of watery "Golden West" coffee and watched four boozed-up cowboy types kick a faggot half to death between the pinball machines.
"The action never stops in this town," said my attorney as we shuffled out to the car. "A man with the right contacts could probably pick up all the fresh adrenochrome he wanted, if he hung around here for a while."
I agreed, but I wasn't quite up to it, right then. I hadn't slept for something like eighty hours, and that fearful ordeal with the drug had left me completely exhausted ... tomorrow we would have to get serious. The drug conference was scheduled to kick off at noon ... and we were still not sure how to handle it. So we drove back to the hotel and watched a British horror film on the late show.