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The Strange Tale Of Timothy Leary's Head

from the renegade files of Scotto

Editorial from Trip - the Journal of Psychedelic Culture #9 (winter 2003) – written 11/14/2002

It was 4 A.M. on a Sunday when I received the call on the hotline: Timothy Leary's head had escaped again.

Now I know this will raise many questions in your mind, so let me assure you: there is an easy explanation for why I was awake so early on a Sunday. The night before had been Trip's semi-annual "Praise Us, Your Lords and Masters!" staff party where James Kent and I allow our small army of fawning sycophants out of their shackles and into state of the art explosive collars, so that they may dance about the local Holiday Inn convention hall in celebration of the fact that we allow them to open Trip's insanely voluminous mail, copy edit Trip's astonishingly important pages, and occasionally watch an episode of Buffy. After the party, James and I had returned to our cavernous headquarters for a late night cocktail of datura-infused absinthe and several hundred pills we'd nicked from the purse of a blind woman on the bus.

I was, in fact, just getting a really good buzz on – or else, I had caught some kind of deadly tropical disease, I can't really be sure – when the hotline rang. It was my turn to answer the hotline; James got it last time and wound up having to spend three weeks in eastern Europe, settling a bloody squabble that had briefly – and terribly – interrupted the flow of black market drain cleaner into the country (remember, kids, intraocular injections are for professionals only!). I sighed heavily and picked up the phone as an army of small ants began swarming all over my skin, spelling out verses from the Book of Revelation, although with a lot more typos than I considered acceptable. I immediately recognized the voice of John Ashcroft, Attorney General of the United States, on the other end of the hotline. Strangely, he sounded considerably less drunk and panicked than usual. He must have taken my advice about the epidermal LSD patches, I decided.

"Scotto, we've got a problem," Ashcroft gurgled.

Oh Christ, I thought, he's stalking the Solid Gold Dancers again.

"It's not the Dancers – though how they continually manage to elude me defies my understanding," he went on. "No, it's a lot more serious. Leary's head has escaped again, and no one can find it. We've got our best people on this one, and all the leads are coming up dry. So Winky-poo—" President Bush prefers his staff refer to him as Winky-poo. "—suggested we call you guys to see if there's anything you can do."

Well, that was irritating news. It had been extremely difficult capturing Leary's head the last time it escaped, requiring the use of several Special Forces units, specially modified aerosolized DMT weaponry, and a sophisticated trap involving a bevy of nekkid hippie chicks and the world's largest cheesecake. It would be much harder to catch him now that it knew our tricks – and besides, I'd just finished eating that fucking cheesecake.

I looked over at James, who was slowly dissolving into a multi-colored oil slick on the floor. He was certainly going to be of no use.

"I'll see what I can do," I said, "but my usual fee structure applies."

I could hear Ashcroft wetting his pants with joy. "As we expected: another hundred thousand vats of [deleted for security reasons] delivered to your lunar hideaway, Winky-poo will do another centerfold in your magazine, and we'll have Ari Fleischer beaten soundly about the head and shoulders again with those fruit cakes we got from the Prime Minister of Canada."

"See that you do," I replied.

I hung up the hotline, watched three lizard people slither out of the walls and ask me if I had accepted the Great Iguana as my personal savior, took another drink of the datura-infused absinthe, immediately regretted it, and then headed upstairs to the command center to ponder my options. My chum Crank Boy was on watch that night, where "on watch" means "scrawling a mad entheofascist manifesto while using Trip's satellite net connection to download 300,000 hours of tentacle porn and pretending to be a 12-year-old girl in an AOL chat room in order to line up another lifetime supply of cough syrup for the staff."

"Oh, hey, Scotto," Crank Boy said nervously as he attempted to hide his notebook. I could only make out the sentence "Principle #4: Morning glory enemas are a privilege, not a right!" before the notebook slid out of view.

"Anything unusual going on tonight?" I asked.

Crank Boy shrugged. "Nope, it's been quiet. Completely quiet. Almost… too quiet."

Suddenly a loud klaxon sounded, and a big red light began flashing on the control panel. Crank Boy scrambled to investigate. The fear in his voice was unmistakable: "Good God, it's the Timothy Leary's head alarm! Leary's head is on the roof!"

I should have known. After all, I was the one who had masterminded the capture of Leary's head the last time. Naturally it would want revenge. I prayed the cast of Dawson's Creek would stop doing obscene things to each other inside my shirt pocket long enough for me to concentrate on capturing Leary's head once more… but somehow, knowing them, I didn't think that was likely.

"Wait here," I said to Crank Boy, who was already cowering behind the control panel like a school girl at a Young Republican convention. Then, slowly I ascended the elevator to the roof. A pleasant version of Paul McCartney's "My Love" was playing in the elevator, prompting me to vomit all over the walls several times.

The doors opened, and I found myself face to face once again with the horrible specter of Timothy Leary's head. After his "death" in 1996, Leary's body had been spirited away by freedom-loving entities from a parallel dimension, but his head had been subjected to a massive array of insidious CIA experiments. His head was now the picture of vicious psychedelic insanity as it floated in front of me, suspended by little rockets where its neck should have been.

"So, Mister O. Moore," Leary's head growled, "we meet again at last." A big, unseemly Irish grin spread across its face from cheek to cheek. "I suppose you're wondering how I managed to escape from the CIA's top secret, ultra-high security bunker deep beneath the Everglades!"

I shook my head and said, "Not really."

"Oh," Leary's head replied, taken aback. "Well, then—I suppose you're wondering about my diabolical plan for seeking my revenge and wreaking maniacal psychedelic havoc on the world!"

"Actually, no," I replied, "I wasn't."

Leary's head became downright cross. If there was one thing the CIA hadn't reprogrammed out of Leary's head, it was its insatiable need for attention.

"No, really, I think the only thing I'm wondering about," I said slowly, taking my time, letting the words form casually yet precisely as I stared into those vacuous yet strangely compelling eyes, "and it's kind of an academic question, really, but I figured you of all people's heads would know… is just exactly how many hits of acid can a person take without going completely crazy?"

His expression changed to a thoughtful kind of pride, a long buried part of his severed head thoroughly pleased to suddenly, after all these years, be asked a question about his life's work again. Only a moment or two passed before his reply.

"Just one," Leary's head said.

"That's what I thought," I replied ruefully.

Moments later, the floating head of Timothy Leary was swept up in a military style butterfly net at the end of a long steel handle – wielded by none other than James Kent, freshly sobered up and wearing one of his stylish "action" Cardigan sweaters. Leary's head barely protested; it knew when it had been beaten.

"Good work," James said. "I'll call Ashcroft back. Why don't you go whip up some of those mimosahuasca slurpies you were talking about earlier?"

I nodded. Leary's head viewed me mournfully as James took it inside. I stared into the night sky and wondered if maybe I should take out that single tab of blotter acid I'd had under my tongue continuously since 1992, and finally decided against it.



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