November 5, 2023

I took the cup of White Rhino Tea from its saucer and peered inside. A tiny storm raged within, with little claps of thunder and lightning, and miniature ships tossed around in maelstroms on a sloshing tea-coloured sea. I raised the rim of the cup to my lips, and as I drank I was suddenly aware of what seemed like ten thousand colours swirling around me. They straightened into tall rows that shot up into the sky, past the Stripey Clouds and disappearing beyond where I could see them. My desire to know where they ended was so strong, it caused me to float upward slowly in search of their tops. The cup dropped from my hand and drifted down to the shimmering ground below. I saw that it wasn’t a typical white teacup, but was shaped like a red mushroom with pulsing white spots on its cap and a spinning handle where my finger had been. It landed and took root, instantly bulging to a hundred times its previous size. I raised and pointed my arms to form a diving stance and dove back down, aiming for the huge mushroom headfirst. My hands made contact and I bounced away again with a resounding ‘Sploosh!’ I shot up much higher than before, slowing to a point where the ground below me was hard to see, but the tops of the colourful spires were still out of sight. Again I straightened my body and took a dive for the mushroom. When my hands made contact with its springy cap, I used the momentum of my weight to bounce back up so high that I knew I wasn’t ever going down again. ‘The Floor’s Too Far Away now’, I thought… whatever awaited me at the top of the colour towers was going to be my new world. And so I went Tumbling Through the Floativerse.

My surroundings took on a Deep Blue Shade, like I was traveling through the center of an enormous sapphire. My trip went on for what felt like hours, and in the speeding zoom upward I saw that in my hands were large chunks of the red and white mushroom cap which quickly melted into a thick liquid, like globs of paint. The liquid was being flung from my skin in long trails by the force of the upward trajectory, but my new glob hands stayed the same size and shape, as though no matter how much was lost, it was instantly replenished. I glanced up. The tops of the colour towers were in sight! I allowed myself to slow in anticipation of my journey’s end. As I reached the top, I scanned for a safe place to land, but the tops of the colour towers didn’t seem very hospitable. They looked like cement; ugly and grey and cracked, nothing at all like the vibrant colours they were emitting beneath them. I chose a spot and as I neared, both of my glob hands began to jerk back and forth sharply, leaving long spatters of red and white on the tops of the spires. Within seconds, the spatters bloomed into thousands of small mushrooms, each of them cropping up quicker than the last. As I came to rest in the spongy safety of this new mushroom forest, I lay for a moment in wondrous comfort, and it was then that I noticed a sign that read ‘Welcome to Erpland’.

Soothing chimes and chirping birdsong accompanied me as I stood up and began to walk through this new place. The mushrooms became sporadic and upon reaching the forest exit, I crossed over into a bright kaleidoscopic world. The air was dewy and sweetly scented, and the pink ground before me seemed to create itself as though made just in time for each of my footsteps. Eventually it came to a point, with other points forming to my left and right, and I recognized a pattern: I was on a giant Lotus Unfolding onto a vast pond of water flowers. Each of them was perfectly reflected in the calm, glassy water, and as I reached the pointy edge of the pink petal, I couldn’t resist leaping off, somehow knowing that nothing could hurt me here.

Endless ripples danced in all directions as I crashed into the water, which was slightly too deep to stand in. I swam for a time before noticing that my glob hands were back to normal, but now emitted a faint crackle of electricity between my fingertips. I pointed them in front of me and with my next step felt that I was standing on something solid. ‘What Strangeitude is this?’ I wondered as I zapped in front of me again and stood even higher, this time with my head above water. As I stepped higher and higher on my way to the shore, I saw that I had been creating small orbs to stand on which acted as a kind of ladder leading out of the water.

As I climbed onto dry land and away from the pink-dotted water world behind me, I saw a curious creature dart behind an unusual white tree. I rested on a nearby stone, keeping my eyes on the tree. After a pause, the creature’s oddly slender fingers appeared and grasped the tree’s trunk, as it tentatively considered making itself known. ‘Hello?’ I dared. The creature thrust its neck out and cocked its head, its huge pointy ears on alert for any unfamiliar sounds. It had two little glowing suns for eyes, and a face unlike any I had ever seen. What was this thing? It was kind of cute in a homely sort of way. ‘Hello’, I offered again. ‘What’s your name?’

‘I’m Crumplepenny. Are you here to find the musicians?’
‘What musicians?’ I asked, though I knew the answer already.
‘The ones whose music accompanies your journeys through the Six Worlds, especially to places like this one!’
‘Yes… and where is this, exactly?’ I cautiously asked, expecting the answer to be Erpland.
‘This is the Yumyum tree. This is where I live. But if you want to find the musicians, you will have to make a trip to the Waterfall City.’
‘Are they not in Erpland too? Or do I have to leave to find them?’
‘This is all Erpland, no matter where you go.’
‘Right.’ I pretended to understand.
‘I’ll show you how to get there easily.’ said Crumplepenny. ‘Drink this and stand still.’

He handed me a flask. ‘What is it?’ I asked, puzzledly. ‘Smiling Potion.’ Crumplepenny replied matter-of-factly. I shrugged, removed the rubber stopper, and drank deeply. The liquid was crystal clear but syrupy, and tasted like some sort of old-fashioned medicine. ‘That sure didn’t taste like White Rhino Tea.’ I thought.

I stood and watched as this little creature began to recite strange words, hopping from foot to foot and opening his mouth wide as he made a series of odd noises. Thick plumes of sparkling emerald-tinged smoke began roiling beneath my feet and a rich herbal scent pervaded the air. Slowly I felt myself being lifted off the ground, leaves and needles spiraling around me. I had been given the Gift of Wings, and as I rose, the Yumyum tree now seemed dwarfed by a dense patch of tall green trees I hadn’t noticed before. Some of them began sprouting new trees on top of old, again and again until they formed a long, winding path of Climbing Plants through the sky that I knew must eventually lead to the Waterfall City. As I drifted further and further, I could no longer see Crumplepenny or hear the sounds of his Green Incantation, and the pink pond had disappeared from sight too. I turned to look at the path before me, these bizarre tree formations slashing the sky like Spirals in Hyperspace.

I shot out like an arrow, holding my arms at my sides and zipping through these Sliding Gliding Worlds too quickly to make much sense of what was whizzing by me: the Trees of Eternity, the Valley of a Thousand Thoughts, the Burundi Spaceport. It was all so mesmerizing and beautiful, a blur of colours and shapes and music… psychedelic guitar, and bubbling synthesizers… and hypnotic bass lines… paradise…

Splat!

I landed unceremoniously, and for a moment I was dazed but I came around quickly when I heard the distant sound of musicians jamming. Where was that coming from? I stood up and brushed myself off, and took stock of my new surroundings. The sky was a kind of wispy purple, and in the distance was a huge foamy waterfall. To my right there was a pathway up to the Magick Valley with a cluster of gold-tinged houses. If this was still Erpland, it sure looked different to where I was earlier. Common sense told me the musicians I was looking for would be in one of those houses. So I headed for the waterfall instead.

It was soon clear that this was no normal waterfall. For one thing, it didn’t make the usual roaring sound of tonnes of water rushing downward. It sounded more like those bubbling synthesizers I heard on my journey! The music seemed to be getting closer… I was going in the right direction. The white water at the bottom of the falls was continuously exploding into thousands of glittering gems of all colours, and through the mist I could swear I saw musical notes. I found a path down and began to steadily descend. Oddly, the music was now fading the closer I got.

Once at the bottom, I climbed over the piles of gleaming gems and found an alcove behind the rushing water. Or was it water? Upon closer inspection, I saw that the waterfall was in fact made up of billions of musical notes, which from a distance could be heard as their endless combinations created endless music. But this close, all was silent. I was enthralled by it but disappointed at the same time. I had hoped to meet the musicians I had been looking for, and now I was going to have to go back up into the Magick Valley and go house to house, knocking on doors. I slumped down on a rock, feeling suddenly tired and wishing there was more Smiling Potion.

Just then I saw a shadow of something moving on the other side of the falls.

‘Crumplepenny?’ I called out.

Fingers grasped the alcove entrance and a head soon appeared. ‘Nope. Ed.’ said the human, as my eyes adjusted.

‘Oh. Hi… Ed.’ His name seemed so ordinary for a place like Erpland. ‘Do you know where I can find the musicians I’m looking for?’ Ed walked further in. He had long hair and was wearing a Gong t-shirt. He carefully set down the guitar he had been holding. ‘Which musicians are those?’

‘The ones who make the trippy, psychedelic electronic techno rock stuff that I love listening to on these journeys I take.’ Ed’s smile was visible as he stepped into a shaft of light. ‘I think I just might be able to help you.’ He reached into his Dusty Pouch and pulled something out. ‘But first… Puff Puff on a Chuff Chuff?’ I knowingly smiled back and reached my hand out…

Suddenly everything vanished. Ed, the waterfall, the purple sky, Erpland, Crumplepenny, the mushroom forest… reality came crashing in, and I was back in my drab, messy house, lying on my bed and staring at the ceiling. My new Ozric Tentacles CD Lotus Unfolding – one of the best they’ve ever made – had ended and the stereo had gone silent.

So I pressed ‘Play’, and went searching for that Storm in a Teacup all over again…