Somehow, the Pranksters had managed to half-frog-march, half-bundle, Milo out of the Longshoreman's Hall, and lay him, more or less gently , on a patchy lawn near the parking lot. Out here, it was clear and cold enough to see everyone's breath. Nobody noticed that, though, because a distracting, snakelike coil of pulsing, multi-colored light had followed them outside, its shimmering loops settling round them as they knelt in a broken semi-circle around Milo.

"Wow. Nice colors man."

"I know, man... they are so far out there tonight."

Milo gripped his thermos, tears streaming.

"It's all so beautiful!" he sobbed. He was peaking hard.

Callie and Furlonger sat crosslegged close by, watching.  Although, for incorporeal beings, they were having a tough time feigning comfort. Furlonger's expression had a cranky hint of someone whose arthritic knees might be killing him.

"What's so beautiful, honey?" a familiar female voice murmered.  Familiar hands stroked his back.

"The Moon. My dad lives there now. He died, you know," Milo gasped through wrenching sobs. He clutched the thermos tight to his chest, and the pulsing coil of color writhing slowly around them intensified.

Furlonger rocked, groaned, and stifled an amused snicker. Callie, leering so hard she seemed like a caricature of herself, barely moved to elbow him sharply in the ribs. He stopped shifting and readjusted his expression to one of patient, pained annoyance.

Strange random flute-like trills began to drift  in from the surrounding semidark, brushing softly against each other, striking harmonics, and swathing the Pranksters like a blanket. Milo relaxed his grip on the flask, and they ebbed to nearly-inaudible tinkles.

But this night the Moon was new, nowhere to be seen. The sky was inky, almost barren, in this street-lit city vantage. Milo's moon was a mercury vapour street light, reflecting aggressively off one of a pair of round wire-rimmed lenses. From behind them, Jerry Garcia,  surrounded by the Grateful Dead and a gaggle of others, watched Milo with close intensity.

"Bear, what do you make of this?"

Owsley regarded the wretched tableau from a spreading knot of silence. Only Cassady could still be heard gently chick-a-dooing near the back of the group. After a couple of long minutes, Owsley drew a sharp breath and nodded to himself.

"He's chronosynclastically infundibulated. Never seen a worse fucking freakout," he pronounced.  "I feel kind of responsible. Purest, strongest batch I've ever cooked - ever - but the gas chromatograph had a couple of weird little anomalies. We need to get get him out of here.  Take him back with us to La Honda. Keep wise eyes on him for a few hours, make sure he doesn't hurt himself,  and bring him down easy."

Owsley was a stone genius. Certified. In all senses of the words.  He didn't talk much, but when he did string together complete phrases, they almost always included stuff that nobody really understood. They'd learned to work around the incomprehensible parts by the strategy of fixing on whatever simple action verbs were in between.

If anybody had an inkling how Milo and chronosynclastic infundibulation had somehow stumbled against each other inside the eccentric workings of Owsley's formidable brain, they didn't speak up. A shaggy would-be writer named Kurt, on the shadowed fringes of the group near Casady, didn't understand it any better than anybody else. But he liked the sound of it, and jotted it down for later use in something.  He wasn't sure what, yet. He was just passing through.

The rest of  the group, as was their custom, fixed upon the useful simplicity of the words that had followed.

Garcia nodded and motioned to Kesey.  They stepped forward and hunched, each sliding a practiced shoulder under one of Milo's arm pits to lift him from the grass.  Milo, uncomprehendingly paranoid, clutched his  thermos hard. The rest of him went limp as jello in  passive resistance.  As the pair struggled to re-balance against his flop, strobing coils of light increased in intensity and the strange music rose again.

Then from nowhere Rory came, murmuring soothingly. "Milo.  Remember me from the book store? With Lawrence? City Lights? It's Rory... remember? You're with friends now. Everything is okay... we're taking you somewhere safe."

Her soft voice did magic. Milo's tensed face relaxed. He found his body, began to rebalance and help push himself up. As he did, Furlonger rose and offered a careful, brittle hand to Callie. Ken and Jerry supported Milo between them, Kesey scowling.

"Hey," somebody in the surrounding gaggle muttered sotto voce "Over there.  Anybody else see a blue chick with a half-dozen arms, and some weedy old geezer in a kraut motorcycle helmet 'n'  lab coat?  Or is that the drugs?"

Somewhere in the indeterminate dark, an indignant whisper hissed "Gott in Himmel!" Then, unnoticed, the music surrounding the group briefly trilled a cadence like tinkling laughter, and faded.