||Oak Tree Press, Oxford, UK
In every life there lives a story, a wonderland moment that separates us from the madness of the mundane. That moment for me was about a girl I knew. She was beautiful, gentle and intelligent. She could have had the world, but instead she clung to a despearte dream that threatened every part of her freedom- and now she's dead. Psychocandy is a love story. It's about addictions- the kind that you can't live without, and the kind that will kill you. It is guaranteed not to be a comfortable read, but it will not leave you unchanged.
This is the End.
This is the end. I would like to tell you different. To tell a story with a nice boxy ending, complete with tacked on bow. It would begin right here, and you could read it to the end, and that would be that. The beginning of this story, like that first day in April, is really an end. It comes down to a moment in time when everything changes. A phonecall. A look. A sudden realisation. A moment…when you first find yourself in love, when your heart breaks, when your dreams come true or become nightmares. In the moment you have the power to change your world; hesitate, and the moment is only vapour in your hands.
One sadness is too many, a thousand not enough.
Well, not enough to destroy.
Come, Wonderland Boy. Let’s Play.
The End is beginning.
Candy took my hand and led me to the bedroom.
She was taking care of me on my acid terror trip. My brain had transformed itself into a snake, and whenever I moved, I felt a slithery countermovement as it scaled its way around my skull.
I was afraid to talk, because my thin forked tongue would protrude from my mouth. I couldn’t breathe. The air was poisonous.
I waxed blue in the face from lack of oxygen. Snake snaking around in head. Spitting instructionsssss.
Louder than the voice outside my head. Her voice. Candy shouting—
“Breathe! Breathe!” Teary eyed and pale with fright. Candy leaned back, and punched me, in the solar-plexus.
Breathless, I gasped in shock. Drink in the liquid poison air. Screw snake in head. Drown him instead.
Candy mouthed words at me, fish in her fishbowl. I reached out for the sounds, grabbed them, wrestled them into my consciousness.
“Kipa? Talk to me…. Say something. What can you see? How can I help you? You must talk to me…..”
I could not reply.
If I did, she’d see the snake tongue. Then I’d have to eat her up, swallow her whole. She must not find out that I am Snake. At all costs. If she finds out, I’d have to kill her.
Somewhere, deep in snake consciousness, a chant formed itself, coiled around me, reptiled out of me. Unnerved me.
Long, black and scaly, that’s me.
Murder, Murder, Murder.
First you, then me.
First you. Then me.
Candy jacked up a Craven A Menthol. The peppermint smell relaxed me. I slid back into the comfort of her care. Messy apartment. Oversized posters on the walls. Her green blue oceanic eyes becalmed my shaky boat. Soft wheat-gold curls like mother’s tendrils, tentacles of some giant sea octopus. Voice all liquid gentle, glycerine jellied mixed with her exhaled smoke. Like a blanket around me, soft and cotton-woolly, nicoteeny sheen, when—
The slithering in my head started again.
Murder, murder, murder
First you, then me.
The gritty gorgeous noise of it, steel wool dragged through my marrow. Whispering lies and truths and hisses.
Within me, a calm came about. A sudden awareness. A sense of knowing. Knowing how to deal with the snake in my head.
I knew how to kill it.
Instinct kicked in. All sound and sight and feelings dissolved.
All, save one. The single untamed thought that I must silence the creature in my head. Kill that which eats my brain.
Leaping up, I knocked Candy over. Shock registered on her face like a big ticket sale. She tried to stay one step ahead, but ended up following instead. Chasing me through the muddy depths of my fear.
Gun. Gun. Gun.
I haven’t said it aloud yet, have I?
Storming through the bedroom, everything in my path flew away from my centre. Searching like a cyclone through the Midwest town of my panic. The eye of my storm held the image of the word GUN. Simple and still in its centre.
Gun. Gun. Gun.
Candy screamed. Something about putting the gun down. I looked into my hand, cyclone surveying its twirling mass, the image now real, cold in my hand like a frozen lamb chop. GUN.
“Give me the gun!”
Can’t she see that if she tries to shoot the snake in my head, she might miss?
Might shoot me?
“Kipa!...Please, give me the gun!” wailing, no match for the swirling hissing cyclonic coiling reptile energy.
Only I knew the precise position of the snake. No! She could not have the gun. I put the barrel to my temple. Cold steel kiss, with open lips.
Ooh. Cold lick of the shooting stick. Cool tool….
Murder, murder, murder
First you, then me.
I pulled the trigger and -
Candy screamed, cried, almost pried the gun away from me.
C L I C K.
The firing pin hit an empty chamber. The sound reverberated so long I heard nothing else. Nothing, as the cyclone unravelled itself into the air, and was gone, the snake a vague memory. My ocean like a mirror around me, not a wave, not a ripple.
I opened my eyes. Clutching Candy, a child in her arms. Tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Shit, Kipa…You could have killed yourself.” She held me harder, almost painfully. Talked in petal tones, sounded like a daffodil.
“Please get rid of that gun. It brings such trouble. You could have killed yourself. I love you so much, I…”
I closed my eyes and drifted into sleep. I love you too, Candy. I never told you that— I wish that I had.
10 days ago you sat in suburban comfort swallowing TV dinners and talk shows, thinking about school and sport and a girl with an impossibly beautiful smile.
Now there's a gun in your hand, and enough drugs in your pocket to start a religeon. You ask yourself, "How did I get her?" But the time for questions has passed. Before the day is done you will have to kill. And you know you will do it. Nothing will ever be the same again.
Is everybody in? The trip is about to begin.
Trip down the road to doom
July 4, 2005
By Magdel du Preez
Psychocandy by Laurence H Cramer (Oaktree Publishing) R149
Most people deal with their lousy childhoods, their teenage angst and the void in their adult lives in the socially acceptable manner: they ignore it and submerge themselves in the empty consumerism of 21st century society. But there are others who deal with it in a different way: they do drugs.
There are few things as fascinating to non-junkies as junkies. There are the usual questions: why do they use drugs? How can they be so weak?
First-time novelist Laurence Cramer does not even try to answer those questions in his novel Psychocandy. "Psychocandy" is one of the streetnames for LSD. The book is a straight-up story of the destruction drugs cause, without fail, in people's lives.
And it's not pretty. But then, this is nothing new. Popular culture is loaded with images of the ugliness of drugs.
Psychocandy is set in the turbulent 80s in Johannesburg. It deals with the story of Kipa, a 16-year-old junkie.
His home life is a mess – his father is an abusive alcoholic – and he uses an assortment of drugs to escape from this domestic nightmare.
How and when he started using drugs is not really important, apparently. It is never mentioned in the story. Rather, the book is about Kipa's trip down drug lane.
In his effort to flee from the tragedy at home, he encounters even more tragedy – that's the irony of drugs, isn't it?
And along the way he meets the obligatory range of wasted characters: Nick, the petty dealer; Vink, the corrupt cop who deals in drugs to provide for his retirement; Colette, the teenage prostitute.
Then there's Candy, whom Kipa loves – maybe. It becomes a mad whirl of tripping, sex, blood and seedy Hillbrow haunts as the drugs lure the characters to their inevitable doom.
The reader is lured into this dark world with them. The story drags one along – even though the end can be no surprise.
The book's strength is its story. So although the characters remain somewhat stereotypical, it's hard to put Psychocandy down.
Wed, 16 Nov 2005
It's hard to put yourself in another's shoes, especially when their life experiences are gory and bleak enough for them condense it into a novel.
But Laurence H Cramer's 'Psychocandy' lets you into a world of drug abuse and crime with its honest, no-frills style that depicts an emotional journey of one teenage boy's fight against his inner demons within the underworld of Johannesburg's drug scene.
Kipa is a normal 16-year-old boy, faced with the normal adolescent issues like girls and difficult parents. He's a grade-A student at a posh high school in Johannesburg who struggles to fit into a world he doesn't understand. His story starts when he's looking to score in downtown Johannesburg, and he runs into Nick, a small-time drug dealer, who takes him back to his seedy apartment where he meets his girlfriend Candy.
It's love at first sight for Kipa. And as his infatuation with Candy deepens, so his addiction progresses from soft drugs like marijuana to acid. Eventually he is almost forced by his situation into becoming a small-time dealer, selling to his classmates to get his next fix.
It's not an altogether unfamiliar story, but the engaging way in which the book is written (complete with Jo'burg slang) and its spiralling plot mean that Cramer has produced a real page-turner.
Like a thief that creeps up on him, Kipa gets to a point where he's fighting for his survival and for the love of a girl that he can never truly have.
The relationship between him and Candy forms the core of the book, and eventually the two of them become intertwined in a vicious cycle of deceit and jealousy. This destructive relationship is set up as a parallel to Kipa's drug addiction, hence the title 'Psychocandy' (which is also the street name for LSD).
'Psychocandy' is not a self-help book for reformed druggies. It also steers clear of preaching about the consequences of drug addiction. And yet it's far from gung-ho (unlike many "drug" novels around), which makes it an accessible read.
Rather, Cramer focuses on the story of one boy and his downward spiral into obscurity, as he's forced to deal with growing up and eventually taking on other people's burdens as they also plunge into the world of drug addiction.
'Psychocandy' provides some very raw insight into a drug addict's mind — and you'll often find yourself having to pause and take a breather.
This is a poignant story that delves into the human psyche, the nature of addiction and what happens to relationships when trust fades away — you'll love it and hate it at the same time. But you won't be able to put it down.
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