I begin this tale in a nondescript house in Downtown Binghamton. Don’t ask which house and where. Besides changing a few details due to the nature of the story, I will admit to myself that a larger part of how I came to be in this apartment was itself a fragmented chronology that has been lost on me. I won’t tell you about the copious drinks and blunts that led us to this situation. What I will tell you is that we were intoxicated and someone was saying that it was time to go or else we would miss the last bus of the night back to campus. At that point, a member of our motley crew of last-minute Halloween outfits was missing. As proper stoners, we allowed the poor lad to green out his fill in peace in the kitchen. But of course, our credo demanded that no man be left behind, so we collected our wayward friend dressed as a mad scientist and set out on our journey to State street to catch the bus.

I don’t remember too well what happened at the time after we made our decision to leave, but the next moment we were on the street. Apollo and I were dragging Mad Scientist between us, and despite being a slight lad and sort of out of sorts, Mad Scientist kept up well with us. Ahead were our natural leaders, the ferrymen of the night, Clown and Dracula. They kept a well and proper pace despite having imbibed as much as — if not more than — the rest of us. God bless those cockroaches of society, those street dwellers and nightcrawlers. They know this world more than I could. Apollo, Mad Scientist and I lagged behind a great distance, even as I tried my best to keep up. I hurried the group along, better to face death than to be separated from the herd. Especially in the face of what awaited us. “Come on, come on,” said Dracula, “we gotta hurry, we gotta hustle to make the bus.”

While being nearsighted, my state had led me to see the distant lights of the city as exploding stars bisecting into straight, stary lines. There were long lines of light of all kinds intermingling and crossing each other, superimposed by shadows all across the distance. A true glory to look at of a city exploding in the dark of Halloween night. And toward us streamed its refugees. Oh, Christ, the refugees. It began as we crossed the bridge into downtown proper. Hoards of sorority girls passed us in the night. Their sexy little costumes and makeup made them denizens of the nightlife, the succubi that hailed from hell. I felt a shiver chill down my spine seeing the myriads of dejected sexy nurses, angels, devils and nuns hold their bare arms close to themselves as they braved the beginnings of Binghamton’s winter. I tried not to stare too much at the Devil as he approached us. I held my breath hoping he would pay no heed to us and kept talking with his friends, Baseball Player and Pirate. But god just seeing his face in the corner of my eye kept my breath still in my lungs, his red and black face melting together under the harsh lamplight. That is when I said it, among the crowds of downtown refugees making their flight into the night, our fearless leaders well-ahead of us marching into whatever they were fleeing — “This is Hell.”

“Come on, we gotta hurry, we’re almost there, but we gotta hurry,” said Dracula, and we pushed on, red and blue lights and sounds that can only be described as chthonic chaos awaited us in the distance. I immediately knew that was where we were going. The outpouring of infernal inhabitants swelled greater and greater as we entered the heart of the beast, State Street. Every strain of costume had gathered at the gates seeking refuge from the night that they were a part of. Some sought sanctuary on the further outskirts in or around the Holy Maryams. Wonder Women and witches and Marios and Luigis were trapped within this state of engrace and thronged at the bus stop, their salvation, guarded by wooden dividers and civilized officers. Our group took shelter at the thick corner lamppost. Dracula went off into the thrall. They were our best scout.

I couldn’t help but stand at the lamp post’s base and hold onto the post as I took in the scene. I needed to — I suppose — while I was experiencing it, take in the hellish display. I couldn’t help but marvel at the contrast. The upstanding and civil officers of the law, standing tall and erect against the wreathing masses of costumed college students in various states of disarray. There was shouting and yelling, and the general mass was seething as something plagued the atmosphere.

Dracula returned. “Okay we can make it on the bus, we just have to fight for it, so get ready,” he said. I looked to him, I looked to Mad Scientist supported by Apollo, I looked to the police, bullhorn in hand getting drowned out by the crowd, and I looked to the crowd itself.

“I think it’s time we call an Uber,” I said.