It was in a sweaty college room featuring a sink full of dishes, sticky floors, and empty beer cans everywhere. I was with my friends, Jerry and Bobby — two guys who wore goofy smiles that never really left their faces. We had spent most of the night at a Colorado Springs bowling alley drinking Hamms and PBR, lamenting over the fact that our four amazing years in college were rapidly coming to a close.

We wanted to find some way to create lasting memories despite the tranquility of a lowkey Sunday night.

With adventure on our minds, we decided to embark on the quest to save Middle Earth by watching the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy under the mental spell of high quality lysergic acid diethylamide … LSD.

I was initially reluctant given the magnitude of the task, but Bobby, sporting a friendly little handlebar moustache, reiterated a phrase that I often used: “When you look back on your time here, it’s not the things that you did do that are going to stick with you, it’s the things that you didn’t do.”

I laughed and agreed. Around midnight, the three of us slapped tabs of acid on our tongues and braced for the wild ride ahead.

Our own adventure started with the Hobbits, dancing with Sam and Rosie Perkins in the jaunty joyous little pubs of the shire. We laughed more than full grown adults typically do as Gandalf surprised the Hobbit children by shooting off fireworks from the back of his carriage. As Bilbo was planning for his “Long Expected Party,” an inescapable power was building in our own minds and stomachs.

My hands began to shake as I finally realized what we were getting into.

In hindsight, it was crazy how quickly our own trips started to mold with the trip of the film. If you’ve experienced LSD before, you’ve probably had an experience where anxiety creeps in during the come-up.

Well, the hobbits being chased by Ring Wraiths certainly escalated this paranoia. Nausea began setting in as Frodo hid underneath a log and the black hands of the Nazgul were inches from his face. Sam threw the bag of mushrooms [the non-hallucinogenic variety, or were they] and the hobbits fled.

As they ran, we ran through our minds, racing, saying nothing to each other in the physical world. The television’s picture began to become hazy, and the hobbits left tracing images behind them. Our hearts pulsed and pounded until finally they came to the Elvish city of Rivendell.

When Aragorn and the Hobbits arrived in Rivendell, they earned their first chance to relax and we did the same. The anxiety of the come-up was over. We were officially tripping and finally laughing and talking as we watched the beautiful mountain city of the Elves start to breathe. “Imagine if we lived there,” said Jerry, with an expression of childish wonder on his face. At this point, Aragorn and Arwen were sharing their first romantic encounter. Aragorn gave her the Evenstar necklace, and her Elvish beauty glowed through her sparkling white dress.

This is where I began diving deep into my own head.

I grew up a huge Lord of the Rings fan, re-watching the movies hundreds of times, playing the video games and with action figures and toys. I started to wonder what subconscious effect the films may have had on my mind and my life. I think Aragorn was one of my strongest role models. It sounds ridiculous, but I wanted to see myself as the hero that he was, and on this night I wondered if my confidence in life had been partially fostered by the future king of Gondor.

In this same stream of thought, I realized that my first crush was Arwen, and I wondered if I was now attracted to more elvish looking women. I explained this to Bobby and Jerry and they started thinking.

“Actually that girl Hallie you’ve been hooking up with looks pretty elvish,” said Bobby. I pictured her beady eyes and narrow face. Holy shit, I thought. Hallie does look like an elf!

The next thing I noticed was the reversal of the scenes that I typically enjoyed most in watching the films. When I was a kid, I remember fast-forwarding to the fight scenes because I was a perverted little sadistic fuck who loved to watch Orcs die — I guess.

This time around, the fight scenes were so brutal. We were absolutely terrified in the Mines of Moria and actually considered shutting the TV off. I used to dislike The Two Towers because half of the movie was just giant trees talking — now our favorite part under intoxication of hallucinogens.

They created the best visuals as the animated faces of the Ents walked through a melting Fangorn Forest. It was such a peaceful relief from the Battle of Helms Deep that it was like when you’re tripping and smoke weed or a cigarette or see your best tripping companion and it just makes you so calm and happy to be comfortable again.

After the second movie, hours into it, we needed a break. So we crept down the stairs and out to the porch overlooking the quiet night. The cold darkness still lingered and some irrational fear crept into our minds. We felt out of place gazing at the empty streets of the city.

“Back to Lord of the Rings world?” Jerry suggested. We all agreed and ran back inside.

The Return of the King started with the soul-sucking scene of Smeagol choking his best friend to acquire the ring. Our strongest revelation came from this character.

Gollum, or his given name Smeagol, was completely consumed and destroyed by the ring, and we began to discuss how it might be an allusion to someone dealing with addiction.

After murdering Deagol, he moves to a cave and eats raw catfish just so he can be with the ring. The influence of the ring causes him to become schizophrenic and have beautiful psychological arguments with his own reflections in water about whether or not to try and kill the Hobbits and take the precious.

Furthermore, he is the driving force of the whole series. He finds the ring in the depths of the river, Bilbo ends up with it because of him, and he is eventually the one who brings its destruction. “Gollum saved Middle Earth!” we all said together in complete awe of the character.

The journey was beginning to wear down on our minds and bodies as it did to the Fellowship. We paused the movie, tired and hungry, and debated whether or not we could go on. “Should we finish tomorrow?” I asked.

“I’m getting pretty hungry,” said Jerry.

We wanted tobacco and food, but were in no condition to drive. We contemplated calling an Uber to take us to 7/11 for some Parliaments and taquitos. We laughed and agreed that that would be a little too ridiculous. “Come on guys,” Bobby started. “We have to finish this.”

At this time was the entrance of sunlight into the room. It was so unwelcome that we literally hissed as it crept through the window blinds. The feeling was terrible, like Sauron himself had come to put a stop to us. We took cushions and bed sheets to cover every area where any light was coming in. After a few minutes, the room was completely dark again and it looked like were living in an elementary school sleepover pillow fort.

I quoted Samwise Gamgee: “There’s some good left in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”

Newly empowered and enveloped in darkness, we hit play and reentered Middle Earth.

Around eight-o’clock, our other roommates started to come out of their rooms, half-asleep and ready to go to class. Shock filled their faces as they saw the three of us wide eyed watching Lord of the Rings in a completely dark pillow fort. Our friend Peter walked out of his bedroom, looked at us, and said, “I’m not even gonna ask.”

He grabbed his backpack and left. We would have gone to class, but we still had a ring to destroy.

At almost 10-o’clock in the morning, we had been tripping without sleep for nearly ten hours. Everyone’s eyes were growing heavy, and the trip was starting to wear off. The Battle of Gondor had been completed and all that was left was the final attempt to destroy the ring.

As Frodo and Sam climbed Mount Doom, I looked over at Bobby who was fully sleeping. “Bobby!” I yelled. No answer. I went over and shook him and he just wouldn’t wake up. The sleep deprivation was finally catching up to us, but our whole goal of making this memory was to destroy the ring together. I looked up at the screen and Frodo was in a similar place. Sam and I yelled in unison: “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!”

I lifted Bobby’s face up and pointed him toward the screen. Gollum danced with the ring as Frodo walked toward him with the same bloody determination that we had. He pushed Gollum and the ring melted. Jerry and I cried and embraced; the evil had left the world.

We lay down on the couches smiling. I have never felt so much accomplishment from watching movies. I tucked in under the covers and finally fell asleep in my own comfortable shire den, a little past 10 in the morning.

And he lived happily ever after, unto the end of his days.

[originally published January 4, 2018]