She needs to get out more they keep telling her lest she turn into a hermit, lose any social skills she has left in her following the months it has taken her to recover from the attack. No, going back to work doesn’t count as socialising.
They’d stitched her up well, straightened her broken nose, fixed her shattered jaw. If Fiona is to be believed, her nightmarish misfortune of being found unconscious in the gutter in a laneway not far from The Pit, face bloodied, handbag gone, one stiletto shoe missing and never found, the other balanced upright on her chest, has transformed her from an ugly duckling into a smasher who is destined to turn heads in any of the night clubs her not-so-little-any-longer sister frequents. The Pit, a pulsating, throbbing, flashing late night venue – they hand out VR goggles on the VIP floor would you believe, the most favoured of all.
It is high time to face her fears, Fiona, no longer to be called Fiona but Fi as in eff-eye, insists. “You’re Ags as in ay-gee-ess as soon as we get there. Agnes would be so out of vibe in this place. Now let’s see if you look grungy enough to be in sync with the top lookers there.” No stilettos this time, they’re so out, Agnes-Ags is lectured. She is to wear Fiona-Fi’s backup kickass steel-capped boots instead. Luckily their shoe size is the same. Once she’s submitted to Fi’s orders to change out of her slim-fit jeans into a multi-pocketed shapeless baggy black cotton pair of trousers which has to be fastened around her waist with a glamorous scarf that wouldn’t look out of place tied around Steve Tyler’s microphone stand and to swap her sky blue frilly satin blouse for an oversize round neck sleeveless white cotton T-shirt which Fi enhances by ripping a tear into its neck and using a black marker to add an upturned cross to its front, she eases into her new Ags persona.
They giggle at the bus stop, shivering in the chilly evening breeze at first (wearing jackets into town is so out), soon warming up courtesy of the generous swigs taken from the plastic still water litre bottle which Fi had filled with two thirds gin and one third tonic (no one enters The Pit sober) before they left the house. The bottle is empty by the time they stumble off the bus into the buzz of the city centre. Fi throws it out onto the street and it pops like a gunshot when it gets caught under the tyres of a passing cab. They hook arms and bend over laughing.
“Hey Fi, wait up!” A tall androgynous twenty-something-at-a-guess woman dressed in black with the exception of a sparkling white satin scarf wrapped around her head darts across the street to the sound of screeching tyres.
Fi raises herself up on tiptoes, throws her arms around the woman and kisses her on the lips. “Jeez, Pac, don’t get yourself run over risking your life like this!”
“Holy rain clouds above, that kiss was worth the risk. Let’s move on before it starts pissing down. Wait, who is the fab looker with you? I don’t think we’ve met before.”
“I’m Ags. Fi is my sister. I had no idea she has such a gorgeous girlfriend.”
“Shhh, that’s the first kiss I managed to get off her. Early days, but I’m hoping I might get lucky tonight.”
“To be honest, last time I paid any attention she was tragically obsessed with a teenage Kurt Cobain lookalike in the year above her. Nothing ever came of it as far as I know. I think he was in love with the music teacher at the time and didn’t take any notice of her.”
Fi punches her arm hard enough for a bruise to be sure to develop later. Oops, so much for her social skills. Ags hugs her to apologise. They all link arms, Pac in the middle, only unlinking arms with Ags once to show the middle finger to a group of teenage boys who wolf-whistle as they walk by.
Outside The Pit the queue is about 50 people long. It is starting to rain. The two bouncers at the main entrance are filing people through in pairs. Fi shrieks with delight when she spots a third bouncer with a shock of blond hair. “That’s Vic, girls, he might get us in through the side entrance.” She waves at him, flapping both arms high above her head. “Hey Vic! Didn’t realise you were on duty tonight.” He beams back at her and waves her over. She grabs Pac and Ags by their hands and pulls them along with her.
Inside the place is hopping with hundreds of monochrome-clad people. Everyone seems to be wearing black with something white, either a white top or a white headband or white wristbands or white gloves – the whites acting as catalysts for colour explosions when the pulsating red, blue, and green flashes touch them.
“This Vic guy, he is a bit of a Kurt Cobain lookalike. He isn’t by any chance the boy you fancied in school, is he? Is it him, Fi?”
Fi shrugs and cups her hands to her ears, mouths what looks like “can’t hear you”. Ags smiles and lets herself be carried forward by the pushing and shoving stream of bodies along the perimeter of the ground floor hoping it will get them to the bar. She could do with a gin and tonic before joining the swaying, twirling, stomping dancers who are forming an undulating circle around a black podium in the centre on which the DJ, the only person to be dressed all in white, does his thing – waving, pointing, twirling, stomping, jumping, working the crowd.
“Who is the DJ? Someone famous?”
A deep voice behind her bellows, “It’s DJ Zat – zed-ay-tee. He’s wicked.”
She swings around to face a skeletal young man. “And you are?”
“Jax as in jay-ay-axe. And I know who you are, you’re Fi’s cosmetically transformed sister. Fixed you real nice, they did.”
“Sorry, can’t hear you,” Ags shouts. DJ Zat has just cranked the volume up another level, waving and whirling like a dervish.
He bends the upper part of his towering skeletal shape towards her, “Jax, jay-ay-axe,” his lips brush her ear and send icy darts down her spine, “Fi was right, you’re prettier than her now. Said I might want to see for myself.”
He takes a small step back looking her up and down, his lips moving, he is still talking but she can’t hear what he is saying. Scanning her like a sculptor appraising his work. What puts this thought into her mind she wonders. The thought lingers and swirls around inside her head when he reaches out and traces his thumb along the short straight ridge of her nose. She shakes her head to chase it away and turns around to look for Fi and Pac.
Relieved to see that they are only a few shoving bodies away and have reached the bar, she pushes her way toward them. Fi swings around holding a glass of gin and tonic out to her, “Here, that’ll loosen you up in no time. I see you’ve already met the coolest guy in the place, all the straight girls are mad about him. Wait till you see him dance!”
Jax taps her shoulder from behind and urges her to drink up fast. Fi giggles and waves her away, “Go and have fun!”. He takes her hand and pulls her toward the undulating sea of dancers which parts to make way for them as if by divine magic, leaving enough room for Jax to dance in a circle around her. She stands still as if frozen to the spot at which he has left her, yet she sees his every move as he circles and circles and circles around her. How can that be? She sees every detail of his outfit. The steel necklace from which dangles a miniature axe, the upturned white cross symbol on his black T-shirt returning green, blue and red flashes, transforming them into green, blue and red darts which bounce off her face, making her skin ache, the tear in his black jeans just under his left knee, the shiny steel caps of his black boots, size 12 or 13, she can’t be sure, his face now above her at a height. Is she no longer standing? How can that be? She feels DJ Zat’s thumping bass inject tremors into her spine and stomach, but there is no sound. Where has the sound gone? Her vision zooms in on a steel-capped boot from which red liquid oozes onto her face, into her eyes.
She is back on her feet now, stomping and whirling, sweat dripping from her chin. A tremor of fury takes hold of her body, rattling right through her. Her boot connects with his shin, just under the tear in his jeans, throwing him off balance. His head hits the tiled black floor. The sound returns to the shrieking of her own voice.
(c) Ash N. Finn, 2017