The International Writers
Magazine: Night Call
is gazing up at the night sky, her head cocked back at ninety
degrees, watching the dark. It is eleven oclock at night
and she has gone out for a walk to clear her head and to try and
remove a tune that has been repeating itself in her brain for
the past two hours: "Feel it in my spirit/ Seen heroine for
myself/ On streets so empty and wasted/ Enough just aint
enough, crippled hurt
She tries again to get to the end of the song, let it fade to
its end, and allow something else to occupy her thoughts. But
the melody merely begins once more and continues to play repeatedly
on its loop. She knows that this walk will do her no good but
its a change of scenery from the silence of her flat. Its
a better kind of silence.
She will have to make
her way back home soon to try and sleep, but for now she has the distractions
of the Saturday night revelers, playing out their meaningless dramas,
on which to focus her attention. The synthetic sense of celebration scares
her. Its not the threat of violence which scares her, its
the spirit of it all, the stupid, primal, unimaginative ritual that these
people dance along to every second of their lives. The music, the fashion,
the voices, the language, all of it mindlessly and endlessly re-produced
according to a set of rules that dont even exist. It is horrible
and ugly and frightening and depressing. She has tried to enjoy it as
a spectacle, to aestheticise it, and even to participate in it in an ironic,
detached way, but its force is such that she is repelled and driven away
as soon as she feels drawn in.
Standing at the distance she is now from all of the light, noise and movement
of the nightclub queues, she suddenly feels over-dressed and exposed.
She feels too close to it physically and feels that she is being watched.
She has her long black hair tied back, wears a brown, fake sheepskin coat
and black knee-length boots, and has minimal make-up on. But she looks
more attractively dressed than the other few figures around who are simply
out taking a walk. She lights a cigarette, thinking that it might make
her appear less out of place than she now feels. She could walk away but
she begins to find this feeling of threat intoxicating and attractive,
as if being drawn to the edge of a train track.
A man in a white shirt and cream jeans with a glass bottle in his hand
calls out something to her from across the road, accompanied by a gesture
she hasnt seen before but which she understands instantly. The man
repeats what hed said, this time with less aggression and more enthusiasm.
She lights another cigarette, looks left and right along the street, puts
a hand through her hair, and steps into the road. She glances at the man
and sees that he has ceased his mating call and is taking a final swig
from his bottle, which he places on the ground behind him. When he turns
back round she has disappeared from his view.
He looks around and steps out of the line, takes a few steps along the
pavement, and surveys the area. She is nowhere to be seen. He joins his
mates again, ignoring a heckle from a gravelly-voiced woman somewhere
down the line informing him that hes jumped the queue.
As he is telling a mate that shes gone, the mate points a sovereign-ringed
finger behind him, indicating her presence. The white-shirted man turns
to see her standing there and is taken by how blackly attractive she is.
Gaunt, passive, moon-coloured, and with a mouth that suggests a sexual
confidence in its complete absence of expression, she appears both intensely
desirable but also disarmingly unreadable. She offers him her name, which
he says is a nice name, and then gives his own. The banality of his comment
irritates her but she ignores the feeling, and as they reach the front
of the line he takes out his wallet and pays for the two of them. They
walk into the club and go up a flight of steps which, with its assemblage
of pristine glass and spindly chrome, she thinks too delicate to contain
the weight of hundreds of burly twenty-somethings inflated with
lager and confidence.
They are now stood on a balcony overlooking the dance-floor, watching
the thrumming mass of bodies moving unrhythmically to the noises pounding
out from the sound system. He offers her a cigarette and then lights it
for her, allowing her to cup her thin hand semi-suggestively over his.
This excites him visibly, as does her continued passivity. He then responds
to a text message, says something into her ear about being back very shortly,
hands her his beer bottle, and makes his way to the toilets. She takes
their drinks to an unoccupied table a few steps behind her, sits down,
and begins to busy herself with her handbag.
She suddenly realizes that the tune which had earlier been on heavy rotation
in her head has now ceased, but this in itself brings it back once more:
"Tell me how I fear it/ Buy prejudice for my friends/ Is it worth
so much when you taste it?/ I just cant bring myself to see you
The man returns and joins her at the table, swigging deeply from his beer
bottle. She looks down at the heavy blackness of the carpet and then finishes
her own drink. The man then looks inconspicuously about him before offering
her his hand. She takes it and finds a tab of ecstasy. He pops one into
his own mouth, then another, and finishes the remains of his beer. She
places hers in her mouth but only pretends to swallow, and as the man
gets up to make his way to the dance floor, she spits it out onto the
floor beside her. As they make their way over to the dance floor the man
rolls his shoulders several times and claps his hands together once, as
if readying himself for the nights action. She walks patiently,
almost submissively, behind him. They are now on the floor with the rest
of the dancers, all of whom are already well into the swell of the musics
waves. He and she merge seamlessly with the crowd, and he is seduced by
the effortless, unsmiling grace with which she writhes to the musics
He asks her if shes coming up yet. She nods her head and mouths
the word You?
He nods his head and bites his bottom lip, his clenched fists miming the
hand movements of a drummer. He puts her in mind of a rapist.
They are now at one with the crowd, he especially so, and the collective
energy which courses through it creates a fever of elation and timelessness.
She is experienced in keeping up her façade, although this no longer
matters as he is lost in his own head now, shaking hands with complete
strangers and hugging other men as if they were the closest of relatives.
As one track melds imperceptibly into the next, he wipes a dripping hand
around the back of his neck and the back of an arm across his forehead.
He is still moving to the music but his legs have started to shiver, and
his breathing has become more of an effort. The crowd has now become a
hazy field of coloured smears, and the music merely a wash of elongated
notes sliding from one ear to the other. He is no longer sure if he is
even still standing, and if he has fallen over he has not felt himself
hit the floor. Some kind of liquid escapes from his mouth, and he is barely
aware of the thudding pain in his chest, which causes him to convulse
in a spasm at the corner of the dance floor. The last thing to ever pass
through his mind is a sense of being eaten alive by a cloud of complete
She is back up on the balcony now, observing the panic that is taking
place on the floor below. The last things to pass through her mind before
she leaves the club are the words For Billy.
Fifteen minutes later she is standing by a taxi rank several blocks away
from the club. On the other side of the road is another, much smaller
queue of people waiting to be let into Lux, a new club that has only been
open for a couple of weeks. She lights a cigarette and leans back against
a set of railings that frame the park behind her. Before she has finished
smoking it a young-looking man with a short-sleeved blue shirt and black
trousers calls out to her and steps over to the edge of the pavement.
She takes a final drag on her cigarette, tosses it to the floor, looks
both ways down the road and makes her way over to him.
For Billy, she says aloud.
© Paul Martin Jan 2007
had been prepared at the Hospital Records Library months ahead of the
Paul is studying for his Masters in Creative Writng at the Univerisy of
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