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The International Writers Magazine
: Night Call

Dark-Eyed Sister
Paul Martin

She is gazing up at the night sky, her head cocked back at ninety degrees, watching the dark. It is eleven o’clock 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 ain’t 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 it’s a change of scenery from the silence of her flat. It’s 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. It’s not the threat of violence which scares her, it’s 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 don’t 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 hasn’t seen before but which she understands instantly. The man repeats what he’d 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 he’s jumped the queue.

As he is telling a mate that she’s 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-something’s 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 can’t bring myself to see you start it…"

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 night’s 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 music’s waves. He and she merge seamlessly with the crowd, and he is seduced by the effortless, unsmiling grace with which she writhes to the music’s pulse.
He asks her if she’s 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 blackness.

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
Paul Martin
Everything had been prepared at the Hospital Records Library months ahead of the chaos..

Paul is studying for his Masters in Creative Writng at the Univerisy of Portsmouth

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