I remember being nabbed from that room, being tied up, but… everything goes black after that.
I’m lying on a tiled floor. It’s cool against my skin. My wrists and ankles hurt — I guess that’s where they tied me? But… no, I’m not tied anymore, I’m free to move. So hey let’s do that.
I sit up slowly. Rub my eyes, and remember the tattoo. It still stings, so I mustn’t have been out long. As my eyes try to focus in my groggy state, in the dim light of this place, I listen. And what I hear is throbbing bass from nearby. Luckily, my head isn’t so badly off despite my recent misadventures. If I had a headache, or worse, a full-blown hangover, this would be the absolute worst. But I feel all right. Just all right.
This is a washroom, I realize. A public washroom. Explains the tiled floors, and I feel ever so dirty. Need a shower. When’s the last time I bathed? I look, but can see no sign of my liberators/abductors/whatevers that took me from the headphone and TV room. This is just a dimly lit public washroom.
I stand up, and walk to the closest stall, poking my head in quickly. No one. I repeat this for each stall, and determine that I am, in fact, alone. Take a leak, I should, who knows when I’ll get the chance next. Have a quick wash. By the sinks is a vending machine. No need for the condoms, but a bit of cologne wouldn’t go amiss, even if it is wretched stuff.
Right, feeling better. Awake, alert. Time to find out where the hell I am now. I move to the door, pull it open a crack and peer out. A bright corridor, but no one in sight. I slip out and make my way towards the bass.
As I walk up the hall, a big burly man in black t-shirt and jeans, sunglasses (indoors?) and an earpiece comes out of another room. He sees me, and waves that I should hurry up. He doesn’t seem out to get me, nor does he seem to realize I don’t belong, so best to play along. I jog to him.
“It’s started. She’ll be up soon, so you’d best hurry. This way, the hall is this way.”
I nod and we jog along the corridor and then up a ramp. At the top, he leans his bulk against the pushbar of the doors there, and the music floods out at full volume and I can see masses of writhing bodies dancing. “In you go!” he says, grabbing my arm and pushing me in. The door shuts behind me.
This space, too, is dimly lit. In the middle of the room is a round riser that the band is jamming away on. All around the riser is a sea of people. The only light is diffused uplighting bouncing off the domed ceiling. I move my way slowly into the crowd. I ask a few people who the act is, but they all look at me like I’m nuts and go back to rocking out. Shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose, to be honest, I guess, you know.
I push closer to the riser, but it’s difficult getting through the crowd. Then, I feel a tug on my sleeve. I turn to look who it was.
She. She is here. In the crowd.
She’s as I remember her from before things went strange. Her eyes are still new, but the vibe she gives off isn’t confrontational or frightening. She seems vulnerable. She huddles alone in the middle of the crowd, hood up on her jacket. She slips her hand into mine and we stand there together for a moment. I try to ask her something, but she shakes her head, squeezes my hand tighter, and watches the stage anxiously. So, I do too.
The band stops playing, and the crowd goes wild, shouting for the next song. From a trap door in the center of the riser comes a new member, their singer, the person everyone has been waiting for. Her back is to me at first, and the crowd goes berserk. The singer turns our way, and I see.
It is She. She is there, on stage.
And yet, She is here, with me.
The She on stage doesn’t seem confrontational or angry either. She seems to also be the She I knew. The She on stage is confident, and lacks the vulnerability of the She holding my hand, though. I look at the She with me. She looks sad, then looks at her feet.
And then, the She on the stage begins.
I never want to be away from you, She sings, as you have become an expected part of my scenery. When will we return to the old places, view the same skies in the same way? I think too much, it makes me sleepy, and before I know it, it’s tomorrow.
Because I am afraid, She sings, I cannot take a single step forward. I stumble, the road grows longer, and I fall further and further behind. But this place is fine too, it’s not a bad place, and here I can be free, so why worry?
Of course, She sings, you’ve never once understood, but you put on a show as though you do. You’re really very small, just a tiny person-shaped chunk. The sky you look at is vast and endless. Maybe you think that. But it is only because I have been by your side that your horizons are boundless. The She by my side squeezes my hand.
You understand in your head, She sings, but not in your heart. Until you do, we are doomed to pass each other, exchange fleeting moments and then be separated again. Do I ask too much? I used to think so, but then I met you.
Everything is in your hands, She sings, this is not a dream. Everything is in your hands — we don’t need a certain future. Everything is in your hands — you should get moving and yet you don’t. Everything is in your hands — you should start and yet you’re still here.
She stops. The crowd thrashes as the band finishes out the song. I look to the She by my side. She smiles, and says, “Go.” She opens her jacket, revealing a swirling black vortex where her stomach ought to be. I am sucked in and the world changes again.