The crowd was galvanized, excited bodies charging and discharging on contact with each other. Sparks jumped as the dancers collided gracefully, clumsily, lust-drunk. The surges ebbed and flowed with the current. Amped up by glitch-step madness, narcotics, and alcohol, the crowd was strong and restless, and one wrong push away from becoming an unstoppable mob. For now though, they were wild children toying with emotions-electric, led by the beat-imperative of the Circuit.
The Circuit was tall and thin, his pale skin accented by dark thick stubble on his head and face. He wore thin-rimmed glasses and moved smoothly behind his table of mechanical, electrical, and chemical equipment, positioned on a stage at the back of the hall. The headphones he wore, half-on and half-off, were studio-heavy, with thick Gavin wire tethering him to his task. He was translating his thoughts directly into a composition of compression and release. His words ran hot through the wires to the speakers that pushed them on through the air and into the throbbing minds of his audience.
The Circuit never even looked at his table of tools. He watched the crowd. He smoothly pressed the buttons, scratched and altered the flow. He shaped it and sculpted it, felt the feedback from the audience and responded to it, altered it, and sent it throbbing back out to them again.
White hot waves rolled and curled up through smoke and flashing lights. Some of the dancers wore the heat well, sheens of glistening sweat causing their skin to shine and reflect the frenetic laser lights. Others just soaked their clothes, and became spongy-wet monsters. The Circuit didn’t care though, and he expressed that through another push, thick-stretched thud, and the crowd drew out their movements through the languorous thick liquid. Oxygen… you are oxygen… The words hung in the air, distorted, chopped, then clean. Again. Mixed. Reworked. Driving slow teasing beads of desire down their bodies.
Latent craving was building, but the Circuit waited, paused time masterfully, drawing out the moment, pulling them in deeper, dangerously deeper. When the heat of the anticipation was too much, he waited a second longer, and then he unleashed a laser-juke jai alai that sent the crowd into spasms, furtive and joyful.
It was hard to tell if the Circuit knew what he’d done to the crowd, if you weren’t paying attention. Displays lights bounced off the rims of his spectacles, and his eyes were hidden behind mirrors of glass, but there was a new, subtle curl to one corner of his lips for those who bothered to look.
The ritual continued for over an hour before there was a true break, at which point the Circuit released the crowd to screams and applause. His response was only a nod and that same satisfied subtle curl of the lips. He stepped down and away into blackness.
Drinks and a brief rest to fuel the remaining hours of the night.
“Fuck,” a drawn out and exhausted exaltation. Some calm, new-age, ambient was playing in the background as Gavin picked his way gently through the crowd. “Sam is destroying me tonight.” He was beaming as he spoke over his shoulder. Sam was a close friend, and though he’d taken the name Circuit for his evening exploits, he was still Sam to Gavin.
“I know, me too.” Devon was following him closely enough to feel the heat of his body in his wake. She kept one hand on his back to respond when he stopped suddenly, or moved forward quickly. They were dodging people that were awkwardly reacquainting themselves with life away from the dance floor.
“Want anything?” He found himself yelling over his shoulder as the ambient volume increased.
Devon tugged at the back of his shirt and pulled herself up and around to his body to speak into his ear, “G and T, please. I think I found us some seats.” She reached around into his view and pointed to a table opening up.
She didn’t wait for a response. Instead, she patted him on the back and bolted for the table before anyone else could get there. Gavin smiled broadly as he watched her go, his green eyes burning trails after her. He was tall and lean, clean-shaven with short dark brown hair. He might have been attractive or not, his kindness and charm prevented most people from telling the difference. Though he hadn’t known Devon long, she already brought out the brightest in him, instilling confidence and adding a swagger to his step.
He stepped up to the bar and flagged down the bartender, called out an order, and watched as the heavyset man went to work on it. Faster than Gavin would have expected, the drinks were on the table.
“Twelve.” The bartender turned away to his next customer before Gavin even had his clip out of his pocket.
Gavin picked through his bills, found three fives, folded them once, and wedged them beneath an empty glass. Three was probably overkill, but he wanted to get back to Devon more than he wanted the change. He took a quick sip of his drink, a Vodka and Tonic with a lime twist and decided the bartender had earned the extra; the drink was stiff.
He mouthed a ‘thank you’ at the brusque man and was surprised to see him look up from his work, make eye contact, and nod a ‘you’re welcome,’ his direction. Holding the drinks steady, he made his way over to Devon.
She was busy entertaining a tall, lanky woman who was hitting on her shamelessly. The posture was unmistakable. The woman leaned in too close, leaned back too far, hiked her hip up too much whenever she stood up straight. She topped it off by too delicately using her fingertips to slide her bangs from her face, hooking them around her ear.
Devon was interested, Gavin could tell. He knew he was only borrowing her from the world at large for the night. She wasn’t fickle though, or flighty. She was simply interested in many different types of people and perspectives. He found her genuine openness profoundly alluring. And because he truly believed she wasn’t a flake, he also believed she would politely dismiss the flirtatious woman in a moment, and make room for him at the table.
There was an exchange he couldn’t hear as he arrived at the table, and then the woman put her hand on Devon’s and said something about finding her here any time. As the woman turned to leave, she first gave Gavin the once-over. Eventually, she shrugged, raised a contemptuous eyebrow at him, and left.
“Thanks for saving the seat for me,” he was half-sarcastic, half-serious, but he smiled just the same. He sat down across from her and placed their drinks simultaneously.
Not unlike the woman who just walked away, Devon had an eyebrow for him too. She raised it up playfully, reproachfully, “You’re not the only one with good taste.”
“Clearly.” He smiled, and was happy they didn’t have to yell at each other to be heard. They were just far enough away from the speakers, that they enjoyed a little pocket of intimacy across the table. “The way you move out there, I’m surprised the whole place isn’t clamoring for your attention.” She might have innocently blushed at that—he couldn’t tell—then he continued, “Thanks for coming out tonight. I wasn’t sure I would see you again… you’re difficult to get a hold of.”
“Yeah, I’ve been pretty busy, but actually, I thought about you a lot.” She sipped at her drink, maintaining eye contact with him flirtatiously over the rim of the glass, “Most of my dates come on way too strong.”
“Well, it’s understandable that they want to make an impression. Which reminds me,” he finished his drink at a gulp, “did you read that short story I sent you?”
“Yes. Of course.” Something had changed in her tone. Her demeanor was serious, deepened by inscrutable thoughts.
Gavin wasn’t sure how to proceed. He couldn’t read her, if she had hated his work or been carried away by it. The silence between them was intimidating, but he pushed on anyway, “I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I know it is short, but it feels potent to me in that form, and polished. I wanted to…”
Interrupting him, she slid her hand across the table and touched his hand, the one wrapped around his empty glass. “It’s good. It proved something to me about you.”
“Really? What’s that exactly?” He was shaken by the intensity of her voice and eyes. She was looking into him with a level of intimacy unlike anything he was accustomed to. Still, he met her gaze. In fact, he couldn’t shake it. He couldn’t look away if he wanted.
Her voice was swallowed up by applause and screams as a new selector took the stage. Gavin thought he read the words “inside you” on her lips, but couldn’t tell for sure. There was an insane rush of sound as the stage and crowd powered up. Devon held him though, their connection unbroken.
Devon smiled as though she realized the words were lost. She tossed back the rest of her drink, stared mischievously into his eyes again, and peeled his hand from his glass where it had apparently been trying, white-knuckled, to strangle another drop of life from it. He laughed at himself, and shook himself free of the intensity. He wondered if it was all in his head. It was difficult for him to share his writing, and she said it was “good.” Holy shit. She said it was good.
Suddenly struck with lightness and energy, he felt like moving, dancing, jumping, and colliding with everything in the world, or just Devon. Good. She said, good.
She took charge. Gavin was not in a state to make any decisions. Without taking her hands from his, she stood gracefully even with the table between them. She hauled him up and out of his chair, and pulled him onto the dance floor. The crowd seemed to part for her, and she eased them through to the center.
Devon began to dance, Gavin unable to look away, unable to move himself. There was an enchanting freedom and sensuality in her every step. The fluid sway of her arms and hips, held him in a trance. He took her entire body in: the azure polish on her not-too-long nails, the bracelets sliding up and down her arms, and the swing of her dress and loosely hung hip belt.
Her shimmer-blue eyes seemed to glow at him, capturing him. She pulled his hands to her body, placing them on her waist, as she swayed. As Devon moved in closer, she encouraged his arms around her. She arched up into him, and then raised her arms up over their heads.
The music hit a down, and she rested her forearms on his shoulders, her hands grasping the back of his head. She pulled herself up in an embrace that was almost supernaturally strong. She kissed him on the lips, and then moved her face around to his ear.
“Inside of you, there is a pacing, hungry animal.” Her whisper was inaudible, instead her voice was echoing deep inside his skull. In the distance the music picked up again, but he couldn’t tell what it was and his body didn’t respond to it at all. There was only this sensuous creature cleaving to him.
“You wrote about it.” Her breath was hot as she spoke. “You know it’s true.”
Yes, but that’s just a fantasy.
“It’s real, and you’re starving it.”
But, what is it?
“It’s you. Not this domesticated thing you show the world.”
“Yes, you do.”
She slid down from him, and kissed his lower lip, sucking it into her mouth. He felt her hands working around his waist, but wasn’t sure what she was doing.
She bit at his lip, but not hard, and distracted him from the fact that she was pulling his shirt off, up and over his head. Throwing the shirt out into the crowd, she violently pulled herself back up to him. Her fingernails were sharp, cutting and drawing on his back, kissing him the whole time. A distant feeling of pain and heat dripped down his skin. How long she worked on him, he didn’t know. When she was done, she gently pulled away from him and dragged her nails down his left arm, rending a trail over his shoulder and down his forearm.
Gavin hadn’t notice her sweat ever, and they’d been out dancing several times. Now, she had a bright sheen on her, and a kind of tired, drawn look to her face. There was more though, she also appeared satisfied. Then, with one more sudden burst of energy, she deftly cut more lines into his chest.
Gavin started waking up from the charm she held over him. He thought about his back and chest, his arm, testing for pain, but found that the closer his awareness was to the cuts, the stronger he felt. Following on the heels of each heartbeat were sharp pains and heat, and then a flood of adrenaline.
Devon delicately placed a hand on his chest where just moments before she had viciously carved and scrawled his flesh. It was comforting and warm, and softened the pain. She looked at him steadily, “Consider it a gift.” She let her hand slide down, painting Gavin’s chest red. Then she slipped away into the crowd.
It was his heart beating in his chest and in his ears.
It was the bass, beating in his chest and in his ears.
And then they reached resonance, his body and the music joined in time.
Gavin was moving, powerfully dancing to the beat of some primal drum. He was in a fog of euphoria, endorphins clouding out his senses.
As he moved, he could feel the energy of the crowd moving against him physically and emotionally. There was frustration and animosity, jealousy and confusion, and he was at the center of it—the other dancers had begun to see him as the bloody, half-naked mess he was. It was more than just intuition informing his thoughts, his senses were tuned to a new frequency; he could smell their anxiety, their fear. Gavin couldn’t be bothered with them though, because he felt new strength in his muscles as they writhed beneath his skin and he wanted to keep feeling it.
He was alive, awake, and thrilled.
He missed Devon, and the sadness crept in as he thought about her not here. But the more he thought about it, the less he missed her and the more he craved her. A fiery passion for her presence swelled up inside of him. He tilted his head back and reached out, and found her through the fog of sweat and smoke and bodies. He saw the back of her head, her auburn hair catching the light for just a moment, then blocked out by the crowd. She was leaving.
Leaving! He felt the words growling up inside of him, motivated by desire and concern, abandonment and fealty. Gavin was about to run, and plough through the crowd, when he heard her voice, a crystal clear whisper, “Now, now. I’ll be fine.” Her voice was bright and warm like sunshine on his face. “You’re free. Have some fun.”
A man, drunk-dancing wildly, knocked into Gavin, and though Gavin was still as a statue, he yelled, “Watch yourself, asshole!”
Gavin stared back, looking through the drunk more than at him.
“Well? Say you’re sorry, already, dickface.” The drunk was gaining courage, judging Gavin’s distant stare as one of stupidity or ignorance. Not to mention the man was at least fifty pounds his better, and by the look of him, no novice to bar fights. Rough, heavy set, and a face like a mug shot, the guy was looking for a brawl.
The drunk finally noticed the blood on Gavin’s chest, “What the hell? Your time of the month?”
Gavin’s heart began pounding in his chest, slow and strong. He breathed in deeply and felt the rush of oxygen through his blood, pressure building throughout his body. Staring at the drunk—they were similar in height—Gavin grinned, one half of his face sardonically lifted in challenge.
“Fuck you, pal.” The drunk spit in his face. Gavin only smiled at first, and then he tore into him.
His hands flashed out faking a punch and the drunk flinched back. Gavin stepped quickly to close the distance and drove his knee hard into the man’s groin. As the drunk doubled over forward, Gavin thrust an elbow up through his nose and sent him back the other way. Blood sprayed from his broken face as he landed on his back. Even over the music, the terrible thud of his skull bouncing off the floor was easily heard.
That was enough to incite the whole place to a riot. Fights broke out all over the dance floor, and many rushed for the exit. The selector stepped down from the stage, pulled the plug, and made for the streets. The bouncers came in, and the lights came on, but neither did much to stop the fighting. Nothing was going to stop Gavin. He kept dancing violently from one partner to the next, leaving them bleeding, unconscious, or both.
Devon watched proudly from her position near the exit, as people filed out as quickly as they could. She was smiling ear-to-ear. There was still a glow of healthy exhaustion about her, as though she’d run a marathon, but mostly she seemed enamored with the show. She watched as Gavin tore through anyone stupid enough to stand in his way, feral and vicious.
A woman with raven hair and austere features slipped in beside Devon. “Weren’t you specifically told, ‘No?’”
“I do what I want. I always have. You know that.” Devon grinned incredulously without turning to face the woman.
“There will be,” a lengthy, thoughtful pause, “a price.”
“It doesn’t matter. It’s done. You can’t unmake him. He’s mine.”
“I hope you’re right.” There was the faintest hint of sadness in her voice. The woman stroked Devon’s arm, intimately, lovingly, then faded into the fleeing crowd.
There’s a good boy. Devon sent Gavin another warm feeling. Time to leave. Better head out the back. And then she left too, just another fearful dancer running out into the cold night.