Thanks to Lisajen-stock for the cover photo.
As soon as Julia got to the entrance she almost burst out laughing. This was the first time she’d ever been to a goth club and the assortment of various night-dwelling creatures was overwhelming;- freaks, vampires, gimps and harpies all hid behind masks of leather, velvet, dog collars and piercings. Julia, herself, had been adorned by her friends with whatever they could spare;- boots (black), miniskirt (black), blouse (black), hairspray (midnight blue) and she didn’t feel too out of place but was always conscious of derogatory glances from the gothier-than-thou contingency. This was the first time she’d seen her old friends in ages. The three had all gone to the city to study while she’d stayed in the village, bussing to town only to shop, work (annoying people by trying to flog them insurance) and go out- usually to the same skanky trendy and retro-clubs as always.
This club was slightly outside the city and consisted of a small L-shaped building and a car-park. It was almost entirely surrounded by woodland and, as Julia and her friends had gotten out of the taxi, she was struck by how much this place resembled the old brownie hut back home.
“Joo-uhls.” Julia felt a tap on her shoulder and turned round. The sing-song voice belonged to her friend Debbie who was laughing and trying to explain to Julia, in between fits of snorting, that Julia had been staring at a guy in the car-park for slightly too long. The guy in question wore a long trenchcoat, a top hat and masses of black and white make-up giving the overall impression of an evil circus ringleader. Julia started laughing too and the evil circus ringleader gave a shy smile before joining the back of the queue.
Debbie held a cigarette in one hand and a bitch-pop in the other and was still laughing. Along with Julia’s other friends- Amy and Emma, Debs was pissed. They’d all been drinking earlier on back in Debbie’s university cubicle room- all except Julia who, despite having drank with the girls dozens of times back home, had gotten the feeling that she didn’t want to make the wrong impression this time. Like she’d become an outsider now for staying in the village. It was a stupid idea, she thought and tried to tell herself to ignore it. All her friends had been smoking as well- they never used to. Julia looked at her giggling friend’s cigarette and gave a half-hearted cough in protest. They also seemed to be better dressed than her, she thought, bitterly.
Julia got to the front of he queue to be greeted by a muscular, heavily tattooed guy wearing a black t-shirt. As Julia fumbled in her handbag for the three pounds admission, her friends hid their drinks inside handbags and clothing with all the grace and stealth of an elephant taking a morning jog. Julia shrugged at the doorman who just smiled and waved her in. A girl behind the doorman, also in black, marked Julia’s hand with a bat shaped ink stamp.
Julia waited for her friends and scanned the club. There didn’t seem to be much to it; a seating area, then a bar playing Christ-knows-what at ear-drum shattering volume. She was disturbed in her acclimatising by Debbie, who almost jumped on top of her. Julia turned round to see Amy and Emma fumbling for change while picking their drinks off the floor. Once they were all in, Emma and Amy sat down while Debbie grabbed Julia’s hand and practically dragged her to the bar, aghast at Julia’s lack of drinkage.
“A PINT OF SNAKEBITE PLEEEAASE!” yelled Debbie as she raced to the bar, shoving past anyone unfortunate enough to be in the way. The wish was quickly granted and Debbie turned round to talk loudly at a couple of boys she’d knocked past in the ‘queue’, leaving Julia to pay for the drink. Julia took an experimental sip of the sweet drink and turned round to be introduced to Chris (“He’s in the lacrosse team and does marketing!”) and Simon (“I once saw him down a pint in ten seconds!”). Julia (“She’s from my village and she’s really lovely!”) was left alone by Debbie to talk to the boys and fielded one of the questions she’d been dreading,
“What bands do you like?” This came from the lacrosse player- a tall guy with neon red hair, numerous facial piercings and a T-shirt declaring ‘People=Shit’. Having a feeling she’d be lynched if she admitted to ‘Girl’s Aloud’ and ‘Oasis’, Julia went for ‘The Cure’ (she kind of liked ‘Friday I’m in Love’) and some random gothy-looking band she’d seen yesterday on ‘Top of the Pops’. She seemed to have got away with it ( fortunately there were no “That’s nice, now name five of their songs” style follow-ups) and went on to find out that Chris was a second year, lived in town with three girls, liked a lot of bands with semi-pronouncable names and was single. She also found out that Simon was wrecked. And he kept calling her Joan.
The girls were sat at a table a whole five yards from the bar, in the cramped, murky seating area. When Julia returned to them (bumping into a 20 stone mosher and a witch en route), she noticed Debbie appearing to make a serious point, with Emma and Amy concentrating and nodding their heads. From lengthy experience Julia recognised this as the ‘we want to pretend we weren’t listening’ pose. As she sat down, the routine was ended by Emma and Amy nodding furiously and Debbie sinking back into her chair and turning to Julia
“Chris seemed to like you!”. Julia wasn’t quite sure how Debbie did it but her comment came out both as a question and a suggestion (and her voice could also be used as a police siren, should it be required). Julia just raised her eyebrows impassively and didn’t reply, knowing this would annoy Debbie.
“And that guy’s looking at you too. You’re well popular tonight!” Debbie pointed to a tall man in a white shirt who turned away when Julia looked at him.
“Of course he’s looking at us,” Julia started laughing along with all her friends, “You’re shouting at the top of your voice and pointing at him.”
“Seriously though,” said Debbie (in the most non-serious way imaginable), “do you like Chris or Si?”
“Chris seemed quite friendly.” Julia sounded a lot more casual than she felt. A combination of village life and refusing to go with the lecherous middle-aged men or braindead Burberry-clad youths from the few clubs back home had helped maintain Julia’s virginity to nineteen and counting. This place seemed a world away from what she was used to and had something of a fantasy quality to it- the monsters’ ball, perhaps. And, yes, she did find Chris quite attractive.
“Maybe we should go over again?” Debbie queried, comparatively quietly ( for Debbie, at least). Julia quickly remembered that although she can read her friends, the process works both ways.
“Perhaps after a couple of drinks.” Julia looked around. Chris and Simon were ordering drinks at the bar, Emma and Amy had seemingly lost interest and were talking about uni stuff. A vampire walked past.
Half an hour went by and Julia’s enthusiasm had waned somewhat. Emma and Amy had spent the whole time talking about university and Julia wondered if she even existed in their little world at the moment. She was pretty certain she didn’t in Debbie’s, whose rather over-enthusiastic drinking earlier on had left her slightly the worse for wear. She was currently swaying in her chair and appeared to be staring at something visible to her and her alone. Julia, by contrast, was only just starting her second pint. She’d braved going to the bar again (where the boys had still been) but they didn’t notice her and, not having the Debbie-style confidence to just shout and wave at them, she’d merely bought the drink and slunk back to her seat. Having tried, and failed, to enter the university conversation, Julia’s energy was currently occupied by taking sips of her drink and playing with Debbie’s lighter.
“‘Scuse me, do you have the time?’
Julia turned round to see the man in the white shirt (which, on closer inspection, had a small band logo on the chest).
“One second,” Julia took Debbie’s unprotesting arm and pressed the backlight button on her watch, “ten to one.”
“You a first year?” The guy squatted down beside her.
“No, I’m not in university. Just here with friends” Julia turned towards the bar to see Chris and Simon leaving
“You enjoying it so far?” The conversation went on for quite a while and the guy’s (whose name turned out to be Dan) presence was the first thing for quite some time that seemed to turn Emma and Amy’s attention towards Julia. Julia knew where this was going and hoped he’d get to the question pretty quickly and then go. It wasn’t that he was unattractive but Julia’s mood had dampened and she just wanted to go to sleep. There was something about him as well that Julia couldn’t quite put her finger on. He seemed to have got closer to her since the start of the conversation without apparently moving. A bit like an hour hand. She also noticed he was wearing a watch. Then the question came,
“Do you have a boyfriend?” Julia paused ever-so-slighty,
“Well where is he?” Dan’s mood appeared to instantly change into something approaching anger. This made Julia angry as well (What do you mean where is he? Do I have to have a chaperone? My imaginary boyfriend could be right here for all you know) until the last thought not only calmed her down but started her laughing uncontrollably. Apparently offended by this, Dan walked off.
“Who was that?” asked Emma, seemingly more out of social convention than any real interest.
“Guy called ‘Dan'” replied Julia in the same matter-of-fact tone.
“No. Reminds me a bit of some of the pervs from back home.”
“Oh,” Emma paused and turned back, “so Amy, did you vote Michael in for union vice-president or are you still mad at him for the Karen thing…?” Julia sighed and let the rest of the conversation drift over her. She wondered how close her friends really were. How close they’d ever been. Sure, Debbie was always there (maybe not now, perhaps) but the others had seemed to totally lose interest in her after they’d had a few drinks. Feeling depressed, Julia went to get a third pint.
The bar was a lot busier than it had been and Julia’s approach of actually waiting politely for her turn didn’t seem to have the same impact as Debbie’s charging tactics (which were seemingly being employed by everybody else at the moment). When she eventually did get served and returned to her table, she almost froze- there was no-one there. There were half full drinks and fag packets on the table but the bags had gone. Before Julia could panic too much, she stopped and forced herself to count to ten. She felt better for it- her friends were still here. Maybe they’d gone to dance, maybe they were in the toilets, it would be fine.
Julia saw Dan. He was squatting by another young lady but kept glancing in Julia’s direction. She put her pint down and went over to him. This wasn’t going to be easy but at least she knew his name.
“I’m sorry I laughed before. It wasn’t you, I was just thinking of something else,” Julia spoke slowly but urgently, “anyway, do you know where the girls I was sitting with went?”
“Oh, don’t worry about it,” replied Dan (the other girl had by now lost interest and went back to talking with her friends), “I think your friends went to the toilets, one of them looked quite sick.”
“Thanks.” Julia raced off to the toilets but didn’t find anyone. Now she was panicking. She ran out and checked the dancefloor but they weren’t there. As she got back to her table, her hands were shaking and she was struggling to keep her breathing under control. She sat down. She didn’t know what else to do. Dan was sat by her.
“Where are they?” Julia’s plea was helpless and directed at the universe in general. Her friends had abandoned her, she was in a strange city, she didn’t know where the hell to go. Tears started to roll down her cheeks.
“Actually I think your friends might have left,” revised Dan, “yeah, I’m pretty sure their taxi’s gone.”
Julia was still crying.
“It’s okay. Look I’ll drive you back if you want.” Dan’s voice had immediately become soft and considerate. Julia instantly compared it to how quickly he got angry earlier on. She shook her head.
“Well you can ring for a taxi if you want. I’ve got some numbers.”
“Could I have them?” Julia was starting to regain her composure.
“Yeah, but just finish your drink first. I think you need to calm down.” He flashed her something resembling a smile.
Julia drank and it did calm her down. She started thinking more clearly now (yes, I’ll phone a taxi, tell it to go to campus. I’m pretty sure I can find their rooms and when I do, I’ll beat them to death!). She chuckled at the last thought.
“You feeling better?”
“Yeah, tha…” but Julia looked up and there was something about the expression on Dan’s face that made her shiver.( It’ll be fine, just half a pint left and then you can go).
“What’s wrong?” the soft voice returned but the expression remained. It was then that Julia started to feel dizzy. She got out of her chair and headed for the toilets. As soon as she got up, she felt worse and a bolt of pain shot into her head. It suddenly began to seem too much effort to make it all the way but she tried anyway. She got halfway there and then collapsed onto the bar. There was no point trying to make it all the way to the toilets
There was no point trying to do anything.
Ghosts and demons stopped and looked at her.
Hands on her shoulders.
“She yours mate?”
“Yeah. One too many.”
And she left the ghouls and monsters behind.