A little story about a group of lads who journey out to a unnamed pub for an ultimate night but find something very different.
… and it was dark, seriously dark. The headlights of the car barely dinted the shadows on the road. “Where the fuck is this place John?”
John was driving. He had that mad look I knew, hunched over the wheel, bobbing slightly to the rocks blasting out of the stereo. “We’ll be there soon. The place is meant to be it! In a few months everyone will be talking about it!”
“Yea, yea…” the sarcastic tones of Stephen came from the back, “you’ve been going on about this place all week. Where did you hear about it?”
“A guy in the local told me about it and then I…,” John hesitated.
“‘I’ what?” I said.
“I dreamt about it…”
Stephen started laughing hysterically, waking the sleeping Keith beside him. “You dreamt about it? Is that why we’re going?”
Stephen laughed louder but John continued “… I knew you’d react like that. I knew it. Shouldn’t have fucking told ya.” He slapped the steering wheel. I sensed he was not telling the full story, he was holding back something.
I knew John from way back. When we were kids, we would drink beers in the old park. John was the mad one, trying to drink more than the rest of us. When we had had enough, he claimed that he was just warming-up. He wanted to go faster and harder than anyone else, even when he saw he was heading for a crash and more than once he ended up in hospital. The guy was super-thin, even when the rest of us were putting on some pounds, but he had strength in his straw hands.
It so dark outside because we were so far from anywhere. The red glow of the city long lost and now the night sky was dark and yawning…
We have a view of the road from the car. The trees are apparitions as they reflect the white light from the headlamps. We are moving very fast as if someone has hit fast forward. We come into a clearing and there is a pub with white stony walls and a thatched roof. No name is visible. Still in fast-forward, we move to the old oak door, which opens suddenly.
… everyone looked at us. Well, when I say everyone, I mean the bartender and two old farts sitting in the corner. The bartender looks mean. Big shoulders and a big bald head.
“What the fuck do you shits want?” And he sounded just as mean too.
“Four beers!” John said without fear.
“Yea I’ll have a Bud, a Guinness for Keith and a… Heineken Sean?” Stephen offered.
The bartender grabbed four bottles with no labels and slammed them down on the counter. “Four beers.”
“Eh, okay. How much?” Stephen said. John was doing a ‘silence’ sound to us.
“You’ve never been here before have ya?” the bartender grinned at us. “A few rules, you pay at the end of the night. You do not, and I mean this you shits, you do not go outside until the sun rises. And you drink what you’re given.”
Okay… We took our beers and found a table at the back. The beer bottles were painted gold and there were some sparkle in the beer. But it was good, surprisingly good.
Keith, still waking, slammed half the bottle down and let out a walloping good burp. With the ice broken, we chilled and talked crap.
“Ride the wave of madness!” she yelled as she stood, posed like a model, in the doorway. Long curly red hair and a body that made the four of us gasp. “Barman. The usual.”
“Coming up!” the barman said.
Music followed her into the bar. It was a thumping lively beat that drowned out the tatters of any remaining conversation. She was then followed by, one, two, three, five… ten… I lost count as more people who were as beautiful, fashionable and loud as her entered.
Within a few seconds the little bar was transformed into a loud, and definitely live, nightclub. Chairs and tables were moved and a central space was created so people could dance. One or two of the new people jumped behind the bar to help serve.
It was John who broke us out of our open-mouth trance by standing up and dancing his trademark bob.
The music stopped and a man in a white suit stood in the doorway. The way he stood there, the way he seemed to en-thrall everyone in that pub, the wicked grin on his young and wild face… it held us. He started to dance and the music returned.
The door shut behind him with a sense of finality.
“Bloody hell! John was right!” Stephen ate his words. John was already dancing amid a trio of girls. We were still sitting. I noticed that the man in the white suit was talking with the mean bartender and looking over at the three of us.
The bartender gave him a large red bottle and four glasses and he came over to us. The crowds parted to let him by.
“Gentlemen! Welcome.” He handed out a glass to each of us and poured what looked like red wine into our glasses. “I’m known around here as Mr. D. and fresh faces are always welcome to our never-ending party. But we have traditions.”
I gulped at this but he winked at me.
“I challenge you all to a drinking contest!” he sat down on John’s vacant stool.
We all lifted our glasses to our lips and down it went.
He filled our glasses again and again we drank down the red wine.
And again he filled our glasses. The stuff tasted like dry wine but had a bitter bite like it was gone-off. It occurred to me, as I lifted the stuff to my lips, that the original bottle couldn’t have contained that much wine.
Yet, he filled our glasses again. I was getting woozy but I always had the stamina, the will, to not buckle. It was the reason why John and me were friends. He couldn’t beat me.
Why was I getting so woozy so quickly? It mustn’t have been ordinary wine. And another glass of it went down. Stephen signalled his limit and Keith quickly followed.
“Just you and me,” said Mr. D and, without hesitation, downed another glass.
Another one, and another, and another… I couldn’t see straight. There was three Mr. Ds in front of me. I lifted the glass to my lips but then Mr. D fell sideways.
I had won. I tried to remain cool and slowly place the glass on the table but I missed and the glass smashed on the floor.
The world spun…
“Drink this,” someone was pouring something down my mouth. I gulped and my eyesight cleared but I was still heady drunk. She was beautiful.
I wanted to kiss her but my attempt to stand seemed to make me move sideways instead. Mr. D was standing there laughing at me as if he hadn’t drunk anything.
“You did good. Sean isn’t it?” he offered me his hand.
“Eh thanks.” I said as he pulled me up.
But as I stood, the world started to spin again. I couldn’t tell which way was up. The girl that helped me, grabbed me hand and said, “lets dance!” and she pulled me to the makeshift dance hall. Part of me knew that it was the same girl that had led everyone into the pub.
I looked back at my friends. Stephen and Keith both had a girl beside them and they were laughing. I couldn’t hear them over the music. It was so loud…
We see Sean being pulled onto the dance floor. We see all the beautiful young people dancing and moving to the supernatural beat. It is all in slow motion. The world flickers and they are not humans but satyrs, some have the legs of goats and small horns, and others have tails and cat’s ears. Sean dances, the only mortal among them. The world flickers again and we see only humans.
… I don’t know how we got there. She was unbuttoning my top and I was fiddling with the complex knots on hers. In moments we were doing it on the bed. She was on top. Then we went at it again and I was on top. I don’t know where I had the energy but we went at it again and again. My hand gripping her curly soft hair.
The music matched our increasing rhythm…
… outside. I was naked but then they were also. The gang of us were running through the field. They all effortlessly jumped over the tall hedge. Somehow I was following them. She was encouraging me, holding my hand.
John was at the edge of the field. He was calmly smoking, unaware that we were racing towards him, laughter in our ears…
… they were ripping him apart. Blood thrown high in the air. I staggered back. John was my friend. No they can’t do this. But then I looked at my hands; they were drenched in red, John’s blood…
… name was Sarah. She whispered it to me as we danced under the moons and made love on the cold grass…
“Get up!” the barman shook me. The morning streamed in the open door of the pub. The place looked like a bomb hit it. Keith and Stephen were still asleep on a bench. “Time for you to leave. Don’t look back now.”
“Where’s John?” I gasped from my dry voice.
“He’s gone already. Got a lift back to Dublin with the party.”
“We haven’t paid…”
“John paid. In full.”
The three of us were silent in the car back. Stephen drove. None of us argued or bickered even when we got lost three times, we just muddled through.
But all the time, I kept thinking about the nightmare, the blood on my hands, and John’s look of horror as they, no we, descended on him. But when I awoke this morning, my hands were not covered in blood. Before we left I looked around outside. I found the field that I dreamt about adjacent to the pub. There was a spot where several cigarette butts lay. No signs of struggle or blood. I got so paranoid, I checked under my nails, like in the detective shows, but there was no visible dirt or muck.
“So, eh, Sean… did you get it on with that girl, the one you were dancing with? You disappeared for so long we thought something must have happened?” Keith tried to break our mood as we arrived into the city. The early light and its red glow shimmered above the buildings.
“I don’t really remember…”
“That good huh?” Keith grinned.
We didn’t say anything else.
We went back to our lives and buried ourselves in work. It took a whole week before we realised that John was missing.
You see, the weekends were ours, we let loose, went wild but during the week, it was work. I was an accountant, Stephen a consultant of some sort, Keith was trying to be a writer and John was some sort of mad computer whiz. We all worked hard and worked late but it all paid well and when the weekends rolled round we spent it like there was no tomorrow.
But it was only on Friday when I was trying to arrange our hedonistic plans that we realised that no one had spoken or seen John since that night.
I drove out to his bed-sit on the north side of the city but no one was home. I called his neighbours who weren’t very helpful so I broke in to his place. It wasn’t hard and there was no alarm.
Food had gone rotten on the table, messages from a week ago on his phone, week old mail though his door, everything seemed untouched from a week ago. I called the Gardai…
… didn’t believe us. We didn’t know the name of the pub, where is was or even how to get there. They implied we were all high on drugs and probably John decided he could fly. I didn’t tell them about my nightmare. How could I? They would think I killed him. I didn’t.
I didn’t go to work for days. Called in sick. I unplugged the phone and radio and stayed in bed.
Then I had the dreams. In one, I was making love to Sarah, both of us naked and drenched in dry blood. I’d wake up and find I had wet the bed. In another, I dreamed we were running naked though the fields, screaming in madness and power and we would slaughter any living thing we found with our bare hands. Then some would be about John, he would be drinking too much and I would drink more. Mr. D would be there, laughing at us.
Anytime I slept I would slip into one of these nightmares. So I tried not to sleep, drank as much coffee as I could find.
Keith called once but I didn’t answer the door. I heard him yelling outside saying he could see me moving. But I switched off the lights.
The worst dream hit me near the end of the week.
I refused to sleep but the nightmares would not be so easily avoided. They tricked me into thinking I was still awake. Everything would seem normal but have a surreal, blurred, edge to them. I would hear the music playing and I would rush around the house looking for the source of it. Boom. Boom. There would be too many rooms than in reality and eventually I would find myself coming into a room I knew didn’t exist. There I would find John dancing in his unique way to the beat. Except, half his face was clawed off, his body was covered in large gashes and blood dribbled from his wounds. I’d wake then, knowing it was a dream.
I must have banged myself against a wall while I dreamed because I had two sore bruises on my forehead. My beard had grown unusually thick and I found my legs had started to itch…
Boom. Boom. The music played. I had by now placed old newspapers against all the windows so nothing could get in (or out). I wasn’t dreaming, yet the music played constantly. It was calling to me. Occasionally the daydream would show me Sarah, dancing, enticing me forward, except she wasn’t human in these visions. She had the legs of goat and horns on her head. She was even more beautiful, more stunning. Boom. Boom. The music was in my head. I couldn’t stop it…
We see Sean curled up in the corner of a room. The furniture has been pushed aside and bits of litter disgrace the walls. But Sean is different than before. Horns grow suddenly out of his head. His feet change shape. He buries his head in his hands. Our view suddenly shifts to the front door. The supernatural beat stops and someone thumps on the door. It opens and Mr. D. stands there grinning with wildness. Sarah goes by him, now in her full satyr form.
… Sarah pulls me from the house. I do not resist. I can’t tell if it is a dream or not because she looks like the image from my nightmares. She whispers things to me but I catch little of it. We’re climbing into a van. Mr. D. is there with a gold painted bottle, offering me a drink. I take a sip and the music in my head dies a bit. He doesn’t flinch as my house explodes in the background and then he bursts into laughter.
“The world is going to be swallowed in the tide of madness and we will be riding it, leading it. We are the wave. Ride the wave of madness Sean!” Sarah screams as the van pulls off. I was riding this dream. I no longer cared if it was real or not. The music would no longer overtake me. I would overtake it.
A part of me, a dead part of me, wondered what John’s dream was…