The beat-up and barely held together Volkswagen Bug chittered and banged its way up the hill on Divisadero heading towards the scruff and swagger of Haight Street, its choking engine screaming for mercy; clouds of acrid black smoke billowed unchecked from the exhaust, stinking and toxic.
It was, all things considered, a miracle of the highest order that this scruffy and derelict automobile actually made it this far in the first place.
Marvin drove. He wore a slick and shiny black leather jacket on which hung a multitude of chains and studs that jingled faintly every time his beleaguered car fought for its life. His girlfriend Teresa graced the shotgun seat resplendent in faux-Victorian elegance, frumped up as it were in a billowing red-laced velvet dress. One of her sleeves hung nonchalantly out the open window, flailing in the uncharacteristically warm breeze. Rounding out a trio was their companion Cyril, whom they had just met earlier in the evening at a house party in the Tenderloin. His lanky height was crumpled up in what passed for the backseat; nearly as crumpled, it might be said, as his rumpled black velvet coat.
A Siouxsie & The Banshees cassette played in the car’s tinny little tape player, and Marvin, Cyril, and Teresa bellowed along as Siouxsie Sioux wailed, “Fuck the mothers, kill the others! Fuck the others, kill the mothers!”
The Indian summer still held San Francisco firmly in its grasp – as it was wont to do – this late in October. The house party at which the three of them had made acquaintance was a messy and strangely archaic affair, one in which the front doors of a depressed and anxiety-ridden Victorian share house were hurled open to the world for any and every passer-by to enter if they so chose.
This being the Tenderloin, it was what it was – and then some.
Cyril was out and about, having just ripped off David, his drug dealer, to the tune of an eight ball of nose candy. He’d been feeling a little frisky, and frankly it was merely a crime of opportunity when David’s eyes fluttered into the back of their sockets and his body went into violent convulsions after having snorted a monster line off the surface of his coffee table. Cyril’s $200 in cash and the 3.5 grams of coke he was in the process of purchasing were right there in front of him and he simply jumped at the chance, thoughts and consequences be damned. He could have grabbed more, he supposed, but he didn’t want to be greedy. Halfway out the door, he looked back at David’s heaving body and felt a tinge of remorse; he dialled 911 on David’s old rotary phone and left it off the hook before vacating the flat.
So there he was at the house party, looking for someone to have a little fun with. And it was there, on the rooftop, smoking a menthol cigarette and staring in wonder at the full blood-orange moon dominating the skyline, where he crossed paths with the two mysterious strangers.
Initially, he had no earthly idea why they stood out like they did. They were leaning against the roof’s safety rails, staring at the same moon Cyril was,
The two of them moved through the crowd like tendrils of smoke; all grace and style, they were seemingly able to part through crowds without ever so much as brushing against anybody. Their eyes were in constant motion, as if to capture and record everything in their midst. Cyril couldn’t say what it was exactly about him that the two of them noticed and, in retrospect, approved of enough to approach him.
One second they were halfway across the rooftop; the next, they were flanking him in a cloud of clove cigarette smoke. The girl’s searching fingers found his jacket’s lapel and gently appraised it with a glancing brush.
“You look simply divine,” she whispered in his ear as her partner stood a shoulder’s length away, staring impassively at the sky. “I like his jacket,” she said with a purr. “I think he should come with us. I’d like that. Very much.”
She peered deeply into Cyril’s eyes and she flashed a set of perfect, tiny teeth. “I insist,” she whispered, her words silky as smoke, drifting into Cyril’s ears. “What are you like?”
Cyril thought that was an odd question to ask, but just then a wind rushed from nowhere and Cyril both was and wasn’t there – at the same time. He found himself existing in the current time and space, but he was also somewhere else, looking at himself, both from a distance and from right behind him. And then the he he was looking at was gone. And he was gone, as well.
Cyril had read an article in a science magazine once about what would theoretically happen to a human being if he found himself on the event horizon of a black hole. Spaghettification, it was called – the body would be stretched out by the forces of gravity until it resembled a piece of spaghetti, until it was ultimately ripped into pieces and rendered into so many insignificant particles of atoms and matter. This was how Cyril felt as his hair, his skin, his clothes, and his absolute centre of being were being pulled into threads and the air about him was super-charged, jagged blue streaks of light flared in his field of vision and all he could hear was cracks as matter became anti-matter and was he here or there or nowhere or –
A womb. That was all Cyril could liken the space he found himself in to – a womb. He floated, somehow, surrounded by a luminous shower of amber light that had no immediately detectible source. Shadows were non-existent, and through some instinctual inner compass, Cyril could feel himself slowly and nonchalantly rotating in some kind of orbit, as if he was a lazy and distant planet moseying around a sun that was so far away it couldn’t be seen.
Mere words could not describe how comfortable and secure Cyril felt. He closed his eyes and simply drifted in his peaceful space, content that this was where he could live out the rest of his days, knowing nothing but this spectacular placidity.
He did not know how long it was – seconds, hours, weeks, years – before he noticed that he was not alone in that space. Somebody was touching him; he felt a hand work its way under his shirt – sharp little nails gently scraped his skin as fingers slid up his belly and started massaging his left nipple. He opened his eyes, smelling a faint aroma of jasmine as he did so.
It was the girl from the rooftop, floating against his body, her electric green eyes staring up at him. Her lacy velvet dress splayed out in the amber-coloured light for nearly as far as he could see. She pinched his nipple playfully under his shirt, her brightly painted crimson lips curving lasciviously into a smile. “Hello,” she said simply, not once taking her eyes off his.
“Er – hi,” he said back, not quite sure what the hell was going on. Where was this place? He looked around, but as soon as he did so he wasn’t sure what it was he was looking for, or what he even expected to find. The girl’s head rested against his belly; he felt her warmth through the fabric of his shirt. His nipple felt firm and erect between her fingers as they massaged it gently but firmly.
“If you’re looking for Marvin, you’re not going to find him,” she said, shaking her head. Her long raven hair, now free from the chignon it had been tied into, spread out behind her like the train of a black wedding dress. She gestured around her with her eyes. “This is my special place,” she murmured. “It’s quieter here, I find. As well as more … private.”
Cyril opened his mouth to ask her where they were, exactly, but the girl put a finger to his lips. “Shush,” she said. “I don’t need you to talk right now. So no talking.” She smiled again, and Cyril felt a distinct warmth flow over his body.
Her hand began to travel downwards, until it reached the crotch of his jeans. She gently squeezed his package, and it responded in kind, becoming gorged with hot blood and straining against her searching fingers. “Hmm, I like this,” she muttered as her other hand began to fumble with his belt buckle. “Nope, no talking from you,” she breathed. Her breath caught in her throat as she undid his belt and unbuttoned his trousers, pulling the zipper down slowly, each tooth of the chain popping like a champagne cork as they came undone.
His penis was as solid as a statue of Priapus, and it searched out her hand as it groped its way under the waist of his boxers. The girl’s fingers brushed the glans with tips that crackled with restless energy, and then curled around the shaft of Cyril’s cock firmly and surely. He gasped as a slow-burning heat radiated outwards from his groin, flushing his skin and making the hairs on his body stand on end.
“Oh, you like that, don’t you?” she whispered, beginning to stroke him softly as they floated in tandem in that womb, that mysterious space that was neither here nor there. “You do, you do like that.” She tightened her grip and quickened her pace as she jacked him off. Those piercing green eyes of her flashed, as if caught up in a burst of sudden power from within.
Cyril’s breathing began to intensify and he arched his back, there in her ‘special place’. It was, he decided, delightfully special.
The girl let go of his penis and hooked her thumbs under the waist of his jeans, pulling them down and allowing his cock to jut proudly in the warm air, the air of which itself was beginning to pulse at the speed and rhythm of the blood coursing through Cyril’s veins. She began to travel downwards then, cupping his balls with the palm of her hand as she did so. “You know what I’d like right now?” she asked.
She didn’t wait for an answer, and Cyril was pretty damn sure she didn’t want one. The veins of his prick pulsed visibly, and Cyril was positive that if it got any larger, it would explode. A tiny droplet of pre-cum perched on the tip of his glans, which resembled a perfectly formed purple velvet mushroom.
“I’d like for your cock to be in my fucking mouth,” she panted, and then suddenly he felt her warm breath and the sultry heat of her tongue as she ran it slowly – so slowly – from the base of his cock up its shaft until her pretty crimson lips enveloped the head, smearing the opaque, pearly liquid all over the hood, making it glisten like a jewel in the amber light that enveloped both of them.
She glanced up at Cyril as she manoeuvred his cock slowly into her mouth, until it had all but disappeared down her throat. She quickly pulled it out, a trail of saliva dribbling off her chin. Her eyes sparkled – Cyril truly had never seen a shade of green like hers before.
“Who are you?” he finally managed to ask, but she was already in the process of grabbing his member firmly in her left hand and vigorously sucking him off with an enthusiasm that bordered on the maniacal. He closed his eyes and relaxed, sliding headfirst into the moment and relaxing in his weightlessness. If this is a dream, he thought, then don’t let me wake up.
He woke up. In one moment, he was floating in an amber-coloured womb of peacefulness made physical, getting a blowjob from a beautiful mystery woman; in the next, he was back on the rooftop with a cigarette between his lips, a warm breeze fanning through his long greasy hair and the noise of party-goers and music and different tendrils of conversations about every subject under the moon going on around him. He blinked.
Marvin looked Cyril up and down. “I’m Marvin, and this here is Teresa,” he said, holding out an impeccably manicured hand. “She was just telling me that we need to meet you, and as you can see she’s been made quite happy by doing so.”
Cyril couldn’t place the accent – it drifted laconically all over the map. He shook Marvin’s outstretched hand, and marvelled at how smooth it was. But there was an energy Cyril couldn’t describe in that handshake; for some reason, he felt at that moment that he would do anything for his new friends – even, perhaps, die for them. When Teresa enveloped him in her arms and kissed him softly on his cheek, his fate was sealed. A faint aroma of jasmine and talcum powder stayed with him once she parted.
“Do you like coke?” he asked, hoping that he wasn’t blushing. “I’ve, um, got some if you’d like to partake.”
Marvin smiled a tight-lipped smile, and for the briefest of moments Cyril was terrified that he’d judged them wrong and now they thought he was a scoundrel and a mutt and a throwaway druggie they shouldn’t have wasted their time on. A dizzying panic wrapped its cold rigid hand around his heart and began to squeeze without mercy; he found himself hardly able to breathe.
“This evening just keeps getting better and better,” murmured Teresa. “Oh, Marvin, I think we have a keeper!”
“Yes, Cyril, we would like to partake,” said Marvin. He turned with a pantomimed seriousness towards his lady. “And yes, my love. He is certainly a keeper.”
Cyril couldn’t remember having given them his name, but Teresa had already grabbed his hand and was leading him haphazardly through the herd of party-goers and hangers-on and layabouts and junkies and hippies and drunks with that same grace she’d exhibited when first he’d laid eyes on her. It was an amazing feeling, drifting through the seemingly impenetrable without once touching anybody.
The bathroom was a sad, tiny little thing; the three of them pressed together in its environs stretched its capacity to the threshold of nothingness. The only source of light, a bare bones light bulb hanging from a yellowing cable, swung subtly, shifting their shadows against the walls. The stench of piss and lord-knows-what was suffocating.
A pocket mirror had mysteriously willed itself into existence from somewhere in the folds of Teresa’s person, and Cyril carefully doled out lines of his marching powder on its surface.
“Fuck, this is some good blow,” Marvin said after finishing a fat line. He looked at the four walls and sniggered humourlessly. “Think this toilet could be any smaller?”
“Yeah, this toilet wins some kind of fucking prize for tininess, doesn’t it?” Cyril nervously laughed, vaguely aware of a mild claustrophobia beginning to cover him like an itchy blanket. “You know what?” he said. “We should blow this joint. Go somewhere else, anywhere else. Your choice.”
Teresa cozied even closer, the warmth of her body pressing into Cyril through her velvet frock. She smiled at her boyfriend. “Good idea. Marvin, do we have an extra ticket?”
Marvin looked at Cyril, his eyes at once judging and distant. “Well, he is dressed quite nicely,” he murmured. “I believe we do, Tess.”
“A ticket to what?” Cyril felt a fluttering in his stomach, an ache that burned pleasantly under his skin, making his face flush. Teresa reached up and caressed his cheek. His two new friends glanced at one another, as if in thrall to a thrilling secret.
“We,” Marvin said rather grandiosely, “are going to Club Hex.”
Club Hex! Cyril couldn’t believe his ears – he had heard of this traveling underground bacchanal that shifted locations, but he sadly seemed to never be in “the know”. He’d heard stories from friends of friends who’d somehow managed to find the gunmetal tickets in the nocturnal market. The music played was said to be legendary; only the best and brightest of industrial and gothic tunes blared from state-of-the-art sound systems. The honoured guests were the most lovely and sophisticated on the planet, it was known, and the drinks were served all night long.
“Club Hex?” Cyril said, trying – and failing – to sound casual.
Marvin and Teresa laughed in tandem; it was a glorious sound. “Let’s get the fuck out of here,” said Marvin.
The three of them made it out of the house party – which, frankly, was beginning to get a wee bit out of hand – and trudged up the street to Larkin, where Marvin’s car was parked. When Marvin pulled his jangling keys from his pocket and unlocked the doors of the ugly, bright orange Volkswagen Bug, Cyril couldn’t help but show his disappointment.
For some reason, he’d expected someone of Marvin’s calibre to drive something sleek and efficient and beautiful beyond words. A Saab, maybe. Or a Mercedes. Even a bloody Audi or something – something else, something dark and dangerous, something … well, something. Cyril couldn’t put his finger on it, but there was something so incongruously wrong with this beat-up and filthy automobile.
Marvin glanced at Cyril under darkened brows and grinned. “If it isn’t broke, I prefer not to fix it,” he said blithely. “Get in.”
And they were off.
It seemed to take half the damn night, but at long last Marvin’s little car – with much wheezing and coughing – reached the peak of the hill. “Check this,” said Marvin, clunking the shift into neutral. He then sat cross-legged in his seat as the Bug began to coast downhill, gravity speeding it up rather quickly.
“Whoo-hoo,” Teresa wailed to the ceiling as they hurtled towards Haight.
“If I die, I hope I come back as a bat,” said Cyril for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Why that thought flashed in his head, he had no idea.
“Bela Lugosi’s dead,” half-sang Teresa. “Bela Lugosi’s dead.”
“Well then, that’s what I want to b – watch it!” Cyril screamed. “Watch out!”
The Bug had, funnily enough, began to drift to the side, seeing as Marvin was lighting a cigarette, and neither of his hands were in their proper place on the steering wheel. Teresa’s hand shot out from under the mountain of fabric it was hiding under and performed an immediate correction. “Really, darling, do be careful,” she purred, kissing him and leaving a crimson mark on his powdered face.
The menacing guitars and thrumming bass of The Banshees’ “Voodoo Dolly” arrived on the cassette, and the smell of eucalyptus trees and asphalt and grime and sunshine gone by meandered through the car like a mysterious urban perfume.
Marvin peered thoughtfully at the dividing lines blurring into one yellowish streak. He pointed ahead to a little side street that was swiftly approaching. “See that alley?” he asked no one in particular.
Cyrus looked, but before he could make out what the hell he was talking about, Marvin violently yanked the parking brake and steered hard to the right.
The Bug, which until then had been cruising at warp speed, jammed its brakes up and squealed, forcing the poor car into a vicious swerve, flying along sideways for a good spell until righting itself with much effort and finding itself in a vacant parking spot behind a rubbish skiff in that little side street.
The Bug was enveloped in a stinking cloud of smoke. The engine died, finally out of its misery.
A homeless man pushing a shopping cart paused briefly on the sidewalk, staring at the now-still car with a healthy dose of suspicion.
Marvin and Teresa fell into one another, laughing hysterically. Cyril, it must be said, wasn’t so impressed. “What the fuck?” he blurted in a panic, having really and truly believed he was about to die in that shitty little car. “We could have been killed!”
“Oh do calm down, darling,” panted Teresa, that aroma of cloves and persimmons even stronger than Cyril remembered.
Cyril wasn’t having any of it. “Let me the fuck out of here,” he panted, feeling the interior of the Bug closing in on him. Blind, frantic panic held sway in his bones, his skin, and his mind. “You guys are fucking crazy.”
Marvin turned in his seat, looking like a vicious and psychotic clown wrapped in shiny black vinyl. His mouth opened far wider than Cyril thought natural and my god all those fucking teeth. The teeth, it seemed, had teeth. So many teeth. “Can’t … fucking dance before I eat,” he said. Teresa just laughed.
The homeless man watched the Bug rock violently back and forth and heard a scream uttered and then stopped. He decided he wasn’t going to get involved – hell, he no longer felt safe on that street – so he pushed his cart up the sidewalk and vanished into that warm, warm night.