“Shhhh, it’s ok.” A strong hand on my shoulder reminded me he would never let me escape the chair. “If, as you claim, you really just came here to enjoy the club, then you’re in no danger at all. I’ll simply look over your memories of this evening, make a few minor edits so you’re not leaving with any dangerous knowledge, and you’ll be free to go do as you intended. Now, just relax…”
I honestly don’t know how I let them talk me into it. I’m not really a “let’s go clubbing!” kind of person. To be honest, I thought we were going to sit around reading fanfiction while Fae used her fancy markers on her latest projects. If things got really wild, Jen might stream something they’d already seen (so I’d get their references) while I ate popcorn and pet their two cats. That’s what we usually did when they invited me over.
But no. Jen opened the door, and without so much as a “How’ve you been?”, she handed me a package. While I was distracted, puzzled, looking at the box, Fae took me by the shoulders and (gently) shoved me in the bathroom. They agreed I wasn’t coming out until I tried on the outfit they got me.
Even still, this wasn’t that out of the ordinary. I have no fashion sense. Given my choice, I’d be in comfy sweatshirts and sweatpants all the time. They know this. So, from time to time, I ask their advice. They get to dress me up like a living doll, and I get a nice disguise for looking sane.
“‘Looking sane’? This mind seems well-ordered to me, if a bit – what are they calling it this century? – atypical.”
“Yeah, I’m neurodivergent. People don’t get that. Go out in mis-matched comfy clothes; people think you’re crazy.”
“Ah, yes. Good friends, helping one to keep up appearances. This has been a necessary service for longer than you may realize. Now, we continue.”
I wobbled out precariously. “Look, this is really nice of you two, but aren’t these boots a bit expensive?” I reached past the hem of the miniskirt to run my hands over my thighs again. Fishnets are sensory good.
Jen chuckled. “Happy early birthday! We both have to work Wednesday…”
Fae finished her sentence. “...so we decided to celebrate tonight. Get in the car; we’re going out.” I opened my mouth to protest, but she insisted. “Our treat.”
They were already headed for the car, so I wobbled along after them. I figured I’d get the hang of the boots eventually.
I groaned a bit as the drive to the club, search for parking, and wait in line sped past my consciousness like a movie on fast forward.
“Shhhhhh,” he soothed, petting my hair with one hand until my squirming stilled.
“Hold up. You know the drill: I recognize you, but I’m going to need to see your passes anyway. And who’s this?”
Jen and Fae held up their phones for him to scan. “A friend. They’s new.”
I blushed, trying not to fidget, as he looked me up and down. “Delicious outfit. New blood is very welcome.” He chuckled, and my friends giggled, sharing some kind of inside joke. “Have fun.” His voice packed so much suggestion into those two words that I shivered, and practically scurried away. Attention like that was scary, but if I was being honest with myself, also kinda thrilling.
The sensory experience of the club crashed over me like a wave. Bright lights in different colors pulsed and swept over the dance floor, and lasers played across the ceiling. Thin fog made the whole interior look a bit dim and distant, and painted the lasers in wavering lines. Smells of hundreds of bodies with their sweat and perfumes assaulted my nose, and I could almost taste the fog machine. The bass beat of the music was so intense I could feel it on my skin. For a moment, I forgot to move.
Fae took my hand. “C’mon, silly. Let’s check our coats so we can go in.”
I gasped, startled by time seeming to slow to a crawl. Dimly, I regained awareness of the recliner beneath me and acoustic ceiling tiles above me. A straw touched my lips, and I sucked it reflexively. “That’s right,” he encouraged. When I tasted the water, I sucked it down greedily. Apparently being in trance was thirsty work.
He put down the cup. His fingers softly caressed my face down, and down again, soothing, calming. “I know it’s confusing, but I need to get a good look in that purse if you want to clear your name.”
I whimpered. “But I thought you caught the –”
He caught my gaze in his again. “This resistance is awfully suspicious.” The tiniest hint of a smile played at one corner of his mouth, and I frowned. I felt so confused. Another caress smoothed away my concern, my doubt, my awareness.
The bag in my hand. Opening the top, taking out my ID, showing it, putting it back. Taking out money, Fae grabbing my wrist and explaining it was all on them, charged to their passes, tonight, for my birthday. Putting it back. Time slowed nearly to a stop as I peered inside. Taking out a lip balm, putting it in my pocket. Thanking Fae for finding a skirt with pockets. Trying to take my little flashlight, a comfort object, but Fae taking my wrist again – time slowed, stopped. His mind probed around the memory, – the sensations of the flashlight, its texture, its weight, the feeling of everything else in the purse, my mood, my intentions – and then, satisfied, loosened its grip on mine just a little as the flow of time resumed.
“You don’t need any of that. Rose’ll keep it safe. C’mon.”
A glance at her face. Distant awareness of him looking through my eyes, recognizing her, nodding. Being led off toward the dance floor.
“You ok, Jen?”
“Just a little headache. I’m going to go claim one of the back booths. You two go dance!”
“We’ll find you. Hope you feel better.”
The conversation was held at a shout, but I could still barely process the words. Fae took my hand, guided me to the floor. I stopped resisting, just let everything wash over me.
I still can’t really say I danced. I think you have to be more in touch with your body than I am, to do that. But we moved around to the pulsing beat, she spun me dizzy through the lights, and we pushed away a couple guys who wanted to grind. I surprised myself, enjoying it, laughing. But it didn’t take long for me to get tired and a little overwhelmed.
“Let’s go find Jen,” I shouted, pulling at Fae’s hand in mine.
“I need a drink,” she shouted back. “I’ll meet up.”
I nodded, and we let go, grinning in shared joy. That was the first time I was glad I let them talk me into coming. But still, all the voices were so overwhelming, and there was some kinda weird swishy sound in the music, like a couple dozen voices all whispering over one another. The stuff they were saying was a weird mix, random things like headed to room five, got one in stall four, taking booth three, and then repeated suggestions that were trancy and creepy but also kinda exciting and cool: relax, let go, give in to me.
As I walked back toward the booths, I chuckled to myself, thinking it had the vibe from those books we liked to read back in high school. It was how I would imagine a club for vampires.