Sarah couldn’t have spoken if she’d wanted to. A few hours worth of screaming and a half a packet of smokes and there was just nothing left, not that it mattered. No one would hear over the pounding music, and even if they could, no one would care. The club was wall to wall bodies, all moving smoothly together. Rising and falling in an eerie unison to the music.
On the stage, Bec’s face ran with sweat and she gripped the microphone in the stand so tight her knuckles turned white. The band arrayed behind here also showed signs of strain in sweat and pallor, but they didn’t slow down. The drummer, Bacon, was in a kind of trance, her eyes half closed and the sticks twirling madly between beats, while Raf on the Bass had finally loosened his tie in an attempt to get some air.
Off to the side and out of the mass of mindlessly moving bodies, Amelia and Barry leaned against the bar. Barry resolutely kept his eyes averted from the dance floor.
“It’s not natural!” He grunted.
“Rubbish.” Amelia dismissed his griping. “It’s the most natural thing in the world. They came here to dance…”
“Not to,” He stopped, realised he was yelling and moved closer and up onto his toes so he could hiss in Amelia’s ear. “Not be to sucked dry!”
“You’re free to terminate your employment you know, Barry.”
“Oh you’d like that wouldn’t you, you wretched harpy! Then you could have them faffing around, taking these weird little side jobs full time, couldn’t you?” He was sweating as much as the band, it ran down his round face to be soaked up by his crisp white collar. Fat men had no business in hot places, he thought. “Well it’s not going to happen! If I had my way…”
“If you had your way Barry, they’d be toiling in obscurity, taking recreational drugs and drowning in a sea of hedonistic vice. They’re helping people, you mediocre little man. Butt out.”
The song rounded out and the crowd slowed to a low, vibrating stillness. Waiting. Sarah’s eyes found Bec’s from the centre of the dance floor, right where she’d been instructed to be. The last song started, the opening chords of a popular number by Florence and the Machine, and the people began to move again. They were more controlled now, tighter, less wild and Sarah began to feel as though she were being lifted off her feet. Supported by the presence and energy of some two hundred people who moved and sang, who helped her, though none of them knew it.
“Here it comes,” Amelia said smiling. “Don’t you want to watch?”
“It’s unnatural,” Barry muttered again, but he turned his head and craned his neck trying to see Sarah in the crowd.
She’d had a hard run, the last few years, and most of it she wore on her face, and in the carriage of her body. She was frightened all the time, of everyone. People were inherently evil, they lied and they took and they hurt her terribly and it would always be that way… Therapy had helped, if only slightly. Three months ago she’d never have made it into the club, let alone lasted the two sets required to get her here.
As Bec sang and the band played, time slowed and Sarah saw the warm interconnectedness of the people around her. They moved up and down, swayed, slid smoothly around each other and left not a scratch for their passing. Her therapist called it PTSD, some trauma left it’s mark so deep that no amount of scrubbing could lift it… it wasn’t a stain, it was a hole. Something gouged out left raw. You can’t scrub that out, it has to be filled in…
She stumbled slightly in a wave of light headedness, and a hand moved from the darkness to help her. Someone whose face she couldn’t see steadied her and gently pushed her to one side. More hands and arms, moving her like a single dance partner leading her around the floor. If she stumbled, they took her weight, and when she felt the press of that panic tightening her throat, a tiny woman with violent pink hair smiled up at her. A man wearing a t-shirt with a swear word on it nodded and moved to the side to give her space. Two middle-aged women opened their arms and together the three of them moved without reservation to the music.
“It’s working…” Barry breathed.
“You always seem surprised.”
When the last notes died, Sarah was still in the crush of people, laughing and clapping. Some were hugging each other and for the first time in as long as she could remember, she didn’t pull back.
“We’re going to take a short break. Be back for the last set in about fifteen minutes so make sure you drink plenty of water and we’ll see you soon!” Bec said into the mic before jumping down off the stage and heading for the door.
Amelia and Barry followed after her, and the rest of the band trailed out after that. The air was so cold it stung after the heat of the room, but Bec let her head fall back and breathed it in deeply.
“That was intense.”
“Nice though,” Bacon leaned against the sand stone wall and put a cigarette in her mouth. When Raf moved in next to her she wordlessly put on in his mouth too and then lit them. “I was a little worried they’d start making with the free love there for a sec…”
“Naa, that’s why I went with Florence, she’s classy.” With a grateful smile, Bec took the beer Raf offered and drank deeply. “I think she’ll be able to do the rest on her own now…”
“Barry thinks you’re all unnatural.” Amelia said archly.
“Now, I didn’t mean,”
“Oh yes you did.”
“Hey. We’re having too good a night for the negative waves, guys.” Bacon waved them both off. “You don’t both have to be here you know, if you don’t like each other that much.”
“Ha. He couldn’t field a metaphysical problem if his mother was a Tuatha De Dannan.” Amelia snorted.
“I have no idea what the hell that means, but you’re constitutionally incapable of dealing with normal people!” Barry shot back.
“I beg your pardon?”
“You have no idea how to go about getting your little diva demands met. There, take that for example!” Barry pointed triumphantly through the doorway.
“… oh bugger…” Raf said mildly, raising one pierced eyebrow.
Inside, the dance floor could be clearly seen, and so could what was happening on it. To the somewhat suggestive lyrics of a Ke$ha song, the revellers were all in the process of taking their clothes off and dancing like drugged up ravers!
“I told them, I told them to be careful what they played between sets!” Amelia stormed inside and disappeared into the crush.
“I think the bar staff are in for a bad night.” Raff said.
“I think we need to rethink the last set… we’re going to have to wind these people down before we set them loose now.” Bec shook her head and they huddled together speaking quietly.
Barry sipped his gin and tonic and squeezed his eyes closed. He hadn’t had trouble like this with any of his other bands. A little promotion here, a break out gig there, the music industry came easily to him but this? In the thick of the action, he could see the girl, Sarah, dancing and laughing. He couldn’t deny the change was miraculous, and more or less permanent if Bec was to be believed. As long as she kept up with her therapy for a while and steered clear of relapse triggers, she had a chance to be truly happy and healthy. Still… the wrong song played after a set and the crowd could end up doing the hokey pokey and thinking they’re little kids (it had happened, and he shuddered at the memory).