While waiting, Ethan’s head rose and he observed the dance floor from where he sat as the music began to make a change; the new insistent drumming made his ribcage vibrate and it became a chore to breathe. There was a blast of gold from the distance and the roar of a party followed. Las seemed to be having a good time, at least.
The bartender passed on his drink and he thanked her before she left. Ethan watched the alcohol glass illuminate with acknowledgement to who was holding it, and he took a sip as it opened up his bar tab for the night.
He had swallowed a fire so delicious that the burn in his chest had the taste of cinnamon and chocolate. The sensation didn’t stop him from downing the entire glass in a single go, but he did so with the keen awareness that regret was to follow.
The heat of the club was beginning to get to him. It was easy enough to blame the alcohol for helping it along, but he had been burning up all day. Ethan could only plead with his mind to work with his body and give him sanctuary for the next few hours. The more he focused on it, however, the worse it became.
His arms began to shiver. Something… wasn’t right. Ethan looked back for his empty glass but it had vanished. He had a drink, didn’t he?
He could hear her voice as sure as she was standing beside him, louder than all the gasps and laughter cracking through the music. The bartender—
Ethan had taken hits of ecstasy before, only a couple of times after his Mom had passed, and this feeling wasn’t too dissimilar from that memory. His ear tingled as if her ghost were there, whispering a secret to him.
“Is something wrong, Ethan?”
He didn’t know. Ethan was in enough mind to know what he was hearing wasn’t real, but it brought no comfort. He looked over to make sure it wasn’t anyone messing with him. Maybe Las, as equal a prankster as a socialite, but only the invisible parent seemed to be fixated into his right ear.
Then, as he began to wonder what the hell kind of magic serum was in his drink, he saw gold. Las—
He spun as fast as a potentially drugged, clumsy teen could turn to see who activated their glow. It was… so bright. His eyes seared just trying to find the source. Whoever it was must’ve really wanted attention (and was an expert at getting it) to make themselves illustrious within a matter of steps.
Ethan felt his neck snap his head forward in a tired lull. He knew he was a bit of a lightweight with alcohol and all but he didn’t think he was that bad to be incapacitated to quickly.
He put all his weight on the bar counter and kept his eyes overseeing the dance floor. He couldn’t escape the amber ambiance the new club patron had going on. It was almost too grandiose in nature for a place like this.
“It’s pretty, isn’t it?”
Mom. He forgot she was there.
Ethan staggered over to bars encircling the dance floor and gripped onto the railing. He wanted to find the source. Whose damn glow was so arrogant that they had to blind the entire club like a morning light?
“There she is,” His Mom said.
Then he saw her.
He hadn't seen hair so long in many years. No one had time for such inconvenience anymore. His guess was if let down from the tangled but styled ponytail she had piled onto her skull, it’d have crashed into the backs of her heels. He couldn’t see her face, but when she twisted to look up at a man who was very attentive to her chest, he could see her more clearly. Tight red dress, a loosened and tattered belt for a hem. Fishnet stockings and black leather boots buckled down to voluptuous thighs. The small of her back was perfectly curved enough to really define her ass, which was perfectly round and proportioned to her smooth hips.
Ethan didn’t realize it, but he began to pant. He could feel the sweat trickling down his neck and his chest. The pain was becoming insufferable. Did that drink seriously have some form of ecstasy bubbling at the bottom of the glass? What was happening to him?
“Ethan,” His Mom whispered again. “Ethan, she’s turning around.”
He choked, gagged even, in forcing himself to look up and see the woman’s face.
Her glow blossomed into flowers. Flowers beaded along her gripping dress, which was addressed by a shorter jacket that cut her breasts in half. That, too, was sealed with a belt and zipped right up to the base of her skull. Her face was small but with definition. She wasn’t thin by any means, but every aspect of her was especially gorgeous. She was breathtaking…
She was glowing. Her entire body was radiating with glow. Not only did her clothes boast a professional, custom design of glow, it was nothing in comparison to the honey-kissed fog that outlined her figure. As she spun to greet someone else that snuck up on her, the cloud dusted off the tips of her ponytail and painted the air. It kept driving upward like a soaring bird, and whoever this guy was really warranted her attention. Her hand was snaking all over his chest, and if that wasn’t enough to garner all his love, the golden spirit that had left her became fireworks over the man’s head.
Ethan watched a figure form through the tears in his eyes. The light that slipped from the edges of her hair had become the shape of a woman, almost precisely the shape of the host that was dragging it along. Her hand was on his hip and her doppelganger’s arms were hooked around the man’s neck from behind. She pressed her near-intangible head against his, her excess of hair fluttering around him and swashing into the other men and women around them. Anyone struck gave the blonde a moment of their time. “Flustered” was an understatement for their reactions.
“Beautiful, but suspicious,” Ethan’s mother warned him. He felt her hand squeeze his shoulder. “But she will help you.”
What did she mean? What was Mom talking about?
“No…” His voice was hoarse as he responded to her alert. “No, Mom, you’re dead…”
He thought he was dying. He was moving into another world as his heart began to thrust out to the beat of the music. It was pounding as hard as it could, trying to break his chest open to escape into the dancefloor.
He buckled over. Ethan hacked loudly, but the music drowned it out. No one was stopping to help him, if anyone could be bothered to notice. He always heard death was a cold master, but this unsettling situation was a steaming mistress.
His heart throbbed.
His entire torso punched in. He felt like he had been kicked from the floor into his chest. Again.
Gold slashed across his eyes. Ethan forced his line of sight to ride until he saw the blonde woman targeting him from across the room. Her eyes were focused like a startled beast in the night, her entire body lashing around until she was staring right at him. Her fluttering extension whipped with her, and somehow it made it all the more terrifying to face. He groaned and stumbled backward into the bar again, his breaths heavier than his entire body.
Death was blossoming into an orange oblivion. It was like blowing hot breaths onto a cold glass cup and peering through the bottom, a salmon fog forming on the borders of his eyes. He would die and that crazy woman would conquer him while he went blind.
He tipped his head to his left to watch one leg slide in front of the other. Her smile was thin and vicious, her tongue sliding across her bottom lip, then her top. He was sure she was moving much faster than what he could see. Each foot dropped like a gong, the death bells tolling as the gap between them began to close.
He could no longer differentiate the beat of the music, the step of her stride, and the pulse of his heart.
Ethan felt his spine collide with the bar behind him as another explosion ignited within him. His lungs were threatening to collapse.
The vision of saffron settled before him, not even an inch of space between their bodies. The contact nearly made him scream, his skin becoming sheets of frayed nerve endings; the level of torment was too overbearing. She ran her fingers along his chest and up to his jaw line, clawing playfully and painfully at what little hair he had on his chin. Her form pressed between his thighs, her wet lips lingering beside his ear.
He just wanted her to kill him and make the afflictions end.
Ethan couldn’t spare a lung to beg for mercy, let alone try to escape at this point. He was crying out for his Mom. Where had she gone? Why would she leave him here to fend for himself? Didn’t she love him?
Then, he heard her.
The woman, not his Mom.
“Mm…hmhm.” She was chuckling under her breath, because this was real funny, he thought. “I found me a young one…”
He knew it; he was going to die.
She grabbed him by his arm and began to pull him away from the bar. He put up what little a fight he could muster, but it didn’t last very long. She was guiding Ethan to his grave somewhere in a dark, dirty alley and there was nothing he could do about it.
His chest was still booting him back. She held onto him tightly, easily in motion with each thrust his body had to show for the anguish. She moved as if she expected him to be getting thrown around by his own heart.
Through the crowd, he wanted to wail as the waves of club-goers smashed into his limbs, his back, and his cheeks. He could see the transparent exit that would be the last border to save his life. Maybe it’d read “crazy bitch” as she went through the frame and the Law would come cruising on down and save his life. Happy endings for everyone! Except her. Fuck her.
They got through the masses and suddenly she came to a halt. She was hanging onto Ethan like a purse, and he felt like his organs were all loose keys jingling at the bottom. He could feel her attention boring holes into the back of his neck. He knew he shouldn’t, but for the hell of it all, he encouraged himself to glare back.
Contrary to the rage he expected, what he saw probably confused and shocked him more. She was smiling thoughtfully at him, as if she was contemplating what to do with her prey. Then, with a sudden flicker of primroses springing to life in her eyes, she made a rash decision.
“Actually, kids are a pain in the ass. Never mind.”
And she pushed him. He staggered, flailed his ten-ton arms, and tried not to fall into the ground. He had this feeling that if he landed, there’d be no getting back up. He wasn’t eager to shatter into a million pieces like a shot glass.
He didn’t shatter, however, but remained upright, having stumbled into something stiff but cushioned, like a wet couch left outside in the cold and just as comfortable. He batted his lashes, trying to see the ceiling, but he could still see the horizontal pan out of the world dancing around him. He hadn’t hit the floor, he concluded, but then that left one important question: What was he pressed into?
Two claws then gripped on both his shoulders, and he heard a deep voice in his ear. Not his Mom, not that vixen, but the soothing articulation of a man much taller than him and who he could tell was older:
“Just come with me and you won’t die.”
Ethan watched as the golden glow drifted back into the crowd, both her arms in the air and the ghost of her lust swimming into the horizon. He envied her freedom. He wanted to be able to dance and go home, talk to his father and go to bed. He'd get up and go to school the next day. He'd do anything – anything – if he could just run.
He relaxed his head back into his new captor, unable to withhold the soft sob that escaped him. It was embarrassing to make such a pathetic noise. He wanted to kill them both for degrading him into this blubbering mess, but shame wasn’t an option when he could barely move thanks to his own body.
Ethan wanted to see who he hated. When he tried, he could catch very little of his face. Most of it was painted with shadows; the rest was disguised by an incomprehensible mess of hair. No colors, no eyes. His vision was still obstructed by apricots and tangerines, and it was in these comparisons he realized something else: He smelled like his old man. An aged whisky or a crisp scent of an old piece of paper, like from one of those books people used to have. He was furious to take the comfort of familiarity with a stranger, but it was all he had to hang onto.
He closed his eyes. Ethan heard him say a few more words before they departed, but he wouldn’t know what they meant to him right then:
“Can’t have you killing anyone here, too, can we?”
But he would know soon enough.
Together, without his consent but with what felt like every good but nevertheless unknown intention on his part, they deserted Club Omega and the music pumping through its veins.
And Ethan howled into the night, because his flesh was in flames.