Though cramped, the confines of the backseat exist miles away from anything. The only light comes from the green of the dash and the driver’s lit cigarette, embers glowing crimson. The car and its occupants are quiet, contemplative; an altered state when compared to the weekend before. The lone body in the backseat finds the situation stifling in its strangeness.
Afraid to speak, she sits still as the car weaves down numerous alleys and side roads before coming to a halt behind a worn looking duplex somewhere mid-town. The driver, (Frankenstein’s monster) and shotgun, (a Dominatrix in tight black pleather) step out, leaving the third to follow behind them after pausing for a moment to stretch. Her fingers tug at the skirt of her costume; a choice which had seemed perfect at home in front of her bedroom mirror, but now beneath a stranger’s flickering porch light, brings to mind something you’d find on the clearance rack.
Then the door opens, and unsure what to do, she smiles, pushing back her red velvet hood, full of false bravado. She’s a sheep setting foot in a den of wolves. Her companions gravitate towards an unkempt kitchen where drinks are poured with abandon. Following behind, she brushes away fake cobwebs with her fingers while a camera flashes once, twice. Then mahogany lips are against her ear as the Dominatrix pulls apart her fingers.
“Take these, you’ll feel better.”
She looks down at an assortment of pills, a foreign presence against her skin. “What are they?”
Her answer is the jeers and laughter that reverberate throughout the dank kitchen. She places a palm to her sternum and feels the bones hum in response.
The Dominatrix looks back and smiles, mouth full of danger. “Lithium, Valium, Vicodin, whatever you want it to be…but make sure to wash it down with this.”
Another hand, larger, painted green with wires and wrapped with pipe cleaner electrodes passes her a tumbler of vodka, which she in turn grips with dampened fingers. It tastes awful, but she gulps it down to make up for her ignorance, and because she wants to be brave. Because she wants to trust them, because she hasn’t yet realized what it is they already know.
But now she’s in the backseat again as they drive off, bringing along one of the nameless entities from the worn down house. He’s already drunk, and she knows it even before he breathes in her face.
The stranger pushes back his black horn-rim glasses, hands running over his homemade costume in appreciation: a t-shirt, which looks like it had been held over a barbecue.
“I’m Buddy Holly, back from the dead!” he yells out the window to passing cars, and she looks to the front seat, her eyes a silent entreaty, but no contact is made, so she rolls down the window on her side a crack, pretending the frigid night breeze is a caress.
Last week it was different. Last week she sat shotgun. Face pressed against the lowered glass she remembers how they had entered the club, fresh from the night, vision filtering through the smoky haze; full of excitement that would blind them from the leers of strangers. It was her first time at a club of any sort, the first time with them. It was there in a sea of unfathomable iniquities that she had burst forth from her self-imposed grave.
“Teach me to grind?” she had asked them, surveying the dance floor’s expanse, staring in awe at the sea of bodies moving as one.
“Teach me to kiss?” she had asked them, while wondering which lips she’d prefer. She tastes both, and decides there isn’t that much of a difference between them.
The memory of that night fogs over in her mind, thoughts drifting as though they had all been swallowed up by form-fitting clothes and second-hand glitter. In fact, she might have thought that she’d dreamed up that last weekend if it weren’t for a blossoming necklace of bruises that was, a week later, only beginning to fade. That night had been different, and what were three became two as the morning drew closer, when he’d finally pulled her away saying—
What had he said? She knew they’d left the floor, sitting at a corner table outside of the throng, and she remembered that she had straddled his lap unashamed—intent on continuing whatever this was with no further regard to the rest of the world.
Then it was four a.m., last call, and their wayward companion returned to them; lipstick smeared and exhilarated. A complicit smile was shared between them as they shouldered the third, which, they decided, must have had a bit too much to drink.
But that was last week. Tonight is different, and like an animal approaching a trap she hesitates. When they enter the club on this night, with the drunken Buddy Holly in tow, apprehension claws at the back of her mind. They go to dance, but because they are no longer three, but four, she finds herself paired off with the dead rock star, who in his inebriation can manage no more than to paw at her skirt and step on her feet.
The minutes drag as if they were hours. Then at last, he asks her to dance, green hand beckoning. She leaves Buddy Holly where he has slumped on the floor, stroking the leg of a chair, glasses dangling crooked. Because none of that matters, for now they are together, alone in the multitude, and she lifts a hand to the Monster’s face in quiet relish before his words bring the night to a grinding halt.
“Last week…that meant nothing.”
The Monster looks past her, his eyes drawn to the Dominatrix across the floor, and their shared gaze leaves Little Red’s eyes moist.
Any words he spoke after were swallowed up by the bass and the strobe lights and it’s all she can do to just listen in shock as he shrugs out of her embrace, leaving her to stare after him, unable to form a sound as he retreats, her mind stuck on his final slurred, “I need to take a piss.” She watches him move across the floor with a frenzied purpose, bypassing the toilets in search of his creator. And with this visual comes the revelation that this wasn’t the first lie he’d told her.
But that was then, and now ten minutes later and she’s perched on a stool, sobbing at the bar with a plastic cup full of coke, because it’s after hours and she’s only seventeen. Rows of orange Jack o’ lanterns grin from the counter, and if they could speak they’d most likely screech: “Told you so! Told you so!”
And the Devil who bought her the coke sits next to her in silence, running his finger up and down the length of her arm. She stares at him bleary-eyed, unable to form coherent words, and somewhere in the back of her mind she is wondering at how blue his eyes are beneath the fake ashes and blood that cover his face.
And then there are the troop of drunk clowns who stop to give her hugs, saying “Don’t worry sweetie, I’m sure he wasn’t worth it.”
To which she whispers, “They weren’t.”
Elizabeth Evenson-Dencklau is an author of fiction and poetry. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and shares a home with three cats and her boyfriend, all citizens of the Midwest. Her work has most recently appeared in East Jasmine Review, Gingerbread House Literary Magazine, The Monarch Review and Menacing Hedge.
Artwork: Minjae Lee, “Reminiscence”