By Victor D. Infante
The young people glow with sweat, and the music thumps so loud bass rattles my bones. Another witch would probably sniff at places like this, thinking there’s no magic to be found here, but they’d be wrong. This is old magic … abandoning one’s self in the face of the divine, dancing madly to abjure frustration or loss, to conjure sex, to conjure freedom. Ingesting intoxicants to touch the mind of God. No, this is magic all right … primal, ancient and loud. And normally I’d steer clear of it, too. But I have things to do.
Admittedly, there were some dirty looks when I cut the line out front and the doorman let me in without paying the cover charge, but that’s just something they’ll have to deal with.
I survey the scene, watch the crowd writhe and flail to the music. I observe the DJ up in the booth above them, a gorgeous woman with a swimmer’s body, long brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. She’s hypnotic, the way she seems so in control, the way she seems to conduct the dancing.
I lean against the back wall and watch the crowd, waiting for something to pop. RuPaul appears beside me in a gorgeous blue sequined dress and an enormous blonde wig, a mix of concern, laughter and mild disappointment etched on her impeccably made-up face.
“Whitney Bierce,” she says, mildly scolding. “This place is infected with dance fever, darling, so why are you back here by your lonesome?”
“There are perks to being a wallflower,” I say. “I read it in a book.”
It’s not really RuPaul, of course. It’s just a tulpa, a thought given form. Up until a few weeks ago, I had a ghost named Philomena who was bound to a locket around my neck. For years, she would tell me all the witchcraft I was doing wrong. She was freed on a very bad day, when I had to face off against a powerful, sort-of undead witch named Harriet Nacht. I won, but nearly died. And in the process, I unleashed the ghosts of a thousand damned souls on the city. That was bad, too.
And Philomena was gone, which was good because she totally deserved her rest, but evidently I need to be nagged. Why my subconscious thought to give me a drag queen as a psychic mother figure is a question for some future therapist, but I have to say … not hating the company. I evidently don’t deal with loneliness as well as I thought.
“Uh huh,” says Ru, disbelieving. “So if you didn’t come to dance, why are you dressed to the nines?” She had me there. I pulled out my slinkiest black dress for this one, and some really nice heels. “I’m trying to blend,” I say, but Ru just rolls her eyes and disappears.
But she brings up a good question. Why am I here? The newspaper had been kind of sketchy about what had been going down — a handful of deaths over the past few weeks: Dehydration, attributed to drug use. The paper speculated about the drug Molly, but that was only because Miley Cyrus had namechecked it in a song once. Something about the situation didn’t ping, but it’s not screaming for a witch to intervene, either. Still … instinct. It’s a witch’s best friend. And something about the whole thing was whispering my name in the distance.
I walk toward the dance floor, and extend my consciousness until it’s touching the music, until my mind is one with the beat. The surge of rhythm decelerates, and everything else slows, until the entire dance club is frozen between the song’s notes. This is new magic: divining the future through electronic music. And it’s all mine. I look from side to side and what were shiny, happy faces are now contorted into grotesque masks of horror. I adjust my eyes to the light, and see that what was sweat has become blood. Then, I realize blood is everywhere: pooled on the floor, streaking the walls. A queasiness grows in my stomach, and I notice droplets of blood floating in the air, suspended in time. I look up to see the DJ hanging from the lighting rig, neck snapped, feet dangling.
I gasp, and time goes back to normal. The dancers are oblivious to me, and the music plays on. I stare slackjawed at the DJ booth, the premonition still screaming from my skin. Ru is beside me again.
“Girl,” she says, “you better WERQ,” steeling my rattled nerves as I regain my composure. But there’s no laughter in her voice this time.
Victor D. Infante is the editor-in-chief of Radius.