Dedicated to the Vampire Sex Bar
It was a different night at the Neutral Lounge. I couldn’t tell you why, at first. Perhaps it was because I was dreaming. The Lounge itself is an alternative music and goth club … one of the few that still exist in Toronto, on College and Augusta Avenue with the summery Kensington Market not that far away.
The night was warm. I had just left the streetcar from Spadina and walked down the street past the closed up electronics stores and the Zen Buddhist Temple, right across another intersection where I turned left in a small mall chain. The Neutral Lounge is behind this chain: its sign black with big Gothic white lettering, while its one “T” resembled a crucifix.
Like every Friday night, I’m dressed in my black leather jacket and its buttoned up collar, black jeans, my body-hugging sweater, while the strap on my travel bag sat on my right shoulder. Another warm breeze whips my long dark brown hair against my face. I brush it away, watching the crowd of black-clad people hanging around and smoking at the entranceway. As always, my ID is in my hand, ready to show to the bouncer. Then I began to notice that the bouncer and his friends were standing directly in front of the entrance, and people were actually walking away from them.
I came closer and thought I heard the bouncer–a tall stocky man with short brown hair–tell a pale couple with spiky Mohawks and facial piercings, “Sorry. Private party tonight.”
It was odd. Usually, I knew that Neutral had its private parties on Mondays. I’d never seen them turn people away on a Friday night. I was about to turn around, feeling disappointed at having to go all the way home when the bouncer called out, “You!”
I blinked. The bouncer’s glowing yellow eyes glittered in the artificial light of the staircase. He waved me in. At first, I wasn’t sure if he was even talking to me.
“Come on in.”
Then his friends moved out of the way. I muttered a thank you for the bouncer, who just shrugged and I walked past them down the stairs. The music began to thrum into hard, casual, percussive beats.
Your own – person-nal – de-mon …
I was pretty sure that those weren’t the lyrics to the Depeche Mode song, but they fit the tune and the rhythm that much better. It was as though they were playing my friend Melodie’s version of the lyrics to this song, as if she were there now nodding in tune underneath her trademark fedora.
and you’re all a-lone,
flesh and bone
by the tele-phone …
Somehow, I wasn’t sure how, but I knew DJ Osaze wasn’t in his booth this night. Even as the song began to meander into the weird, winding rhythm that always twisted my heart: reminding me of a vampire master dancing and luring his victim to him with one beckoning finger, I saw that I wasn’t alone.
Beautiful people always danced here, and tonight was no exception. The others swayed and skittered across the floor in the dark violet lights: lithe and fast and almost inhuman. Men in long leather skirts moved with one another, while women with piercings on their faces flowed into each other like gentle ripples that were, in reality, barely restrained tidal waves.
I walled towards the familiar corner of the room, needing as I always do some space before interacting with the crowd around me. I was pretty sure I could sense someone looking at me from the bar, where a blonde-haired woman I’d seen before was making drinks. My back started to ache from the eyes on my spine before I finally moved far enough away.
I moved past the booths. A handsome dark-haired man, dressed in a medal-decorated leather jacket had his arm draped around the shoulders of a younger thinner man with blond hair. The younger man looked up at the dark-haired one with a completely trusting and utterly besotted gaze. The older man–I somehow knew he was older–looked only faintly bemused, and was watching the skirt-clad men grinding on the dance floor. Somehow, I knew there was going to be heartbreak in the blond-man’s near-future. I sympathized.
Three beautiful dark-haired pale women sat in another booth. Everyone seemed to be avoiding them. One of them, with a flattened out Mohawk glanced up at me sharply. Then, she paused and nodded to herself, moving her gaze away. I felt cold just looking at them and hurriedly moved on.
I finally sat down on the red-pink couch in the brightly lit lounge area of the room. I watched everyone, as is my usual practice, alone and theoretically unobserved. In the dim corner of the Lounge, a bald man and another man with heavy jewellery hanging from his ears were talking. The bald man introduced himself as “a doctor of bad blood.” There was something very disturbing about the way he said that, and the way he also looked at the crowd in front of me: analytical, cold and detached, and only a small hint of eagerness.
His companion on the other hand had a lighter and friendlier tone. It was strange that I could hear either of them at all over the din of the speakers and, indeed, when he introduced himself to his companion as “a musician,” the music in the room itself seemed to flare and shrill more powerfully into my soul. I also thought I could hear a faint voice moan, “Give me my body back,” but that could have been any kind of noise … white noise that gave me goosebumps all the way down the sides of my arms and neck in any case.
I looked over at the coat-check, where a woman with a piercing in her throat was reading. The metal near her throat glimmered in the light. Sometimes she stood up to take someone’s jacket and I saw that she wore a belt with pouches on it. Some of them seemed to squirm.
Whatever this was, this was no ordinary night.
I managed to settle back into the couch and observed the dance floor. Some of the usual patrons were there. The tall woman with the black ponytails danced with her smaller and slighter flapper companion. The heavyset unshaven man with a non-descript white T-Shirt danced around the rest of the ladies. Even the small slight girl in her blue shirt and straight brown hair was skipping around the room like a pixie, always with one arm folded behind her back.
Even as I watched her dance to the rhythm of the song that changed into the hard wailing beat and refrain of Rammstein’s, let me see you stripped, a voice from beside me interrupted my thoughts.
“I think my wife and our young friend want to dance with you.”
The man seemed to come out of nowhere. He was taller than me, and his features were ageless. Yet his eyes, his hard falcon eyes were worn and ancient. It was a commanding gaze under a stern brow, but it was soft as he looked at something behind me. I saw two women on the dance floor. Both of them were tall, as the Amazons were reputed to be.
The blonde-haired one, whose smooth oval face held as piercing a stare as her husband’s beckoned me forward. Usually, my first reaction would be to hesitate … especially since, in her case, two powerful slender living leathery wings surrounded her. There was also something very intense about her stare, even predatory, but at the same time I also felt warm and comfortable.
“Who are you?” I asked her, the eerie familiarity of her strange beauty gnawing away at the edges of my forgetfulness.
“Michelle,” her voice was as soft as liquid silver. She touched my face, “It is so good to be unbound here. Almost as good as where we were before.”
‘Pardon?” her hand on my face made my skin tingle and crackle delightfully.
“The Velvet Underground,” she whispered, sure enough actually flexing her wings, “The Savage Garden. The Vatikan …”
“Sanctuary,” said Michelle’s companion.
“Ah, my manners,” the winged woman smiled, “This is Lillith.”
Lillith took my hand and danced next to me as well. Her hair was dark, and almost black. Whereas Michelle was statuesque, Lillith was somewhat more plump. She smelled of flowers.
“Lillith,” I repeated, marveling at how clearly I could hear them or anyone here over the noise, “What a beautiful name.”
Whether she looked away of out coyness, or shyness, or embarrassment I do not know, though I suspect the latter of the two.
“And mine is not?” there was a regal pout to Michelle’s features.
“Oh no. It is,” I placated her, “It is a very beautiful name. It also belongs to another beautiful friend of mine.”
Michelle laughed, “You … do have potential, don’t you?” Then the music wailed again and I found myself being gyrated against by two tall beautiful women, forgetting why their names and the word “Sanctuary” seemed so familiar to me.
It was some of the best fun I’d had in ages. I wanted it to last forever. Eventually, we walked over to the bar. Lillith bade us a good night and walked over to the woman at the coat check, whom she called Heather.
“This is Steve,” Michelle said as we stood at the bar, “I believe you’ve met.”
Michelle’s husband shook my hand with a firm and almost crushing grip. He didn’t have wings. Somehow, it seemed wrong for him not to.
“So Lillith’s gone away to talk with Heather,” Steve said to Michelle.
“Yes,” she turned to me, “She’s grown so much this past while.”
Steve nodded, “I think it’s because she’s a lot happier now. Ever since the Sanctuary.”
“And you are growing too,” Michelle looked at me thoughtfully, “Can’t you see it, Steve?”
“Very much so,” he also looked at me, “I think I can see why he wanted us to come here tonight.”
“Remember, you two,” said another voice, “It’s not Sanctuary, but the old saying still goes.”
“Yes, yes,” Steve sighed, “We can hunt, but we cannot feed.”
“And we weren’t going to feed on this one, Lance,” Michelle had her hands on my shoulders, “Even if you hadn’t said anything.”
“I know. I was just poking some fun at you.”
I turned to see a man standing next to us at the bar. He was heavyset, tall, and dressed in a black trench coat. He also had very long dark hair and a trimmed beard. Deep blue eyes regarded us bemusedly. When my eyes met his, he smiled.
“… Steve. Michelle,” Lance said, “I don’t know how much longer this dream will last. If it is all right …”
“Of course,” Michelle leaned down and kissed my cheek, “Good night, Sweetheart. Maybe we’ll see you soon?”
“I hope so,” I really wouldn’t have minded meeting this couple again.
Steve was about to shake my hand, but instead he reached out and hugged me.
“Good luck, my friend,” was all he said.
“Oh,” Lance said, “Before I forget, congratulations on the new addition you two.”
I looked at Michelle and saw that her belly was actually rounded. Something like awe filled me. She saw my gaze and took my hand, resting it gently on her abdomen. It was a new life growing in an old one.
“And about time too,” Lance chuckled, “She will be beautiful.”
“Take care Evet, Shel’ha,” I told them.
The two looked at each other, and then at the man beside me.
Michelle smiled, “What did I tell you?” and the two Wind Walkers walked away.
“So,” I said after a while, “Lance Goth, or Stephen Andrew Lee?”
“Neither,” he told me, “Stephen Andrew Lee is the name on an out-of-print book with grammatical errors and some inappropriate colloquialisms made by a now defunct publishing company. It may even be a legal name but here, in this dream of yours, it has no bearing whatsoever.
“Lance Goth is the name of a former nightclub owner who now writes for Rue Morgue magazine and has short grey-white hair and a very trimmed beard. Aside from whatever he may have looked like in his youth, we are not identical.”
“So,” I blinked, “Who are you then?”
“I’m simply Lance,” the long-haired man told me, “An echo of the character that owned the fictional version of the Vampire Sex Bar. The one you read,” he leaned against the bar table and looked out at the dance floor.
“And all of this?”
“I’m an echo,” as he talked, I watched the small, slight girl in blue skip around the room in another circle from out of the corner of my eye, “a resonance of a fictional persona who is an aspect of another writer who has since moved on to other things. And for all the power I have, I could only borrow this portion of your dreamscape.”
“Meaning that I can’t even recreate my Bar here, my Bar the way it used to be. The way it still is somewhere. Just like there are so few Goth Clubs left in Toronto from the multitude that existed before, this dream is a vestige of one of the Night’s last outposts.”
I felt an eyebrow quirk, “Were you ever this melodramatic in your book?”
“Probably not. It’s your dream. You’re the really expressive one here.”
“And even those Clubs that you’re talking about are only limited to one Goth Night a week,” I look around this place that looks like the Neutral Lounge, “So, this is our once a week then.”
“Not even that, my friend. Seriously, man, you’ve awakened very much past the twilight.”
He was pretty much telling me the story of my life by this point in the game. After all, this man was talking to the guy who got into Castle Falkenstein as the obscure Steampunk role-playing game became out-of-print. He was talking to the guy who came into the last good moments of an anime club, the last glories of his dojo before new management took over, and the last moments before another person’s new life.
Essentially, I always seemed to arrive at a time when something is either long, or nearly past, and already done. Maybe it’s because of my bad spatial-temporal sense when I’m awake, the disability that always leaves me lost in the most familiar places. That, or really bad timing.
Finally, I turned back to Lance, “You can hear everything I’m thinking, can’t you.”
“I can read it, if that’s what you mean.”
“Ah,” I nod, “Then I don’t have to tell you my story then.”
“We’re not in Sanctuary,” Lance reached down to take his drink and sip it, “You can tell me, or not tell me whatever the hell you want.”
Very dimly, I wondered if my friends Lex or Psyche had ever gone to the real Sanctuary. But Lex no longer lived in Toronto and I hadn’t talked to Psyche in ages.
“Fine,” I tell him, “You see, I’ve always looked for the things that no one can see, and the places that people think don’t exist. From talking rabbits living in drainpipes on Timberlane to large mutagen ooze-soaked weed stalks at the Y which can mutate anything they touch. I found old things, and tried to reconstruct knowledge from the remnants of third edition books.
“I’ve replayed old movies, and traveled down old places by myself over and over again to try to recapture lost moments. Good moments. Some of them aren’t even mine,” I shake my head, “I don’t know what else to tell you. I suffer from severe nostalgia. I can’t let go of things. Sometimes I still feel like a ghost haunting my own life. Sometimes out of the corner of my eye sometimes I wonder if something is there watching me. Like you were watching me from the bar. I alternatively hoped and feared this to be true.”
I paused, “When my friends Psyche and Lex brought me to the Vatikan, to your namesake’s second bar I felt a fragment, a vestige of that magic: of that strange wailing Night. Then this place here,” I gestured around at Neutral, “where I came to because a friend told me about after I moved out: twenty-six, and lonely, and full of wonder. And then there was your book. Your damned book and its grammar, and the girl that showed it to me. Because she knew, somehow, that I had to see it.
“And I did. I needed to preserve this, to take what you made, what you drew from before you, and make it mine. Make it everyone’s. Make it so that it wouldn’t be gone with lost clubs and their defunct addresses and phone numbers, and people growing up and dying. With Club Nights that stop past 3 am. With Toronto. With music that is so hard to find the titles for and even more difficult to describe in words. Beyond fragmentary sentences like these,” I remember just trying to find those right words, “That’s what a vampire is, isn’t it? Something that feeds off of the existence of everything before it. Something that grows stronger with time. Something that remains. A living memory. Eternity.”
Lance regarded me, “My waking self doesn’t really believe in vampires.”
“Yes. He said so himself in an interview. Then again,” I felt a boost of confidence flush through my neck as I spoke, “This isn’t the waking world, is it.”
Lance nodded slowly, “Continuing the dream.”
I smiled, “It’s what we both want.”
We sat there in silence for a few moments as Rammstein’s “Stripped” played again: the refrain wailing with eerie desperation, and passionate intensity. Like someone bursting into lonely, strange and glorious fire in the night. Then I remembered something. I started to rummage around in my travel bag until, finally, I found what I was looking for.
“You want a souvenir from my story,” I hand him the dream version of my notebook. Lance seemed satisfied with this as he took the book from me and flipped through its pages.
“The Wrong Club,” a smile tugged at his lips.
“Yes,” I got to my feet and zipped up my bag, “A place of stories. Where you can hunt and always feed,” I held out my hand.
Lance’s blue eyes glittered as he returned my handshake, “Happy hunting.”
“Likewise,” I left the former Master of Sanctuary at the Lounge bar, trying to find Shel’ha and Lillith for one last dance, before I had to wake up again.