To Descend

 

 

"The mind, like the mythological Icarus, is in the same danger of falling if allowed to fly

too high."

 

 

Everyone in the car had taken two hits of acid that night. Between us, we had smoked at least a quarter bag of pot. We had drunk cheap wine and already gone through two packs of cigarettes. Our evening started four hours ago after I got off from work. Now it's three o'clock in the morning. We're on the highway, going nowhere in-particular. The long, dark road stretches ahead of us, and we fly down its white stripped back. I'm driving, and I stare ahead of me, my gaze fixed. The headlights of the car and the cars around us beaming dully in the dark fascinate me. In my drug soaked mind, I see the road as a lost highway stretching eternally before me.

 

"Where the fuck are we?"

 

I look at the digital clock in the dashboard, surprised. We had been silent for the last ten minutes, though those minutes seem much longer. Time slowly passes at this hour. One's concentration becomes concentrated, as ours had upon the music drifting from the radio. Now that someone has spoken, however, the spell is broken. Our cruising is over, and we have to go somewhere lest we drive this highway to its infinitesimal end.

 

"So what are we doing now? We gotta go somewhere. We gotta do something."

 

I'm not tired, and I know the rest of them are not either. Acid keeps you up for hours, it won't let you sleep. As the night wears on when tripping, your body persists, empowered by the chemicals raging through it. But your mind assumes the dreamstate as if you're asleep. Reality seems nothing more than a dream.

 

"Remember at the beginning of the night when we stopped for gas? While I was paying, I met this freaked out girl who told me about a rave going on till early morning. Y'all wanna hit that spot up?"

 

I wait for their answer. None of them are ready to go home. Not yet. The moon is big and bright before us, and there are stars out twinkling this cold night. I want to keep moving, to dance some more. It isn't difficult to convince the rest of them with promises of more fun. So we set out for this rave which is the last resolve for the extreme party-goer in the late night. I turn up the radio, press down on the pedal, and accelerate down the highway.

 

Time means nothing when you're as high as I am. I might have gotten to the rave with my friends in twenty minutes, maybe an hour. At times I even forget there are others in the car with me.

 

I pull up to the huge building and find a parking spot in the lot overcrowded with cars. We're so excited to see that the rave is still this packed that no one checks the digital clock as we get out of the car. Since none of us wear watches, we're now as lost in time as we are in our heads.

 

We take off our coats and long sleeved clothes in the brisk night and put it all in the trunk. I activate the alarm. We all get another cigarette out to smoke, and we walk along the side of the wide brick building to the entrance.

 

"Yo, yo, man! Hey man, y'all going to the rave?"

 

We turn in unison to the person addressing us. It's a tall guy in black pants, shirt and a long velvet coat which drapes down to his heavy black boots. His hair is dyed a flaming bright orange, and he has a silver pendant of a star on his shirt.

 

"Yeah, we're going to the rave, man. Why, what's up?"

 

I figure he's pushing drugs. I'm familiar with the type, hanging out in the shadows, watching, waiting for potential customers.

 

"Yo, I work here, man. I got the ill dope hookup. There's a side entrance reserved for those on the guest list. I can get y'all in for free, no charge, man."

 

I'm way too high to be too suspicious. I'm literally dreaming awake, but I still ask, “So all we do is follow you, and we're in for free?"

 

The guy grins a grin of both sincerity and deception. Of course there's more to his proposal than just free entrance.

 

"I can't lie, man. I'm pushing this hard hitting drug that I have to sell by the night's end. Each of you buy a tablet for fifteen dollars a piece, you follow me in this side way. To get in to the rave front entrance is thirty dollars. You save money, get more fucked up. That is the point of this night, right my friends?" He throws back his head and laughs, his entire body shaking with the force of it. I notice for the first time how lucid his movements are. He's floating high up in space, as zoned on drugs as we are. He continues to laugh even as he stares right at us. His eyes are too intense, they don't seem to fit into the rest of him. This contrast strikes me as oddly funny, and I start to laugh too. Soon my friends and I are all laughing hysterically, and we pay him his money, and we take his drug. We follow him back down the side of the wall to the rear of the building. He leads us to an unmarked black door and knocks three solid times on the metal surface. We wait there, and in a moment the door is opened by a huge security guard. The guy with the silver pendant motions us into a long dark corridor, then waves goodbye as the door closes behind us. Loud music subdued by the walls thunder upon our senses as we make our way into the rave. I think to myself how strange it is that we're all still laughing from when we were outside. I can't seem to stop laughing; what the guy gave me is quick and already coursing through my body. Not knowing when I actually leave the long corridor, I am suddenly inside the rave.

 

Wild beats cascade over us like a waterfall. The cords thunder through me forcing my body to move with them. Lasers and strobe lights erratically illuminate the dance floor. People are everywhere around us. They dance without restraint, cavorting their bodies in sporadically fluid ways. Smoke hangs heavily in the air from hundreds of burning cigarettes. Inside the building, the constant movement of bodies makes it incredibly hot, a sharp contrast to the cold outside. Sweat glistens on my face, as it does on everyone else's. I become mad inside my mind, and the only way my body can appease me is to dance.

 

I catch the eyes of a girl dancing before me. She wears loose black shorts sagging down showing the tops of her g-string, and a black halter top. She has something on her mind she obviously wants to share, and approaches me. I try to dance with her, my hands going down to her swaying hips and touching her bare flesh, but she leans in close to me and hollers in my ear, “Have you seen Maxwell?"

 

I look at her, confused, yet still dance.

 

"What?"

 

"Maxwell. Doesn't he have the key?"

 

I shake my head, for I have no answer. She leans in and kisses me, her tongue in my mouth, and an aching loss is transmitted from her to me through the kiss. Then she turns away back into the crowd, leaving me to dance alone.

 

Once more time becomes distant, separated from this reality and hiding somewhere so as not to be noticed. I don't know how long I dance. I don't know where my friends are anymore. I don't remember when they left my side for their own pursuits. Suddenly, I realize I'm alone in this heaving mass of bodies. I continue to dance as the music relentlessly instructs me too. My thirst rises through me as sweat drizzles down my flesh. The lights and lasers flashing throughout the club prove only hypnotic at first. Yet after a while my mind begins to rebel against them. I clasp my hands to my head to keep my soul from being drained into the rainbow of neon colors flickering from the walls and roof. I can't shut my eyes, but can only haplessly look forward.

 

And always I danced.

 

This condition continues for an indeterminable amount of time, and when I think I can take no more, the spell is abruptly broken. I scream as I look away from the lights, but the techno beats swallow my screams so that they are not even heard by me. I look at the people dancing around me. I try to make out faces to have something else to concentrate on. I don't want to be drawn back into the absorbing light away from what little sanity I still hold. Never have I been so high. Never have I been so lost.

 

Then I see her dancing, and in an attempt to figure her out, she becomes a muse of insanity for me.

 

She is neither beautiful nor ugly. She's short, maybe five feet tall. She wears tight blue pants and a tight short sleeved blue shirt with a red sweater tied around her waist. Her sweat plasters her close-cropped black hair on her pale face. To me, she's an infinitely more interesting dancer than everyone else. She's fantastic, her sharp, quick movements bizarre in their grace. This is how she dances when she has no partner.

 

I quickly realize she seldom dances alone. Others must be as captivated by her outrageous movements as I am. Someone will begin dancing with her, guy or girl, and they dance their own dance to her dance. Yet after several moments she copies their movements and becomes a fun house mirror of their dance. She takes their style and changes it to fit herself, and to me she seems like a doppelganger, assuming the forms of others but retaining her own spirit and mind.

 

So I watch her dance, and she becomes a challenge to me. I want to see if she can match my style, if she can take my movements and assimilate them into her own. A circle has formed around her of perspective partners, and every time a person she dances with gives up and melds back into the throngs of people, defeated, another takes their

place before her.

 

And then it is I.

 

She stares at me and smiles as I approach her. She never slows, and only waits for me to begin. I start by gracefully moving my arms in wide arcs and curves. I come closer to her as if I intend to engulf her small body amidst my arms. The music speeds up, and so do I. I come ever closer to her, moving faster, my arms a whirlwind around her, my torso snaking in rhythm to her movements. I feel I am doing terrifically until I focus on her small, oval face.

 

I immediately realize my mistake, for now she has me. The flesh of her face glistens with sweat. She gazes up into my eyes with the most benign yet dangerous expression I have ever seen in another person. I realize I was wrong before in my judgment of her comeliness. She is hideously beautiful like some fallen angel damned from God's court for all eternity. I fall in love with her at that moment, I want to give myself to her. I become aware of her insane gyrations which are only my own movements twisted into graceful Hell.

 

I pull away from her back into the rush of the dancing masses. I never stop dancing as I turn away from that smile she continues smiling at me. I just want to get away, to be gone, to leave her who is my madness behind.

 

I move through the crowd, once more lost. I don't know what to do, I don't know where to go. My body is exhausted yet I can't stop dancing. The harsh music persists, so I'm forced to also.

 

I take out a cigarette and lite it. I come to an area less populated, and so I dance there, smoking, trapped in my head and seemingly trapped in this rave. Then I feel a light touch on my shoulder. I turn around and of course, it is her.

 

"Can I bum a cigarette off you?" She asks, leaning in to my ear so that I can hear her. Her warm breath undulates the side of my face, and when she pulls away she smiles a charming smile which reveals all of her demonic and cherubic nature.

 

"Sure,” I try to reply nonchalantly, giving her a cigarette and liting it for her. She nods a thank you and continues staring at me as if she can see my unease with her. Her pupils are green with flecks of black, her irises only a long, deep black. Her eyes prove unsettling, and to do something besides stare into their far depths, I stutter, “So, y-you go

to raves often?"

 

My question makes her laugh. She clasps her hand over her mouth, her eyes wide and lucid. "All the time it seems,” she says between fits of laughter. "It seems like I'm always here!"

 

"At this particular rave?" I ask her, which causes her to laugh again.

 

"What?"

 

"At this particular rave?" I repeat, leaning in closer to her to make sure she hears me above the music.

 

She ignores my question, though, and asks, “What's your name?"

 

I think about lying for a second, not wanting to give her the power of my name over me, but then say, “Dustin."

 

She reaches her small hand out to me. "Hello Dustin. I'm Jessica." She laughs again as I take her hand in mine. "I'm Jessica, the girl at the rave!"

 

Her movements are strange. She seems animated, like an old cartoon character. I realize she bears a striking resemblance to Betty Boop, yet here now, in reality. It seems like an artist draws her actions frame by frame and projects them into existence at this rave. Yet as I stare at her, I'm aware of each frame being drawn, then projected, so that each of her movements seem separate from the one before and the one which will proceed. It's the same as a book of pictures flipped rapidly through giving a disjointed life to the character portrayed.

 

I want her to leave me so that she will not disrupt my already fragile hold on reality, but she stays at my side and smokes her cigarette.

 

"I recognize you from somewhere!" I exclaim, surprised I didn't realize who she was until now.

 

She laughs again. "I use to go out all the time to many different parties and clubs. Now, I'm only a raving girl, waiting here for others to come to me from different parties and clubs."

 

"No, goddamnit!" Her words are making me forget where I know her from. "No!" I struggle to bring up the recollection. "Earlier tonight. I saw you earlier tonight at the gas station. You were the girl who told me about this rave!"

 

Jessica laughs and spins and howls all at once. "The dead always have trouble remembering the dead, don't they? Congratulations, Dustin! Test one, passed with high regards. And only after several dozen years. Come find me again later for the final exam!" With that, she flicks the butt of her cigarette away and melds back into the dancing throngs. I attempt to follow her, but she's gone. Her words disturb me and stay with me, swirling as if in a violent maelstrom in my drug drenched mind. A dread builds in me in the shape of the rhythm of the relentless music. I realize that there is more space to dance as I must. Some must have left the rave, it is late. But I am still here, how long have I been here, dancing? Hours are days and fatigue has become an entity attached to me. I look around at wan faces drifting in and out of the darkness around me. The humidity is a beast growing ever more powerful with each strolling second. I look into the tired eyes of those around me. It seems we are all ready to go, yet none of us are able to break the trance the music has induced and leave.

 

A girl approaches and stares at me. I remember her from earlier, and as before she leans in to me and asks, “Have you seen Maxwell?"

 

"Who's Maxwell?" I scream back at her, for I feel I should know.

 

"Maxwell! Doesn't he have the key? He knows where the door in the dark is. Do you have the key?" The intense hope in her eyes is depressing, and though I would like to say 'yes', I shake my head. She curses. Tears build in her eyes, and crying, she nimbly dances away from me.

 

We have all lost our minds. Another song expressing insanity is played, and I dance to its beat despite my lassitude. Many around me begin to scream their torment, and their cries become an unholy cacophony. An intense emptiness fills me, and I feel I will never leave this ongoing rave. I'm too high, I can't find my way out. There are still too many people, we're all imprisoned in the music.

 

I move across the room, searching. Out of the corner of my eye I see one of my friends I came here with. He dances in a cluster of people with a girl who would be beautiful if her face was not so haggard from her constant movement. I don't go to him, though. He doesn't have the answer I seek. He's lost like I and can't leave any more than the rest of us. I quickly move on, knowing distractions will make me forget my purpose. The dead always have trouble remembering the dead.

 

With that thought, I see Jessica again. She dances ahead of me, alone, her movements as magnetic as before. I go to her to get her attention. I motion to her to come to me, but she waves back to me to come dance with her. I want to scream my frustration, but I go to her. I dance incredibly slow now, and she shakes her head at me. She will not talk to me again until I match her, so I delve into myself for whatever strength remains, and I dance. I'm wild, without restraint. I pour everything into this all important moment. My breath comes out in harsh gasps, sweat soaks my body. I have to finish this dance, or the answer I seek will be lost for all eternity.

 

"Very good, Dustin!" Jessica exclaims, her eyes wide revealing an overwhelming magick behind them. "You are above the rest, Dustin. You found me again!"

 

"Where are we?"

 

She smiles, her lips twisted with malice. "And yet still there are some things you have not figured out. Look around you! Do you feel the heat? This is where all extreme party-goers end up late night. This is the last stop. The last dance. Forever!"

 

"No!" I scream, rebelling against what she tells me.

 

"Yes!" She screams back, laughing, her pale face twisted with lunacy. "Yes, we are here, in this rave, high off our asses. Yes the music blares everlasting from the speakers, and yes we are puppets forced to dance to it. Fires burn beneath us and we ache for the cool touch of water we will never have. We will never rest, and as relentless as

we were in life to attain the highest pleasure, are we now inexorably forced to seek that which does not exist here; a way out! Dustin!" She cries out, a banshee with a terribly seductive voice. "Dustin! We are in Hell!"

 

Jessica laughs her lost mind. I stare at her in horror, she's Satan throwing a party which will never end. I look around and see a circle has opened around us. A multitude of shining faces staring without thought or reason at us. So many damned souls lost in the night. I'm finally allowed to close my eyes, though the moment is brief and I'll never be able to close them again to the sights before me. Yet in that moment, I see the long highway I drove my friends down. I see the gray wall looming to the side of us as we sped down the highway, and thinking at the time it only a cloud, I see myself smash the car into the wall in hopes to ascend it to the stars. I had been too high to be driving, and now I fear I am perpetually high marooned in Hell.

 

"I am dead!" I wail. "I am dead, and I am damned!"

 

"Have you seen Maxwell? He has the key! He let us all in with his flaming hair, and only he knows the way out. He knows where the door is. Have you seen Maxwell?"

 

I stare blankly at the girl, my terror having consumed me. Jessica dances besides me, laughing the laugh of a fallen angel as damned to this existence as the rest of us. The music forces me to dance, and I have to obey. Time no longer exists, eternity takes forever to pass, and I am trapped in a late night which will never end.