Night Flight Mike is a novella of twenty short chapters, posted over twenty business days -- by me, your mildly allergic host, Cheeseburger Brown. Readers who may be subject to access surveillance or content filtering please be advised that this work of fiction contains profanity and describes adult situations, but is relatively free of political subversion.
Do not cross the story when signal lights are flashing.
And now, this week's first chapter:
Nine drops of sweat beaded on Mike's forehead as he stared into the morbid singularity at the end of the gun, his bowels creaking ominously in anticipation of a bullet. He dared not breathe or blink.
"Jesus, Ed! Put that away. He's just a kid."
With deliberate hesitation Ed lowered the weapon but kept his gaze riveted on Mike, his eyes so steady they seemed to be made of glass. His face was criss-crossed in a netting of fine scars, his head shaven, his nicked mouth a hard line. After another beat he turned abruptly away and took two steps back, replacing the hand-gun in a holster strapped under his armpit. He pulled his jacket back around his front to conceal the weapon and sat back down.
"I'm sorry!" squeaked Mike.
The third storey of Coriander's was an apartment. It was dimly lit, which was why Mike had wandered so far in before he'd been able to discern the three figures bent over the coffee table which was a transparent plastic box filled with old vinyl records and spools of tape. On top of the coffee table was a little mirror, a razorblade and two neat lines of white powder.
On the couch was a copper-skinned man, also with a shaven head, whose green eyes sparkled with a kind of detached contentment. He clasped his hands before him in an attitude of prayer, and wore a long purple chemise and a pair of battered leather sandals. Beside him was a voluptuous girl with long, straight black hair and neat almond eyes. She wore an outlandish costume of fur and beads that revealed more of her curvaceous secondary sexual characteristics than it concealed.
Ed saw Mike looking at her and pronounced in a gravelly baritone: "No autographs."
The copper-skinned man smiled and then spoke with a melodious Spanish accent. "Now Ed, let's not make our new guest feel unwelcome. Don't be shy, mang. What's jour name?"
"Mike," said Mike.
"May I ask jou something, Mike?" Mike nodded. The man went on, "What are jou doing in my apartment?"
"Hiding," said Mike. "I'm sorry. I didn't know what was up here."
"And from whom or what are you hiding jourself, little mang?"
"A guy named Nick," Mike lied, and then, feeling guilty, added, "And from my parents."
The man raised a thick eyebrow. "Are jou, by any chance, the little friend of Courtney?"
The man thrust out his hand, and Mike shook it. "Welcome to Coriander's, Mike. My name is Lorenzo. This is my club."
"Are you going to call the police on me?"
"No, no, no. I've been hearing about jou. Jou're some kind of fugging hero, mang. Why don't jou sit down? Jou're shaking. Take a load off, mang. My friend here was just pepping up before her show, you know?"
He gestured toward the fur-clad girl and smiled. Mike had trouble meeting her eyes. She was very, very pretty. "Hello," he mumbled.
"Hi Mike," she said. "Did you really kick some guy's ass in the washroom for hitting his girlfriend?"
Mike nodded. "Sort of."
Lorenzo scooched over on the couch and patted the cushion beside him. Mike dutifully sat down, eyes glued to the white powder on the coffee table between them. Ed observed Mike dispassionately, never blinking. "So tell me, joung Mike, what brings jou to my club tonight?" asked Lorenzo.
"I was just curious. I just wanted to know what it's like."
"So, do jou like what jou see, mang?"
Mike shrugged uncomfortably. "Some parts of it are kind of scary."
"I agree," said Lorenzo, smiling. He watched the fur-clad girl lean over the coffee table and inhale a line of powder, her barely restrained breasts swaying over the glass quadruply -- two from above and two in the reflection. "Adults sometimes do some fugging strange things, don't they Mike?"
The girl straightened and spent a moment adjusting her narrow nostrils. "Have you come to see me perform?" she asked coyly.
"I'm -- I'm not actually sure who you are," said Mike.
Lorenzo laughed loudly and clapped his hands together. "Mike, let me have the special privilege of introducing to jou the world's most famous Eskimo pop singer: Cherry Nuk-Nuk."
"Inuit," corrected Cherry.
"My apologies," amended Lorenzo happily. "This is her personal bodyguard, Mr. Ed Hulver, whom jou've already met. We were yust having a chat about India."
Off kilter, Mike at first thought Lorenzo meant he was discussing Mike's sister. "India?" he echoed dumbly.
Lorenzo gestured to the walls around them, which Mike now recognized as covered in images of Siddhartha Gautama, the smiling Buddha. Lorenzo explained, "I have yust returned from an extended stay in India, and I am considering selling this club. Cherry, dear that she is, is trying to fugging talk me out of it."
"You were born to run this place," opined Cherry Nuk-Nuk. "You gave me my first break, Lo."
"Jes, but what we might have been born to do can require reanalysis in light of India," said Lorenzo. "It is a perspective that can be hard to shake, mang. Just ask Ed. Did India change your life, mang?"
Ed nodded but did not elaborate.
"See?" said Lorenzo. "Jou can't go back, mang. Jou visit a world so different jou're forced to reconsider the familiar, because what was normal to jou now seems all fugged up. That's what I learned from the monks: to see how really fugged up everything is, mang."
"I think I understand," said Mike soberly, gaze wandering from a statue of the famous jolly fat man to a tapestry of the same emblazoned on a background of eightfold symmetry.
"Of course jou do," nodded Lorenzo. "Jou're an explorer, mang. This is your India, mang. Will jou ever be the same?"
"I don't know," admitted Mike.
"Good answer," said Cherry Nuk-Nuk before leaning down over the final line of powder. She hesitated. "Lo?"
"Thank jou no, sweetheart," said Lorenzo with an indulgent smile. "My body is a fugging temple now. I don't touch that shit anymore. I'm keeping myself fugging pure, jou know?"
"Totally," agreed Cherry after she snortled away the line. She pinched her nostrils and inhaled sharply a couple of times, then blinked and smiled. "Wooo!"
Mike touched Lorenzo's arm. "Mr. Coriander, I've had a really interesting time tonight but if I don't get back to the hotel before my parents do I'm going to be in very serious trouble. I need to know how to get out of here. Can you help me?"
"Mike," said Lorenzo, leaning back and holding his hands together serenely, "it would be a crime if I let jou leaf without seeing this amazing woman sing."
"But I really can't --"
"Nonsense," said Lorenzo firmly. "Jou will be my special guest."
"There's something else," said Mike. "I overheard some guys talking, and...I think they're up to something. They were saying that I took Nick out of the way for them."
"Pah," chuckled Lorenzo dismissively. "That guy is fugging dick. Somebody always wants to kick his ass, jou know? And besides, I've hired extra security yust for Cherry. My bouncer brought in all his Filipino buddies. This place is like Fort fugging Knox tonight, my friend."
Meanwhile Cherry has raised herself from the couch and begun engaging in a series of stretches and yelps. "Woooooo!" she cried, flexing her legs and pumping out her arms. "Yeeeeeeah!" she called, boxing in the air and jumping on the spot.
Mike found himself hypnotized by the rhythm of motion cascading across her body, the rise and fall of her breasts, her belly, her thighs, her round brown bum. It would be this image that he would dream during his first nocturnal emission two weeks hence: the undulations of Cherry Nuk-Nuk as she infused herself with the frenetic spirit of performance, flexing her lips, cocking her head, stretching her back.
"Fug, Cherry!" laughed Lorenzo. "Jou're giving my Buddhas a boner."
Mike crossed his legs uncomfortably.