Night Flight Mike is a novella of twenty short chapters, posted over twenty business days -- by me, your humble 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.
If you require an intermission you can pause the story at any time by ceasing to read.
And now, today's chapter:
One by one the posse sublimated into a parade, a single-file serpent that wove from the washroom toward the bar. As they passed out of the safe, echoey womb where Nick continued to nap Mike felt a surge of apprehension; they broached the sea of tall shadows backlit by the chromatic radiance of swinging lights and Mike huddled himself up closer to the swaying skirt of the man with the orange mohawk, unwilling to risk being lost in the miasma.
The music was overwhelming, the stomp of its relentless hoofbeats cut by electronic zings and pops, the warbles of banshees, the click and hum of machinery, the sighs of ecstatic and unearthly choirs. The floor was black. As far as Mike could tell, he had no feet.
He was in the maw of the beast. He could no longer discern whether it was he who was shaking, or the world. "I did it," he whispered to himself nervously. "I'm really here."
The bar was encrusted by a spasmodically surging bank of adults, cycling through states of loitering, pressing inward, vying for attention, waiting to be served, retreating while defending against spillage. Over the din they yelled the names of drinks Mike had never heard of, even on TV. He clung to his station behind Duff's skirt, monitoring the other members of the party in his peripheral vision and attempting to keep them positioned between himself and the fray.
The woman in green boots leaned in close and shouted something into Mike's ear with hot, sharp smelling breath. Mike didn't understand her question so he just nodded agreeably. She smiled, her white teeth illuminated to a shocking purple by the bar's neon piping.
In time they struck out across the sea of humanity once again, each member of the parade save Mike decorated by outstretched arms guarding drinks from sloshing. They squeezed around the sides of a round table in a dark booth, and Mike found himself hemmed into the middle. A pint of beer was put down in front of him.
"To the Little Ninja!" cried Duff, raising his glass and draining it in a single swig.
"Cheers!" rang the others, and they drank.
Mike grasped the frosted handle of his mug uncertainly, enjoying the feel of the cool glass. He blew tentatively on the frosty head, causing it to dent. He realized they were all looking at him, so he raised the surprisingly heavy drink to his lips and took a cold, bittersweet pull. "Thanks," said Mike.
The cold draught traced a line down his gullet and then disappeared there. Mike took another sip. A light tingling sensation accompanied by a relaxing warmth began on the back of Mike's neck and then diffused over his entire body, culminating in the subtle but surprising loosening of his rectum. "Oh!" he exclaimed.
"Are you okay?" Duff shouted into his ear.
"I think I'm drunk!" replied Mike with a building sense of alarm.
"You've hardly had any," shouted a blue-haired girl with warm brown eyes, her lips close to Mike's other ear.
"But I can feel it," he shouted back, alternating uncertainly between shouting at Duff's ear and that of the blue-haired girl. "I can feel it doing something inside me. Isn't that enough?"
"Sometimes enough isn't enough," opined Duff.
"I'm on a mission of exploration," Mike explained. "I don't want to compromise my ability to fulfill the mission."
"You're so cute," the blue-haired girl said, resting her chin on her palm. "How old are you, anyway?"
Mike blushed. "I'm almost twelve."
He had said this very quietly so it had to be repeated more loudly for the others in the booth. Everyone laughed, though it wasn't cruel laughter. Mike was beginning to feel very well disposed toward his new friends. He did not fear they would expose him and have him turned out into the street or handed over to the police or his parents. Mike smiled, then belched. Everyone laughed harder.
"Let's dance!" declared Duff, slamming down his empty glass. He stood up on the seat, walked over the table, and jumped into the crowd, khaki skirt billowing.
By twos and threes the company bled off, Mike stiffening as he saw the defensive wall of meat fall away around him. The blue-haired girl noticed his anxiety and took his hand. "Come on," she said into his ear. "You can dance with me, Little Ninja."
"Okay," said Mike.
He allowed himself to be led into the thickest knot of adult bodies swaying, dipping and bobbing before the empty stage surrounded by pillars of stacked speakers whose grilles seemed to scintillate as they shook. The lights flashed and played, causing the blue-haired girl to become pink and then green, striped by flecks of light and then suddenly cast into darkness.
"I'm right here," she said, again her mouth by his ear.
"Okay," said Mike.
He could see her again -- purple now, then yellow. She was rolling her hips and nodding her head in time to the music, watching Mike with a smile. Watching her Mike found himself beginning to nod as well, and he let the movement descend through to his shoulders and finally to his hips. The music, so suffocating before, became a power beneath him, lifting his feet, guiding his rhythm, pushing him on to the next crescendo. Her lips moved inaudibly, "That's it."
"This is fun," Mike realized aloud, but nobody could hear him.
The blue-haired girl placed Mike's hands on her hips and then laced her arms around his shoulders. She was slight and not too tall, and Mike almost felt as if she were his size. Secured to her thusly he felt free to take his eyes off her, recognizing the faces of those who had been sitting in the booth with them flashing in and out of visibility in the mass of moving bodies on all sides. When he turned back he caught the girl watching him again. She leaned in and said, "You're just taking it all in, eh?"
"What's your name?" she asked next.
"Mike," said Mike. He had to repeat it, pushing closer to her ear. His balance seemed to get ahead of him and he leaned heavily into her shoulder. "I'm sorry!"
"It's okay," she said, laughing. "You're a good dancer, Mike."
"Thank you, Courtney." Then, pausing with his nose an inch from her neck, he added, "You smell nice." Then he flushed and pulled away and apologized again.
"I'm not trying to hit on you or anything," stammered Mike.
"It's okay," she repeated. "You're allowed to hit on me."
"You're nice," admitted Mike.
"So are you."
That's when the man with the orange mohawk rushed up and grabbed Mike's shoulder. For a moment Mike believed he was about to be beaten by a jealous boyfriend, but Duff's message was of even greater urgency: "Nick's awake!" he cried over the noise. "We should get scarce."
Courtney nodded. She took Mike's hand and pulled him through the gyrating crowd, split momentarily in Duff's wake. They flew headlong into what looked to Mike like a solid black wall until, at the last moment as he prepared to flinch for pain, he felt velvet curtains splash against him.
Trailing by the hand he allowed himself to be taken through the veil.