Carnival Nights: Carnival #2 (3 page)

“Are you sure?”

“Just get in the car,” she says sternly. “If he starts acting crazy, we’ll ditch him when we get to the rave.”

Gina climbs into the front seat while Blue, Cookie, and I fumble into the backseat. I look out into the thinning trees one last time before I shut the door. My breath against the glass paints a collage of fog against the window. 

Thank God for the kindness of strangers.

* * *

he car comes to a stop in a grassy field packed full of cars. The three-minute car ride was silent, but I didn’t pay much attention to anything but the passing of trees and dying crops.

“We’ve arrived,” Shane says and parks his arm across the headrest of Gina’s seat.

“It looks so alive,” I say, scanning the makeshift parking lot. “But also so dead.” I pop the car door open and hear the faint sound of talking in the near distance. There are at least a hundred cars here, but I reckon most people are already inside the thick walls of the abandoned warehouse.

I take in the view as the rest of my crew exits the vehicle to escape onto the soft, damp grass. Looking at the abandoned warehouse we’re going to call home for the next few hours, I’m instantly brought back to Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It was a dark time in my life, the nights following my first viewing of that film, and it’s all coming back to me.

The headlights of another car shine onto us, and for the first time, I get a good view of Shane. He’s tall, dark, and cliché, with only a hint of danger lurking beneath his burnt, hazel eyes. For coming from a small town in Georgia, he’s not much of a country guy. Instead, skinny jeans mold to the shape of his legs. He’s topped off with a loose-fitting, plain white tee.

Shane makes his way around the car and stands aside Gina. I can tell by the mourned look on Cookie’s face that he isn’t happy with the current situation. He had probably thought tonight would finally be the night he could make his move. I don’t see that happening now. But by the smile on Gina’s face, I can’t believe this is the same man that just a few hours prior was the mysterious guy that made her look over her shoulder.

Love is stupid like that, I guess. Still, I’ll be keeping an eye on him all night. There’s something about him that I don’t trust. It’s not just what Gina told me. This is my own frequently-wrong intuition.

Blue points an accusing finger at Gina. “If this rave sucks, I’ll never trust a word you say again.” He’s joking, of course.

And she just plays along. “If this rave sucks, I’ll give you my next two weeks of pay.”

Blue bumps my shoulder with his. “Kind of hope it sucks now.”

“You guys really don’t have a thing to worry about.” Shane interlaces his fingers with Gina’s and steps in front of us like a sergeant leading us into battle. “You’re about to have the best night of your lives.” After they begin to walk toward the rave, Gina looks over her shoulder and gives a minor shrug.

Blue and I follow with Cookie right beside Blue. We walk through the tall blades of grass, hoping there are no snakes in our path. When we’re close enough to hear the drowned out beats of techno, a group of about seven revelers push the door of the warehouse open and stream out, hollering and carrying flasks of lighter fluid.

This can’t be good.

Music booms through the open doors, giving a brief view of the neon-clad party inside before the doors swing shut. The group of partiers head straight for a small fire that sits in the middle of a large fire-ring. Above the small fire are logs stacked seven feet high. I’m not a certified firefighter, but it’s my best guess that you probably shouldn’t start a bonfire so close to a standing building.

One by one, they squeeze lighter fluid onto the fire. Every drop feeding the flames higher and higher. They cackle and holler, reveling in their rebellion, and I think to myself, this is going to be a great night.

I needed this.

* * *


It’s not an every night thing, or even a weekly thing. Not anymore, anyway. But tonight is the perfect occasion to indulge in a little mind-numbing drug use. It’s been a good two weeks since we’ve had any time off, let alone had any time to relax. A crowded rave with hundreds of life-loving country folk probably wouldn’t be what most people would classify as relaxing. But for us, it works because it’s when we’re surrounded by explosions of energy that we truly feel alive.

I understand these people here, because I am
and vice versa. We all came here to escape from the hard truths of our world and that we have to be something or somebody else to make it. Everyone here is an outcast in their own little way. It’s beautiful.

I guess I’m also the kind of guy who says the word, ‘beautiful.’ No shame.

The first things I notice when we push through the doors of the warehouse are eight-or-so cages suspended from the ceiling. Inside the cages are revelers painted in neon colors dancing in perfect sync to the music that echoes and vibrates from wall to wall. With any luck, I’ll have Charlie in one of those cages before the end of the night.

My grip on Charlie tightens as we are soon submerged into the density of the crowds. Until I get a feel for the situation, I’m not loosening my grip either. You have to scan the area, see the people. You have to feel like you know those you’re surrounded by before you can trust.

There’s a humongous bar all the way to the left along the length of the wall. It looks as if it was put together in a rush, like a carnival ride. It’s made out of former shelving units, and nothing separates the bartender except for easily-passed bars of metal.

It’s too loud to hear anyone speak, so I continue to take in the surroundings. Shane stops in the center of the floor, stuck at an impasse of a thick gathering. Beside us, four young men stand in a circle. Like some kind of lets-do-it-together pact, they all slip pills of ecstasy into their mouths at the same time. At least they’re drugging themselves and not some unwilling participant.

If the police come, and they always seem to show up, it’s going to get ugly in here.

Finally, we make our way to a less crowded area of the warehouse and slip around a corner to a row of still-standing floor-to-ceiling shelves. It’s like the spookiest library you’ve ever seen. But instead of books, they’re filled with decades old goods. The thick layer of dust is enough to send your allergies into overdrive.

The five of us make our way further into the dark columns until we’re finally able to hear each other. A man in his boxers and a woman in nothing but panties run past us, laughing.

“We need to make a plan,” I say, addressing all four of them.

Shane balks at that idea and steps a foot so that he’s in the center of us all. “How about we just party? Go with the flow?”

Ignoring him, I continue, “We don’t know anyone here, so if you get separated from the group, just walk back to the corner.” I point behind me to the corner where we slipped into the row of shelves. “If you get lost, we’ll find you there.”

“You need to relax,” Shane says. “Let loose, drink some juice and take some drugs.” He places a hand on my shoulder, a gesture that tends to be reserved for friends only. “You think too much.”

“I think most people would say I don’t think enough.”

“They’re wrong.” He winks.

And just like that, I’m starting to like this guy. Minus the whole
emotional warfare
thing Gina told us about. But if she’s not concerned—and she doesn’t look it—then I’m not either. “Fine.” I throw my hands in the air. “Let’s party.”

Cookie hollers in agreement and we head toward the crowds and toward the blinding neon lights.



n a perfect line, our five shot glasses slam against the industrialized metal bar. At the bottom of every glass are remnants of the mysterious green concoction we just threw back. Tasted like ecstasy perfected. Charlie shakes off the burning in her throat and turns to me with fire in her eyes. A fire I haven’t seen in what feels like forever. Here at the bar, we are free to speak, albeit in a yelling manner over the pounding techno tracks.

“I miss this.” She turns and rests an elbow on the slick bar.



“Yeah, we’ll have to do it more often.”

“I’ll let you know how I feel about that in the morning.”

“Don’t remind me,” I say, already dreading work tomorrow. I dread it every day, even when I’m not hung over. So tomorrow is basically going to make me its bitch. “Do you want anything?”

The way she smiles is contagious. My own smile widens as I wait for a response. “I could use another drink,” she says.

I purse my lips. “That’s not exactly what I had in mind.”

Her eyes lock with mine. She doesn’t even need to say anything for me to know she’s in absolute agreement.

“I left everything at the motel, so I’ll have to find something here.”

“Great.” She groans and swipes a finger at her nose. “I’m not sure I’m in the mood to get roofied by some stranger.”

“You don’t need to worry about that.” I reach forward and push her hair behind her ear, caressing her face with the edge of my thumb. She’s smooth. She’s perfect. She’s Charlie fucking Scott and every time I touch her, I feel as if I could melt. “Can you stay put? I’m going to go find something and I’ll be right back.”

She nods and gives me a simple peck on the lips. It’s not much, but it’s enough to get me fired up. My cock twitches against the tightness of my jeans. I bite into my lip, then turn and walk away. As I head into the crowd to find the least-shady looking drug dealer, I rub my palm against the hardness in my jeans, adjusting myself.

Neon lights scan the crowd, lighting up the softness of a collage of faces all at once, then leaving them hiding in the darkness within a flash as they move on to light up the next. The floor shakes as if it’s dancing to the same beat as the crowd above it. Above me, through the noise and confusion, you can make out the rattling of the ancient rafters. This entire building could collapse, and I’m not even sure if anyone would notice.

Toward the center of the building, the crowds grow thicker. People bleed into each other, their porous bodies melting into one another like a scene from an experimental flick. Here, in this place and in this moment, everyone might as well be a dealer. If for one night only, these people have traded their shoes of conformity in for a new shoe, the kind that’s able to dance along the edge of society.

Some of these people should invest in some actual dancing shoes. A guy beside me dances to the beat of his own, lucid drum. He draws circles in the air with two glow-sticks. I imagine that he sees something revolutionary in the tracks of the lights, but I just see an opportunistic blur.

I snatch one of the neon lights from his hand and he’s too high to notice. Or at least to care. I use the glowing red stick to highlight faces in the crowd as I push my way through the abyss. Everyone’s a complete stranger, but I’m not looking for just anyone. I’m looking for a specific someone, the guy or gal that’s going to be my ticket to escape tonight.

In a corner, I see a girl against a wall with one foot kicked out. She’s fully clothed with a red flannel shirt draped loosely over tight jeans. She’s too dressed to be taking an active part in the nights discourse. I’ve got a good feeling that she’s just who I’m looking for.

As I approach, a man wads something in his fist then walks away. She’s definitely who I’m looking for. Before I can close the distance between us, she kicks herself off the wall and struts toward me. She mouths something to me, but I can’t hear a word. So she smirks and wraps an arm around my neck and whispers into my ear, “You’ve got that fire in your eyes.”

“Is that so?”

Her hand trails down the crease of my back, pulling me in closer. “You’re probably from out of town and you’ve heard about my fix.”

“I am from out of town.” I reach behind me and scrape her hand off. “But tell me more about this fix.”

She tilts her head, causing bleach-blonde hair to drape across her face. “Well, it’s rare. And it’s the quickest, cheapest way to heaven.”

“How much?” I ask, opting to skip straight to the business and bypassing any sort of pleasure.

“For you?” she asks pointedly, and then sizes me up, taking in every atom of my being. “Give me your best offer.”

“I don’t even know what you’re offering.”

She grabs me by the head and shifts my head to the left. “See that?” Then she turns my head to the right. “See them? See those people lost in a sea of ecstasy?” She places a hand on my chin and turns me back to face her. Her fingernails tap on the edge of my skin. “That’s what I’m offering.”

“You supplied for everyone here?”

“More or less.” She smirks. “But my time is precious, so are you in or out?”

I barely hear that last part over the gears in my mind trying to process the fact that this girl seems to be the kingpin of ecstasy in this town. Weird. “I’m all the way in.”

A seductive smile forms across her lips. “All the way, huh?” She steps to me and wraps both arms around my neck. She shifts her body so that her skin hugs mine. Too close.

“Look, you’re a beautiful woman,” I whisper against her ear. By how close I am, she probably thinks that she’s won, that she’s about to get her way with me. I know it’s what she wants, but she’s wrong. The way I see it is that I have to get as close as possible, not to tease her, but to warn her. “But I’m already taken. I’m already owned.” I grab her at the waist and push her gently off me.

“You certainly think highly of yourself.”

“Are we going to make a deal or are you just going to waste my time?” I’m annoyed at this point and just want to get away from this situation before it escalates. I’d rather spend the rest of the night bored out of my mind than get entangled with this crazed woman.

“I knew you had a fire in your eyes.” She bites into her lip and reaches for me again.

“You’re wasting my time.” I shake my head and turn to run, but her hand lands on my shoulder.

“Fine,” she says. “How much do you want?”


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