I sat at my secluded corner table, sipping my drink and waiting for something to happen. I’d spent most of my waking life waiting. Waiting for what exactly? I couldn’t tell you. That would imply that I knew.
I sat in my corner and watched the crowd around me. Laughing, drinking, some even attempting to dance to the poor excuse of a band on stage, the lead singer doing his best impersonation of Robert Smith, which was incredibly terrible to be honest, increasingly so the more that I watched.
I cringed inwardly at what the scene had become. The gothic subculture becoming nothing more than a dwindling ray of hope, waiting for that breath of life to reignite it. Having had my main haunts close down as quickly as dominos falling, I felt like I had nowhere left to go. Well, when I actually felt like leaving my house that is.
Realising how depressive I was becoming, I sculled my drink and stood, tonight was going to be one of THOSE nights. This would require a lot more alcohol. I made my way through the crowd as the DJ took over from the dismal band. Bodies moved past me to the dancefloor.
I got to the bar, leaning over it, I gave my order to the bartender and stood back to wait. I leant against the bar and surveyed the crowd. The alternative crowd seemed to be dwindling in numbers. Eight years ago, you wouldn’t have been able to set foot into an alternative club or bar without being almost crushed by the amount of people moving through to get to their favourite rooms. Lining up at the bars making it imperative that pre-drinks be had before venturing out, it was never so much the price of the drinks that turned us off drinking in clubs, it was the waiting that annoyed us.
I was so used to going into a place and knowing nearly every single person I passed. Whether I knew them enough to speak to them, or simply knew their face, that’s what it felt like to almost belong. I frowned as I realised that even back then I didn’t truly feel like I belonged anywhere, like I was still waiting for something without having realised it. I had gone to the same places week in, week out, I had laughed, drunk, danced, and picked up many a young lady, yet still remembered having that niggling hole inside me. Something was still missing, and my mood dropped as I came back to myself, realising that I knew not one face amongst the pool of people moving before me.
The bartender tapped me on the shoulder, I turned, dropping my money into his open palm and taking my drink in my hand. I stayed leaning against the edge of the bar where the no service sign sat, sipping my drink and watching the people as they milled about. Sometimes I thought I was beginning to get too old for this, this hanging out in dingy, dark bars waiting for my life to start or at least for something to happen.
I don’t know why, but I was brought out of my internal whining by the feeling that someone was watching me. I stood up straighter and peered out amongst the crowd. I scanned over the heads of people seeing if I could see anyone looking my way. I would have taken anything at this point, even someone who felt they wanted to tell me about their day. Standing at around six foot one, looking above the crowd wasn’t hard for me. The only downfall about my height was finding tripp pants that were long enough, something about the chains and d-rings always drew me in to buying them, even if they were a tiny bit too short for my long legs. I brushed my black hair out of my eyes; my Mohawk was starting to fall down, damn cheap hairspray.
Disheartened I turned back to the bar, apparently I was imagining things, and I saw no sign of anyone looking my way. I laughed at myself, my, I was starting to sound desperate, hey. The bartender served me another, and I settled in to enjoy the DJ.
When the bar closed at around three am, I moved among the crowd milling about on the sidewalk. It was late, or early, depending on how you looked at it, and I was getting tired. It looked like a stroll home alone was on the cards. I moved away from the scattered people and slowly made my way towards home.
I turned at the sound of a familiar voice, a tall blonde guy jogging through the people towards me. I smiled and held my hand out as he approached. He grabbed my hand and pulled me in for a half-guy-hug. Stepping back I regarded him with a warm smile.
“How’s it goin, Xav?”
He brushed his long blonde hair out of his face, attempting to stop it from tangling in his beard.
“Yeah, good. I didn’t know you were here tonight? I haven’t seen you out much lately?”
He asked it as more of a question, than saying it as a statement. He knew that I was a big club goer, but I have to admit, as of late, I kept to myself a lot. Getting older I suppose.
“It was a last minute decision to be honest, I didn’t even think I’d come, but I ended up here anyway. Did you catch the band? They were pretty shit.”
He laughed, either not noticing my blatant overlook of his second question, or choosing to let me slide without answering it. He knew why I kept to myself lately.
“Yeah, I have to agree with you there, the band’s they’re choosing are really slipping lately.”
“Too true. Know of anything good happening any time soon? Since they closed the clubs down, there’s not much of a choice anymore.”
He shook his head.
“Nah, I’ve heard nothing, I’ve been waiting for one of the promoters to take one of the clubs and revamp it into something new that’s suspiciously exactly like the old one, but it hasn’t happened yet. Give it time buddy; we’ll have a new place to go in no time.”
He smile and gave me a slap on the shoulder. I half smiled and made a point of looking at my phone.
“Well, I should head, it’s getting pretty late.”
“Sure thing, we’ll have to hang soon, have some drinks, like old times yeah?”
I smiled as I began to turn away.
“Sure, it sounds great.”
I saw Xavier’s look of disappointment as I turned away. He knew we wouldn’t be catching up some time soon, he knew that he wouldn’t see me again unless we ran into each other out somewhere. I’d distanced myself from the club scene and all the people in it since Amelie. I felt a stab of pain in my stomach at the thought of her, even thinking her name still gave me the horrible drop in my stomach. We’d been together for a three years. I thought that we’d be together forever. How wrong I was, I’d caught her one night with a guy I’d never seen before, she didn’t even seem like the same person that I thought I knew, It’s like she’d swapped out of her body, she still wore the face of Amelie, but what made her HER was no longer residing inside. Not long after, she disappeared. I never really had closure, we never got the chance to talk it out, yell it out or fuck it out. She just…disappeared… My friends and I use the term loosely, listened to me whine, and moan about poor me. They listened to my conspiracy theories about what might have happened to her, but after a while they got tired of hearing the same things over and over again. It was about that time that I decided it was better for me to be alone, without them, I didn’t need them, I didn’t need anyone. I knew that something had happened, something bad, but no one would listen to me anymore so I gave up.
Amelie’s parents had kept in contact with me for a while, but even they soon gave up, they settled on the idea that their troubled little gothic daughter had just up and left with some guy who was probably much too old for her and trying to recapture his youth. They were under the impression that she’d come back when she’d grown out of it, gone through her ‘phase’ but that was yet to happen, two years on.
I was halfway home before I pulled myself out of the dark spiralling hole that is my thoughts. I looked around at the deserted streets. Melbourne can get quite creepy at night when you’re wandering alone. It’s not ideal for someone of an alternative nature. Guys got bashed for less than wearing a bit of eyeliner. Oh well, maybe someone would come along and put me out of my misery. I grimaced at my own thought pattern, I hadn’t been this depressed in a while, and maybe it was time to get back on the meds? A high giggle brought me back to the outside world. I stopped and listened for it again, it was extremely odd for there to be a woman around by herself at this time of the morning, especially in Northcote. Lots of crazies to watch out for.
When I heard nothing more I continued on my way, and then heard it again. I stopped and spun, I was half expecting and half hoping that I’d find someone behind me, but to no avail.
I continued on. I made it to my front door before I heard the laughter again, musical bells ringing into one ear and out the other side, the sound rubbing against the inside of my skull like silk. I shook my head, and frowned. I must have had way more to drink than first thought. Fumbling for my keys in the deep pockets of my pants I began to feel nervous. I’d heard the laughter half way home, and yet had not glimpsed any movement to accompany it. Me, scared? Naw, never. I slammed the key into the lock and quickly moved myself inside locking the door behind me. Like a nosey neighbour I rustled around looking out from behind closed curtains to see what I could see, which for future reference, was absolutely shit all. I sighed and took myself to bed, so much for excitement happening tonight.
Halfway through the next week, I had come home from my menial job to find a flyer tucked in my door jam. I opened the door and grabbed it before it fluttered to the ground. It was an advert for a Goth club event, being held in two weeks. A club I’d never heard of before, Onyx. I ‘hmphed’ and set the flyer down on the kitchen bench. I was fairly certain I’d go, but we would see what happened in the coming days. If my mood permitted me to go, I would.
On the way home from work two days later, I was sitting on the bus, headphones tucked into my ears as far as medically safe. Siouxsie and the banshees’ song “spellbound” drowning out the sounds of the world. I stared out the window at the passing scenery, watching the people go about their lives. The bus stopped at a red light, I looked down to the footpath where a girl was sitting on the grass next to it. She had long black hair, olive skin, and was beautiful. She looked to have some kind of Asian heritage, shown by her uptilted almond shaped eyes. She looked up at me, and caught me with her eyes; they were so dark they were almost black. She smiled a small lifting of the corners of her lips. Casting her eyes back down she blushed. Was she actually looking at me? She looked up again; eyes fever bright, smile wider breaking into a grin as the bus pulled away. I turned trying to keep her in my sight for as long as possible. The sun glare made it an impossible feat. I slumped into my seat. Fat chance I’d see her again. The city was big; there was no telling who she was or if she even lived here. I sighed, thanks life.
I got home and took my work clothes off, just as I had done so, my phone rang. It was work; someone hadn’t turned up for their night fill shift, so they were calling me back in. I sighed and went and got my work clothes back on. Right now I was trying to think of the money, I’d think of the lack of sleep later when I was falling asleep in the freezer.
Money was a great motivator for someone trying to get away from the tattered remains of the life they used to have. I had plans. I had a small amount of cash saved up and once I hit my goal, I was outta here, maybe interstate, maybe overseas. It didn’t matter where really, as long as it wasn’t here. I had no one here who would miss me, and I had no one here that I cared about anymore. They’d all shown me their true colours when Amelie disappeared. Nope, I was done, it was time.
About four hours into my cover shift, I was nearly falling asleep restocking the milk when a flash caught my eye. I turned to the left just as I saw a cascade of black hair and olive skin slip around the corner and up the end aisle. I had a moment of frozen panic. Was that her? It couldn’t be could it? I dropped the bottle I was holding, noting that milk had gone everywhere and not really caring. I ran to where I’d thought I saw her go. There! At the end of the aisle I saw the flick of solid black hair and a black skirt go around the shelves. I ran faster, hoping that I could catch her. As I got to the end of the aisle and back into the open front of the store, I looked around. There was no one here. No one at all, even the security guard had taken a break. I stood in the blatantly empty supermarket, confused, annoyed and anxious. Was I seeing things? Had she really been here? Who on earth was she?
I shook my head trying to knock a little sense into myself as I walked back to the milk. I got there just as the manager happened to come by.
“Az? What is this?”
Anger blazed from his eyes as he stood, hands on hips, glaring daggers at me.
“Sorry, I didn’t feel so good, I thought I was going to be sick so I ran and must have knocked one of the bottles from the shelf.”
He studied me trying to find the lie he knew I was telling. Without proof, he couldn’t charge me for the product.
“Fine, get it cleaned up, I don’t want someone slipping on it.”
“No worries, I’ll do it now.”
I’d cleaned up the bulk of the spill, and was just getting the last of the dregs off the floor when a black glint caught my eye. My pulse jumped. Attached to one of the bottles in the fridge was a black flyer, “ONYX” was scrawled across it in big red letters. I dropped the mop handle and it fell to the linoleum floor with a loud clatter. I closed my fingers around the flyer, noticing that I was shaking. The paper felt rough in my hand, it was definitely real. I took a deep breath. Why the hell was someone stalking me and giving me these flyers? Now I was really torn about going, if these things kept popping up like this, it would make me not want to go, but what if she was going to be there? What if she was shy and this was her way of trying to get my attention? I shoved the flyer in my pants pocket and resumed my cleaning, the strange events that had been occurring running through my frazzled mind.
For the following week, the same strange things kept happening. I would see a glimpse of the girl out of the corner of my eye, turn to see her disappear around a corner, up and aisle, into a crowd of people, I’d follow only to be met with nothing. I’d begun to think that I had completely lost my mind.
I was sitting outside at a little shade covered table, sunglasses on, coffee in hand. I was observing the people walking the streets. It was ten o’ clock in the morning and the streets were already bustling with people going for breakfast or brunch. Those rushing off to their next meeting, or others casually out for a stroll through the sunshine. As I was watching and old couple move slowly down the opposing sidewalk, hand in hand, smiling at each other, a shadow dropped over my view. I turned to see what it was and nearly dropped my coffee. My heart jumped into my throat and I swore my pulse was about to burst from my neck. She stood in front of me, looking down, the same small smile turning up the corners of her lips.
I simply stared at her, I had no idea what to say or do. Was she even real? Had I lost my mind so completely that I was now manifesting her myself? She giggled then, I’m presuming at the look of complete and utter shock on my face. It was the same giggle I’d heard that night walking home. The chiming of little bells, I sighed involuntarily as the sound surrounded me and promised me comfort. She laughed in such a meek manner. Dainty hand slightly covering her glossed lips, fingernails manicured to perfection and lacquered in black. I shook my head coming back to myself.
“Uh, I’m so sorry; do you want to join me?”
I stood up hastily knocking the table and nearly sending my coffee flying. She nodded and slid the chair out.
“I was wondering if you were going to ask me to sit down, or if you were going to keep staring at me like I was the creature from the black lagoon.”
She giggled again; the horror must have shown plain on my face. Did she really think I thought she was a monster? Her voice was small yet sure, soft, with an edge and a slight Asian accent. I’m not sure which country. It resembled the Chinese accent greatly.
We sat in silence for a moment. I was still trying to work out if she was a figment of my imagination or not.
“Did you get my flyers?”
I looked up sharply.
“So it was you leaving the flyers for me?”
She nodded, the smile never leaving her lips.
“How come you didn’t just come up to me and give them to me instead of following me around and strategically placing them for me to find?”
She shrugged, she was shy, my heart warmed, how cute. She sort of sunk down into herself, insecurities showing.
“Are you going to come?”
I was nodding before I’d had a chance to think about the question. She sat up suddenly so full of life and confidence.
“That makes me happy.”
“Is it a new club? I haven’t heard of it before.”
She shook her head.
“It’s very underground, only select people know about it, only those with the flyer can get in, and only certain people get the flyers.”
An exclusive club? Me invited to an exclusive Goth club by an absolutely adorable Chinese Goth, could things get any better. I smiled, letting the joy show on my face, as well as some of the superiority of being ‘chosen’. She smiled back at me. I was beginning to really like this girl. It was then that I realised I had no idea what her name was.
“What’s your name?”
“Emeng, but everyone calls me Em”
I smiled, my assumption had been correct.
“So you are Chinese.”
She smiled and gave a brief nod of her head.
“Do you know what my name means?”
I thought for a second, I didn’t actually know any Chinese, but I wanted her to think that I did. After a moment, I shook my head. She just smiled, stood and left, throwing a wave back over her shoulder.
“I’ll see you at Onyx.”
Walking home I actually felt giddy; this was the first time in a long time that I actually felt alive. I felt like my life was just starting again, like I was being given a second chance.
The remainder of the week dragged by as though time was threatening to switch into reverse. Once Friday finally came I couldn’t get out of work fast enough. I was fidgeting on the bus something shocking, I swear everyone thought I was high, or in need of my next fix. I flew down the bus steps nearly tripping up on the last one and sprawling across the footpath. It took me record time to shower and get ready. I decided to pre drink a little to help with the nerves. The clock would not tick over fast enough. She had written the address on the back of the flyer so I just had to jump a cab and I’d be there in no time. It looked to be some location down in Chinatown, not surprising.
Once I’d had enough vodka to knock a horse out I called for a cab. I stood outside on the sidewalk waiting, it felt like an eternity. When the cab finally arrived, I slid in the back seat and handed the driver the flyer. He looked at it a moment, then back at me.
“You sure you want to go here kid?”
I blanched at the use of the word kid when referring to me, I was nearly thirty.
“Yes I’m sure, why?”
My curiosity peaked, the driver knew the location?
“No reason, just been a lot of disappearances happening around that area, but if you’re sure you want to go here I’ll take you, as long as your good for the money.”
“I can pay my fare.”
He shrugged again and pulled away from the curb.
“So, how long have people been disappearing for?”
His eyes met mine in the rear view mirror.
“It’s been a high alert disappearance area for around fifty years; it’s not a new thing.”
I had nothing else to say, I wonder why I didn’t know that. I guess weird things happen in Chinatown all the time right?
It took no time at all to get to the destination; I paid my fare and got out. The cab driver leant wound his window down.
“Be careful kid, you never know who you’ll run into out here.”
I nodded and ignored the kid comment again. He left without another word, winding up his window.
I looked at the address on the flyer and at the address numbers on the street signs. I ended up at a garbage strewn alleyway, completely deserted save for a couple of rats, and a homeless guy sleeping up the end under a box. I hesitated then remembered Em’s eyes and started on down the alleyway, checking door numbers as I went. I stopped when I got to the last one on the left. I looked around, but there was no one to be seen. I knocked and waited. After a minute the door was opened by a burly security guard. I held the flyer up for him to see; he simply nodded and stepped back out of the way, holding the door as I entered.
Music filtered up the stairway, Face to face by Siouxsie and banshees. Well at least I knew the music would be good. Darkness cloaked the stair case and I was worried about falling, until I saw a little bit of light coming from further down. The club must have been held in a basement, that’s why you never knew it was here, you couldn’t hear the music from the street. As I made it to the second stair case, I saw people. They were lining the walls in couples, nuzzling each other, some dancing slightly to the music. As I passed I felt their eyes turn toward me, one by one, I chose not to look back at them, they were a little bit freaky. Says me, ha.
As I reached the bottom I stood not knowing where to go, then I saw her. As she turned I realised she was in the arms of a tall, pale Goth guy. My jealousy rose. She smiled and made her way to me.
“Oh you came.”
Her hand caressed the side of my face.
“I didn’t realise you were with someone.”
She turned back to the guy in question, he smirked.
“oh him, it’s nothing, don’t trouble yourself.”
The night was filled with dancing, light touches on the arm or hand, until the wee hours of the morning. We were cushioned in a corner, Wolfsheim playing across the sound system. She leant up on tiptoes and pressed her lips to mine. My blood sang, my lips tingled and my fingers twitched to twine through her hair. She pulled back and looked at me.
“Do you like it here Az?”
I nodded…how did she know my name? I didn’t remember telling her.
“Do you want to stay here with me Az?”
I nodded again, unable to help myself.
“Are you sure? You’re willing to give yourself to me?”
“Yes, oh god yes.”
I was thrumming with excitement. She smiled a big grin, showing straight perfectly white teeth. Tangling her fingers through my hair she pulled me back down to her. The kiss started as the others had been, her mouth flirting with my own. Then it became deeper. Her hands became concrete; her tongue feeling like it was delving so deep into my core that I couldn’t breathe. I felt a sharp pain start in my temple, and move to encase my whole skull. I tried to push her off, to get my hands between us, but I couldn’t, she was like an immovable force, so strong. The pain became so intense, my knees buckled and I distantly felt it when I hit the floor, her lips sucking me dry. After some time, the pain was replaced with a fuzziness and I realised she had stopped kissing me. I opened my eyes to see that everything was the same. Except then I noticed the people, the ones just standing there, staring looking around for a way out but not being able to leave.
A command that rang through my head like the giggling bells. I stood. I tried to speak but I found that I couldn’t. My anxiety was at an all-time high now. She rang her fingernails down my cheek.
“What have you done to me? What are you?”
She giggled, the laugh no longer like bells but sharp razorblades cutting into my brain. I held my ears.
“I gave you what you wanted.”
“What? What I wanted?”
“You wanted to belong didn’t you?”
I had no words. She was right. I’d wanted so badly to belong, but I still didn’t know what she meant. I looked to the left and noticed someone I didn’t before. The guy I had last seen Amelie with. My heart lurched. She saw my gaze and followed it.
“Oh, you recognise him? I guess you would.”
I looked back at her.
“Yes, she was here for a time, but she couldn’t be tamed. All she could focus on was getting back to you it seems. So we had to get rid of her.”
My mind reeled.
“Get rid of her?”
“Don’t be daft darling. She’s dead, and now you belong to me.”
“What are you people?”
“You don’t speak Chinese do you?”
I shook my head.
“My name roughly translated means nightmare fox.”
I let my total blank show on my face. She sighed.
“The nightmare fox is the Chinese equivalent of a Succubus.”
She let that sink in for a moment before continuing.
“You are my thrall. You belong to me now. Aren’t you so happy to belong somewhere finally?”
I wanted to belong. I didn’t care where. Now my life was forfeit.
Be careful what you wish for…