Rave by SomeKindaLikea
The last time I went to any kind of party, I turned up out front of a big industrial warehouse at midnight. My friend Louise gave me the directions the day before. It was the newest, hottest spot around and only here for one more night, she said. First thing I saw when I got out of my car was a huge sign strung up on the building. It said Rave!.
I made sure my ear plugs were safe in my pocket - after years of clubs and live meets I had to preserve what was left of my hearing - and then made my way through a hoard of cars parked haphazardly. I couldn't hear any signs of life, no music or anything.
I scoped out the front area of the warehouse for about twenty minutes and couldn't find any entries or doors. I called Louise but it went to voicemail. After the third call, I was about ready to leave when I noticed an old friend's white Camaro pulling in -Johnny's. Figured he would be there, he was a serious party chaser back in the day.
He came to me and we got to chatting, catching up on the several years since we'd last seen each other. He told me he'd flunked out of college after we'd parted ways, messed his life up good. Then his dad died from the drink. That made him decide to get it together because he was afraid he'd end up like his old man. He nabbed a good job and met a girl and all. I was happy for him. He was happy for my small successes, too. The way we hit it off was as if we'd last seen each other yesterday.
Talk turned to the party. I said there was no entry, no directions to an entry. He told me he'd been inside only the night before, that it was an awesome place and he knew how to get in. We went around the side of the building and through a chain link fence. It was cut down one side and opened like a curtain, pretty obscure entry. Then we went through a steel door that led to a long concrete staircase. Our footsteps echoed as we walked. It was cold and pretty dark with only a couple of weak fluorescent lights every yard or so. The place wasn't a registered club I already knew. Sure most parties have some kind of organization, but rave scenes moving from location to location wasn't that unusual. Some even thought raves were only true and pure if they were pop ups.
Johnny led the way through the snaking corridors and stairs and finally I could hear a vague hum of music. The further we went, the louder it got until we came up on some green double doors. Johnny rushed ahead and then turned to me.
"First time's really somethin." he said and heaved both doors inward. It was like a wall of noise hit me then. Deep base with some spastic techno on top. I headed through onto a catwalk about twenty feet above a throng of dancing people. The place was packed. It seemed like everyone had some kind of radar. They all turned and faced Johnny and me and some pumped the air and clapped, yelling under the music, signaling us to come down and join. Most people don't understand, but a lot of raves can be like going to a reunion with hundreds of crazy best friends you've never met and that you'll never see again.
I felt no such comfort that night. The strobes were pulsing over everyone in the pit. It was hard to make out the sea of faces below, kind of like a flickering old time film where they've moved slightly from the last position you saw them in. There was a giant black light hanging above. It put everyone in the dark when the strobes were resting, only their teeth and eyes glowed white. It wasn't just the light that bothered me, seen plenty of set ups like it. It was the vibe. I'm no hippy, but I am big on vibes. And the vibe wasn't good the moment I pulled into that place. And it only got heavier when I walked into that room.
While I stood looking over everyone like some kind of royalty, Louise grabbed my shoulders from behind. Scared me good. She hugged me and laughed.
"Jumpy? Want some molly?" She waved a little baggy holding a few pink pills in front of my face.
"Nah," I said. "Not just yet. Gonna get a feel of the place." Johnny gave me the thumbs up from behind Louise.
"Lemme know when you want. Let's dance?" she yanked on my arm and led me down the stairs. Her hair was long and beautiful. No secret amongst our group that I liked her more than she liked me. I was annoyed that she'd not bothered to tell me how to get in or answer her phone. But what could I do? Give her a lecture and kill the mood?
We headed into the mass. The people parted here and there, letting us right into the center. I took out my ear plugs and went to put them in.
"Seriously?" Louise laughed.
I smirked and plugged them in tight. The place had no DJ, anyway - just some kind of automatic setup. Instantly the noise died down to a dim throbbing. I felt a little better. Louise started dancing and I joined. We danced for almost half an hour, close and nearly kissing. We turned every now and again to see a new person entering through the double doors. I never knew why I was turning until my eyes were directed like everyone else's towards the people loitering above. Then I realised I'd gained the radar I'd vaguely noticed earlier and it made my gut do a slow roll and the vibe came back in force.
This kind of woke me up, I realised our moment was obviously gone. Louise's eyes were half lidded and she was swaying now, not dancing. The molly was working. I made to sneak away for a breather and she suddenly grabbed my arms. She smiled and seemed alert and I couldn't resist, so I stayed beside her.
Another five minutes and Louise looked serene and asleep on her feet. I watched her, wanting to leave but wondering where tonight could take us if I stayed. Then she bugged awake. Her eyes wide. I smiled but she frowned and looked around like she trying to find someone. She said something. I couldn't hear so I let out a plug - only to be assaulted by a clashing symbol. It was loud, so fucking loud like the speaker was next to my head. It hurt my ear drum. I shoved my plug right back in just as Louise said something again.
I mouthed Can't hear you. She shook her head, her eyes darting this way and that like she was confused. Then she bent her neck right back with a sudden jerk and looked up. She pointed. I followed her finger though I couldn't make out anything behind flashing lights. But there was something. Something moving. I stared, straining to see. The strobes entered another interlude, clearing the view. High, high above - two tiny dots and a strip of white.
The whole way down, he smiled. Johnny threw himself from the rafters and landed on an unlucky few just a yard away from Louise and I. I didn't know it was Johnny until I pushed past those closest to the carnage. He was strewn across I couldn't tell how many people. Maybe six. He wasn't moving. I grabbed him and his body felt all wrong under his clothes. His torso was too soft, but he was alive. The people under him weren't moving except one guy who was trying to drag himself from under the pile.
I screamed for help. Everyone just stood there, not even gawking at Johnny or the others. They were looking around the room and no longer dancing. Some of them had their hands on their ears. I grabbed Johnny under the arms and tried to drag him into the open. I had to put him down so many times to push people out of the way. I only got a few feet before I could no longer push through. The people just bounced off those behind them, then teetered back against me, claiming even more space than they had before. A crush was forming. Those in my way ignored my frantic shoving and surged on. I was soon forced to stand on Johnny. I screamed and shoved some more trying to get off of him. It was like pushing against a wall. They all slowly kept flowing forward and other people began to stand on Johnny too. I tried to stop them. I did try. Johnny's head sunk in under someone's boot and I didn't look down again after that. I kept my eyes up and screamed for Louise as the people rolled toward the front of the pit, a dead end.
I was being suffocated by bodies. I struggled and got my arms above my head and then I did something that I'm not proud of. I crawled up. I grabbed shirts and shoulders and hair and faces around me and I climbed up them and soon I was laying over the crowd like a cattle dog. Some clawed at my waist and my ankles. Some crumbled beneath me and they didn't - couldn't - get up again. I dragged myself across their heads. I think I saw Louise's hair but I didn't stop. I dragged and dragged and then I was at the stairs and I pulled myself over the rails.
From the stairs, I saw how thick the crowd had become. I could barely tell one body from the next. All piling into one bottleneck. I saw something then that was hard to understand. The people at the back of the crowd. They weren't stuck. They could go up the stairs if they would just turn around, there was nothing but at least a yard of empty space behind them. They didn't turn, though. They were pushing into the crush as if they too were surrounded by people.
I smelt it first - a burning smell - then I saw the flames. They were coming from the furthermost corner. I couldn't go back down there, though. Not even into that empty space. So I struggled to my feet and I ran up the catwalk and through the double doors and kept going until I was out. I didn't help them. I left them all.
The emergency services arrived fifteen long minutes after I called. They took another ten to make a path through all of the cars. I paced beneath that huge sign. Praying for the others to pile out into the dirt like me. No one did.
I was sent away while the firefighters went inside. My sister Carol picked me up. The police told me they'd come see me soon and they did, about seven hours later. By then, I already knew. A flashy headline scrolled across my sister's TV excitedly announcing 'Warehouse Horror: One Survivor'.
My sister said the reporters didn't know shit and that I shouldn't believe them. Later the cops confirmed the story on the news. Carol cried. I sat quietly.
Louise's brother called me then. Louise is ok, isn't she? Cops are wrong, right? You have to tell them. She's with you, isn't she?"
I've read the police report about that night. I had to know. It said that those at the front died from crushing injuries and asphyxiation. A bunch of others were burnt by the fire that someone amongst the dead caused on purpose.
Louise was found at the back of the crowd, away from the fire and the crush death zone. She shouldn't have died according to her position. But she did die because she stabbed herself in the wrists and neck with her car keys. She wasn't the only one. All those who should've lived killed themselves one way or another. No one knows why. No one could track down whoever organised the rave or supplied the equipment.
A lot of people visit that warehouse even now. There's a following over the unusual circumstances of the deaths. They take tours and point and gasp at the stained cement floor and wonder what it was like.
Everyone has a theory about the cause, they always do. Death pact. Murder. Poisoned drugs. Aliens. Sounds crazy, but I'm not so sure about what's impossible anymore.
I know I have PTSD, but it isn't the reason I wake up panicked and sweating in the night. I don't dream of Louise or Johnny or those poor people's faces. I dream of flashing lights and an awful, hideous clashing sound. And then I dream of slitting my wrists, hanging myself, or jumping off my balcony.
I don't know who set it up. I don't know how or why or even if it's really true, but I believe something in that place caused everyone to do what they did. Something in the music and lights set them off. Something I was only half exposed to.