Chapter 17 – Halcyon Days
Tom sat alone in his room. It had been two weeks since the fight with Dave. All he wanted to do was sulk, smoke weed and lose time to numbness.
He ruminated about his experience clubbing alone last weekend. Before venturing out, he’d drunk a few beers, taken a pill and two drops of Metanox. Pre-loading at home was a good call. When he arrived at the club, he discovered they’d installed metal scanners. The bouncers did full-body pat-downs and herded the clubbers like cattle.
The cost of tickets—nearly thirty pounds—shocked him. Since the ‘superstar DJs’ took over, prices had skyrocketed. He loitered at the back of the club. The arrogant, coked-up MC demanded the crowd’s attention, screaming gibberish down the mic and calling for the rewind. Tom’s foot tapped along to the beats, but the music sucked. Clownstep, the kids called it, and with good reason. The triplet drums and daft wobble basslines made him think of the circus.
He sighed, joining the crowded queue for the bar. Raving held so much promise back in the 1990s. All races, genders and creeds under one roof, a unified tribe greeting the dawn of a new millennium. He remembered the halcyon days: the clubs swarming with young, happy ravers, every face a friend. Nothing like the attitude in here. He lurked in the shadows, sucking the life out of his cigarette. From the teeming crowd, a bouncer emerged and told him to use the designated outdoor smoking area. He stubbed the cigarette out and, when the bouncer turned his back, gave him the middle finger.
Soon the headliner jumped on the decks: some metrosexual wank stain in a baseball cap. The DJ slammed the cross-fader and twiddled knobs with flourishes of the hand. No doubt he’d perfected these poses while watching himself in the mirrored wardrobes of his trendy London penthouse.
As the night wore on, the high faded and his legs ached. He scowled at the preening young men in sleeveless basketball tops, flexing their biceps and flicking their hair in time to the beat. A dealer skulked in the shadows. He considered scoring an E, but drugs bought in clubs were usually weak and expensive. Instead, he downed four shots of tequila and ricocheted around the club, knocking into people. He stepped on the trainers of a thugged-up B-Boy and received a punch in the ribs for his trouble.
By two in the morning, he was puking his guts out in the bathroom. After cleaning himself up, he staggered back to the dance floor and scanned the crowd through bleary eyes for a potential shag. Pretty girls supped alcopops in the bathroom queue, playing with their phones. But he was too old and pissed to stand a chance, so he left the club and walked home.
From then on, rather than go clubbing, he stayed in his bedroom and sat in his room drinking cans, smoking and taking Metanox. Instead of meeting friends, he watched pirated films and listened to music. Instead of lovers, there was internet porn. His housemates might take him for a miserable bastard, but he didn’t care. He had Metanox, drop after drop of pure enchantment. He cherished every high, although the dwindling supply worried him. Less than twenty-five percent, despite his rationing attempts.
Late one night, high on Metanox, he curled up in bed. Heavenly sounds caressed his ears, overwhelming him with awe. An intricate mechanical clattering and droning. If only he had a microphone. He could imagine music historians discussing the recordings in the same breath as Mozart and Bach. Then he realised he wasn’t listening to music at all. Somebody in the upstairs bathroom had flushed the toilet and the dirty water was passing through the house’s shoddy plumbing.
He wondered what Dave was doing now. At a house party with his trendy new friends? Boning Teresa? Or lurking outside in the darkness, ready to strike? His mobile phone rang, setting his heart racing. The caller withheld their number; could it be Dave? In fear, he pulled off the back cover and removed the battery. His body trembling, he climbed under the bedcovers and switched off the lamp, in case somebody outside saw the light in the window.
Tom dreamt of Isla—they were together in her art studio, where they’d made love. He leant in to kiss her, but as soon as their lips touched the dream ruptured and faded to nothing. He was in bed, alone, the alarm clock ringing. He switched it off to linger in the shallows of sleep.
When he finally awoke, he couldn’t face the world. He sat alone at the edge of the bed in silence, unshaven, his mouth gaped open. Dirty dishes littered his bedroom and unwashed clothes spread over the floor. He hadn’t brushed his teeth for days. He could barely be bothered to go to the toilet. Closing his eyes, he hugged his thin legs against his chest and sobbed. He couldn’t tell what emotion made tears trickle down his face. Frozen slush filled his head—a tundra of ill-defined sentiments.
“Blame Dave for this,” said the Grandmaster, Old Man Fenwick broadcasting his thoughts from beyond the grave via Metanox.
I’m never alone. Not while I have you.
The Grandmaster was right. Dave had always been sly. He played the victim and wormed his way into his social circle. It all made sense now. Snout-Nose Steve and Hazeem were too dumb to see it—Dave had been leeching drugs from them for years.
“You’d better protect yourself,” said the Grandmaster.
“Isn’t it obvious? Dave’s sitting in the dark, plotting revenge and all kinds of chicanery.”
“Do you think so?” Tom asked the Metanox bottle.
“I know so. He was lying when he said he wanted to destroy the Metanox. He wants it for himself. Always has. You saw him, grabbing for it. He’ll be climbing up the walls right now, trembling with bloodlust, yearning for a high.”
“He’ll have to kill me first.”
“That’s the spirit. But don’t underestimate him.”
“What do you mean?”
“One of these days,” said the Grandmaster. “You’ll come home to find the place ransacked. Door kicked in, windows smashed, TV, stereo and computer gone. But worst of all, you’ll be sans Metanox.”
“Dave wouldn’t do that, he’s a wuss.”
“I’ve seen it before. What people do for Metanox.”
“But I can’t imagine Dave breaking in.”
“You mark my words. David Andrew Doherty is a dirty drug addict who wants your supply! He wants it all for himself.”
The alarm clock rang out; he was late for work. “I better get moving.”
“Don’t go to work.”
“But I’ll lose my job!”
“If you leave this house, Dave will steal the Metanox. He’s watching the house right now. He’ll follow you, and when you least suspect it, he’ll cut your throat, leave you bleeding out in some dark alley and take the Metanox for himself. Think hard about that, Thomas.”
Fear gripped him. He held his hands to stop them shaking. “What can I do?”
“Get a knife from the kitchen. Bring it down here, turn off the lights and wait.”
“Stay alert and be ready to pounce.”
He fetched a bread knife from the kitchen and rushed back to his basement room. Before turning off the light, he agonised over where to wait. Hiding behind the door might work, but he wanted to gain advantage over the enemy. Poised on his wooden stool with the knife held aloft? Much better. He turned off the light and assumed his position. He’d watch for shadows blocking out the strip of light between the door and the carpet. That would give him a few vital seconds. Enough time to lunge at Dave, aiming for the upper torso.
Tom gripped the knife. His breath was sharp, and his ears attuned to the sound of footfall.
“You’re doing great,” said the Grandmaster. “Keep going.”
The second I see the handle turn, I’ll lunge and stab the fucker in the heart.