Contemporary Speculative Urban Fantasy

It was early enough that the dust still glittered in the last rays of sunset through the windows. We picked out a good table, off to the side, sheltered by the bathroom wall. We could stash our stuff in the corner when the time came for dancing, and not worry that some buzzkill would steal our warm jackets. 

Danny was acting weird about his new pants because he thought they were blue-green and I'd made the mistake of calling them turquoise. I hoped that more people would arrive soon to distract him. So far there was only us and what looked like a table of out-of-towners sharing a pitcher. 

"This is like a goddamn library," Danny hissed. It was preternaturally quiet. When the DJ came bustling in smelling like snow and American cigarettes, it made us start. Soon, though, he had tossed on a Cake song and a few more groups had trickled in. 

Audra had insisted we be sure to get here early. She'd come to our apartment at 3 am on mushrooms, crooning about the golden triadic harmonics of the universe and the melting faces in my ficus and promising to be at the show early was the only thing that got her to leave. I wondered if she had slept at all. 

I was keen to see Delmore Leonard again. He was a well-known local musician and his first solo album had seen me through my last break up. I clung to the upbeat, happy music like a spar. I hadn't heard anything about the new album whose release was being celebrated tonight, except the occasional woo from Audra about all the meditation they had done in the studio recording it, and how hypnotic it was. 

The opening band were a trio of chirpy young women wearing bumble bee stripes and singing songs that poured from them like tea from antique pots, honey-sweet and smooth. The music even lightened Danny's mood and he waved over the server to order a Heineken. The server winked when he dropped the beer and waved away Danney's money, putting him in an even better mood. 

The Bee Girls didn't have really danceable melodies, so we remained at the table, swaying and people watching. When Audra dashed over and splashed down next to Danny, it was like someone had suddenly dropped bourbon in our tea... or maybe acid. 

"I am so glad you're here!"

"You woke us up in the middle of the night to make sure we were coming." 

She began fiddling with Danny's hair, pushing it against the part. "You are going to be blown away. This album is...." she squeezed her eyes shut in wordless ecstasy. I was mesmerized by the large amber pendant swinging between her breasts. The Bee Girls continued to sugar the air. 

"I've got to go get ready. Come to the front! It will be wild. I promise."

As she zipped across the room to the stage door I helped Danny settle his hair.

"Audra's got the crazy eyes... think she's still shroomed up?" Danny asked.

"Nah, she's got too much energy for straight shrooms, I'd say. She is definitely on something!"

The Bee Girls gathered their mandolins and tambourine and floated off the stage, and Delmore began setting up. A clean stage - three mikes, one for him, and one each for Audra and Joscelyn, the other singer. A percussion section. And that was it. Interesting. 

The servers were circulating with large trays of small glasses. Two of these glasses were dropped to us, with a wink for Danny again, who had by now forgotten all about his pants. 

"What's this?" I asked the server, but he was already gone.

Danny shrugged at me. "Communion?" 

We sniffed the glasses. I had once had mead at a D & D festival. It kind of smelled like that. Well, the server had brought it, so it probably wasn't roofied. Everyone else was drinking theirs as we looked around so we toasted and sipped some.

Delmore came to his microphone. "Hey everyone! Enjoy a sweet taste of sunshine, on us!" Everyone held their glasses aloft and we all finished them off. 

"Guess their record company advance is huge," Danny murmured.

We stashed our stuff in the corner and took our spot in front of the stage between Delmore and Audra as the band took their places. 

Ash was doing percussion with them, a surprise. He caught my eye and smiled, which made me smile. I hadn't seen him in a few weeks and the last time... the memory of his warm breath on my neck caught me by surprise and I felt my pulse all over my body.  

Then the music started. Audra and Joscelyn, both with their long blonde hair flowing down, stood, arms out, and began a breathy harmonizing. Delmore, his dark goatee startling under his high cheekbones, joined in with the sounds they were making and then began singing. I realized he was looping the harmonies, so they layered and built. 

One time my friend Heather and I had been body surfing at Lawrencetown Beach, and suddenly the tide had surged deep under us and dragged us both by the feet out toward the open ocean. It took long moments of hard struggle to bring us back to land, and all the while, the ocean pulled and pulled. 

The sound was like that. My conscious mind found its footing gone. I was being pulled into a sea of mutual awareness, and I wasn't strong enough to stand against the tide. As the music swelled, the lights seemed to change, and move. I was looking at the server behind the bar, who winked at me. I was looking at Joscelyn, somehow from right in front of her, and then I was looking at myself from stage. I was caught in a looping spiral that sent my awareness from person to person in the place. I was in love with a blonde man behind me, and then I was thinking about my sick grandmother; I was zoning on how cool my hand felt entwined with Sarah's, then feeling Mohinder's strong chest behind me, then aware of all of this at once, and looking at the crowd through Delmore's eyes, feeling my breath forming this mystical chord with the other singers. 

What was in that drink?

The sensation merged into oneness, and for almost a full minute, I was everyone and everyone was me and we were one, and breathing in unison, inhaling joy and sending love into the universe. And then the harmonies ebbed and I found myself retreating, reaching out still for the connection, but then alone, bewildered, in my own head. I was drenched. I clutched Danny's hand, and the hand of the man on my right. None of us let go. In the moment of silence following the song, Audra and Joscelyn clutched their matching pendants, moved to join hands with Delmore. Then Delmore said, 

"This harmonic joining is new, and this is how we can move forward together. My friends, my loves, my others... this is how we were meant to live."

I couldn't imagine anything more comforting than his voice.

"We will dance this evening, and join again before we part. But now that you know this is how it can be, I'm asking you to join with us. Follow us. Let us move across this earth and spread this joy."

Then he started playing another song, and I started dancing. Everyone was dancing, even the servers. Even the bouncers. A small part of my brain thought, the drink will wear off and this will be the best dream-high you have ever had, so be sure to remember it. Another part of my brain thought, you are forever changed. 

After two hours of dancing, hugging strangers, sharing water and just vibing at a continuously joyous level, the band moved into the layered harmonics again, and again, we shared each others' consciousness. This time, I could recognize more of the darker parts of people's minds. The depression, the self-doubt, the anger, that lay under the open, loving area we shared. As we joined, each of us began weaving healing, or maybe planting seeds is the right metaphor. We worked to pull these darker thoughts up, into conscious balance. It is a weird thing to explain in words. We knew that the harmonics worked by mixing different notes, and it was like that, in psychological terms - the more we pulled the dark parts in and blended them as well, the deeper and richer the joining.

As the last notes ended, we all instinctively came together into a huddle in the middle of the dance floor, touching as many others as we could. When Delmore invited us to join him on the buses he had waiting outside no one hesitated. 

This convoy will now spread out. Each of us will learn to brew the opening mead. Those of us who can sing will learn the joyous harmonics. Some of us will make clothes, some of us will make food. Some of us will drive. I have been charged with finding more amber crystals. We each have a role to play in bringing this world home. When we get to your town, be sure to get to the show early. 

This tide lifts us all. 

August 06, 2021 13:12

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Robin Owens
14:12 Aug 21, 2021

The sentences! I loved every sentence. I could picture everything beautifully, the blue-green pants, the amber pendant, "the memory of his warm breath on my neck." What a creative idea, that you did explain, very well, in words.


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John Hanna
02:06 Aug 19, 2021

Hello Charlene, My name is John and your story has been given to me for the critique circle. I hope you don't mind that I'll try to find something that could be better. Really, though, I am having trouble finding anything to critique. I like the words very much, some are even new to me. iverse and the melti - iverse. The melti band were a trio - was (I think) very nice descriptions - chirpy girls, interesting great word choices, and wonderful flow However, some dealers have let hate creep past their bottom line and many drug purchases are ...


12:54 Aug 20, 2021

Thank you, John. It is a good point... I would not want my story to be construed as an exhortation to dive into substance abuse. The fentanyl threat is real.


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Ella Dodge
05:07 Aug 14, 2021

Beautiful writing! I enjoyed reading this story.


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Alice Richardson
04:29 Aug 14, 2021

An interesting storyline. Well written. I'll be watching for the bus.


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