We met at the bar – you know the one, the one downtown you need a password to get into. I'm not hip enough to get into a place like this normally, my friend Alecto brought me. She's always on about the newest things – clothes, clubs and cocks.
Alecto: Des, you busy tonight?
Desdemona: No, just bingeing Black Mirror
Alecto: Taking you to Havoc tonight😎
Wear something slutty😈
I stared at my phone, letting the short text exchange sink in. I don't go out – not to clubs, not to bars – hell, I barely go out for coffee these days. My life involves pyjama pants and applying to jobs I'm nowhere near qualified for while eating muffins. I glance at my closet. Why do I have to dress slutty?Are pyjama bottoms not dress code worthy. I sigh and flop backwards on my bed before taking a couple of deep breaths. The outside world – terrifying. Looking at the clock beside my bed, I let my eyes slowly focus on the time. It's just after eight; she's given me no time to get ready. I'm mentally talking myself into going out and it's only half working. My closet is filled with black, grey and not much else. A lifetime of buying black because “It goes with everything”. At least black also goes with other black.
I slip on a dress I wore to a wedding about a year ago. It's not exactly slutty, but it's low cut enough that Alecto should be happy. My keys and purse are by the door – I grab them, while texting Alecto about where I should meet her.
Twenty minutes later, I'm standing outside an old manufacturing plant of some sort. It looks like it hasn't been in use since the fifties. It's sketchy as fuck, which is probably why this place is so popular. Alecto is hurrying me excitedly towards a large red door covered in graffiti and I stumble forward grudgingly.
“Don't be such a poop.” she nudges.
“I'm not being a poop, this place is weird.” I reply.
“We're not even inside yet – aren't you even a little excited?”
“I guess. I really wanted to binge Netflix tonight, though.” I tell her.
“You can do that any night. Tonight is Havoc.”
I then notice that the graffiti in the middle of the door does indeed spell out Havoc, in angry looking black letters, surrounded by white.
Alecto moves past me and knocks on the door, looking back at me slyly. There's no one else out here – no crimson rope for people to wait behind, no bouncer – just a lone light above the red door flickering in and out ominously. She says something, but I can't hear what it is – she's speaking to the door. Her eyes glint at me as the door opens slowly, though there's no one on the other side. She motions for me to follow her, just before the light goes out.
I stumble forward in the darkness, my hand in hers as she leads me onwards. It's here that I'm rethinking leaving my cozy apartment and my adorable cat and bed for this engulfing blackness. I've known Alecto since we were in high school together. She was the popular one, with friends in every corner of the school, and I was the shy one reading books under the bleachers. I was told after graduation that under the bleachers is where most people lost their virginity – I was never that girl. I never even read about girls losing their virginity – I read about high fantasy adventure happening in mythical lands. Where flirting was the farthest anyone got. It suddenly dawned on me that Havoc could be a sex club. Alecto was entirely the type to trick me into coming to some sort of sex club with her. When the darkness ended, I had visions of pillows and naked bodies intermingling all over couches and floor alike, twisting and undulating in carnal passion.
I'm only slightly disappointed when a glow appears and we pass through another door into Havoc itself, only to see what appears to be a well-appointed bar with dim lighting. There are people scattered all over – from the bar itself, to tables and booths, covered by velvet curtains. The entire place is red and black, with damask wallpaper, velvet chairs and a painted black floor. The people seem normal enough – and not on top of each other in the throws of passion.
She drags me towards the bar and we find two seats in between other people. On either side of us are men, though the bar looks to be a fairly even mix of genders.
Alecto orders me a drink I haven't had since Brad Orsons party in the eleventh grade. It brings back memories of awkwardness and tests. The barkeeper is a woman close to my age – maybe thirty at most. She's got bouncy boobs, a tight shirt and what looks like a short skirt. Her makeup is done with the skill of someone who works at a beauty store. She smiles at me as I sip my drink. Alecto is drinking something red with celery.
I cross and uncross my legs awkwardly as Alecto has already struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to her. I've just about finished my drink when a new one appears before me – the bartender (whose name, according to her Hello, My Name Is sticker, is Fiona) smiles warmly at me as I continue to imbibe.
There's music playing – not loud and obnoxious like in other bars I've been to. This is more sullen and moody. I begin to play with my napkin. If Alecto just wanted to hit on guys, why did she need me here? I take the last dregs of my second drink and notice I'm feeling a little woozier than I normally would have felt after two drinks. I figure I've had enough, but Fiona brings me another one.
“I think I should cut myself off, it's hitting pretty hard” I tell her. She just smiles sweetly at me. The piano and violin drag slowly in the tempo of the music. I shake my head slightly, trying to bring myself out of the stupor, when the man sitting next to me looks over at me and smiles a sort of half smile. His hair is dark, his eyes piercing blue and he radiates an energy I can't explain.
He begins talking and I make out only a couple of words. I nod, trying to keep up – I hate appearing drunk. Even if I am drunk, over the years I've tried to master the “impassive liquor can't touch me” attitude. Not that my cat judges me for drinking – or if she does, she's yet to tell me to knock it off.
He motions to the bar tender and she brings over a bowl of nuts and offers them to me.
“These will help you feel better” she says, and the man beside me nods in agreement. I reach my hand out and grab at the nuts and toss several in my mouth, crunching on them. It takes about a minute, but the world starts to clear around me once more – normalize. Or so I thought.
The man next to me looks a little worried, and reaches out to touch my shoulder ever so slightly.
“Are you feeling any better?” he asks. I nod mutely. “I'm Kiernan, by the way.”
“Desdemona” I reply.
“You weren't looking so good for a little bit there – have you never been to Havoc before?” he asks.
“No, my friend brought me.”
He nods in understanding and glances past my shoulder to Alecto who is now smooshing her face against the guy she was flirting with.
The bartender has disappeared into the back room, but I'm feeling much better now. I look around at my surroundings once more and things seem ever so slightly different than they were before. The people sitting in the booths shimmer between two different forms – what looks like an every day human form, and something more sinister. One woman shimmers into a humanoid creature with jagged pointy teeth and pointed ears, her eyes are purple and give off a shallow glow. The man she is with is shimmering into something similar, but with glossy wings. Where the hell did Alecto bring me? Am I just drunk? Did they put something in the drinks? They must have.
The man next to me – Kiernan – notices my incredulity and furrows his brows. “Your friend didn't tell you, did she?” I blink at him. He's shimmering, too. His ears are pointed and his features more narrow and sharp – his eyes are still blue. “This is a Fae bar. It's secret for a reason.” he motions around at the other patrons. “They're all fae. They're not of the human world. They can bring people here, but there are rules.”
“Rules for what?” I don't believe any of the words coming out of his mouth, and I certainly don't believe my own eyes, for that matter.
“Rules for the humans.” He motions to a sign I didn't notice tacked to the back of the bar, which reads 'don't eat the food'.
“What do you mean, don't eat the food?” I look down at the bowl of nuts I was still slowly shoving into my mouth.
“Once you get past the first door into Havoc, you're not in your world anymore. You're in Erewhon. Some humans would call it fairly land, but I think it's a ridiculous over simplification. Didn't your parents ever warn you not to eat the food in fairly land?”
My mouth gapes open. This is insane. Everyone here is insane. I'm insane.
“Of course not, it's not real!”
“You can believe what you want, lass, but you can't go home anymore.”
“What the hell do you mean I can't go home? Are you going to stop me?”
Kiernan shakes his head no.
“You just can't. No one here will stop you – but you will not be able to go through the door back to the normal world.”
I stare at him as though he's on drugs. He probably is on drugs. This is ridiculous. I'm leaving. I shove the bowl of nuts away, grab my purse and run towards the door, leaving Alecto sucking face with her new friend.
The door I came in is just around the corner – there's no bouncer and no one but Kiernan watching me. I try to walk towards it – and I can feel myself moving, but I never seem to get any closer to the door. I look down at my feet – they look normal. But I don't feel normal. Looking up, I try once again to walk towards the door. It's about ten feet away – and the short distance doesn't seem to be lessening any. I can't leave. I literally cannot leave. What the hell is going on?
“Let me go!” I shout, falling to my knees, confused and afraid. Heads turn towards me. Heads that are no longer shimmering between two forms. Each person has only one form, now – and it isn't human. Alecto's attention has shifted to me once again – she still looks human. She probably didn't eat the food. She smirks at me.
“So, what? I have to stay here forever?” I cry.
Kiernan grabs some peanuts out of the bowl for himself and crunches on them.
“Not exactly. You came in one door – you just can't leave through that door. There's doors here to everywhere and everything. This bar – this place of Havoc – is a central domain, where beings from Erewhon and beyond access to meet together.”
Alecto stands and walks over to where I sit on the floor and looks down at me.
“I forgot to tell you about the food, Des.” she quips. “Well – maybe forgot is the wrong word. I simply didn't tell you. Remember when we met? At the school library? That wasn't chance. I was hired to be your friend, Des. Hired to get you away from the natural world. You stood to inherit millions. Now that money will go to someone else. To my boss. And you get to live. That's the joy of it all – I don't have to kill anyone! I just have to bring them here and get them drunk enough to eat some food, and Erewhon does the work for me.” She bends down and pats me on the head like a child.
“Goodbye, darling. I'm sure I'll see you around again.” she motions with her finger towards the man – creature – she had been kissing and he follows her out the door I cannot reach like a little puppy.
The door slams behind her – loudly. Kiernan stands and walks towards me. Leaning over, he holds out a hand to help me up off the floor. Everyone around us has already gone back to doing what they were doing before. I dust myself off, but my lips is still quivering.
“It's not a death sentence. Just try a door.” he points to the most obvious door at the other end of the bar. It's also red – but there's no graffiti this time.
“Where does it go?” I ask.