‘These pills are fucking nothing! Knew he was a bull-shitter. Told you they’d be tic-tacs.’
‘You said they’d be Rohypnol.’
‘Then at least I’d be fucked!’
Tanya laughed at her own joke, the hilarity escalating as she realised her serendipitously-distasteful double-entendre. Such a big, dirty guffaw of a laugh – always uplifting – could throw you right up in the air. She jaunted off-kilter, bumping against Annie, who bounced sideways along the line into Sophie. The trio of young women striding with gusto through the busy evening bustle of the festival.
‘You want to get fucked by that skanky crusty?’ Annie screwed up her delicate, little nose, jostling Tanya back with a playful shove.
‘Yeah, I’d suck his gold tooth out.’ Tanya affected a deep, nasal voice. ‘This ladies… is what you need.’
She shifted her head from side-to-side to impersonate the dealer’s sales pitch, exaggerating his manner as she gestured towards a massive, imaginary shlong swinging between her legs. They all laughed. Sophie peered over at Tanya. She did look quite fucked: eyes gleaming and body swaying, with her puffy, pink afro bobbing madly overhead. Although that could just be the vodka. Sophie felt pretty drunk, as well, but wasn’t getting any buzz from the ecstasy.
‘Let’s take the other one, now.’ Tanya stopped in her tracks, shining an emphatic expression at the others.
‘How long’s it been?’ Asked Sophie. ‘They might just take a while to kick in.’
She reached for her phone. It was 11pm – an hour since they’d taken the pill. It should be more noticeable by now. Although, perhaps she did feel a bit of a float? Tanya rifled through her purse and pulled out a little bag of tablets. Jesus! Why’d she always have to be so blatant? Yea, it’s a festival, but still better to be careful. Sophie huddled around to provide some cover.
‘Fuck it, there’s probably nothing in them, anyway. Might as well take the second one.’
Tanya was resolute, handing out the pills. Annie took hers instantly, washing it down with the vodka mix and passing the bottle to Tanya, who did the same. Sophie refused the alcohol, washing hers down with a swig of water.
‘Steve might be able to get us some… like… proper ones.’ Annie suggested. It was the first time she’d mentioned Steve in over two minutes.
‘Yea, I’ll ge ye su…’ Tanya’s impression of Steve trailed off into a long, incomprehensible mumble. She swaggered her gait, eyes glazing to mimic Steve’s perma-cool (but chronically confused) facial expression. Sophie chuckled. Annie hustled off with a frustrated tssk and the trio resumed walking.
‘Did you know Steve’s in a band?’ Sophie remarked, tongue-in-cheek. ‘They’re playing tomorrow afternoon, apparently.’
‘Really?! He didn’t mention it.’ Tanya joined in sarcastically.
‘Oh fuck off! I was asking him about the band… it’s interesting.’ Annie protested, but Tanya continued her mumbling impersonation.
‘I’m in a band, baby.’
Annie ignored the mockery, but it helped supress her urge to repeat her current favourite question. (Did Steve think that he and Annie had made a definite arrangement to meet in the Ska Tent at 11.30pm, or was he just implying that he might be in the general vicinity around then?) She glanced at her smart-watch and picked up the pace.
Sophie looked across at her friends with a surge of sincere happiness – they were so lovely… and they looked so good tonight. Tanya was large and buxom; light, brown skin with a bold, pink afro. Annie was slender and lanky, blonde hair and fair complexion. Sophie’s figure was slim, with flaring curves, milk-coffee skin and curly, black hair that trickled over her shoulders. All three were dressed in festival-attire and generously dusted in glitter.
Sophie was especially proud of her yellow, feathered jacket – bright, garish and impractically short, yet the coppery shading and slick cut gave it a stylish edge. Okay, so mermaid dresses are common at festivals, but Sophie’s was the best. Silvery azure and emerald scales, glimmering like a disco-ball in the neon lights and naked flames. Fitted perfectly with her scaled handbag. And the bold, blue trainers were entirely appropriate in this context.
They made their way down the wide, grassy thoroughfare, lined with tented stalls and food-vending vans. The air was warm and the night in full swing all around. Flowing swathes of humans: parading, marching, drifting, stumbling and bumping along. Groups and tribes: huddling, ranging and rambling; thronging, scattering and converging; flocking, choccing and blocking. A diverse medley of colourful characters. Angel wings, rainbow glitter, second-rate mermaid attire. A beautiful woman gliding along on stilts. A bare-chested muscle-man, wearing a faux-fur cloak with a massive, antlered head-dress – his bland facial expression clashing dramatically with his flamboyant outfit. A hubbub of sounds: the swirl of music, the thrum of chatter, the buzz of merriment. The smells of fire, food and marijuana wafting on the summery breeze. Giddy, carnival atmosphere.
‘I feel zippeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!’
A young man ran past and leapt into the air, gracelessly spinning his body as he swung around to land in Sophie’s path. His wild eyes gleamed happily and she returned his smile. He whirled away and careened off into the night. The trio were coming up on some kind of arena: two thirds of a circle, walled with broad, wooden posts. The fencing was short at the ends, but grew tree-tall towards the middle, framing an open-topped stage-area, below a towering arch of scaffolding. Some kind of show was going on and a few hundred people were gathered around to watch. An awed coo rippled through the crowd. A flash of glitter from on-high as an acrobat spun down to the stage on an unravelling twirl of white silk. The audience erupted in excited applause. Sophie was pleased to see Tanya looking curious, as well.
Tanya cut across the line and marched towards the show. Sophie followed quickly, using her back to block off any potential protest from Annie. Tanya pushed confidently into the crowd – it was always convenient to travel in her slipstream. The throng of bodies bumping and sliding as they made their way towards the front. Two golden-haired women were swirling, swinging and somersaulting around the stage. They wore matching costumes. White and yellow leotards and sandy-gold, faux-fur collars that triangulated into light capes – stretching down their spines and tapering into elegant tails. The lioness-acrobats’ bodies were lithe and athletic, muscles rippling as they performed spectacular feats of skill and strength, gliding and riding on hanging hoops and silky ropes. They were stunningly beautiful. The crowd loved them… and so did Sophie. She always fell in love with people on stages.
‘I didn’t let them out, Master. I don’t know where they’ve gone’
The comical, camped-up voice of short, pot-bellied man, who now ran onto set. A pantomime expression of horrified surprise as he clapped eyes on the lionesses, before darting off on cartoon legs. There was an explosion of flames at the rear of the stage, smoke machines pumping out jets of steam. A lofty figure striding through the mist, voice booming.
‘Bu – Ra – Hay!’
Or something like that. Some kind of ancient spell or enchantment. His voice was deep and powerful – the kind of tone God might affect if he was feeling especially angry… or Satan, perhaps. The lionesses dropped onto hands and knees. Eyes enchanting as they stalked cat-like, haunches rolling and curling, perfect buttocks grinding around one another.
The Circus Master emerged from the mist to dominate centre-stage. Tall, slim, muscular figure. Broad-shouldered jacket: black on the right; red on the left. It hung open to display a chiselled chest and corrugated iron abs. Brass-buckled belt hanging low around his waist. Powerful legs sculpting out of tight, leather trousers. Big, stomping boots. Heavy-metal-style top-hat. The upper diagonal-half of his face was crimson, war-paint gashing through his left eye and nose. The bottom half was ghost-white. Prominent facial features, angular cheek-bones, jutting jaw, thick lips… swirling, black-hole eyes. Leashes and chains dangling from his waist, swinging and clinking as he moved. A long whip coiled up in his right hand. He swaggered to a standstill at the front of the stage, slinking his hips with Clockwork Orange gait.
Tanya sighed audibly. She was obviously thinking the same thing as Sophie. The lionesses prowled around on all fours, svelte bodies coiling before they exchanged an erotic slash of claws.
‘Back to your cages!’ Thundered the Circus Master.