Peter and Stephanie sat on the sofa, uncomfortable under the expectant glance of the three men. Their hands were heavy with pressure, their mouths dry. Peter gulped, unsure of how he was to extricate himself from the situation. The man with the gold tooth furrowed his brow and whispered something in the ear of the leader. The words were mangled under a thick accent but Peter learned that the leader’s name was Lewis. Then, all of a sudden, a banshee’s scream flew through the house, followed by a crackle and a large cheer.
“Hm, it appears they started early. Enjoy the party,” Lewis said in a smooth, assured voice. As the triumvirate departed the two friends breathed a sigh of relief.
“For a moment there I thought you were actually going to take it,” Stephanie said.
“I haven’t changed that much,” he replied stiffly, “let’s go and see what the commotion is about.” They walked through the languid figures taking care to avoid the relaxed legs that stretched across the floor. They passed through the lounge into the kitchen were a group of people stood leaning against the edge of the counters. Conversation briefly stopped so they could examine the people passing through, Peter and Stephanie excused themselves and tried to move as quickly as possible to escape the awkward atmosphere. As he moved through the house Peter realised just how insidious this drug was. Whoever was organising the scheme had spread their tentacles throughout the student body; uniting all the social cliques under the umbrella of addiction. Lewis seemed to be in charge but Peter couldn’t remember ever seeing him around college, although it was quite possible that they had never crossed paths before. It was a much wider world than Peter had experienced.
Once outside they found themselves on a patio filled with a raucous crowd. The garden was large, and when the patio stopped a vast lawn was being stomped on by people with a festival atmosphere. Even though it was a bleak winter night they were all too willing to bare their skin to the elements. A cacophony of shrill laughter and excited screams swept over the crowd, pushing them further into their delirium. Another banshee’s scream filled the air and Peter and Stephanie’s eyes were drawn to the sky where a burst of colour exploded against the black canvas. Fragments of red and blue shone brilliantly in front of the violet clouds, flying through the sky in a vivid display, quickly burning out and dying into nothingness. One by one more fireworks were set off; making the sky come alive with a vibrant dance that struck everyone with a sense of awe, and it was only magnified for those who were under the influence of Edukation.
“Isn’t it funny how fire works but it never gets paid?”
Stephanie rolled her eyes, “You’re an idiot. Maybe you should take the drug.” Peter merely shrugged, and before he could respond something in the far reaches of the garden caught his attention. Through the crowd, deep into the darkness he saw two figures. As his eyes adjusted he saw that it was Nathan and Harry, but this time they weren’t locked in a fight, and it puzzled him that not so long ago he had caught Harry beating on Nathan mercilessly. But as he continued watching them he saw something which made the whole situation clear. Nathan slyly handed a wad of notes over. Upon receiving them Harry ruffled Nathan’s hair and patted him on the back. Evidently the conflict that he had broken up hadn’t been a case of bullying, it was business. He was surprised that Nathan had been sucked into this world; he had always struck Peter as a sheltered boy who knew nothing of a world outside his studies. Still, most people had demons lurking in their soul and sometimes they were able to overpower the purity which every person has in varying quantities.
“I don’t like this,” Stephanie said, the worry plain in her voice, “can we go?”
“Just a little longer,” he said, secretly wishing that something would happen to give him an excuse to become Felicio. He could feel the costume hugging his skin and he wanted to rid himself of his outer clothes and become who he was meant to be.
The fireworks stopped and the pounding music was hushed, much to the crowd’s annoyance. But as they started jeering a shirtless man with a rich complexion stood on the roof of the conservatory. He was full of energy and his dreadlocks swung as he dynamically strode around his stage. He didn’t need a microphone, for his booming voice bellowed out over the crowd and he held them all in rapture.
“I won’t keep you from the party too long. I just wanted to say that this is a special day and we’re all special people. It’s cold and it’s dark but we light up the world with our hot souls. The future is out there, waiting for us to take it and taste it and rip it from its pedestal and we can, and we will. We will. Our minds are open to a new horizon and I can feel all of you, all of us star children are destined to be held aloft on the shoulders of the gods. Our minds are no longer shackled to space and time but they’re free to wander the universe. Feel the heat of the farthest star and know that in this moment we are immortal. Celebrate life with me!” At this point he promptly jumped off the roof into the crowd who had been inspired by his words, hoping that they would catch them but they were too busy holding their drinks and he crashed to the floor, making a sickening thud as his body fell flat against the ground. For a moment the crowd looked on with bated breath but then he groggily rose and began dancing, to the delight of everyone.
“This is too weird. It’s like a cult, can we go?”
“Not yet,” Peter said, resistant to her pleas. She would have left but part of her was afraid to leave Peter on his own in case he did anything rash, and another part feared for her safety as the walk home was a long one and there were too many disreputable characters that could follow her. So they remained at the party and were witness to the depravity without actually being involved.
In the garden the music was set loud enough to reach the heavens, and the crowd lost themselves to the music. The dance turned into a frenzy as alcohol and Edukation surged through the bloodstream. Flesh met flesh as savage, primal natures came to the fore and drove the sweating bodies to fulfil their most basic needs. Lips locked in warm wet embraces as the whole group descended into a sizzling pit of lust, their insatiable hunger only growing as they drove themselves to excess. Around the fringes of the garden random acts of graffiti were being performed as flowers were being snapped from their stems and the ornaments were being smashed. Soon enough they heard the revving of an engine and then the roar of a motorbike as it came crashing through the back gate and spun over the wet muddy grass, sending everyone running in panic. Then their heads jerked to the direction of the house as a window smashed and a midget was flung onto the patio. He immediately got up, dusted himself off and jumped back through the shattered glass, eyes blazing with fury.
Inside the house wasn’t much better. Stephanie pulled Peter through, determined to leave no matter how much he protested. The kitchen was covered in food and something had exploded out of the microwave, dark splotches were dripping down cupboard doors. They were just about to step into the lounge when a man ran past, he was being chased by the midget who was using a can of deodorant and a lighter as a makeshift flamethrower whilst yelling obscenities. The party had descended into madness, the drug had taken its full effect. In the lounge people were exchanging piercings. Blood oozed from the holes they were making and others were using that blood as ink for tattoos. They seemed to delight in the pain and Peter was disgusted, he wanted to become Felicio and clean up the house, rip the pills from their hands and send them away, ashamed. But in the distance he heard the wail of police sirens and knew he had to protect Stephanie.
He pulled Stephanie through the lounge and as he looked back he saw Lewis’s evil face twisted into a deplorable grin, he was revelling in the chaos he caused as if he were master of it all. Peter felt an intense hatred, and knew that Felicio would be called upon soon. They reached the door but just as they were leaving Peter hesitated, something had caught his eye. He looked up the stairs and descending them was a radiantly beautiful girl. She seemed completely out of place, as if Aphrodite was lost in an empty, desolate void. His eyes were locked on her form, her essence seemed to cast a glowing aura and it was as though he felt his heart beating for the first time. She brushed a lock of blonde hair away from her soft cheek and her bright blue eyes looked up, meeting his gaze. Her full, ruby red lips slipped into a smile and in that perfect moment his world was transformed as if suddenly, all at once, everything fell into place. Then Stephanie pulled him away into the cold darkness and the door slammed, but it couldn’t sever the brief bond that had formed between the two strangers.
They walked home at a quick pace and Peter vowed that as soon as Stephanie was safely home he would don the mask and go back to the party. Lewis needed an education that only Felicio could provide.