The music was a wall of noise. Not only were the flashing laser beams blinding my vision, but the sound deafened me, pushing me back against the entrance.
The disorientation only lasted a moment before the cacophony began to conform to order. The roar slipped into a bass beat, rhythmically vibrating my bones. A synthesizer screeched in the upper registers, using autotune to fling itself from end to end of the scale. The gyrating lasers revealed a flux of bodies, moving against each other in the constant, ever-changing hormonal grind of loneliness.
Blinking my eyes to see through the rainbow-pierced darkness, I moved through the crowd towards the bar. My voice was useless here; I waved at a bartender until he saw me, and then pointed to one of the empty beer bottles. He nodded in mute understanding, holding up four fingers. I paid without argument.
I turned and leaned against the cool wood of the bar as I surveyed the room. The deejay in the middle of the club waved one arm wildly above his head, conducting the loudest orchestra in existence.
Fortunately, the edges of the room were not as congested with humanity as the center, and I was able to weave my way around the fringes without too much trouble. Several girls briefly caught my eye, but they were lost in the sound and darkness before I could do anything more than register their existence. I waited for the hours to pass, for the crowd to start to thin.
An hour later, the music was still just as deafening, but my ears had learned to block it out, treat it as nothing more than mere background. My gaze had settled on a pretty young thing catching her breath a few feet from me at the bar. Downing my beer and upping my courage, I started to move towards her. As I skirted a kissing couple, a blinking light on the wall caught my attention. It seemed different from the rest of the club lights.
The blinking light was coming from a red box on the wall. I squinted at it. Was that the fire alarm? My stomach flipped from the realization. Searching for the exit, I realized that no one else was moving!
“Fire!” I shouted, at the top of my lungs. No one noticed. The kissing couple broke apart momentarily to glance in my direction, and then resumed their semi-private session.
The bartender, a muscular youth with a shock of blonde hair, had come to offer a refill. I grabbed his arm and pointed at the flashing alarm. After a moment, his uncomprehending look shifted to horror. He dropped the rag he had been holding and sprinted for the back door behind the bar.
Well, that wasn’t much help, I thought sourly. I was sure the alarm was blaring, but no one could hear it over the music. I began pushing in towards the center of the room towards the deejay and his platform. My shoulder was quickly bruised from forcing my way through narrow gaps between bodies, and I left a trail of angry glances in my wake. The crowd swallowed me up; my only guide was the sight of the two massive speakers looming behind the deejay’s station.
After an eternity of faces, I reached his workstation. He turned to face me as I hauled myself up, but his expression was unreadable behind oversized sunglasses. I didn’t waste time trying to talk – I could barely hear my own thoughts. I knocked him aside and yanked the cords from his computer.
With an electronic screech, the music cut out abruptly. The silence lasted but an instant before it was filled with the blaring of the fire alarm. The lasers, keyed to react to sound, began pulsing in the alarm’s rhythm, adding to the emphasis of the metallic beeps. Every head had turned towards me as I had removed the cords, and each flash revealed a sea of upturned faces.
I didn’t speak a word. I pointed towards the exit, and they calmly and quietly filed out.