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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

A Night Out
by Dan Greenhalgh

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The night was fast approaching; the tension could be felt throughout the Williams household. The past twenty-one years of his life he had waited for this moment. Heíd played the fantasy over and over in his head, envisaging thousands of imaginary role-plays. Over Benís birthday dinner his father reminisced on how when he had turned twenty-one alcohol had been widely available. ĎYep, for next to nothin' we used to go out and get blasted. Five litres, six litres it didnít matter.í This kind of weekend extravagance wouldnít have left them financially crippled like it would now in 2028. There was a black market but it was only small and never talked about. The difficulty in obtaining the ingredients meant that substitutes were used which had a whole host of side-effects (nausea, vomiting, inability to walk and talk properly). Also the black market price was still 50% of the normal price so unaffordable to the average person. The price was so high because the penalty for alcohol fermentation was death. Only thirty years previous a night out would have cost only one tenth of a persons weekly wage. Now a night out cost a quarter of a families yearly income. Since 2010 the taxes on alcohol had been sent into an upward spiral by the all-powerful European Union. Word drifted about that out in the dustlands outside of Europe no taxes applied. People never discussed this though. There was no point; it was impossible to leave the Union as electro-magnetic fields sealed them within a European bubble. Also if one did manage to leave there was no guarantee that survival was possible on the outside. It was the crippling taxes on alcohol, tobacco and petrol that had caused the uprisings of 2011 and 2017. Knowledge of these events was limited, as those survivors who had been involved didnít talk about it. There were reported to have been around one million premature retirements. Petrol cars had become obsolete, being replaced by state owned hydrogen cars.

His twenty-first birthday marked the transition into citizenship. State education and examinations taught him the values and morals he was going to need in latter life. State studies had shown that allowing this night out helped to burn out the youth in Indieuros. His citizen card had arrived at the stroke of twelve state-sector-seven time. His parents had been putting money into state drinking schemes since he was born. They had saved enough for a state night mark six.

State night mark six: The citizen has credit for -

Ten two unit alcoholic drinks.

Ten cigarettes/cigars.

Return petrol driven transportation.

[Extra option: Female prostitute.]

The car was to arrive around 20:00 sector seven time. Those less fortunate citizens who couldnít afford this option would have to take the dangerous Metro-Line. Tonight would be spent rubbing shoulders with the extremely rich. Men with plastic six packs at ninety and women in perfect proportions. The ten drinks would be more than ample having never drunk alcohol before. He would probably pass out after five. The unused credit would be kept on his account and saved till he had his child. The expense meant that all spent their twenty-firsts alone. Even if birthdays fell on the same day for associates, it was strongly advised by screens that you spend it alone. The drunken birthday goers were kept separate from the wealthy, influential state officials by mental tags, which were stimulated when they thought of approaching the Europlus section of the bar. Their behaviour was being monitored and manipulated for their own good at all times. He had heard of cigars as big as bananas and just as straight. The women supposedly wore clothes that exposed their semi-natural bodies, some selling casual sex for a price.

The taxi had arrived, indicated by the flashing of the house bell light. His mother began to cry pre-scripted tears. Her baby was going to become a man; it would be his night on the town. As he was about to leave, fresh suit rubbing from leg to leg, his father stopped him at the door. "There you go son, happy birthday." He produced a shimmering gold-wrapped box. Inside lay a silver cigarette case, with his name and number etched on to the plate. His father embraced him with the same level of emotion as he had been allowed to do on the first day of his education. Ben placed the cigarette box inside the inner jacket pocket and took a lift down to first level. The taxi was waiting around five bays away. The smell of petrol was so sweet and sickly that he breathed it deeper and deeper into his lungs. The wonderful rare smell of natural pollutant. The tax on petrol meant that a tank full of petrol was worth more than a thousand petrol cars. A 1965 Bentley could be picked up for the same price as a yearís subscription to an electronic magazine. Slightly damaged petrol cars were left on ground level, providing metal shelters for the crazed anti-stateists. His anticipation grew, cold sweat attracted towards the cotton shirt he was unused to wearing. A clammy palm wiped away the moisture as the car swept its way to the club's first-level entrance.

The entrance was guarded by ex-military armed bodyguards called Ďbouncersí who checked the entrantís credentials. The doorway was small; the steps leading inside must have been worth a fortune as they were wooden. There was a small cubbyhole just inside where the guests' coats were taken and hung on plastic hangers. The towering bouncers checked his reservation. "Ben 19805701". They checked their list and then scanned his eyes with a hand held zip. "Check clear, proceed." They said with their monotone, mechanical voices. His ticket in hand he walked down the stairs, his legs tingling with anticipation. The doorway to his night was before him, getting closer step by step. The door lay stationary, sturdy on its hinges. It was an old fashioned manual door so he had to pull his way in. There was even a sign on the door to indicate whether to push or pull. As if the citizens of the 20th century had been mentally challenged. A waft of stale cigar smoke filled his lungs. This was it, this was the highest level. A place only talked and dreamed about. Somewhere to spend your life when your number comes up. The peeled, dull and fascinating. The shelves were lined with cups made of real glass. Bottles contained brown, yellow, green, red and clear liquids. All with that special mystical ingredient. Impure, head-spinning, strong-tasting, so satisfying, desire-increasing, uncontrollable alcohol. He stood there, barman facing him. "What drink sir?" He stood there uncertain what to order. The choice was so vast but he knew it all. Part of student education was historical studies into the drinks of the twentieth century and their innumerable combinations. Those who had excelled had been brought in to the bar elite, getting to work in such wonderful places. The psychotic effects of alcohol had been much studied by psychologists before the profession had been banned. His dad used to like brandy and ginger ale. "Iíll have a brandy and ginger please." "Ice sir?" "Yes please." The barman took down a glass and filled it with ice. He then produced an old bottle of courvoisier and substitute ginger. The small schweppes bottles had all been used up by 2022 and the natural ingredients were no longer available or legal. He watched the barman pour the brandy over the ice and then add a dash of ginger. "There you go sir." "Thank you." Drink in hand he let his back sink into the hard surface of the longed-for bar. It didnít seem real, the bar he had dreamed about couldnít live up to what lay before his eyes. Beautiful women in long, silky, sparkling dresses sat beside affluent men, their chests heaving as they breathed. The women held long ivory cigarette holders poised between their fingers. Menthol cigarettes burned back with orange glow towards their polished fake fingernails, which pointed enticingly in his direction.

Cocktail waitresses in short skirts milled about, some holding trays of electronically alarmed cigarettes. Ben used his ten credits to get 7 cigarettes and 3 cigars. He placed the cigarettes one by one into his new silver holder. Real authentic cigarette, guaranteed to give you cancer or your money back. Filthy, dark, polluting smoke, the show was about to start. A woman escorted him to his table and sent over a waitress to take his next drink order. "A Jim Beam and coke please, thanks." A quaint light was placed upon the table, emitting a feeble, energy-draining glow. The light was hindered by its shade. That was the beauty of it. Inefficient, wasted heat and cheap design. The rules of the new world didnít apply here. The lights dimmed as if they werenít dim enough. The long draped red velvet concertinaed curtain hid behind it a world of secrets and dancing girls. Ben would be allocated a wife in two years' time, on his twenty-third birthday. A series of tests would be run to find a suitable match. Divorce was now non-existent, mainly because it was illegal and punishable by banishment, which meant death. The curtains drew aside, the heat increased.

The stage lights panned across to show a woman, maturely aged in her appearance. Her glowing red hair curled down in twists around her face. A single circle of light illuminated her ashen white face. He sat transfixed having never seen a non-state live show before. The piano began to play, the notes chimed separately but blended together to trick the mind into a melody. It was a good old 90ís piano. Her voice rang out like a bird suspended on a warm current of air. Each note seemed to touch a part of his intestines in a way he hadnít known. Deep down they banged their hands together. The song ended, the woman bowed and receded into the shadows of the stage. Next up was a magician. He ordered another drink. He had always wanted to try a lager. Its freshness was supposed to be an amazing experience. It was served in a glass, just over half a litre, with condensation dripping down the edge. His hand trembled slightly as he rose the glass to his lips. It flowed down his gullet coating his throat in an ice-like film. His mind told him that he wanted a cigarette. He took one from his silver case and placed it into his mouth, orange end first, and as he did so one of the cigarette girls lit a flame, lighting it for him. After a fit of coughing the act finished, his head swam and his body tingled. He no longer felt as steady on his seat. His head swayed round and round trying to keep up with the spinning room. As the room drifted from side to side he could see the working girls standing by the bar smoking. Their voices were deeper than ordinary girls having inhaled smoke, pollution and semen for many years. Prostitution was illegal but the state police turned a blind eye to those in clubs for the favours they got in return. He waved his hand in the air; the waitress tottered over to him. He slurred for a whisky, his eyes transfixed on her skirt. It looked so inviting, he felt the urge to caress her buttocks, pull her on to his lap and let her feel his excitement. He rose a hand to touch her then a signal from his brain aborted the idea and sent his hand towards the table. The drink was clouding his judgement. He needed the toilet. He managed to haul himself up out of the seat and, swaying on his feet, walk towards the bathroom. His body wasnít used to the drink. After relieving himself he stood staring at himself in the mirror. The mirror stared back. Something became alerted within the lower half of his body. His sex drive started to take control of his thoughts. Outside the paid girls leaned at the bar, dirty but clean. The price of a girl was the same as around one litre of beer. The price was so high because this was the top end of the market. A girl came in his grade six package. His parents had arranged that as well although it would never be discussed. Bedroom activity was closely monitored by the state; sex was a mainly procreative activity. Menís excess testosterone was drained by the family doctor once a month. This was his only chance to be like the men of the twentieth century, abusive, dominating and sexually driven. The club was like a state-free zone, he was no longer an Indieuro but an individual.

The club owned the girls and up high above ground level were the apartments where any would-be lover man would copulate with his woman. Benís attention was grabbed by the presence of a famous movie star and her ageing husband on the balcony. At the bottom of the stairs stood a woman around 155cm in height exaggerated to 170cm by the shoes she wore. Her short, tight black PVC skirt rubbed over the thighs of both her legs. Her cleavage drew a deep line down the centre of her chest. Her almond hair sat graciously about her face, but this wasnít relevant. To Ben she was sexy. Not attractive like girls had been portrayed before but sexy. He didnít want to spend time with her, meet her family, find out her innermost thoughts. He just wanted sex with her. He wanted her to be part of him as they had passionate sex, not lovemaking but sex. After the straight whisky he needed a shot of hydration. The barman had seen his sweat-laden face coming. The shot injected just above his forearm bought a sudden semblance of reality back. His face cooled, the sweat dried to salt. He wiped his face with a damp cloth ordering himself a drink and one for the lady at the bottom of the stairs. He looked over at her; she looked back clocking him, her expression not changing. Her appearance was hostile but not all the young men could afford her prices. Ben couldnít place her age. The features were young but set amongst make up and wrinkles they had become confused.

The first sip of his fresh drink brought the lust back to his loins. He wanted this girl before somebody else took her. He walked over his practised walk and pulled out his cigarette case, taking one for himself and offering one to the lady. He mentally kicked himself for not offering her one first. Her slender fingers plucked it from the case and proceeded to place it in the end of her cigarette holder. The encrusted jewels on the side indicated to the customer what class of prostitute she was. There lay five crystals gleaming at him as he produced the light for her cigarette. She was of the highest class. This was also indicated by her having the prime spot at the bottom of the stairs. She knew right away what he wanted even before he had come over. Eight years experience was enough to sense the animal sexuality with which he ogled her body, even though he was trying to hide it. It may have been the high end of the market but the sex still made her feel dirty; the money was just too good to give up. Ben took his card from his pocket and handed it to her. She asked if she was the one he wanted, he nodded back. Ben drunkenly looked up the stairs, the effects of the hydration were wearing off and the alcohol was once more taking control. He looked up longing to meet the stars. She took him by the arm and led him to a lift. The lift journey took around two minutes. He spent the whole time propping himself up against one of the eight walls. The customary Ďtingí accompanied the doors opening. Ben continued repeating this sound "ting, ting, ting" as he walked down the long corridor. They walked along almost side by side, her leading him. She rustled in her bag for her keys. The walk took around ten minutes and in that time Ben managed to spill half his beer.

The door swung open and the velvet purple and red dťcor echoed its seedy feel over the whole room. These apartments consisted of just a bedroom and a bathroom, as that was all they needed. In the corner was a mini bar, tastefully encapsulated within a revised globe of the world. The girls were encouraged to try and use up their clients remaining credits of drink and cigarettes so there was none to be credited to the future child. The room was decked out perfectly for its purpose from the costumes in the wardrobe to the mirrors placed at revealing angles. The door slammed and she rubbed her hand gently over his crotch. A passing moment of realisation flitted through his mind before passing once more. Boiling semen took its place, pumping testosterone to his genitals and brain. With co-ordination fading fast he dropped the glass and made a fast falling dive forwards, putting his hand up her skirt. She steadied him on his feet as he carried on hell-bent on caressing her flesh. Seeing an opportunity for easy work she walked him over to the bed, sat him down and made them both a drink whilst his head drifted around between his own legs. Around sixty percent of all the men she had brought up for sex had either fallen asleep in a drunken coma, couldnít get it up or got it up and out a little quicker than expected. If she was lucky this youngster would fall asleep, be taken to another sex-free bed and wake up with only the vaguest idea of what happened the night before.

Her thighs glistened with milky whiteness. His vision tried harder and harder to focus upon a single spot. He tried screwing one eye closed and focussing with the other but to no success. She lifted the skirt up, showing the black thong she wore. She untagged the side and threw it to the floor. This blatant forward act made him realise once more why he had come to this room. His drink slipped from his hand staining the carpet momentarily while the fibres reversed to their pre-aligned state. There she stood, a woman of sex, right before him. She was a dancing black outline, her figure convulsed shapes. His head swam; the blur took over. The veins in his temples pounded whilst he struggled to form the sheets in a protective web around him. His guts wrenched tighter and tighter. The light's glare stabbed at his eyes. Even when the lids were closed the glow paid little attention to the shields. He lay there a crumpled mess crossed between the recovery and foetal positions. Natureís law, what goes up must come down. For all the pleasure the pain must be suffered. No more purple, no more smoke, no more cabaret, no more drink, no more oversized monkeys, no more whores. All that was left was the clean-cut living of 2028. The thought of what had happened between him and that girl flashed past his mind as he passed back out to sleep.

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