Inside the club it was DnB. Drums at a hundred and eighty-five BPM / and the sub-bass at a slower, iambic ninety. Some of the dancers raved inhumanly at the slower pentameter, holding their water bottles high into the laser light. The agitated bubbles foaming their drinks like molten silver. Graham would not have thought that the declamations were human, so sped were the samples of verse; but looking over the twisting bodies, he saw it was actually being mixed live. His headache sped-up in time.
Emlen went off by himself, holding his feeder with the kid’s composite pictures, and Graham was left alone to look for them himself. He might normally have feel like the authority in a place like that, better than anyone else present, but after the mess of his night, he only felt himself in a technoir nightmare—disembodied in the vid. Buffeted by clammy bodies, drenched in dancing. He could barely even see faces in the light; though the epileptic flashes of strobe seemed to reveal a substrate of the crowd of heads. Flashing. Did he recognise one of those skulls? Was he being followed by a disembodied head in the dark?
So lost, of course, he met Adam first: with long, fine hair and wearing a peaked-cap. Reintroductions were as simple as them each having set their mobiles to vibrate when friends list were near. He turned straight toward Adam at the mobile nudge. Then he saw him, sitting by himself in a raised booth.
“Mr Nutt! Graham.” He looked confused momentarily, having addressed another man as a ‘Mr Something.’ “I wouldn’t have thought to see you here.”
“Hey, Adam. Been a couple of years. How are things?”
Adam looked around him. The club was oddly text-less—having thought that now, Graham realised that even the virtual signs were in java and flash, nothing published over the gray day that was allowed to a transient work. Even the bottles that guests carried were stripped free of labels.
“Weird.” That’s what Adam said. That’s what anyone would have thought. “Things have been weird. What’re you doing here, man? You here on a date?” He looked around. “I mean, I didn’t think this was your kind of scene?” Graham smiled that judgement away. He could be, and go anywhere, right?
“I was here to see you and Manoj, actually. I’m doing a bit of research you could help me with.” They both paused while someone started speaking over the PA, sounding as if halfway through the ‘third chapter’ of something.
“Yeah? Bit early in the morning for that, isn’t it?” Graham could understand why Adam might not be entirely warm to him, he’d never come to their defence after all—not that an Author could ever have denied the legalities against them. Behind them, the voice on the PA had no reverberate-edge to be stripped—it was a voice perfect for MP3.
“You know how neither night nor day gets in the way of it.”
Adam nodded stage ward, “well sure, and now we’re both here anyways.” Graham looked over, and recognised him then: short and dark, in a tight, offensive t-shirt. “And it’s most probably legal for us to be here, right, so it’s all good.” He shouted that, over Manoj on the stage, proclaiming it a ‘calm, clear day.’
Graham notified Emlen to join them, but while they waited, Adam asked the one question he really didn’t know the answer to yet.
“What are you up to, Graham?”
“I’m looking for a bound of my last book. And… err…. given your past history, I thought you might actually have one.”
“Legit or not, huh?” Adam smiled. “Why would we be up for helping you though?”
He wasn’t sure what to say, but then Emlen had arrived and leant between the two of them: Graham, and doubting Adam.
“You wouldn’t be helping him. You’d be helping me: Charles Emlen.” He passed over a kind of encrypted recommendation, and Adam looked over him with bespoke public keys. Graham had seen academics blurb themselves like that before—though not often in a loud recital-club. Whatever it said— ‘trust him’ for all he knew—whoever it was from, Adam suddenly realised that he’d been speaking to the wrong guy.
“You’re for real?” Asked Adam.
Emlen merely nodded, and told Graham to go get them all drinks. “We’ll meet without you.” He was told. “Manoj, too.” From Adam. So Graham went.
The money he paid at the bar—in crinkled plastic notes—was probably the only thing with print in the place. The barman wasn’t happy taking them either, having much preferred a more secure micro payment. As he collected the narrow bottles, he sniffed at selection at the bar—a bar which itself smelt of nothing but honey and fresh sweat. There were only saccharine alcopops and electrolysed smart-waters on sale. Though Graham guessed that Adam and Manoj would be ok with that.
Back at the alcove, Manoj had joined them from the stage, and the two boys were sitting in silence with Emlen. As Graham put the drinks down, Adam asked him. “What do you think of our club, Graham?” He just nodded stupidly in response. Adam spoke on. “Yeah. ‘Post-publishing,’ you know? We weren’t allowed near text or print again; but being fucked up gave us an urge to tell different stories. Difficult to do with our sentence. So this is the idea, let the other guys get it down, and make money off the fact we’re not allowed to write at all—making a spectacle of ourselves.”
Manoj spoke for the first time. “It’s not actually all ours. In fact, us not being able to sign-off on a contract makes owning anything pretty damn hard.”
Adam cut him off, “but we could have gone with a label, been performers instead of orphaned Authors… but we like it this way, the club is with us, attempting to subvert the injustice done us.” Manoj just nodded with him in an anime complicity. And then gently looked back out away from both Graham and Emlen.
“They’ve agreed to show us what they have, Graham, Adam here was just going to run the works they—“ But Emlen didn’t get to continue.
“Adam.” Beside the boy, Manoj jerked. “We’ve got visitors.”
By Paul McLaughlan