At a death rave one night, Michael had an epiphany. He thought, what if the world wasn’t coming to an end?
The music was thumping and pounding in his head. It was almost as loud as his heart. He cocked his head and was nearly blinded by a bolt of pink light from the tremendous laser apparatus that looked like a huge bloody eye, spitting out violent flashes upon the bopping and swaying—mostly naked—masses.
What if the world wasn’t coming to an end?
For one thing—because Michael worked at Sin magazine with its famous statement, “Chronicling the Last Days of Civilization,” splashed across the cover of each issue—if it wasn’t coming to an end, he’d be out of a job. Established eighteen years ago in 2027, Sin was a pure, vile rag if there ever was one. In his work for them as a snapperhead, or photographer, Michael had connections at every morgue, torture parlor, and fleabag hotel in New York City—fuck Jersey. A hundred cops had his number, tipping him off to all sorts of abominable crime scenes and places where kidnapping victims' lives hung in the balance. The photos he took underscored Sin’s famous maxim. Only a populace on the edge could commit such heinous savagery with reliable frequency, and then pay to gawk over it. And as it's said that a picture tells a thousand words, Michael's were “as brutal as they were beautiful.” It was the pitch his boss had given a marketing exec at Casual High Bubble Gum.
Sin paid tipsters reasonably well with connections to trick alcohol, high quality drugs, and clean whores of every race, creed and gender listed in the Physician’s Reference Guide. Their connections were made possible due to the deep pockets of Sin’s corporate partnership with the Balazaar clan of High Class, South America. The Balazaars made their money in corporate sabotage and farming.
Michael couldn’t remember who or what he did to get the job, but he knew he was lucky to have it. “Point and shoot,” a fucking tit job. It was all he knew.
And as a snapperhead that worked nights with pockets full of drugs to help him get his shots, he was never lucid.
But who ever was? In the lexicon of the mid-twenty-first century, “lucidity” was up there with “virginity.” Good luck trying to find either.
Michael numbly gazed at the dancers who were spinning violently in unison—or so it seemed. His face felt like a frozen mask; when was the day he didn’t get like this?
Michael had started popping blue beans when he was six years old, maybe earlier, and had hardly spent a day clean since. But maybe he was so fucked up tonight that he was sober in some way.
That was why he had the thought about the world and it not coming to an end. But why did such a sober thought come to him? He had heard some people say that you hit a point and then you stopped “drugging along.” But he knew that was bullshit. He had a million or so photos to prove it. The truth was that at some point in your drug use, your mind fizzled out like a bad circuit, and then the scum of the world (which you were part of) feasted on you—if they hadn’t already. Someone took you in and made you their life-size doll, or some silly tribal group nailed you up to a tree in Central Park and used you in their bloodletting ritual. Or, if you were lucky, you just OD'd.
Good luck scum of the world! Life had no more fairy tales. Anyway, who fucking cares! Die world die! Hmmm. Die World Die was the name of a band. They either all died in a car crash or were like sixty years old and still touring.
In his drug-filled daze, Michael bumped into a tall, lanky woman who threw her arms over him and grabbed his crotch. He tried to push her slimy, sticky arms off him; but what a strong grip she had for a woman.
Michael gazed up into her contact-covered eyes that looked like pure running water and said, “What if the world isn’t coming to an end? What if this is all just a really long stage or something? How fucked up would that be? Huh?” She smiled, seeming to understand over the raging beat, and he said, “As fucked up as you. As me?”
“As what, Honeeee!” she cried in a decidedly masculine voice and pulled Michael closer. He felt what seemed to be a snake squirm against his back. She was too pretty to be real, he thought. Not a single piercing or scar on her face. He peered over his shoulder and smiled, seeing that “she” had a penis that looked like a lethal weapon.
With one hand he held up his silver, credit-card-sized camera and pointed to the yellow band on his neck that was his all-access pass as a Sin snapperhead. “Sorry babe! Have to work!”
“Oooooh! Take my picture,” the hermaphrodite begged as she let him go.
Michael shuffled back a few steps and spread his legs to steady himself. He leveled his camera and took some pictures, knowing a pretty chick with a dick would never make it into Sin. Now maybe if her throat were slashed she’d have a chance.
Michael wagged his tongue in a show of recognition and turned away from the hermaphrodite. Sweat dripped into his blinking eyes. He sure was fucked up, but he had a job to do. That night on the way to the club he had the shakes. It didn’t help that as he walked down creepy Fifty-seventh Street in a caged walkway—that he had access to as a Sin employee—a bunch of kids on the outside were smacking pipes against the bars. It was then that he had popped a pill called EeK that was supposed to give you “a sweet high like a Ferris wheel ride.” It took you high, higher, then smoothly back down. But if the way he felt was a telltale sign, he had gotten a bad taste. The naked dancers were spinning in rapid circles, jutting closer, then back. And his stomach felt raw, almost like he had been knifed, which he checked just to be sure.
He took a few wobbly steps and grew as nervous as the Eek permitted. He was at the death rave to get the Dead On the Floor shot (DOF), and he knew it wasn’t gonna happen if he passed out. He had to come back down. No telling how much time he had.
But he needed to get that shot. And a few others before the actual moment, too.
On his way into the club he had seen Jimmy Stalworth, from the rag Carnage. Jimmy was the competition. He would sell his soul for Michael’s job. Sin at least paid Michael—sometimes in cash or credit. A night’s pay for Jimmy was probably a gallon of clean water and a fucking burger.
Michael assessed his situation. He had to get the best DOF shot of the night. His heart beat like an old combustion engine, and, boy, was he sweating profusely. He tried to pay attention to the music, tried to make his mind function. But he was distracted by the air which was an admixture of cologne, fecal matter, and urine. Then he heard a new song. Under other circumstances he wouldn't have been aware of the change in music, but tonight the new bass beat hit his skull like a rubber mallet, thumping against his cranium.
Michael gave his mind an even greater task. He contemplated the end of civilization, knowing his interest had something to do with a thought he had had only moments before, even though he could not remember what it was.
The thing was that Eastern Civilization was supposed to rise and all, but it was figuratively and literally in flames. It was the uncivilized world that had risen. Freedom sex, black arts, black magic, anti-history, anti-culture, subsonic culture, the Church of Farming, body mutilation and a whole bunch of other shit he couldn’t remember or understand had done something to the world he knew. Where was he?
It took a few moments but he finally remembered that he was at a death rave. He had to get the DOF shot!
Michael knew he could hand in the photo of the night’s unlucky son of a bitch along with a bunch of pictures he'd taken at other death raves. He’d done that plenty of times in the past. Hell, he had even handed in the same DOF shots twice. No one noticed. Fat Black Jack, his editor, sure as hell wouldn’t. If he did, Michael would tell him it was his mistake, and that he had lost his pictures. Then Fat Black Jack would pass the blame on to someone else. That's the way things worked at Sin.
Michael had a sudden rush of ability. He grasped his camera and started to weave through the dancing masses, searching for the one. Fully clothed and with the yellow band around his neck, he noticed that people cleared a path for him. They knew who he was and what he was looking for. The degenerate scum all smiled, probably hoping they’d get his full attention—hoping they were the one.
Hey, life was cold, hard and brutal, and death was an interesting prospect. Whatever. The only thing that mattered at that moment was who the sorry motherfucker would be that bit the bullet.
Once before, Michael had been at a death rave and he'd gotten a purely classic shot. He had recognized the soon-to-be DOF long before the time of death. It took a few hours, but if you were the one, your skin turned a weird purplish yellow. You were the last to know. How fucking classic. So at that other death rave, some girl, the one, was getting jackhammered by two guys when Michael started taking her picture. She was smiling ear to ear, thinking she was the shit. Everyone was laughing and staring at her. It was classic. She didn’t even know. They were the best shots: a ten-page layout. The best was her DOF. She was sprawled on the floor, hair stuck to her face, soaked in sweat and covered in puke, and there were these two naked guys with big smiles and their dicks in their hands standing over her. In one picture they had propped up the dead girl between them. It looked like something in the days when people would take a photo next to a big fish. It was classic. Totally fucking classic.
Unlike this death rave. This one just didn’t have it. The people all looked really thin and unattractive. Michael was coming down from his high; he’d get the DOF shot for sure now. He fished in his pocket. All he had were BBs, which everybody liked, though in the morning they constipated him. It was like he had to shit a brick. He scooped a handful of the BBs and tossed them in his mouth, hoping he’d remember to get some shit to help him shit. Probably not. But fuck tomorrow. Fuck the next day. And the one after that, to coda and all.
He was about to say to himself, “The world’s coming to an end anyway.” But he had the other thought.
What if the world wasn’t coming to an end?
More than anything, he felt it was insane that the thought stayed with him. Because day in and day out his head was a muddled mess. He had zero concentration span. It was so fucked up that he moved away from the dancers and looked into one of the mirrored glass walls just to make sure there wasn’t something wrong with him.
He looked perfectly fine. He examined the thick scar around his hairline that ran down to his ears. The scar was from the time his father had tried to peel off his face. It wasn’t as bad as it sounded. Michael was dead-stoned at the time and so was his dad. He didn’t feel a thing. And when Michael woke up, his dad’s girlfriend had already stitched up his head. The three of them took more drugs and laughed about it. Many times since then people came up to him and asked where he got the “cool” scar. Hell, chicks dug it. People paid for shit that didn’t look half as good.
Anyway, staring in the mirror, his skin color was as pale as ever and his pupils were the size of gumballs. Yet as high as he was, he was still relieved that he wasn’t the one. Half the time he snuck into the death raves without taking the pillshot. But he was stoned all that day and was sort of thrilled by the prospect of death. So he stood in line with all of the other skinny bastards and opened his mouth as he went into the club. The Master of Death was this chick with 36 double Ds wearing a few leather straps that looked sort of like a bikini. In her hand was a 9mm pistol with what looked like a condom swaying from the handle. She used it to shoot the pill way into the back of his mouth. He choked and swallowed before he could spit.
But the thing is that at a death rave, everyone is supposed to take the pillshot. The night began with the Master of Death taking the first “shot.” But the catch is that one of them is poison. Yet it’s still the best high you will ever have, laced with something called phenolkonklin. You’re unbelievably high and you don’t even feel death. And sure enough, the one is always laughing and having the best fucking time. Michael had a ton of photos to prove it.
But he might not get any good shots tonight. An intense pain swelled in his stomach. He glanced back to the mirror, but suddenly he couldn’t see himself. His limbs started shaking, and he swung wildly, shocked each time his fists hit something solid. It was moments later that he realized he was lying on his back and pounding on the urine/alcohol soaked floor. But he couldn’t stop his hands. It felt like there was fire burning from the tips of his fingers to the pit of his stomach. “Water, water,” he cried, realizing he had a shit-eating grin on his face. He caught some of the zombied-out people smiling at him. “Water! Water!”
The lanky hermaphrodite came to his aid. She must have been following him. Bitch probably wanted to make sure she was in the next issue of Sin.
She cradled her large penis and started to urinate on Michael’s face. He held up a shaky hand to block the acidic urine and caught Jimmy Stalworth taking their picture. The hermaphrodite was smiling and waving for the camera. Michael’s eyes opened wide as he realized his hand was a purplish yellow color. Oh shit!
“Fucking classic, Mike!” Stalworth said, laughing. “You’re gonna be my DOF tonight.”
Michael’s eyes rolled back as his dying breath was sucked out of his mouth and his lungs turned to stone.