Outside, in the blue light of dusk, the ground vibrated under her feet. Sasha paused for a moment, smoothing an errant strand of her black hair back into its ponytail. Dust blew past her bare legs, the wind blowing her short, pleated skirt up just enough to give the bouncers a good view of the legs that went all the way up. When they let her through the broken doors without searching her, she offered them another glance of her thighs before ducking into the dark, steaming room.
The rule was unwritten but no less powerful: sign your life away at the door when you enter a show. Once inside, crowds become creatures. They watched for each other, they keep each other alive. If they did not, the energy would kill. But the risk was the participant’s alone. Sasha was more than aware of the rule. She embraced it.
What sound was not absorbed by the thick rafters bounced between them and off the concrete floor before vibrating the small bones in the ear drums of the three thousand people gathered. They were waves battling for dominance and finding equality. They were faceless; they were dark. They remember each other’s eyes. They did not go simply to enjoy the music; they went to experience it, to live it, and to be changed forever by it. Their lives were not their own.
Sasha joined the human wave and focused on a central point. As one, they pushed toward the stage. The stage pushed back. They surged forward, bodies together, the energy pulsed around and through them, breaking against reefs and dragging undertows into whirlpools.
She moved slowly against the tide. Faceless bodies and bodiless faces lunged and pulled around her as she created ripples. A whirlpool opened, forces of energy driven by the sound waves of music and the pain of emotion. Punches were thrown. Hair was pulled. Sasha pushed someone into the fray and when he spun back to her, she granted him a kiss out of respect for surviving.
Six rows from the front she stopped, unable to push any further against the wall of people. On stage, the singer posed in the spotlight, holding the energy of the room in her hand. She dropped her hand to signal the start of the next song and as one the crowd raised arms in rebellion.
Back and forth they moved, and as the waves bounced off the walls, so did the sea of bodies, reacting in time to the music. Sasha leaned into the person in front of her, letting his energy lift her off the ground over and over again. The sound waves changed as the song shifted. Pits opened and the waves collapsed into whirlpools. In these cyclones, bodes of energy bounced off each other. Someone pushed past her, bleeding from the forehead. Another from the lip.
As quickly as it had begun, the energy from the stage stopped. The crowd, in silence, was left to its own devices.
Energy dissipated but needed to go somewhere. It settled into the massing, pulsing bodies and they shifted, restless. Sasha shifted her weight, knowing better than to push back against the wave lest she be the one to cause a flood. It only took one small movement to change the path of the tide. One shove, one push, one stumble, and the bodies could go down.
Someone pushed from the front row, shoving past, reeking of beer and pot and sweat and sex. He shoved her and yelled at her for daring to be in his path.
A chaotic wave of whispered panic raced around the room as they reached for each other, helping.
Sasha fell, looking up into the sea of bodies that pressed upon her, and a set of large hands pulled her to safety. The energy from the bodies reached the stage but with nothing to counteract it, it cycled and cycled and suddenly, the crowd pushed closer and closer. Chanting until the lights dimmed again and the next act stepped into the shadows.
They pushed and pulled and yet moved in tandem. They shoved, they danced, they raised arms in Devil’s Honor.
But something changed the patterns. As Sasha reached to hold up another, to keep him from becoming lost under the mass of bodies, the wave of bodies came back toward them. She felt her shoes slip on the slick floor and she fell, her head going under the wave. Again, rough hands grabbed her hair and pulled her back to safety. Now she was frightened. Suddenly exhausted, she could not handle the next wave that washed over her. Her knees bucking, she slipped as she was pushed. Bodies rolled over her in one wave and then back in another. Before she could lose her footing all together, someone broke the patterns and pulled her out. She knew she was hurt; she did not feel the ache above the vibrations in her body.
Pushing and shoving her way through to the edge of the mass of faceless bodies, Sasha found refuge against the furthest wall. She leaned back, feeling the pulse of the sound waves through the wood of the building. The faded light gave enough sight to show the stone face of the security guard who stood at attention, making sure that in the event of a meltdown, some of the crowd could make it out safely. She closed her eyes and let sound take over. Even in blackness, the room shimmered.
Strength returned in a sudden breath.
One step, then another, back into the ocean. She joined the masses, her own energies again meeting those of the showman. He fed off the crowd’s energy, building and sending the excess back to the crowd. Sasha elbowed her way back into the edge of the central pit, now firmly in front of the speakers, feeding off the bass. Song by song she waded deeper, never fully returning to the epicenter, but close enough to the quake. Her arms raised, she rocked with the crowd, pulling and pushing, shoving. Someone else slipped and escaped and pushed to freedom against the far wall.
Sasha had whiplash from the second fall and bruises on her back. But to her the moment is a lucid dream: something half remembered but fully experienced. She cannot talk completely about it to people who have not felt it, who have not lived it. But to those who have, a simple shrug is enough. They have been there. They have survived. When the lights come on, she stepped into the night air, ready to move to the next show, the next wave. She singled out, she protected, she fought, and she was willing to die.