(A forthcoming title, hopefully next year . HelterSkelterLand follows a writer – naturally – as he ascends the Arockalypse nightclub and meets a variety of intriguing characters on the way. In this snippet, he and his friend, The Brosis, as well as an eager Papper come across an overindulgent Politico… Hope you enjoy – OJ)
Much like the floor below it, Level 2 of the Arockalypse had it’s own “ambient room”, a place for the socialites to lounge, squirrelled away from the hustle and bustle of the main section. And much like it’s lower status equivalent, it was bedecked with soft furnishings and mood lighting designed to give a feel of relaxed calm. A place to wine and dine, admittedly on bar snacks, and get to know the folk around you. While Level 2 as a whole had that feel, here it was almost on a horizontal level. Looking at some of the people who were here, you felt that it was a level they preferred.
What distinguished it further from the main bar area was the plumes of scented smoke that filled the air and invaded the nostrils. Shisha Pipes were dotted around on tables, with debutants and the curious of mind sat around, puffing in the contents and exhaling with a faux-stoned expression on their faces. It was like entering an opium den from years gone by, except with a more cosmopolitan vibe. It was the very embodiment of “chill”.
However any sense of tranquillity was offset by the Brosis, who was standing near the entrance to the room when The Papper and I arrived. She was focussed on one particular area, a mess of chair-shaped bean bags and various places to luxuriate. She didn’t say anything to us, expect remain intensely intrigued by something in her eye-line.
The Papper was more impatiently curious than I was, and decided to broach the subject.
“What are you gawping at?”
“You can’t see him?”
I had a look myself. All I saw was a gaggle of young, female socialities sharing vacant “opinions” with each other. No doubt straddling, ahem, the fine cultural topics of the latest hair-styles, fad diets and hot guys on the scene. Don’t judge me for this presumption, as just looking at their shocking pink, minimalist clothing and clown make-up screamed the usual model. If you asked them their thoughts on the Mars Rover, they’d probably think it was some new type of ice cream.
But a Him? Couldn’t see one, although the lighting in here was so dim it almost out-dunced the empty-headed masses who adorned it.
“The guy, in the suit, over there.”
This time to Brosis offered a helping hand, or finger in the case of her extended digit. Following it’s path, both The Papper and myself squinted to try and get a better idea of what she was identifying. The haze in the air didn’t help, thus began a overtly “casual” saunter over to where the group of girls were sat, jabbering between themselves. As we wandered close by, our attempts at not looking suspicious instead created a megaphoned aura of “we are most definitely suspicious”, all hands in pockets and eyes quick to avert. However the people around us were so into their idealized intoxication at the hands of the fruity delights which took home in their lungs that they barely registered us.
Once we got within a few feet of the girls table, we finally saw what had caught the Brosis’ attention. Sitting, or rather, slumping against the wall, roughly suited and looking like a fox in a hen house, was a very prominent and very old Politico.
If you saw him, you’d know him. He was one of the old guard, kept in by a party too scared to dare throw him to the curb. One of these crusty types with hard values and even harder opinions. The sort who’d not just bring back the cane, but encrust it with spikes to show today’s youth what for and then re-introduce conscription just to rub in more salt. Age had made him a parody though, giving him ginormous eyebrows and wild white hair that exploded off his scalp. He was a joke within “serious” political circles, but one that always shouted loud enough to be heard.
At this moment though he wasn’t shouting, just lying there in a state of unconsciousness.
After assessing the Politico’s presence and deciding that, yes, it was definitely him, we made our way back to where the Brosis was standing. She was making good time with her beer when she noticed our return.
“Do you think he’s dead?”
The question knocked me sideways a tad, and even The Papper was slightly taken by it. Yes he looked less than sprightly, but death was a bit of an extreme conclusion to jump to.
While I thoroughly dismissed the notion, The Papper was more open to it. He questioned the Brosis as to why she thought he had passed on.
“Because he hasn’t moved in ages.”
“So I think he’s dead!”
I made the point that a lot of people in here had indulged in too much Shisha and entered a practically comatose state of being, but the Brosis was convinced that the Politico had gone beyond knocked off and had instead clocked off. He was, in her words, an Ex-Politico.
It was madness, of course, but by now The Papper was deep in with the thought. He was licking his lips at the prospect of such a scoop, seeing the headlines before him:
PARTY PM FOUND SMOKED OUT IN SHISHA CLUB
It made for good copy sure, but was a leap into the unknown. After all, the Politico in question had a reputation for the high life, which included narcotic indulgences and beauties on his arm. But that was decades ago, and he was old enough to be in a wingback chair with a packet of boiled sweets by his side. Unfortunately this just fuelled the death notion further.
“What if he had so much Shisha his heart popped?” The Brosis offered.
“If I was around those birds, my heart would probably pop as well!”
The Papper offered his theory that the combination of smoke, sexy women and a few spirits had finally punched out the old codgers ticker. And due to the smokey atmosphere and the self-absorbed nature of his young companions, he had just been lying there ever since, dead to the world. Literally.
But I was still not convinced, mostly on three counts:
1 – It was absolutely ridiculous and extreme to consider.
2 – If he was an Ex-Politico, then I was horrified at the notion that no-one, not even those close to him, would realize he was dead. And…
3 – If he absolutely, definitely dead, I didn’t want to get involved.
“But now you are involved, we all are! We can’t just leave him!”
I protested again. He wasn’t dead. He was just… sleeping.
“Then poke him.” The Papper suggested.
“It’s not a bad idea.” The Brosis added.
“I’m not poking him! You poke him!”
“I think he’s dead!”
“So do I.”
“Well I’m not poking him!”
After another circle of “Yes! No!” I was eventually, aided by beer, to poke the Politico. Once again I attempted an inconspicuous movement towards the group, taking a flanking motion around the side as to not interrupt their vapid flow and gain easy access to the Politico’s face. It was almost disconcerting how easy it was to go un-noticed, and eventually get so close to him I could see the lines embedded by age in his face.
I looked around, seeing the girls around him taking turns in sucking in the Shisha and laughing hysterically at their own placebo-enhanced euphoria. Beyond them, in the haze, stood the Brosis and The Papper, watching with eager anticipation.
I produced an index finger, lifted it towards the Politico’s face, and poked it.
His head lolled to one side and let his mouth fall open.
I freaked out and ran back to the Brosis and The Papper. Still, no-one acknowledged my movement.
“He’s bloody dead!” I whispered, slightly sick at the thought of touching a dead man.
“I fucking knew it!”
“This is brilliant!” announced The Papper, fingering his camera in a rather disturbing way.
I wondered how, on Earth, it was brilliant. A man was dead, and no-one noticed. No-one even bothered making sure he was alright. Sadly, no-one seemed to care.
But The Papper cared. He cared because this to him was gold-dust. A guaranteed front page, and he was ready to take a shot.
Immediately, I argued that it was immoral. We needed to tell someone, give this man some dignity, do the right thing.
“Fuck the right thing!” was The Papper’s response. “Do you know how rare this is? How much this means?”
I was pretty sure, but it all still felt very icky.
“This picture, of him En Rigo Mortiso…”
“What?” I exclaimed.
“En Rigo Mortiso, it’s latin for Rigor Mortis.”
I was pretty sure that Rigo Mortis was the latin for Rigo Mortis.
“What do you know?”
“I’m a writer! I know words!”
“Yeah well, I’m a photographer and I know pictures. And I know that picture is fucking mint!”
Before I continue my moral quest, The Papper skipped away to start clicking away. I turned to the Brosis who just offered a consolatory shrug.
The Papper soon returned in jubilant mood. Apparently, after a few shots of the Ex-Politico slouched there, jaw hanging loose, the girls immediately picked up on the flash of a camera and did what any self-promoting It Girl In Training would do, and threw themselves over him to pose with their duck lips.
In his words, it was “better than a fucking War Zone.”
I felt the horrible feeling of moral inclination rise up from my guy, or maybe it was acid from all the beer I had drunk… either way, I made the argument that we couldn’t just leave him there. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t the done thing and after exploiting his passing for the benefit of the free press, we had to do something to preserve his honour than being found slumped dead in a nightclub.
“Fuck. That.” The Papper offered, and proceeded to explain that he was not gonna start carting around a corpse so that the Ex-Politico could have some grace. Hell, he argued that it would have been better if he had died mid-coitus with one of the girls.
“Can you fucking imagine it? Her grinding away, wondering why he hadn’t shot his dusty load off? Penis En Rigo Mortiso!”
I couldn’t be bothered correcting him.
Thankfully, the Brosis came to my defence by pointing out that, armed with the pictures he had taken, The Papper could be held responsible if he was just found dead in the same place.
He went as white as his flash, and the cogs started turning behind his eyes. I wanted to walk away and wallow in the newly discovered crap pile The Papper found himself in, but like I say: morals.
Instead the three of us formulated a plan over a fresh round of drinks, bought by the man with the camera himself, and decided we would relocate the Ex-Politico to a more dignified place of rest.
Luckily, we theorized that the girls would all be too drunk and too lost in Shisha to recall any of the photo’s or events thereafter, as would anyone else there. The whole room was not staffed and any security cameras would be disguised in a cloud of smoke.
Discarding any pretence of subtlety, we ran over, picked up the Ex-Politico, and swiftly distributed him toward the Gents.
Before getting there, the other two shouldered his frame and turned to me.
“Keep a look-out, just in case someone… y’know.”
There was no disagreement from me, I was just happy to no longer have a dead man on my hands.
“I tell you what as well,” The Papper said, “a picture of him dead with his head down the loo adds a few more zero’s on my pay cheque!”
And so endeth any semblance of “doing the right thing”.