The Rogue Verbumancer – Oct 2012 Hail Traveller!

“I’m not going to lie, last night got really weird…”

How many times have those words been said? By drunken, but now sober fools who in the thick and heavy weight of the hangover haze remain as errant and foolish as they ever were. Cut from the cloth of the eternal man-child, alcohol is not the root cause of their inevitable impropriety or indiscretion, it is merely an excuse, a dirty, conniving enabler with a relative molecular mass of 46.07 g/mol. Invariably they are talking in hyperbolics, or as a fiend of mine is wont to say: hyper-bollocks. Invariably the weirdness is a product of the alcohol induce haze preventing the dim-witted from rationalising something they’d struggle to think through even when sober or the occurrence of a sequence of events that have no cause more obscure or strange than their own feckless ineptitude. They slept in a ditch. They lost their shoes. They hooked up with someone who they objectively classified as ugly or having a personality which falls outside of their narrow and distorted view of “social norms.” They had a kebab that looked a bit like a part of the human anatomy.

So with that in mind, and my full understanding of how people incorrectly use the phrase, “I’m not going to lie, last night got really weird…”

And we’re not talking weird as in moderately unusual or any of its other panoply of colloquialised meanings. It was serious “what the screaming fuck just happened?” weird. A weirdness that makes you think that the rest of reality is all just some cruel and perverse joke, that your entire world is nothing more than a series of poorly constructed cardboard sets all coated in a poor quality grease paint that probably has a very high percentage of shit in its recipe. A weirdness that lends credence to all the bat-shit loco conspiracy theorists who thing that the government are fluoridating our water as a subtle mind-control experiment, that the entire of modern civilisation is just a maze constructed as a test to see how long it’ll take our species to find the cheese, expect the true purpose of the entire test is that there is no cheese. It almost makes you willing to believe in lizard people walking around in human skin suit or mole people in subterranean cities or morlocks living in the sewers.

Last night got really weird.

Last night I met this guy…

No it’s nothing like that. I was walking through the park. Now I’ll be the first to admit that by this point I was well and truly lacquered, well-oiled, sloshed and three-sheets to a very, very drunken wind. I’d just staggered out of a hedge that I’d accidentally fallen into and was taking a breather up against a lamp-post. That was when I first heard the noise. A faint phfftn followed by a sonorous pair of wnah-wnahs. I scanned about for the source of the noise but all I could see was a particularly dishevelled tramp pushing a rusted shopping trolley.

Five minutes later I was leaning over the side of the bridge over the canal forcing a thing, watery vomit, and the last remnants of dinner, over the side and into the water. Just as the wet, dribbly splattering sound had subsided the noise came again – Phfftn wnah wnah chiggei chiggei rounded off with a sharp clap. I tried to find the source of the noise again, but all I saw was a scruffy urban fox strutting its way up the path towards me. It cocked its head at me, then nodded. A subtle sign that in my drunken state could only interpret as meaning “S’up bro.” Then it ambled off into a bush.

Ten minutes later I found myself to be back on the edge of the city centre, having taken a most severe wrong turn somewhere in the park. It was one of the slightly darker side roads heading off into the residential suburbs, lit only irregularly by sparsely placed lamp posts with old sodium bulbs. The ones that don’t so much illuminate as just make the darkness yellow. I’d collapsed onto a bench, slouching and sprawling to the point I was almost sliding clean off the seat. I think it was at that point that I dosed off, just for a moment. I could hear the same string of noises bouncing around the inside of my head.

Phfftn wnah wnah chiggei chiggei Clap!

Phfftn wnah wnah chiggei chiggei Clap!

Phfftn wnah wnah chiggei chiggei Clap!

I woke up sharply at the third clap, at least I think it was the third clap, sitting next to me was a strange-looking bloke. He was wearing sunglasses, in the middle of the night. Even in my drunken state that struck me as being, as the kids of today would put it “Well weird.” Hung about his arms and neck were an entire rainbow of glowstick bracelets. The final capstone to this madman’s attire was his hat. It was pink, fluffy and had bear ears. The noises that had been haunting me. As I looked at him he stopped and raised his hand in greeting to me.

“Hail Traveller” he said.

The strange man rose quickly to his feet and resumed his strange little mantra of noises, punctuating it body pops, thrusting his neck and legs about like a scratching chicken that had taken a dose of something slightly psychotropic. Then he swapped the beat-box mantra for words

“I’gotta. I’gotta. I’gotta…” He repeated, as I watched with intent curiosity. “I’gotta get you where you need to go. Hail Travel-ah! Come on! Yeow! Sing it with me now.”

With that he turned and started off down the road. Dancing down the path in the haze of his own imaginary disco rave. Now that could have easily been the end of it all, but alcohol is not generally conducive to a state of sane and rational judgement. Even the very wisest of men can find themselves making what would, in the sober light of day, be considered the wrong choice.

I got up. And I followed him. I even tried to dance a bit.

“Yeah Travel-ah!” he said turning to me “Throw those shapes. They’re wild. They’re mad. Mad shapes! Yeow!”

Together we dance away down the road and back into the centre of the city. The streets were dead now. The clubs had kicked out, everyone had gone home. The place was dead. This was an hour that no sane or rational man should ever have the misfortune of having to see. The dancing loon that had become my guide had led me down narrow alleys filled with puddles of black water, through courtyards filled with rubbish, he took me down roads I had never ever knew existed. Eventually we came at last to a nondescript red door in a nondescript red brick wall. It was one of those big riveted security ones you typically find at the back of bars and nightclubs. I thought I’d just found myself dragged along to an out-of-the-way rave by a man who was tripping the light fan-fucking-tastic on the sort of drug hippies brew up in cast iron bath tubs with flowers paint on the side. He rapped sharply on the door with the ball of his fist, never missing a beat or single move in his endless dancing. Everything he did seemed so fluid and choreographed. Then the door opened.

Now bear with me, because this is where things start to get a little bit hazy and a little bit out-there.

There was no one standing on the other-side of the door, there was just a tiny vestibule walled with the raw faces of breeze blocks and in the opposite wall, another door. I followed the body-popping raver through the door. It shut behind us with an ominous clang.

“Gotta, gotta, gotta, stick close travel-ah. You don’t want to miss the party!” he said. And without ceremony opened the other door and headed through. Now propelled by curiosity I once again followed. Beyond this second door was a narrow corridor walled with glass. It was only just wide enough for us to squeeze through in single file.There was some sort of space beyond these glass walls, but it was wreathed in a thick grey smoke, though it could easily have been fog or mist. I strained my eyes trying to see what was hiding out there and I swear I saw a flash of scales coiling through the smoke.

The strange glass corridor terminated at dais, with a stairway that rose toward a great double door. All of it a disconcertingly vibrant shade of red. The dancing men stopped dancing, this only served to increase my disquiet. His face was now solemn. He strode with purpose to the great double doors and reverentially placed his hands upon them and pushed them open. The silence was split by the sound of a great gathering of people, chattering, laughter, merriment. A thick smoke hung in the air, it was rich and pungent, spiced and heady, it was the sort of smell that joss sticks aspire to be, a smell of which they are only a faint echo and diluted tribute. Stairs led down from this door and into the room. Flanking the head of these stairs were two women dressed in burlesque finery, stockings, garter-belts, high-heels, corset; the works. Their skin was rich and swarthy and their lithe, sinuous bodies swayed to some unheard rhythm as they cut the air and smoke into great chunks with swishes of brilliant red feathers. As the dancing man approached the staircase the two women turned towards us and I saw they were not entirely normal. Now this isn’t some case of them suffering from some minor physical imperfection or deformity. Instead of heads as we would normally conceive them to be, they instead both had the head of an Ibis. A great curved, oiled black beak, and eyes of a purest, unfeeling black, like marbles. They clacked their beaks at us and where revulsion had been slowly creeping in I started to feel a perverse blush of attraction. This was one seriously weird place and I had that feeling that it was only about to get weirder.

The dancing man raised his arms and shouted to the room

“We have a guest! We have a travel-ah!”

To which the assembled multitudes of figures I couldn’t quite see or make out clearly rose from whatever seats they might have been perched on and began a thunderous applause.

He turned to me, the tassells on his ridiculous pink bear hat whirling about his as he did.

“Now Travel-ah!” he said “It’s time! Cut the mid-range, and drop the night!”

Then the doors started to close. And that’s all I can remember.

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