Inside Drops of Crimson


In This Issue

  Dance Floor Tragedy - Lilah Wild

Ravina was careful in her new boots as she entered the club, her freshly stamped hand clutching the banister as she ascended to the main floor. Red satin shone beneath the stairwell's spotlights, laced to her knees, lifting her up on five inches of deep crimson stiletto. Footwear of the immortal, truly.

             She grimaced at the couple ahead of her. He was in BDU's and a Frontline tee, passable, with his girl in the standard rivitgrrrl uniform: black tank, black capris, 20-eye ranger-style combat boots. Where did she shop for her club gear, the army surplus outlet? Ravina flared her nostrils in disapproval as she reached the last step.

             All eyes turned to her. As they always did. She paused a moment in mid-mince, surveyed the room while letting everyone drink in tonight's confection. Her prior entrances included shocking pink dreads down to her waist, leather thigh-highs over a mesh catsuit, even a full Marie Antoinette ensemble, hoop skirt and all. Her smile was haughty as she tossed her black curls and made her way up a second staircase, to the bar.

             Ravina's crowd was parked at the balcony's edge, overlooking the floor. Draco wore a deconstructed tux jacket and gladiator boots, his ponytail dusted with glitter. Tatiana was in a 1920's tea gown, and as Ravina drew closer, she could tell the lace was antique, intricate chantilly, fragile and breathtaking. Nothing but the real deal for Tatiana, always.

             "Evening, gorgeous." Tatiana's blue extensions swirled around an air kiss.

             Ravina stepped back, spun in her black velvet minidress. Suede lacing climbed between her breasts, and the hem was cut higher at the front, the perfect frame for showing off all that scarlet. Tatiana's gaze dropped down, hit the jackpot.

             “Your boots are faboo. Like a pair of little corsets. Where did you find them? Not Various Nefarious?”

             “Oh, some little shop down in the Square. I forget the name.” Ravina gazed around the bar, played nonchalant, knowing full well it was not the infamous clubwear boutique on Fourth Street, but a dusty little shop hidden within the theater district. The boots had blazed from the front window, the last pair of twelve that had been specially commissioned for a burlesque troupe, according to the gruff, bow-tied owner. He probably told tall tales to every woman who came in, but whether or not he was blowing smoke, she'd never seen anything like them.  Soft, soft satin, the really good kind, ruched and rippling down her legs, and they just happened to be in her size. She knew it from the moment she slipped her foot within: they were meant to be hers.

             Two hundred well spent, thought Ravina, savoring the covetous twitch that passed across Tatiana's immaculately powdered features.

             Providing no further information, Ravina dropped her ruffled rubber purse onto the table.

             "Where's Amryn?"

             Draco passed her a glass of something dark. "She couldn't make it. Out with her favorite chew toy, probably."

             Ravina scrunched her delicate nose, lifted the drink to her lips. Raspberries stung with vodka, splashed with Chambord. Ahhhhh. Tatiana was over watching the crowd.

             "Oh my God, look at Lucy. What is she wearing?"

             Ravina joined her at their perch, duchesses gazing down from their castle perch. She spotted the target in a tattered floral gown. "It looks like she cut up her grandmother's closet with a pair of scissors." She giggled.

             "Hey, now." Draco came over. "Gotta start somewhere, right?"         

             "Thank God I never started that far back," said Tatiana, flinging her sapphire hair and sipping her drink.

             "Hey Draco – there's Sindra." Ravina loved to prod. "I didn't know she was going to be here tonight."

             "Neither did I." He peered down at his latest ex, who was clad in a plum lace tube dress and leading a guy in a white billowing blouse onto the floor. Draco lit up a clove as he watched her slither against her new paramour.

             "Gimme a half-hour, tops," he exhaled. “It won't be that hard to pry her away from Poet Boy.”

             Tatiana grimaced. "After cheating on you with Nicky?"

             "I didn't say I wanted her back," he grinned, and bounded downstairs.

             Ravina snorted daintily. She'd had her carnal moments out in the club's backyard herself.

             "I'm going to the ladies' room," said Tatiana, taking Ravina's hand and leading her downstairs with all the grace of a golden-age gentleman. They never, ever went anywhere alone while they were in the club, both acutely aware of the attention it drew when two expensively-dressed women were treating each other like they were on a date. It was all an act, though. Kissing Tatiana? Or any girl, for real? Ew.

             The bathroom was down the back hallway. A teenaged blonde in jeans and a t-shirt was huddled to one side, head down. Bored or tired or stressed, Ravina couldn't tell, but Tatiana was already announcing their presence.

             "Oh no, honey, we're coming through.”

             The girl lifted her head. Swollen eyes, tear tracks. She tried to scoot out of Tatiana's way but ended up forced to her feet, and Ravina read the anger in her eyes, having to give up her space to the gothic glamazons demanding it from her, as if they didn't have everything fucking else. Ravina passed her by without the tiniest nod of acknowledgement. Whatever.

             Tatiana disappeared into the ladies' room while Ravina checked herself in the mirror.

             “Oh, wow. Your dress is beautiful. Did you make it?” asked a girl in some kind of ripped zombie outfit, inexpertly using lipstick to make blood drool from her mouth.

             "Uh-huh," said Ravina, face turned away, dismissive. She sure as hell wasn't sharing. Especially not with someone who didn't even know how to put on her makeup. Amateurs. God.

             The girl opened her mouth, then closed it, and leaned against the wall. What, was she hanging around hoping for beauty tips? Ravina sniffed and ignored her.

             The bathroom door banged open, and Tatiana emerged. She took one look at the zombie girl and laughed.

             “Jesus. Just when you think the all-ages crowd couldn't get any worse,” as she washed up, took Ravina's hand and led the way back up the staircase.

             Back in the balcony, a couple had taken their spot. Tatiana went for fresh drinks, and Ravina was about to tap the guy's shoulder when he turned around.

             "Ravina," he beamed. A teardrop was inked beneath his left eye.

             Spidey. Fuck.

             Spidey worked at the tattoo parlor down in the broken glass and graffiti of Twelfth Street, a stocky dude with purple hair and a perpetual half-smile. Dabbled in witchcraft, if the rumors were true. And completely immune to Ravina's glamour.

             "So nice to see you, as always." He trapped her hand inside a tight shake. "This is my date, Jen."

             Brown hair, freckles, hair pulled back in a scrunchie. Her dress was a nylon monstrosity, some bizarre 70's idea of a negligee. Pink plastic bracelets clattered together as Jen nervously offered her hand, but Ravina ignored it, looked away for more important people, quickly. There was Steve. She started to walk over, but Spidey grabbed her hand.

             “You know, Jen really likes those boots you're wearing.” Pointed. Pissed. Not letting her walk away from the slight. Spidey was usually just a smartass, didn't know he found such mousey chicks so worthy of a pedestal.

             Ravina's smile was painfully fake. “Thank you.” She tried to walk away again, but Spidey didn't let go.

             "You know what? All this time you've been coming here, I ain't never, ever seen you out on that floor. Whatsa matter, too much primp jammed up your ass?”

             Ravina hardly had a chance to muster up her trademark withering glare before he laughed, stepped aside.

             “Oh come on, baby. Don't take yourself so seriously.” He brought his face to hers. “Have a good time tonight, be more than just the wallpaper. Dance til you drop.”

             And he squeezed her hand, before letting her go.

             Ravina's scarlet heels twitched. Her mouth fell open as her boots fell into the beat, matched the sliding bass perfectly.

             Her first instinct was to reach for an insult, a command, but the way her body channeled the grind, through the roll of her hips...moving not to pose, not just to be seen, but for the thrill of movement itself.

             Spidey smiled sweetly and led Jen away.

             She didn't even have to think about what the next move was, it just came, and she flowed into it. Tatiana returned, cocktails in hand. Ravina grabbed hers and downed it without a pause, unmindful for the first time ever of smearing her lipstick.

             “Are you OK?” asked Tatiana, a strange look of concern on her face.

             Ravina ignored her, watched the girls downstairs. Flat hair, mascara running, laughing and two-stepping and completely unmindful of how scraggly they looked. Why should they get to own the floor?

             Her boots traced patterns on the worn carpet, begged for a taste of ballroom parquet.

             "I'm going out there."

             And before Tatiana could say a word, Ravina went back to the staircase, the boots dancing her gracefully down each step.

             DJ Byron was into the old-school part of his set and everyone who danced was out there. Ravina squeezed through writhing bodies to get to the center, pressed her blood-red manicure against bare shoulders, tattooed backs. She hiked her tiny dress higher, exposed black garters, twisted like a snake beneath violet strobelights.

             Images of clubland filled her mind. The bouncer waiving her cover charge. How her face had adorned the club's flyers, poster girl for the children of the night. 

             She raised her arms up, the velvet clinging to her slender frame. She could have anyone she wanted. The free drinks sliding down the bar in her direction, the surefire summons backstage when the bands came to town and caught sight of her in the front row. This...this was a new way to be admired: the strain of her breasts against the crisscrossed suede when she arched her back, the spray of her curls as she whipped her head around, the blackberry curve of her parted lips. This is what I look like when I'm in your bed.

             Gliding to the soft stuff, stomping to the hard. She spun, dipped, her hands following in whatever felt natural: plucking cobwebs, shaking her fists, even rolling a chi ball here and there. Some of the guys turned toward her, their eyes asking permission, but she turned her back on each of them. Nobody was good enough to be her partner.

             The other girls, creatures of drugstores and thrift shops, they tried so hard. How they worked up the courage to talk to her, how terrified they were to try out new things for fear of her catty mouth. How everyone looked to her for direction, how she could devastate with a sigh and a roll of the eyes.

             Everyone wants to be me.

             One stiletto heel hit the floor at the wrong angle.

             Down she fell.

             It knocked the breath from her. She sat eye-level with a forest of rampaging fishnets while her ass sang with pain. The dancers around her backed away, gloved hands covering their mouths, barely concealing their laughter.

             If it had been someone else, it would have been a fast pull back up, a little embarrassed giggling. But this was Ravina. Their self-acknowledged queen, their diehard fashion plate, looked for all the world like an angry six-year-old in a Disney Princess gown.

             She struggled to get up, but the stilettos were making it impossible. She frantically tried to zip the backs down, but the teeth caught. On both boots. She tried to untie the bows, open the fronts, but found they were glued on – no stray shoelaces to trip those burlesque dancers, apparently.

             Byron slid into the next track, slowed down into something sensual. Something that made the girls run their hands along their secondhand satin slips, into their tangled hair. Bodies merged into twos, and a few threes, drawing together to flirt or make out or just sway gently in a shared moment.

             For a split-second, caught in the middle of the floor, within all those couples, Ravina felt like a terrified wallflower.

             I can't...I can't control my body.

             Once-cowed faces glared at her openly. Every grudge came bubbling up through shimmying shoulders, gyrating asses, sharp elbows thrusting themselves carelessly into her path. A thick rubber sole slammed down on her hand, cracking one of her talons. She yelped in pain, and tears came to her eyes as a light sheen of sweat broke out on her forehead.

             On her hands and knees, like a dog. Like a submissive, ugh. Ravina did not dare look up at the bar. Tatiana was probably watching her right now. Fuck.

             She reached the railing at the edge of the floor and grabbed on, pulled herself up. And as soon as she was standing, the boots started dancing again. Horrified, Ravina felt her legs kick out in a spin. She grabbed for the railing but only grazed it with her fingertips, and she fell back down to the floor.

             Even over the music, she could hear applause and howling from the bar.

             Ravina's breath quickened as she curled up in a little ball, tried to hold back a tide of sheer panic. Something was horribly wrong with her, and there was no one in here who would help her. Even as her legs were folded beneath her, she could feel the soles tapping against the floor, just waiting to betray her as she tried to stand up again.

             The backyard. A place to deal with this without a thousand eyes watching her.

             Hands against the ratty carpet, aware every excruciating millisecond of her rapidly decimating reputation, she crawled toward the hallway. Passed the bathrooms, the bewildered face of the zombie girl. Fuck fuck fuck.

             The back door was a plank of scratched paint, scabbed over with band stickers. She raised herself on trembling knees to grasp the handle when it suddenly swung inward and knocked her against the wall.

             “Whoah!” Draco. Thank God. “Ravina? What are you doing down there?”

             “Draco, please...” Ravina stretched her hands up, but then Sindra stepped inside behind him, adjusting the elastic top of her dress. A half-hour, indeed.

             “Ravina?” The syllables fell from Sindra's mouth in utter disgust. Draco looked from girl to girl, weighed dalliance against distress, and took Sindra's hand.

             “It's OK, she's just going outside for some air,” he said, sweeping down the hallway with Sindra in tow. “You vant to be alone, right, darling?” he called back over his shoulder, as Sindra shot Ravina a parting glance of pure venom.

             Ravina felt nauseous.

             She reached for the door handle again, pulled it open. She dragged herself out into the cool of the night, her skin kissing filthy brick through the runs in her stockings. Nobody out here right now, thank God, up to the chain link fence where she leaned back, stretched her convulsing legs out in front of her.

             Beneath the moonlight, the red satin looked inflamed. It was torn up in spots, soiled with patches of dirt like freshly-skinned knees. Ravina broke another nail trying to pull the zippers down again. They still wouldn't budge. Frustrated, she slammed an elbow into the fence. Her velvet sleeve tore open.

             She burst into tears.

             God damn it. Was she drugged? Should she go to the hospital? Her cellphone was still in her purse, upstairs, with Tatiana.

             Her feet jittered in the dirt.

             Please, please, somebody help me as she tapped her ruby heels together, closed her eyes.

             The back door flew open. Too ashamed to look up, she cloaked her wet face in the protective veil of her hair.

             A hand appeared. Brown eyes, amused. Jen.

             Spidey was smirking behind her.

             Ravina wanted to spit, to curse, to impale his eyes on her fingertips. But Jen's outstretched hand was the only doorway out of this madness. No other choice. Sighing, she took it.

             As soon as their skins made contact, her legs felt warm, relaxed, solid upon the ground. She felt a surge of strength, muscle hidden beneath Jen's cheap bangles as she was pulled up. Relief coursed through her veins, making her dizzy, but she was too furious to do anything other than stand her ground. Countless nights, hundreds, no, thousands of dollars, up in smoke. Her shattered pride a trophy for some plain jane who'd never even been here before.

             Spidey shook his head at Ravina, slow, as if she were no better than any Twelfth Street trainwreck. Jen just gazed at her with pity, which was somehow a thousand times worse.

             “All I wanted you to do,” he said, “was shake her hand.”

             One last disdainful look before curling an arm around Jen's waist and opening the back door. Flashing lights, heavy beats welcomed them back inside, and the door slammed shut behind them.

             Ravina felt sick to her stomach, but at least her feet were moving normally, now. She tried the zippers. They came down perfectly, smooth on the tracks. She wanted to rip off the boots and throw them in the garbage, but the streets were too disgusting to walk on in just stockings. She wiped her eyes carefully, trying to erase the tearstains without smearing her eyeliner.

             She surveyed the chain-link fence. Infinitely preferable to going back inside, but it was topped with barbed wire. She turned to the door, steeled herself. It would only be a minute to get back through the club to the entrance, but what a grueling minute. God, what a time to be barren of cigarettes.

             Ravina grasped the handle, propelled herself through the hallway. Glanced upstairs.

              No. I can't.

             There was a spare key hidden beneath the flowerpot outside her building. She could leave her purse up there, Tatiana would get it. Tatiana would get it, wouldn't she? If she didn't...would she really be that much of a bitch? Ravina shuddered.

             Glittering lips, busy with gossip. The jingling of bondage rings. Black lace sweeping across the floor. It was all a blur as she maneuvered through the crowd as fast as she could.

             Alone, she descended.

             A crowd of smokers was clustered outside the entrance. Nobody who'd seen what happened. She bummed a clove off a guy in a leather kilt and began the walk home.

             Exiled from paradise, unthinkable. But there was no way she could go back. Her heels clacked against the pavement as neon glowed from the neighborhood's other nightlife.

             A couple of blocks ahead, someone's hard house set boomed through the dark. As she drew closer, she saw skinny kids with dreaded hair and bottles of water gathered outside. Tribal patterns were scrawled across their clothes and she caught reflective panels shining from within the pleats of a skirt. Nice.

             A guy with spiky blonde hair and a UV necklace broke away from the pack, thrust a flyer at Ravina.

             “Here. It's probably not your thing, but what the hell. It'll be a good party.”

             Ravina glanced at the flyer. A woman with flowing art nouveau hair rose up out of a psychedelic lake, surrounded by the names of various DJ's coming in for the gig. A huge warehouse at the edge of town, nonstop dancing until dawn.

             A whole new crowd to start over in. And to sway and bounce and twirl all night...she didn't need a pair of fancy shoes to do that, did she?

             Well, sneakers, maybe...but nice sneakers...

             “What the hell,” she said, and stuck the flyer in her boot.

             The beats faded behind her but stayed in her head as she walked on, oontz-oontz-oontz....she remembered a pair of really cool pants she'd seen in Various Nefarious a couple of weeks ago, slick and futuristic with cargo pockets, parts that zipped off, garters that would give everyone a peek at her bare thighs, oh perfect....


About the Author

Lilah Wild

Lilah Wild is a graduate of Clarion West '07, and her work has appeared in Pseudopod, Fantasy Magazine, and Morbid Curiosity. She's been running the subcultural dressup extravaganza since 2001 and spins extreme loudness on occasion. An Old Hollywood film buff, bellydancing dilettante, and 80's metal aficionado, she
lives in San Francisco with her partner in crime and two lucky black cats.


Copyright (c) 2008 Drops of Crimson. All rights reserved.