The air was cold. So frigid that breath drifted on it, heavy and white in the dark night. Excitement filled the night, voices ringing with it – whispers and shouts in a strange cacophony, only heard on this one night.
Excitement and anticipation perfumed the air, thickening it and he drank it in like nectar. He did not often venture out anymore. He preferred his wild places, leaving the humans to themselves for the most part. But on this one night, when hearts seemed to swell and burst with hope, when human tongues were as light as their dancing feet…. Well, he just couldn’t help himself, could he?
Humans were such good fun, especially when they were drunk. Silly little things. He strode past the long line, stretching out the door and far around the corner. Groups of girls, just barely out of their teens, hovered in small clumps, looking like strange gazelles in their high-high spiky heels and the scraps of shimmery cloth they called dresses, all knees and elbows in the freezing cold.
Such vain things they are, he thought. Hours of work – primping hair, rubbing goops and gels and creams all over oneself, simply to end up shivering in the cold, looking silly and sad.
He sauntered past them into the thumping, pulsing club, where music, sweat, perfume and anticipation combined to thicken the air. No one stopped him. No one called to him. No one asked him to pay the paltry $20 entrance fee, or attempted to do him the disservice of an ugly black stamp on his hand.
He was not invisible – or not quite – but unnoticeable is just as good as invisible, in most circumstances. And, for someone so very remarkable, he had quite the knack for being unnoticed, when he wanted it.
The bar was crowded, people jammed in like sardines, beers held high over unknowing heads. Skin rubbed against bare skin in the dead of winter, the dance floor a sea of writhing humanity clad – strapless mini-dresses and clingy tops creating the illusion of mass nudity.
Outside of the dance floor, humans crashed and bumped and shunted against each other like drunken bumper cars.
“Oh, yes,” Puck thought. Tonight was going to be fun.
It was nearly ten, with two hours to go until the ‘grand moment.’
The time itself had little significance. Just another hour in a series of hours that make up a life. The power lay in the value placed upon the hour – all of the humans waiting the world round, with bated breath and hope, for the hour to strike.
And it was upon that bated breath he rode, surfing it like daredevil on top of a tidal wave.
He could not stop time. Very few beings on this fair earth are powerful enough to truly stop time, reader, and I hope you are never unfortunate enough to cross paths with one of them. No – he could not stop time. But he could bend it and slow it down in ways that were certainly good enough for his purposes.
First things first, he thought.
In a flash, all of the restrooms were emptied of toilet paper. Drunken feminine howls filled the air.
“Can you just pass me a square?”
“I can’t – I don’t have any.”
The conversation repeated stall-to-stall, with various states of slurring. Echoes of the question filtered through the long restroom, like a chorus sung in the round. Words repeated over and over… And one chorus of a Taylor Swift song, sung loudly and off-key, echoing off of the bathroom walls. Finally, the information made its’ rounds. There was no toilet paper. Lord help them.
He left the room just as the crying began.
There was more to do in the club. People pressed and squished against each other, all trying uselessly to get somewhere.
There – a tall man, pushing through the crowd, holding his large, full beer glass aloft, high above the heads of the young women trying to press past him.
For a moment he watched as the unsteadily-held glass dribbled – drip, drip, drip – onto the carefully coifed heads below. With a smile, he gave the glass a shove in passing, stepping back to watch as golden liquid poured down, punctuated by a chorus of girly squeals and squawks and shouts.
He chuckled, enjoying the show for a moment, before moving on.
The room was full of opportunities – drinks waiting to be spilled, strangers bumped together. So many opportunities in one small space.
There – an unguarded hand.
Moments later, he watched a short, angry girl, screeching at her boyfriend for having touched another girl’s butt – which he had not actually done of his own volition, oddly enough. Or at least, that’s what he might’ve said if he could get a word in edgewise.
Across the room, a girl stumbled into a waiter, sending a tray of drinks skyward like liquid fireworks.
Not so very far away, an argument was breaking out.
“Hey Asshole! Stop staring at my girl before I rearrange your face!”
Ah, love. He smiled.
The truest form of chaos. Nothing limited its’ power and it raged in human minds and hearts like wildfire.
He rode the chaos, drinking it in as the evening crested, rising towards midnight. The seconds ticked down, heartbeats racing in time, voices chanting in synchronicity, until the final moment came like an explosion – a perfectly controlled, uncontrolled, uncontrollable moment. He felt himself lifted, carried away, by the intensity of the moment, as loved ones kissed and fought and drank and hoped, as hearts beat and burst and bled all around him.
He allowed himself to be lifted by it, but as the raging swell subsided, in the moments after midnight, he felt …. Something else.
Loneliness has a particular light about it, reader. I don’t know if you knew that. Or not a light, exactly. Almost the exact opposite of light, if you can picture it. A sort of dulling dimness, absorbing the light around it, bending it, softening it with sadness.
And that was what he felt. Two separate lonelinesses, previously buried by the pulsing, raging energy of the space, now quietly suffering on their own, beginning to poke through the joy and laughter in the room like sea shells drifting up out of a lowering tide.
Two of them. Very close together.
A young woman sat at the bar, perched uncomfortable on a tall stool, twirling an empty, lipstick-smudged shot glass in her fingertips. Why she had decided to come out alone, on this night of all nights, he could not quite grasp. Perhaps because being alone in a crowd had seemed slightly more appealing than being alone elsewhere. But she had been wrong. In a crowd, ones’ loneliness becomes more stark, like a dirty plate in a clean kitchen.
She did not see the young man standing several paces behind her, hands shoved deep into the pockets of his worn leather jacket. His reasons were not so very different. Being alone in a bar on New Year’s Eve, he had reasoned, seemed better than being at home on New Year’s Eve, by the slim merits that nothing in the bar could possibly remind him of what he had lost. Everything at home reeked of her. He imagined he could still smell her perfume lingering in the air, although it had been well over a week since she’d left. The bar smelled nothing like her – it smelled of foreign perfume and sweat and stale beer. But it did not lessen the emptiness, and now, after midnight, he shoved his hands in his pockets, half-way deciding to go home.
It would take very little effort, Puck thought.
One last time, this evening?
He grinned again, this time mellow, relaxed after the wound-up evening.
In passing, he knocked the bar stool, causing it to totter against the sticky, beer-coated floor. For a moment, he stood and watched as the lipstick-coated shot glass shattered on the ground, the stool’s occupant, swaying and tipping and falling…. Landing, innocuously, it seemed, in the surprised arms of the leather-jacketed young man behind her.
He didn’t pause to watch further.
Just a little more chaos in the world, he thought. Beautiful chaos.
A night well spent.
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