We caught the U-Bahn. I didn’t know which part of Berlin we were heading to, only that I was being taken to a nightclub called Zenzoride. Liana and her friends talked excitedly. The carriage lights flickered. At the station platforms trains hummed and whirled like metal beasts. We made our way up concrete steps and onto a barren street with dilapidated buildings and warehouses and other industrial strongholds. Ahead were floodlights where people congregated and queued outside a huge gothic building cordoned off with high wire fencing. Things began to heat up.
At a kiosk we parted with cash to gain entry. I slid fifteen euros across the counter and received a stamp of a scorpion on my hand. We walked through a wire meshed tunnel towards a security area where we lined up to be checked for drugs and weapons. The security consisted mainly of large German men with black attire and hard grimaces. I was patted down and searched and then waved on. There was a buzz in the air. I glanced up, above us were metal girders and attached to these were massive power cords encased in rubber tubing. Ahead of us was a concrete archway with large metal doors. Before stepping through I glanced back and saw an industrial complex of buildings and warehouses and people queuing in a blanket of floodlight. The sensation of an abandoned TV network still on air.
Following a group of people we made our way down a corridor towards a door at the far end. I could hear a thump from beyond that grew louder as I got closer. My heart began to race. When I stepped through the door the thump turned into a beat and I was greeted by a nightclub pumping out techno.
It took me a moment to adjust. Berlin, I had been told, was the place for clubbing in Europe and this spectacle did nothing to refute that claim. In the middle of the floor was a crowd of people dancing in the smoke and lights. Lasers scanned the crowd and around the dance floor people moved on balconies, arms and bodies flowing in the air.
Dave threw me a wink. ‘Come on, man.’
Metal stairs led to other levels of the building and on every floor there were booths for seating. Everywhere were offshoot rooms with a variety of DJs mixing techno through huge speakers. Emergency lights lined the walkways. The floor vibrated. The club had a raw and circular appearance, a harmony of industrial and contemporary stimuli.
On the second level we bought drinks from a bar and commandeered a booth. The music was so loud it got into everything, brick, flesh, lungs. To hear one another we had to lean into each other and shout over the beat. Within half an hour we amassed a collection of beer and cigarettes. Liana and the gang were in their element, laughing and talking excitedly, but I was unable to settle.
Dave reached across the table and took both of my hands with his. ‘Are you serious?’ he said.
‘Are you serious or do you want to have some fun?’ He brought my hands together and I felt him slip something into my palm before he slinked back across the table with a grin.
‘What is it?’
Liana leaned into me. ‘MDMA.’
‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘It’s been a long time.’
‘You don’t have to,’ Liana said.
I watched as in turn my companions popped something into their mouths before washing it down with beer. I examined the package in my palm. It was a cigarette paper tightly wrapped and concealing what I imagined was the white powder of MDMA. Glancing around I saw everyone in the club happy and in love with life. It struck me that I had not felt like that since before the accident. In a moment of hardpan emotion I said, ‘Fuck it,’ and put the package onto my tongue. I took a swig of beer and swallowed. Almost instantly I felt a rush of anxiety and doubt. It was too late now, I thought.
The club lights strobed around us, our conversations strange and disjointed. In the back of my mind I couldn’t shake the fear that I was about to get high and it frightened me to the point that my hands were shaking.
It took forty minutes for the drug to take effect. At first I felt an absence from the club, a discordant view of everything around me. Suddenly I wanted to shit. And then with the flick of a switch the high hit me and my brain switched on. It was as though throughout my entire life I had been viewing everything through a letterbox and now the door to that letterbox had opened. The anxiety I previously had vanished in the click of a finger and a surge of euphoria travelled down to my toes and then back up to the crown of my head like an electrical current. The music changed.
Dave laughed. His teeth were fluorescent in the light. Demonic. He shouted over the music, ‘It’s good, yeah? Good shit, right mate?’
‘Jesus Christ.’ The club had entered my brain and central to it all was the music, so tribal, so fierce. ‘Holy shit!’ I was grinning like a freak.
‘Drink some water,’ said Liana.
I glanced at her. Her eyes were black, her face slender and beautiful. ‘Water,’ she said again and pointed to the glass on the table. I reached for it, but in the light my hand flickered in and out of existence, and then the glass it held disappeared and reappeared. I drank the water, the most beautiful thing I had ever tasted. ‘I fucking love water,’ I said.
Dave was laughing. ‘I love this guy. Where did you find him?’
Liana shrugged. Hedy and Reena were holding each other like lovers in the corner, watching my high unfold. ‘We’re so glad you came to Berlin,’ said Hedy. ‘It’s a real trip.’
The beat of the techno cut out and a subwoofer rattled the room. The table and the glasses on top of it vibrated. The beat kicked back in sending everything into overdrive.
Following Liana’s lead I was drawn from the booth and onto the dance floor where I began to dance among a throng of bodies, sweat and heat and smoke pressing down upon me. Liana, Dave, Hedy and Reena danced alongside me. We were lovers now, comrades of the exceptional. The music stopped and we cried and whooped. I glanced up and saw the DJ, a figure bathed in smoke and light and with his arms in the air like a preacher. He brought his arms down and we were met with a subwoofer that cut the room into layers. Slowly a beat built up around it, smooth synthetic pads cushioning the kick drum and hat. As the beat become solid and the tune began to take shape, I found I was surrounded by people who were experiencing the same measureless harmony as myself. My body was at one with the music, total connection, total muscle control. I felt a love for my friends that was pure and undiluted.
I checked to see if Liana was okay. She was hugging herself and running her hands over her body as though being fucked by the music. It was devouring us. Liana moved into me and we embraced. I could smell the sweat on her.
‘I love being your friend,’ she shouted over the beat. ‘I’ve never felt judged by you.’
The night stretched on endlessly and beautiful. At some point in the evening I met another of Liana’s friends, Raphael. He was a tall and quiet man whose presence seemed to put everyone at ease.
‘Are you having a good time?’ he asked me.
‘Yes. Most definitely.’ Beads of sweat dropped from my brow.
He offered me a joint. ‘Here, take this.’
Raphael smoked a lot of weed and when he passed a joint it was a slow and purposeful movement. He seemed to observe everything from far away as though the world was slowing down for him. I took the joint he was offering and Liana and I went to another room where more techno poured onto a dance floor. I stood by the side and watched the dancers. I inhaled another drag of the joint but by now I had forgotten what I was smoking, drawing it into my lungs like a cigarette. Eventually, when it was gone, I ground it into an ashtray and then filled with intense energy I again joined the fray.
As I danced inside the core the music grew with vigour, flashes and bangs, bodies sweating around me. I had moments of connection followed by confusion. Something wasn’t right. I could feel myself shifting. I was finding it difficult to dance, made harder when all of a sudden the bass and the beat dropped out and a range of high-pitched 101s assaulted us, cutting through everything. The floor seemed to rise and fall. People were getting crazy. The 101s were building up into a crescendo and we all knew something was coming. I remember thinking, ‘Jesus, when is this going to stop?’ But it kept going, the crescendo rising and rising. The club was spinning past in a blur of lasers and smoke, bodies suspended all around me, arms up like worshippers waiting for a payload. It was an ungainly feeling and I struggled to sync myself. The club was heading towards something I had no power to overturn. The atmosphere rose up and up until finally the bass and the beat kicked back in and the club went nuts. I heard my voice say ‘Fucking hell’. And with that, my brain folded like a pancake.
For the briefest of moments I had no idea where I was. Glancing around I no longer saw bodies of people but machines dancing in the strobe light; mechanical and spindly, organic and retro things washing over the floor like a tide of water, dancing as one great component, one network rotating around me, as though I were the bionic eye of the storm. Flashes and bangs of music compounded me, threw me out of sync with the swarm; but the swarm was at one with it, following it, worshipping the great sound. This is it, I thought. Humanity is heading to this.
Another flash and the machines were replaced with people once again. I had stopped dancing and was stood in the middle of the floor like a moron, heart pounding, clothes drenched in sweat. Somehow in the chaos I located Liana. She was still dancing, oblivious to my headfuck.
‘I have to go home!’ I shouted. ‘I have to get out of here!’
‘What? What is it?’
‘I have to get out of here!’
She took my hand and led me from the dance floor and towards the exit, keeping an arm around me to keep me steady. I felt like a psychiatric patient. When we reached a quiet area in an adjoining room, she hugged me and spoke into my ear.
‘It’s okay,’ she was saying. ‘You’re fine. It’s okay.’ Her voice was coming to me from inside a cave.
With trembling hands I sat and chain-smoked while Liana talked me back to reality. I clung to her words.
As I calmed I took in my surroundings. We sat on a red couch. Across from us was a vending machine. Our senses had taken leave and we were convinced it was selling silver spoons of different shapes and sizes. It wasn’t until closer inspection that we discovered they were cigarette packets.
When the world at last took shape, we decided to leave, two wired individuals navigating their way across Berlin on the U-Bahn. At the station platforms trains juddered and roared in the early morning glare. They sounded like intros to songs. Every now and then I felt the presence of machines, and searching for them was unable to locate them. Everything ticked. Nearby commuters hid behind mobile phones and tablets. Time moved impossibly slow. And everything ticked. We are close to bionic ejaculation. We are close to spawning our future.
At Liana’s we took a couple of sleeping pills and I went into Danny’s room to sleep. He was away in Switzerland. I stretched out on the mattress on the floor, my body still twitching, and Liana took the bed. When I started to drift the MDMA would ripple me awake again. It was an unpleasant and dirty feeling. At some point I made it back to my room and slept all day and woke at sunset. I was tired. Confused. The world was beating some distant song. Then I smoked a cigarette.