After our drinks we stood and left the bar and 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 the trains hummed and whirled. We made our way up concrete steps into the air and walked along a barren street with dilapidated buildings and warehouses and other industrial strongholds. Ahead were floodlights where a congregation of people queued outside a 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 on my hand. We walked through a wire meshed tunnel towards a security area where we queued to be checked for contraband such as drugs and weapons. The security consisted mainly of large German men with black attire and hard grimaces. I was patted down waved onwards. There was a buzz in the air. I glanced up, above us were metal girders and attached to these massive power cords encased in rubber tubing. Ahead was a concrete archway and metal doors and framed inside the metal doors was a smaller door where a security woman was guiding people through. Before stepping through I glanced back and saw the industrial complex of buildings and warehouses and people queuing in a blanket of floodlight. The sensation of an abandoned TV network still on air.
The door merged into a brick corridor that led towards another door. I could hear a thump from beyond that grew louder as I neared and when I went through the thump turned into a beat and I was faced with a modern nightclub with lights and strobe lights and people dancing in a huge open space.
The club had a suave circular appearance, a harmony of industrial and contemporary decor. On some of the walls were projections of shapes and cosmic swirls. Lasers shot over the crowds from somewhere above, and around the dance floor metal stairs led to other levels of the building. Everywhere I looked were people. There were people on the floors above and hanging over the balconies with their arms waving in the air. On every floor were booths to the sides and with bars selling alcohol, and everywhere were offshoot rooms with a variety of DJs mixing techno through huge speakers. Emergency floor lights lined the walkways. The floor vibrated.
We made our way to the second level and bought drinks from a bar and then commandeered a booth. It was incredibly loud with music pouring through everything. I could barely hear myself think. When we spoke to one another we had to lean into each others ears to be heard or shout over the beat. On our table we had bottles of beer and communal cigarette packets. Liana and the gang were relaxed and enjoying themselves but I couldn’t settle.
‘You need to loosen up,’ shouted Liana.
‘I’m sorry. I’m trying. I’m just not sure this is my “thing”, you know?’
‘Fuck man, you just need to get high that’s all.’
‘Yeah. Maybe.’ I was half-interested in this idea. Something inside me wanted to let go.
‘Hey,’ said Reena. ‘Hey is that Frits? Hey it’s Frits!’
We turned to where Reena was pointing. I didn’t know who I was looking for, but when I saw him I knew instantly who Frits was. He sat at a booth on the other side of the club with a group of friends. Every now and then his whole body spasmed to the music, as though he had no control over himself.
‘Hey, it’s Frits,’ said Dave.
Frits was shaking hands with his companions and pushing himself up. He was a big man with a shaved head and his face covered in piercings.
‘Quick,’ said Dave, ‘before he goes.’
Liana climbed over me to get out of the booth and ran through the clubbers. We watched as she cut him off at the top of the stairs where a brief conversation ensued.
‘What is she doing?’ I asked.
Dave shushed me with a hand. I looked at Reena and Hedy for answers but they were deep in conversation with one another. Liana and Frits walked off and awhile later they came back, hugged, and went their separate ways. When Liana returned she cooly sat back at the booth with a smile on her face. I turned to look for Frits but he was gone.
‘Everything good?’ asked Hedy.
Liana smirked. ‘I think it’s time we broke bread.’
Liana glanced around to see if anyone was looking and then reached into her pocket and produced a fistful of small packets which she doled out to Dave, Hedy, and Reena. She took my hand and placed one in my palm.
Dave looked at me. ‘Are you serious?’
‘Are you serious or do you want to have some fun?’
‘What is it?’
Liana leaned into me. ‘MDMA.’
‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘It’s been a long time. The closest I get to a high these days is from caffeine.’
‘You don’t have to,’ Liana said.
I examined the package in my palm. The MDMA was wrapped tightly in cigarette paper. ‘Fuck it,’ I said and popped it into my mouth. I took a swig of beer and swallowed it down. I felt a rush of anxiety and doubt, but it was too late now, I thought.
The nightclub lights strobed around us. Our conversations were discordant and dreamlike. In the back of my mind I couldn’t shake loose the notion that I was about to get high. And it worried me. It took forty minutes for the drug to take effect. At first I felt an absence from the club and I wondered if this was it. Then, like a switch, it hit me. My brain turned on, the anxiety left, and then my vision cleared. It was as though throughout my entire life I had been viewing everything through a letterbox and now the door it belonged to had opened. A surge of power travelled down to my toes and back up to the crown of my head. The music changed.
Dave laughed. His teeth were fluorescent in the light, almost demonic. He shouted over the music. ’It’s good, yeah? Good shit, right mate?’
‘Jesus Christ.’ The techno sounded like an injection. Everything was connected to it. ‘Holy fuck!’ I was laughing now. I was in control, bruised up with confidence.
‘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 now 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.’
Dave’s glasses sparkled and flared on his face.
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.
I was drawn from the booth and was now on the dance floor among a throng of bodies, sweat and heat and smoke pressing down upon me. Beside me Liana, Dave, Hedy and Reena danced as one. The music stopped. We cried and whooped for more. 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, a conductor of power, and suddenly we were met with the most destructive bass I had ever heard. It cut the room into layers like a machine coming to life, an engine rolling into full operation. Now in a loop the bass cut out, cut back in, over and over, and slowly a beat built up around it, smooth synthetic pads cushioning the kick drum and hat. The pads of sound moved away and moved back like a wave visiting from a distant horizon and then rolling back to once it came. I have never in my life heard anything like it before or since. The DJ had opened a gateway. As the beat become solid and the tune began to take shape, I found I was surrounded by people who were experiencing the same sensation of unity as myself. My whole body was tuned into something larger. I moved as one to the music, total connection, total muscle control. The music had jacked into my mind.
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 love being your friend,’ she shouted over the beat. ‘I’ve never felt judged by you.’
The night slipped by in a multitude of feelings and experiences. 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.
I beamed. I had a concrete grin on my face. ‘I’m having an awesome time, thank you.’
‘Here, smoke this,’ he said, holding out a joint.
Liana hugged his waist. ‘He’s so lovely.’
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 spliff from him and Liana and I took it to another room where more deep techno poured onto the dance floor. I stood by the side and watched the dancers inside the lasers and smoke. I took another drag of the joint but by now I’d forgotten what it was and was smoking it like a cigarette. Eventually I ground it into an ashtray and then filled with intense energy I joined the body of dancers.
As I danced inside the core the music grew with intensity, flashes and bangs, bodies sweating around me. I had moments of connection with the music, followed by confusion. Something wasn’t right. I could feel myself shifting between a state of wellbeing and a state of nerves. I was finding it difficult to dance, made worse when all of a sudden the bass and the beat dropped out and a range of high-pitched 101s assaulted us, cutting through everything, cutting through all the sweat and flesh and matter. 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. ‘Jesus, when is this going to stop?’ But it kept going, the crescendo rising and rising, the club spinning past in a blur of lasers and smoke. Bodies were suspended all around me waving their arms like worshippers waiting for a payload. It was an ungainly feeling, and I struggled to sync myself. The club was heading towards something climactic, something I had no power to overturn. Whatever was coming I was frightened of its arrival. The club was rising 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, sweat dripping from my forehead. 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. We became 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, while 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.