The music is loud, so loud that it’s almost like you can’t hear it. It’s not even noise, just sensation. A beat that you can feel in your teeth and your bones, that rattles your head. It’s like nothing I’ve ever heard before, and there’s something kind of exciting and different about it, but goddamn if it isn’t giving me one of the worst headaches I’ve ever had in my life. It makes me think of every story about music and sound I’ve ever heard. Infrasound making you sick and resonating with your eyeballs so you see ghosts. Gloomy Sunday driving people to suicide. Pieces of weird distortion and strings composed to stimulate your brain to release endorphins, dopamine, serotonin.
I look over at August, and he’s got this kind of pained look on his face that I imagine must be on mine as well, but he’s putting more effort into trying to dance and look like he’s having a good time than I am. I don’t know why. This place isn’t like any rave we’ve ever been to before. But that’s the point, of course.
We’re here for the Ceph.
Ceph has only been on the scene for a few months now, and it’s impossible to get any solid information on it. Depending on who you ask, it’s made in Russia or China or by the cartels, but no one seems to know for sure. It’s so new that word of it hasn’t even really made the rounds beyond a few message boards. Posts and pictures and words sent out into the void like subtle tendrils and feelers exploring for open minds and wandering hearts. “Have you heard about Ceph? Have you tried it? It’s like nothing else, man. Like nothing else. Ceph party this Friday. Ceph 11th and Harris.”
I make it a point to try new things and to try and give them a fair shake, but this scene is pretty damn unpleasant, all things considered. I push August on the arm to get his attention and mouth at him, “What the fuck are we doing here?”
“Relax,” he mouths back. “Enjoy it.”
“I can’t. This is fucking weird.”
He shrugs. I frown. I push him again and motion for us to move over towards the bar. The music is oppressively loud everywhere in the warehouse, but at least over by the bar we can carry on a semblance of a normal conversation without speakers aimed directly at us.
We sit on the stools and gesture for the bartender to bring us two shots. I don’t think she understood what I wanted her to bring us shots of, but then it doesn’t really matter. August turns to me and glares. “What is it, man? I was dancing with that chick that was rolling!”
I blink in confusion at that. The floor was so crowded you couldn’t help but dance pressed up against somebody else. But no one around August had been paying him the slightest mind. They didn’t even seem like they were losing themselves in the music and the moment. They seemed like they were somewhere else entirely, seeing and hearing things that didn’t exist.
Or at least that I couldn’t perceive.
I shake my head. “Whatever. Whatever that chick was on, it wasn’t molly.” August crosses his arms and pouts. We must look completely ridiculous, I think. Too old for this scene, or obviously cops, or in the middle of a lover’s quarrel. Something. The bartender comes back our drinks. I swipe my card and she leaves. We pound them. “This place blows,” I say once the burn is gone. “Let’s get out of here.”
“I’m having a good time,” August says.
“Are you really? Because I’ve got a massive goddamn headache from this music, and you kind of look like you do, too.”
August just sort of grumbles and looks away, a sure sign that I’m right and he doesn’t want to admit it.
“Look,” I say. “We came here to score some Ceph, and we couldn’t get any. That’s fine. Whatever. There will be other nights. I say we cut our losses and hit up Skye or Flow or something.”
“Come on, man. We’re already here.”
“Danube said she’d be at Skye, and she’s holding.”
August is silent. After a moment of contemplation, he puts his hands down on the bar, and I know he’s just about to push himself up when the person sitting on the other side of him speaks, their voice loud and androgynous and clear, almost like it’s echoing in our heads like the music is.
“I can get you guys some Ceph.”