“I lay about idle, consumed by a heavy fever: I envied the bliss of animals.”
When Melody reached for the phone, her head throbbed with a shuddering panic and last night’s regret. She had agreed to do something she wasn’t sure she was able to do. It was definitely Jack on the phone confirming, but it was also her last chance at backing out. She gulped and picked up her cell.
“Hello Jack. Um…” she paused and quickly said. “Sorry, I’ll be ready in twenty minutes.” Jack was her co-worker, but was also her only friend at the moment.
“Excellent!” Jack replied, “I know its last minute, but if you do me this favor, I’ll be so grateful. I’ll take on any shift at the coffee shop you need me to cover. I’ll make sure you stick to dispensing the coffee and not have to deal with customers!” he reminded her.
“Just don’t introduce me to anyone!” Melody stressed. “I mean, I’m not so great at small talk and I might make the situation worse if…”
“Don’t worry, I get it. Geez Melody. You go out dancing almost every week and I don’t know how you manage to keep to yourself. So weird.,” Jack paused.
“No it’s great!” he quickly corrected himself. “You’re mysterious! I get it. Mysterious bookish Melody. I just need you to let me know if you see Brad tonight. The last thing I need on a first date is an ex showing up. I could go somewhere else, but c’mon! The Bomb Club is retro tonight! It’s the best place. I promise that all I ask is that you let me know if he shows up.”
“Ok,” Melody sighed. “I guess I’ll meet you at the club in a thirty minutes.”
“Yay! See you soon!” Jack exclaimed and hung up.
She felt a small ache at the sides of her head. Melody had been suffered from migraines since she was a child. Now as a barista and a part time college student, her headaches were coming back despite her daily use of medication. The migraines caused her to miss out on a lot of school growing up and when she did manage to go, she’d hide from triggers like the sun or loud noises. The pain made it hard for her to make real friends or to do anything on a regular schedule. She was a voracious reader thought and that made it easier for her to catch up on school from home.
“Weird girl, “ some kids would say.
It wasn’t just the headaches that made her stand out. People would often find her gazing off at nothing, content in her own little world. Oddly, electronics would also either fritz out or spontaneously repair in her presence. Her grandfather would place her by the television set to watch the soccer game with him. She hated the sport, but she proved to be better antennae than the one that came with the television.
“Weird girl, “ her grandfather would say to her and pat her on the head.
Instead of playing outside, Melody would escape to her stack of books and her growing record collection. Her imagination was so strong she’d see the stories in them manifested and superimposed in real life. The music she loved became the soundtrack to her childhood visions. She’d tug at her parents and her classmates to make them see the unicorns grazing on the playground or the dragons flying in the sky to Kate Bush’s voice or Jimmy Page’s guitar. Once while doing groceries with her mom, Melody spotted a woman with beautiful iridescent wings on her back. The wings faded and disappeared when Melody approached her, leaving behind a regular looking woman. Duran Duran’s The Reflex came up on the store’s speaker system.
“Wow! How do you hide your wings?” she asked the woman.
The woman looked at her and smiled seeming to have no idea what Melody was talking about.
“Your wings! Where did they go?”
“I’m sorry. She’s just playing,” her mother interrupted and pulled Melody to her side.
“The reflex is an only child…”
“What a sweet girl,” the woman replied and went back to her shopping.
Melody’s mother hushed her and told her once again to stop embarrassing them.
The migraines went away with medications fed to her in the treatment of her affliction. “Poor girl,” the doctor once said to her mother. He prescribed many things and anti-depressants were the only thing that ended up working. They held the headaches and the visions at bay. Electronics began to function normally around her. Melody still retreated to her books and the fantastical creatures within them. She missed the visions, but despite losing them she still couldn’t connect to the rest of the world.
Melody downed the tiny blue pill with a fresh glass of water. “Right. I’m going out tonight,” she said to herself. She could stay home and read the new George R.R. Martin, but she had promised Jack.
“Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” she quoted Tolkien’s The Hobbit aloud.
She let her chocolate brown hair loose, her long curls undulating down her sides like dormant tentacles. Her bangs fell thick and flat on her face obscuring her eyes. Looking at herself in the mirror, she could only make out the bright scarlet slash of her painted lips. A grey off the shoulder sweater and a pair of scuffed up blue jeans completed the look. She was dressed for a night of anonymous dancing. At least, she hoped it would stay anonymous. Dancing like reading was a solitary escape. On a dance floor, she could express herself as anyone or anything without saying a word. Head down and body in tune to the music. Sending unheard messages with her steps to everywhere and to no one. Dancing was like existing in one of her visions without the real world interfering. If someone attempted to speak to her, she’d dance away or shake her head, dismissing them in favour of a favourite song.
The Bomb Club was already bouncing with retro goodness and the deejay was hitting the speedier tunes when Melody arrived.
“Bourbon neat?” Melody asked for her usual at the bar.
Just a few shots would be enough to give her courage to dance, but still be cognizant of her surroundings. Downing her drink she focused on the spinning lights of the room.
“There you are!” Jack called out from the other end of the bar.
He was wearing a red and white checkered bow tie with a black buttoned down shirt and matching black pants. His dark eyes sparkled. Melody waved back and smiled. Nodding, Jack acknowledged they had found one another and went back to facing his date, Tim. Tim was a tall, lanky, and bespectacled guy. A Morrissey clone, Melody thought, just like all the others Jack was attracted to.
Ladytron’s Destroy Everything You Touch pumped out hard from the speakers in the club and the dance floor flooded with bodies. Melody could feel the pull of the bass in her hips, but just then her head began to itch at the sides. The increasing ache she had been trying to fend off was pulsating around her temples. She made her way around the dance floor towards the washroom.
Splashing cold water on her face felt good, but the itchiness increased. She wondered if she was having a weird reaction to her medication or if something had triggered her. Looking in the mirror and rooting through her hair she found a red rash had formed at the top of her head. She scratched a bit, but it gave her no relief.
Women poured into the washroom. One of the ladies had a baby miniature griffin-like creature on her shoulders. It squawked as it spotted Melody. Frightened, Melody focused on the mirror, quickly pretending to comb her hair with her fingers.
“Maybe it’s a shrug. It’s a shrug. It has to be a shrug!” she said out loud.
The girls looked at her and laughed. Flustered, Melody defiantly watched them as she popped another pill thinking a double dose might stop the itching.
“Weird girl,” she heard one of the woman say as she left the washroom.
Melody decided that maybe dancing would keep her mind off the itch and focused on the reason she was there. She scanned the room for Brad. Confident he wasn’t there she proceeded to find a spot on the dance floor. Melody began to sway to the quiet beginning of Siouxsie and The Banshee’s Spellbound.
“From the cradle bars
comes a beckoning voice…”
“Oh yes,” she thought. She loved getting lost in the crowd to Siouxsie Sioux.
“You have no choice!”
Melody gracefully spun around and kicked herself in line with the accumulating frenzied beats. Her temples burned as she lifted her hands to steady her head while still kicking about. She bobbed around with her hands still in her hair and navigated a series a twirls. The woman with the griffin on her shoulders was dancing near her, oblivious to the tiny yelps the creature was letting out as she jumped about. Melody moved further into the middle of the floor. The deejay mixed in New Order’s True Faith and suddenly Melody decided to let go on the dance floor in hopes of dancing away from pain and back to normality. A fairy dressed in sapphire blue leotard flew by and elegantly threw handfuls of fairy dust in the air.
“I feel so extraordinary
Something’s got a hold of me…”
Melody went to scratch her head and felt a hardness growing there. She gasped and was overcome with a huge sense of terror in her heart and strange bodily release in her core all at once. The music pumped harder. Her neck stiffened as the protrusions coming out of her head got longer and felt decidedly more solid to Melody’s touch.
“Nice antlers!” said a pretty redheaded girl. “Where’d you get them and how are you making them grow like that? WICKED!”
A crowd of gnomes performed a fancy jig around her as Melody continued to grab at her head. The deejay pumped his hands to the music. In Melody’s eyes he’d become a furry werewolf.
“To the childhood I lost, replaced by fear…”
Panicked Melody tugged desperately at the antlers. Jack ran up to her amused and asked, “What on earth are you doing, Mysterious Melody? Do you want to take those atrocious things off? Here,” Jack pulled at them, but slowly recoiled in horror when he realized they were actually a part of her head.
“Owwww! Don’t do that!” she yelled. “Don’t touch them!”
She looked for Jack, but he’d run out with a lizard man in Tim’s clothes following quickly behind him.
The music continued. The only ones left on the dance floor were trolls, the gnomes doing the jig, elves, a unicorn, and a gaggle of sylphs spinning in the air. A dragon tended the bar shocked at the few humans screaming their way out the door away from Melody, unaware of the other creatures the rest of them had mutated into. The gnomes looked puzzled wondering if they were missing something. A blonde elf glanced at Melody, shrugged, and gave her an encouraging thumbs up.
“Maybe they’re all on drugs,” the elf said as she was whisked into more dancing in the arms of a drunk jackalope.
No one paid attention to the anomalous mass transformation the room had gone through. Everyone kept dancing, talking, and drinking as usual. Antlered, horned, fantastical, and winged, everything was back to normal, but almost everyone had changed.
Melody lifted her head high and somehow the antlers felt lighter that way. They were gloriously tall and curled delicately at the tip. Her headache was gone and her antlers had also stopped growing. An extraordinarily strange feeling of deja vu took over Melody’s soul as she started to move her body again to the tunes in the club. Melody pirouetted and leaped about. Her antlers reflected the rainbow of disco lights above her onto the floor.
“I used to think that the day would never come…”
The werewolf deejay surveyed the excited crowd on the floor with satisfaction and cued up the next song.
Jacqueline Valencia is a poet, journalist and film critic.
She is the Senior Film Critic at Next Projection, and the Founding Editor of These Girls On Film.
She appears in the movie _Suck_ with Malcolm McDowell.