We walked into an enormous room with high vaulted ceilings bathed in enough candlelight to make it look like it had been sprayed with old gold. The mellow wash flattered the hectic crowd as it drank, talked and clinked glasses; some of its members were even dancing to the inevitable ceilidh band who I could just see crammed onto a little podium. The band, a collection of shaggy haired young men, were howling, stamping and playing their fiddles as though their lives depended upon it. Maybe they did. There was enough dark energy here to power the coming of the Antichrist – if you believed in such things.
And then, as though someone had flicked on a switch, it all changed. A raw, roiling energy beat in waves over my head, as though I had just been pitched to the bottom of the ocean, where I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. No one else in the gathering seemed to feel it although the chatter, dancing and drinking became fevered, compulsive even, as though this was the last night on earth and there was nothing left to lose. I began to make out vague shapes flickering above their heads: formless at first, gradually assuming a bestial cast as though something was trying to escape the human clay but couldn’t quite break free.
The band played louder, the dancers whirled faster as though I was standing in the midst of an immensely powerful battery that everyone in the room was simultaneously feeding and draining, feeding and draining. Each time the power peaked it was at a higher level and the party got wilder and uglier in the no time at all I’d been here. A couple of scuffles broke out in the corner of the room, in one a one big burly guy threw a smaller one into a table which promptly collapsed covering him with food and drink which he was made to eat. The strange thing was that the smaller mand didn’t seem too upset about it.
There was still no let up in the power surges and the pain in my head became a vice. Time to leave. Then something else caught my eye and that dark sense of mine began to vibrate in time with the power: a young blond girl, blouse in tatters, head flung back in a weird, grunting ecstasy, with a grizzled head of indeterminate sex nursing at her breasts and rivulets of blood running down her bony ribs. The twisted energy in the room rose in a shimmering multicoloured arc above the heads of the crowd and the force of it was a singing, living thing so intense it had its own gravitational pull.
I’d only felt this much squeezing power once before and I knew it for what it was: shape-shifter. The room had become the pulsing chamber of a gigantic, infarcted, heart, each beat a countdown to detonation that would beggar Hiroshima. And here I was at the epicentre without so much as a table to cower under. Well if cowering was out, there was only one thing for it…