Very few people used the bathroom backstage at the Plateau. Like most of the venue, it showed its age and misuse. The warped and moldy floorboards under the toilet made it an unacceptable risk for most and the bucket of tools in the corner suggested you needed basic plumbing skills before locking the door behind you.
Despite the rot, the room was a monument. More than any other part of the venue, it was a catalogue of its misspent punk rock youth. The messages written on the wall ranged from an astounding array of crude drawings to some of the most cutting lyric fragments that never got a chance to exist beyond its walls. It was easy to get lost in the history on offer and difficult not to want to add your own mark. If you entered it at all, you understood how the room fulfilled more than its intended use.
Lon gripped the sides of the sink like it might try to pull away from him, though in reality, he was so drunk, he held on to stop himself falling backwards. His band, Helium Pigs, was fifth up in a lineup of six for an all-night showcase at the Plateau. This was by far the best booking his band had ever gotten and now, eight pints of beer later, he was worried he had fucked his chances at making an impression. Their set was still two hours away.
The biggest challenge was going to be staying away from more drink.
In this private space, and probably only here, he could admit that if he stepped out, there was no telling how much more he would drink. Or worse, embarrass himself by having Elle, the bartender at the Plateau, cut him off for barely being able to stand before his band played.
Something about her he didn’t want to disappoint.
Lon thought to himself, nobody uses this bathroom anyways, I’ll just hide in here.
He would check the time, or they would come find him.
Lon stared at himself in the mirror above the sink. Most of its surface had faded to black so he could see little of his own reflection, even less in the light of the dangling single bulb. He stood up straight and tried to turn his look of incapacitation into one of disaffected nonchalance and although he thought he was pulling it off, he put so much focus into the look, he didn’t notice he was bending forward until he head-butted the mirror and cracked it down the middle, separating it into an upper and lower half.
Lon shook off the impact with a few choice expletives and rubbed his face hard with both hands. A perfect line of blood streamed down the narrow ridge of his nose before beading off the barbell in his septum, dripping into the sink, pooling in the flaky rust of the drain. When he opened his eyes, in the bottom half of the mirror, two people had appeared behind him, a woman sitting on top of the toilet tank, carving into the wall beside her as someone, what looked like a dark smudge in the desilvered mirror, had their hand down the front of her impossibly tight jeans, forcing her to arch her back. Lon was already shouting at them to fuck off as he turned around but when he looked over, the room was empty.
Not trusting his eyes, nor his depth perception, he swung his arm to see if it would catch on something but nothing. The momentum of his arm kept him spinning until he fell backwards onto the toilet. He could swear he had sunk several inches into the soft flooring. The room was empty. He looked beside him, squinting at what was scratched into the wall.
Growing antlers must feel like this.
As he read the words, a low drone rose up from the flooring. It sounded like the threat of inclement weather and made his spins worse. This wasn’t the other bands. The drone was then joined by the rhythmic banging of a kick drum, every blast seemingly shrinking the room a fraction until Lon was forced to stand again, falling against the sink. A human tongue snaked itself out of the drain, whipping around in circles, basting itself in the blood that had fallen moments earlier. It pulled itself back and a chorus of voices spilled from the drain. It was deafening, a harmony of held notes creating a new kind of vibration at Lon’s temples. He felt the skin stretch and grow thin. When he looked in the mirror, his reflection was not there but the woman was back, her heavy makeup smeared across her face and her 12-point spiked hair crushed against the far wall. She was now surrounded by several of the dark smudges, each standing over her, watching her writhe and curl into herself. Lon could only watch. The pain in his head was so intense, his vision narrowed to a singular point. When the woman opened her eyes, her scream was the last note required to bring the cacophony to a mind splitting resolution. Lon fell backwards into darkness.
Elle held Lon’s face in her hands as he woke from his brief coma. He was both happy and terrified that she was the one holding him. The look in her eye was one of calm and care. Sitting up in the narrow hallway, Elle asked if he felt well enough to play to a couple hundred semi-conscious punks in ten minutes.
The only answer was yes.
He stared back at the door of the bathroom. Elle took his face in her hands again, locked eyes with him and said not to worry about her, that he should just go make some noise.
Patrick Malka (he/him) is a high school science teacher from Montreal, Quebec, where he lives with his partner and two kids. His fiction can be found in Five South’s The Weekly, Nocturne magazine, The Raven Review, Sky Island Journal and most recently at On The Run. He can be found online @PatrickMalka on Twitter and @malkapatrick on Instagram.
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