I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it, but it isn’t natural, is it?

I don’t quite remember when I first had the feelings that brought me here. I suppose I’d first heard about that sort of thing from magazines that I’d found lying around in the haunted house up the street. Pictures of people in strange poses with odd expressions, questions in the playground resulting in nonsense answers about bleeding and teeth falling out, then being shushed at the dinner table. Later, furtive experimentation in bedrooms, then trips into the woods and long walks through graveyards. There were always rumours about some parts of town to be investigated, hurriedly walking past the subject of my otherwise sidling investigation. Then high school, advanced classes at a local college an escape of sorts, and suddenly there was a hint that there were others. I found magazines on the top shelves of shops advertising other shops, other magazines. Old jokes half comprehended were suddenly explained by some new sensation or another. Worries from parents, and a girlfriend or two to calm them down. I brought one of them home to spend the meal horrified, saliva and warm food rushing from her mouth as she talked before swallowing.

I did a lot of reading. My course led me to that quote from Oscar Wilde; “Getting rid of us buggers is difficult work”. The department was quite enlightened about that sort thing, and I started to look at my teachers in a new light, when I could escape the torments of my classmates. I found a society at the local polytechnic hiding behind a noncommittal acronym. Their intentions were a little worrying, but I learned enough from them to find out more. I heard about the laws passed years ago, the various measures in Roman law that some people said would be exceptions, the stuff about tolerance zones, the martyrs, all remotely, ’zines and coded messages in the letter pages of magazines the skeleton of a life. Then I started to hear about a nightclub nearby, somehow operating with the consent of the council. I had to go. I wanted to know if what I felt was real.

The thing of it is, I’d grown up with these feelings after the bathhouse generation had passed on. Any number of relatively famous figures had become skeletal and dropped out of sight, almost all at once. Some blamed a cult, a theory discussed in fetishistic detail in some of the ’zines. Others blamed a disease, a so-called social plague, that would spread from the seedy pickup joints to kill everyone with loose morals, and all because of some damned monkey. Others said that it was a result of population pressure, that it was a sign of the end times. All I knew was that I was interested. Before them, of course, there’d been the conditions that had produced some measure of openness, the riots in New York when they broke the stone wall, shuffling groups on the street milling around. By the time I arrived the first of a new breed were starting to show, professionals in expensive suits and shoes, with winning smiles and a sure touch. They even showed up on television, a far cry from the ghosts I’d tracked through their influence on English Literature. I didn’t realise the connection between the two until I saw an innuendo filled letter turn up in Smash Hits.

I was in a pub in the rougher side of the town next door, deep in sailor country, when I got a flyer for the club. I was still unsure about taking a step over the threshold, nursing my drink, when I heard a rustle behind me. By the time I turned they’d moved through the scrum at the bar, leaving leaflets on the table. Marilyn Monroe stared up at me, and I had to look. The back had the details - members only, proof of age required, admission £5. Not a small amount in those days either. Membership details available on request, it said. Address somewhere closer to the docks than here. As I was reading someone grabbed the flyer from me, and I looked up into the eyes of a drunken pastor, his collar awry. “Be careful young man!” he cried. “They corrupt as they seduce! You’ll be damned if they get your claws into you!” His shouting aggravated the rest of the pub, diligently tracking the football results from the radio. Before he could continue he was ushered into a corner, and quietened with a brandy. I left.

You can find the complete version of I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it, but it isn’t natural, is it? in issue 48 of TBD.

Andrew Robertson