A Fang Fatales Vignette by Bernice Ravji and Shane Lightowler
Mindy tapped Sarah on the shoulder and indicated towards the back of the stadium, the universal signal to all concert goers that she was going to the bathroom. Sarah gave her a thumbs up then turned back to the stage. With practised efficiency, Mindy weaved her way through the heaving crowd of squealing fans, all jostling and craning to get a glimpse of their heroes on the stage. ‘2 become 1’ was thundering through the venue as lasers and lights swept overhead. This was one of Mindy’s least favourite tracks so she was seizing the opportunity. Those three-too-many Red Bulls with Jagermeister at Sarah’s flat beforehand were catching up with her.
Mindy skillfully avoided empty plastic cups, bottles and other assorted pieces of trash as she navigated her route through the seething masses. At one point a girl dressed as a unicorn tripped and fell, but Mindy caught her before any harm was done. The girl checked her horn was still in place, smiled in thanks, and Mindy grinned cheerfully back. Next an older guy, in his late-twenties by the look of him, offered Mindy a pull on his joint. Mindy declined and continued past, then instantly regretted the decision.
Finally, she emerged. Luckily there wasn’t a wait at the bathroom. Everybody must frigging love that song. She rolled her eyes and found a cubicle. Sitting down, she reached into her handbag and found the spare ticket – Kira’s ticket. She’d not even been bothered to send a text. Ghosted again, and on my birthday!
Mindy was suddenly aware that she was wearing a sticky blue plastic sailors hat. She peeled it off. On the hat was a pink star-shaped badge that had the numbers “21” on it, no doubt to match her pink hair. Despite things, iIt made her laugh so she put it back on. Mindy took one final look at Kira’s ticket before tearing it up and flushing it.
When she was done, she opened the cubicle door, washed her hands, and made to leave, only to notice a figure standing in the exitway. The woman was tall with blonde hair, dressed in a blue air hostess uniform with yellow trim. Mindy noticed the woman’s eyes were the same colour as her outfit. The stranger was of indeterminate age and arrestingly beautiful but something about her made Mindy strangely nervous.
“I think you might be at the wrong concert?” said Mindy, trying to be funny.
The tall woman didn’t respond. She walked into the bathroom at her own leisurely pace and asked, “Have you seen a yellow necklace?”
“A yellow necklace, dear. It’s… missing.”
“Oh! Er, I’m not sure?”
The woman regarded Mindy for a moment, turning her head slightly, like a curious puppy might. Then she nodded. “I believe you. “It’s your birthday? Where are your friends?”
“I… yes… um, I’m 21.”
What a stupid fucking thing to say, Mindy berated herself silently. As the tall woman sauntered closer, Mindy felt increasingly calm, her brief embarrassment gone along with the uneasiness she had felt when she first noticed the woman standing in the doorway.
“Yes, it says that on your head.” The woman smiled. It was the most perfect smile Mindy had ever seen. The woman continued through the room and stopped when she reached the far cubicle. Mindy suddenly realised she was staring.
“You know you’re staring?”
Mindy felt her cheeks blush. She giggled. Like a child. Good Lord, what is WRONG with me!?
The woman, still standing outside the cubicle, her hands clutching either side of the door as if she was bracing herself against some overwhelming impulse, turned her head slightly in Mindy’s direction. Her face was… sad. “You’d better go.”
Instantly, Mindy’s feet moved. Some small, distant part of her realised that she didn’t actually decide to leave. She just did. Moving swiftly out the door and back into the crowd as if she was a puppet being directed by some force outside of herself.
“OMG, Mindy! You were gone for like forever! You missed ‘Say You’ll Be There’!”
“I was? I did?” Mindy was suddenly aware of herself again. She was surrounded by her friends again. Sarah, and Sarah’s younger sister Becka. Next to them, Victoria, Mindy’s oldest pal from childhood. The Spice Girls were still up there. It looked like they’d changed outfits. A near-empty cup was in Mindy’s hand that she did not recall ordering, receiving, or drinking. She looked again at her group, they were dancing. The way they were in sync together, like something from a magazine or postcard. A perfect image, somehow frozen in time.
Everything seemed to be moving somehow too slow…or perhaps too fast. She shook her head slightly, trying to clear whatever weird sensation was making her feel like she was moving under water.
“Mindy, what have you been drinking?”
“Nothing, I…” She remembered the blonde woman. “Have you seen a yellow necklace?”
Suddenly, Mindy ran. She pushed her way through the crowd this time, all elbows and eyes forward. When she reached the same bathroom she again arrived to find it empty. Disappointing. She opened the door to the last cubicle, not really knowing what she had intended to or was likely to find. No one there. She noticed a small smear of red on the left side wall. For a heartbeat she stared at the spot, a small frown creasing her brow.
Closing the cubicle door, Mindy turned to head back but an electric bolt ran through her spine in surprise as she saw a woman, but not the woman, standing at one of the sinks. The new woman had definitely not been there a moment ago. Mindy stood dead still. She suddenly became aware of the fluorescent light above her flickering intermittently and the muffled sound of the music outside echoing like the heartbeat of some giant beast in the small, tiled bathroom space. The new woman turned to face her.
“Hello,” said the woman as she touched up her red lipstick. She was wearing dark black leather trousers. They looked painted on, they were so tight. Like Olivia Newton-John in Grease. On top she was wearing a black, gemstone studded jacket with only a bra underneath. She had black hair with a big fringe.
“Hello,” said Mindy, a wave of anxiety rushing through her although her voice was strangely calm. Wooden even. Was she having some kind of stroke? Was this what an out of body experience felt like?
“It’s dangerous to be at these things by yourself, you know.”
“Is it?” asked Mindy, somewhere stuffed into the back of her brain the urgent need to run away was struggling to be heard.
“Not really, I’m just jibing ya.”
“Oh…” Mindy found she could not move even though that ever-fading part of her wanted to very badly. She felt herself flinch as if her muscles were receiving contradictory instructions from her brain.
“Uh-huh, I… I’m..”
“21, got it.” The woman finished her lipstick and puckered her lips a few times. “You wanna come to a party?”
No thank you, I think I’d like to go back to my friends now. “Sure, I love parties!”
“Come on then.” The woman turned and strode purposefully towards the exit. Mindy found herself trailing after her.
“Oh. But my…”
“Don’t worry about your friends. They’re fine. You’re fine.” The woman looked directly at Mindy for the first time. “Everything is fine.”
Mindy was instantly glad that she and her friends were fine. The small part of her that had been screaming a desperate warning since she first noticed the woman was completely overcome by a warm flood of total serenity. “Where’s the party? Also who are you?”
“I’m Eva. You’re really gonna like this party, I promise. We are going to have so much fun.” Eva took Mindy by the hand and together they made their way out of the area and into the night beyond. As they ran Mindy noticed Eva’s necklace. It was beautifully yellow.
“When one has a case of badthink, the only thing for it is a stiff drink.”
That was always one of mum’s favourite sayings. Two sayings in one really, ‘Badthink’ being the other. And that’s where Mindy was right now, right proper badthink. She was aware of being surrounded by people she didn’t recognise. But she couldn’t see any of them properly. She thought of leaving but…
“That’s badthink, darling,” said someone who might have been Eva. Eva’s red lipstick was all over her face now. Kinda suits her, that look, thought Mindy. Someone bumped into her from behind. Mindy felt herself fall. She was pretty sure it was a rough landing. On the ground in front of her was her birthday hat. The plastic was all crumpled but the pink badge was still there. As she lay there, Mindy thought a little bit about the Spice Girls. Had she seen them earlier? Yes, she thought she had. So wonderful. The costumes. There was an itch on her neck that was painful to scratch, so she didn’t.
A man walked past and picked Mindy up. He must have been strong because he used only one hand to lift her. Mindy noticed that he too had red lipstick on his face.
“It’s the Rocky Horror Picture Show, isn’t it?” she said, laughing.
On her feet again, Mindy staggered through a mass of people and suddenly she was in a hallway. There were wooden floors leading to a door. The light shining through the door was burnt orange.
A figure appeared in the door. It was the blonde woman from the bathroom. Mindy felt her heart skip. Then she noticed that the woman’s eyes were black. Eva was standing behind the woman now. Eva’s face was completely red, glistening. Mindy felt like someone was pushing her from behind then, but she looked and saw no one. As she entered the orange room she was crying. There were a lot of people around her now. They all had very long and sharp teeth. Mindy’s last thoughts were of her friends… why hadn’t they come to find her?
Mindy opened her eyes and saw a cat. It was white with green eyes. The cat hissed at her before jumping off the wooden box it had been sitting on. Mindy was startled at the sheer noise of it all, the cat thudding as it landed on the floor. The box fell over and it was the loudest thing ever.
She was in an alleyway. It was night. There were no streetlights nearby but Mindy could see everything very clearly. The moon must be super bright tonight, she thought. To her left, another cat. A black one this time, with long hair. It strode confidently towards Mindy, not scared in the least.
Mindy realised she must have passed out, if only briefly, because suddenly the cat was gone. A woman was there instead. Mindy noticed that her own bare arms were heavily scratched. There were some other wounds too, deeper-looking ones. There was no pain though. Mindy tried to stand, but couldn’t.
“Just rest here a moment,” said the woman. She had a kind voice and long dark hair. “You’ve had a rough night.”
Mindy’s vision suddenly became blurry which caused her to squint. She relaxed back against the brick wall. It felt cold, rough, but not unpleasant. She was acutely aware of the sounds of the woman’s shoes crunching against small pieces of gravel on the ground as the woman crouched down beside her. After a moment, Mindy spoke. Her throat was sore, parched.
“It’s my birthday, you know?”
“So I gathered, yes.”
“How did you know?”
The woman held out Mindy’s pink badge with the number 21 on it. “You were holding onto this something fierce.”
Mindy took the badge. She was going to say thank you but she felt too tired. She noticed a small splotch of red below the woman’s lip. “You’ve got red on you.”
The woman wiped the splotch away with her sleeve, keeping her eyes fixed on Mindy.
“You know,” said the woman quietly, so that no one else, even if they’d happened to be listening very carefully, could hear her. “I’m 21 as well. Sort of. How about that?”
Mindy frowned, ‘How can you be sort of 21? You either are or you aren’t.”
The woman chuckled, again quietly. “It’s a little complicated but I promise I’ll explain it to you later.”
In the distance Mindy noticed a light come on, someone’s bedroom window. The light was orange. Mindy shuddered. Feeling cold, she drew her knees up to her chest. She noticed that there were less scratches on her arms and legs than there had been before. “I’m Mindy.”
The woman reached her hand out. “My name is Cassandra. I’m going to take you somewhere safe.”
As Mindy took her hand she knew from the sound of her new friend’s voice that Cassandra was telling the truth. As they began to make their way out of the alleyway, Cassandra supporting Mindy with a strength that belied her relatively slight frame, Mindy turned to the other woman.
Mindy heard a small involuntary sound of discomfort escape from her own throat, “I’m really hungry. Like, super crazy hungry.”
She heard Cassandra heave a deep sigh, “I know you are, Mindy. Don’t worry, we’ll get you something to eat very soon.
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