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Sooner than Now Zachary Colbert

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The End.

Someone's graffitied over the original tag line so it now reads "Wish you wereNT here." I sip our bitter Cafe Nero crappuccino and stare at the glossy holiday brochure depicting a white sandy beach with crystal clear waters on one side and perfect palm trees on the other. "Wish you wereNT here." Gatwick Airport, North Terminal, 6.14am and I’d much rather be here than where I was. My head kills, it feels like the dancefloor of Fabric after a heavy weekend. Two cracked ribs constantly ache as a dull, painful reminder, until we try to turn too quickly and it switches to a sharp spiteful pang of agony making me wince uncontrollably. I can’t stop tonguing the loose tooth in the back of my mouth and the taste of blood fills my throat again. A pair of wonky Aviators hide my black eye. I did my best to get the swelling down with frozen peas and we're not ashamed to say the worst bruising is covered with her foundation. A straw hat hides the six stitches in the back of my head where we hit the curb. I’m a train wreck. I scroll mindlessly through my iPod menu. Arctic Monkeys turn into Bloc Party's "Helicopter" and Kele Okereke asks, “are you hoping for a miracle?” Hell yeah I am. We’re a bomb site. Our own little warzone. A puppet falling apart. I’m never going to get through security like this. I pray. I don't know who to. "Wish you wereNT here." I'm trying to figure out how the fuck we got here. I mean, I know how we got here but at what point did it all go so wrong? Maybe I’ve always been destined for a desperate escape. Maybe not. Either way, the catalyst for our current predicament was

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probably the beginning, The Beard's freshers party.

Chapter 1.

I walk up the Old Stein and get to the house party just before 1am. A deviant green glow baths the single-speed bikes lined up outside. It takes five excited minutes for someone to hear the bell and buzz me up. The door’s been left on the latch and it swings open effortlessly. The flat's full of flesh, shoes and hip apathy. Girls in little more than primary coloured bikinis and high-vis vests, prance around the high-ceilinged room, shaking their fists and stomping their Converse clad feet to Crystal Castles. The abrasive, high-pitched female vocals shrill desperately over Tetris and Super Mario sound-effects. Boys flick their floppy, asymmetrical hair as neon lasers cut through the smoke to illuminate the slick writhing bodies in a poisoned fluorescence. I don't recognise anyone, but why would I, I’ve only been down here a few days. "Bonjour Esser." Thats me. Duddlyheath Esser. My parents

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never gave me a chance. "Easy Page." She invited me. She’s not French but she does like to use the odd phrase to simulate sophistication. I met her on my media course through a shared interest in being late. She's looking fit in a lemon yellow Boxfresh jacket nearly half unzipped, under which she possibly has nothing else on. She’s smoking a Vogue and the glitter gold lettering of her Adidas Ecstasy high-tops twinkle in the dark like a diamond in the scuff. She leads me through the heaving crowd, a mass of sweaty, well dressed spectres, and we sit on a black leather sofa. M.I.A turns into Santogold. I skin up a spliff. Page cuts lines of coke on a compact mirror. “Get involved babes?” She asks seductively. “Nah, I'm broke.” “No worries, these are on me.” “Safe.” “You skint then?” She snorts. “Cold stinking.” I snort. “What about your student loan? “I’ve been well slack, haven’t even filled out the forms yet.” “You might wana get on that. Why don’t you just get a student account?” “I’ve nearly maxed it out.” “Already?” She says, almost impressed, then adds, “you can have more than one.” “How?” “Just don’t tell ‘em about each other.” “Like spouses.” “Innit.” “… I don’t wanna owe any more money to the bank.” I say.

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“I can make a bit of extra mula by serving up for the Beard.” “The Beard?” “Yeah it’s his soirée.” She gestures to the decadent scene in front of us and says, “They call him the merchant of hedonism.” “Who call him?” “…They...” She motions again. “…And this merchant can get me a job?” “Defo babes, like courier or something.” Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not some na ïve, country-bumpkin, but I’m also not really up for selling drugs. “I can’t be arsed with dealing.” I say. “Not dealing Esser, just… facilitating. Anyway, for fuck-sake, what’s wrong with dealing? Dealers are not the despicable characters police and parents and the media make them out to be, they don't loiter around street corners selling crack to kids under the flickering light of a broken street lamp. They come in all shapes and sizes and simply provide a public service.” “Like a public toilet.” I say, quite pleased with myself. "Whatever. Think about it, why waste money on drugs when you can make money on drugs? You’re gonna be doing them, as is everyone else, why not make some paper while getting fuckt up?" I’m dubious but I do need the money, even when my student loan does come in it won’t cover the cost of my tuition fees, rent and a drinking habit. And Page’s logic’s not bad either. Plus, serving up would keep me tight with her so yeah I’ll sell drugs to get in with a fit girl, my principles are fast and loose. I see G materialize from the UV montage, he swaggers over to the sofa with a couple of Kronenbourgs and a rollie hanging from his lips. And this comprises the long list of people I know down here, Page and G. “Easy ma man!” He shouts, planting two purple pills in my palm. They

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have double cherries on them. “Page.” He says with feigned suave and gives her the same then passes me a cold can of Kronenbourg and we all double drop with a wash of beer. G borrows Page’s lighter which says “Buy your own fucking lighter.” He sparks his rollie and then pockets the lighter. The Ting Tings turn into Little Boots. We make our way into the epicenter of iridescent depravity. Red Rayban wayfarers are in. So are black leggings and white brogues, but not necessarily together. We dance for a bit, Page disappears, probably to the toilet to do more coke. G introduces me to Ben and V. Ben has a handlebar moustache and pointy shoes. He looks like he's tried sucking cock at least once. V’s in a long caption t-shirt dress that reads “Save the Children.” I hope they’re not together. Page returns and seems to know Ben and V. She’s set up an ominous meeting with the Beard. Wiley turns into Lethal Bizzle. “Come with me Esser.” Page takes my hand and I follow her fine arse through the throng of vivid colours. These double cherries are wicked. I’ve come up already, head’s spinning and pupils swimming. I lose myself for a moment, mesmerized by the dark mahogany door, captivated in the knots of twisting wood working their way up and down. “You good babes?” Asks Page, looking at me expectantly. “Dandy.” I say, snapping out of it. The door opens into a hazy den of inequity. Dark dubstep forebodes in the background. Moody hip-hop heads in flat peaked caps that still have their store labels on, stare unflinchingly through me. I shrink. The Beard’s got a flat peaked Kangol cap hiding ginger hair, ‘strawberry blonde’ Page will tell me later. He’s sitting in a Victorian armchair wearing a white bathrobe. I hope he's got underwear on. Behind him stands a guy called Tyni. Tyni, a ridiculous hiphop name purposefully spelt wrong with Postmodern irony. He's a gargantuan cross between Chewbacca and Lurch. I resent him immediately, hogging all the height with his six foot five stance. I wouldn't say any of this to his face of

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course. There’s a coffee table that has an upturned, ornately framed mirror for its surface. Along one side sits a long beige sofa and towers of vinyl stacked and pushed up against the walls, but I don’t see any turntables. Above the art deco fireplace hangs a Banksy print of a London policeman snorting a line of coke off the pavement. Round the far corner there’s an on-suite bathroom with black marble surfaces on which hundreds, maybe thousands of purple pills are being counted by a couple of hot, half naked skets wearing Burberry bikinis who don’t even bother to acknowledge us, they just keep counting. You don’t normally see this kind of unsolicited, gratuitous glamour unless it’s framed. The Bug turns into Burial. The extras laugh maniacally at a YouTube video of a midget fight on Jeremy Kyle. “Are those girls in just their kaks so they can’t rob anything? Like in American Gangster?” I ask. “Nah babes, its coz they look buff like that.” Answers Page. "Have a seat Esser." Says The Beard, gesturing to the sofa. Tyni remains standing behind him, alternating his glare between Page and I, like we’ve shied him somehow. "So what can I do you for this evening?" Asks the Beard presently. “Um, yeah…” I start “Esser wants to tic some beans.” Interjects Page. “Ok trooper, what’s your business down here in my beautiful Brightopia?” “Just moved down for uni.” “Excellent, our operation can always do with more prongs in the student cattle market. Have you got a lot of connects?” “Oh yeah babes, he’s a right little social butterfly.” “Can’t he talk for himself Page?” Snaps the Beard. Actually I wish Page would talk for me, I think those double cherries are getting the better of me, my jaw’s tensing up and I think I’ve been grinding my

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teeth. Plus, I’m trying to work out whether it’s sexual tension between the Beard and Page or if they’re both just really coked-up. Skream turns into Bong Ra. “Do you believe in Karma, Esser?” Asks The Beard shifting position in his chair. The more he moves the more the rope of his bathrobe becomes loose and reveals increasing amounts of his hairy pale chicken legs. "What?" I say. "Karma." Repeats the Beard mechanically. "…I, err. I have faith in a natural balance." Why’s he asking me about Karma? The Beard ponders my answer while cutting some generous lines on the mirror-table. "Well you’re not wrong. Karma is basically causality, and I believe that with enough will and determination we can make our own Karma." And he punctuates the point with a slow controlled snort. “Empowered.” I mumble staring at myself in the mirror, my face dissected by a long white airstrip. “But isn’t the idea of Karma that positive actions garner good consequences?” “Even so, the very idea of good and bad is so subjective, who’s to say what good and bad is? Our judicial system? Or the morality conditioned on us by society? My definition of good and bad differs greatly to that of the authorities or lawyers and the like but that doesn’t necessarily make it any less true. If we project a positive mental attitude and always maintain that the world is ours for the taking, then it is.” “Alright, but don’t you think there are forces in the world out of our control?” “Esser, you’re talking with the voice of a determinist. You’ve got to take responsibility for your actions.” “A determinist?”

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“Determinism, it’s the theory that everything that happens in the world is preordained by the laws of nature.” He exhales smoke in his element. “But that’s just a defeatest excuse. It’s obvious we have freewill. I choose to give you my product on loan and with that act of faith I shall reap rewards later. I don’t have to loan you my product, and I’m free to choose not to if I so wish but I think it’s a positive move and my world will be better for it.” His theories are all bent, determinism sounds like causality, but it’s no time to be correcting a dealer’s ideological understanding. “Yeah safe, but I’m saying like earthquakes, tsunamis and natural disasters, there’s nothing we can do about that stuff is there?” “Well when a butterfly flaps its wings in England there’s a hurricane in Australia. The subtlest of actions can have the most profound consequences.” I catch Tyni rolling his eyes at Page and her sharing the sentiment. I think I share their sentiment too. The Beard chucks me a baggy brimming with hundreds of pills. They’re big white triangles, rounded off at the corners, like lots of engorged Smints. "You ask and you shall receive. Move all those and come see me in a week.” He leans back in his chair. I can see the inner workings of his white thighs now, the bathrobe's dangerously close to opening completely. "Ehm. Thanks." Is all I can think to say, trying to stare down at the bag rather than the Beard and his inadequate bathrobe. "No need for thanks trooper, it was my choice remember.” Replies the Beard. He says shifting position again to go back to cutting up coke. The rope loosens further, his bathrobe opens and no, he's not wearing any underwear, just some ginger pubes giving his dick an orange beard. “Come on, let’s get me drunk.” Says Page, brushing my forearm. I get up, wobbling like a bassline as my head rushes from the double cherries and I subsequently slip on a copy of Escort magazine. I catch both the Beard’s and Tyni’s glower as we exit with a half dozen daggers being stared into our

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backs. Who the fuck buys magazines these days? “How many little uns are here?” I ask, condemningly holding up the bag at Page once we’re out of the Beard’s room. “I dunno babes, like, five ton.” “What-the-fuck Page?! I don’t want five hundred pills.” “Relax Lady Blah Blah, I’ll help you get rid of them. Anyway that’s, like, a grands worth.” “…How much do we owe the Beard?” “Well you owe him half a G.” “Great.” “Esser, look around, it’s not gonna be hard to move these.” I survey the scene. New ravers body-pop next to the self-conscious shuffling of emos. Art school dropouts twitch next to the swaying of wicker skirt bohos. Everyone’s looking casually insatiable in their own little subculture. Page introduces me to more people. Tom, Dick and Harry, all chavs in Nike caps and Reebok Classics. A girl called Elle, Page informs me its just ‘L’, she’s fit in a tight, white Warehouse top, that says “Come back to MySpace and Twitter all over my Facebook.” Shame she’s hanging on the limp arm of Ben. There’s a guy called DJ Praiz and some other guy who runs a music blog called 20 Jazz Funk Greats, which was recently voted one of the top ten music blogs by Dazed and Confused magazine. Bloc Party are muted on the flat screen TV mounted on the wall, Kele Okereke sings to someone behind me, looking at the space above my head his attention is focused on an unintentional anybody and I look round to find them. When the word is out that I’ve got hundreds of high-grade pills I don’t need Page to meet people, everyone introduces themselves to me. Drug induced popularity. It’s false, but flattering so I don’t care. I’m high and chatty, talking to a blonde Norwegian girl about the Vikings and London Bridge. She’s attractive enough, a bit chubby and bubbly but with her extensive heritage knowledge and the ecstasy

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I’m wondering how to get her back to mine. Then as soon as I’m getting ahead of myself and assuming a lay she drops the boyfriend bomb. That one killer word made up of two passive nouns that make you regret all the time and energy just wasted listening. Some young blonde girl picks up but I don't quite catch her name. "She's fit." I say to Page. "She aint fit babes, that's sweaty Betty." Replies Page stamping out another cigarette on the parquet flooring. "Isn't her name Betsy?" Says L. "Who gives a fuck? Betty rhymes better, didn't you see those patches under her arms? She's sweatier than a paedo in a fucking playground." "That's pretty harsh Page." I say. "Harsh but fair Esser. Rumor has it her boyfriend was fucking her up the dirt track and got shit on his dick and made her lick it off. Anyway fuck that come with me." Page abruptly grabs my hand and drags me to the toilet. The clinical monochrome surfaces provide some brief respite from the relentless fun outside. She sits on the closed toilet seat and looks at me in the mirror while unfolding her wrap of coke. Well, probably the Beards coke. When girls look this fit they never have to pay for drugs. I wish I was a woman. She picks up a Mach3 razor from the sink and expertly dismantles it taking out a single blade. It's not until she's done a couple of lines that she looks at me directly and asks. “So how much have you been shotting them at?” “Um, like, five for a tenner.” “What?! We’re not a fucking charity Esser. If you wanna make some decent profit it’s three for a tenner. Maybe four for a tenner, if you’re feeling particularly frivolous.” “But everyone's been…” I give up with my defense, she’s not listening,

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she's checking herself in the mirror and reapplying her UV makeup to her wing-mirror cheekbones. “Trust me babes” she kisses me on the corner of my mouth “and you’ll make a lot of mula and a lot of mates. Now come on, there’s work to be done.” The top of a lacey white thong pokes out from her jet-black Miss Sixty jeans as she leaves the sanctuary and heads back into dazzling debauchery. I can’t help but follow. CSS turns into Dizzy Rascal. V body-swerves some guy in navy Evisu jeans and approaches me with a demure smile. “So Esser, you down here studying?” I think this is the first time in the last few hours that someone’s talked to me without an ecstasy agenda. “I've just started a media degree.” “How you finding it?” Her voice is slightly husky but still sweet, like sand soaked in honey. “Not bad, but they’re hitting us with essays already, and I hate writing.” “Yeah I’ve got one I’m writing for my photography course.” “Oh yeah, what’s it about?” “The corrosive role of photography in the affluent mass-media of the 21st Century, referring particularly to the work of Susan Sontag.” “Savage, but it sounds like you’ve got it figured out, maybe you could help me with mine?” “Yeah maybe.” V nods. “Yeah maybe?” I repeat, “What’s that a yes or a maybe?” “I dunno, you’ll have to call me and find out.” Awesome, she’s well fit. She looks a bit like Alexa Chung but with more of a button nose, bigger breasts and sparking a Marlboro Menthol. We swap digits. I catch Page shooting me a frown. Ben and L join us. They’re both soaking in sweat or alcohol, or both, their skin showing through their now translucent tops.

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“Oh my days, those pills are tasty Esser!” Gerns Ben over the din. “Yeah they’re sick.” Everyone looks beautiful. Hugging is definitely in. Just the simple act of smoking seems jubilantly satisfying, like a perfectly synchronized sequence. Bring the soft butt to my lips and inhale slowly. Feel every tendril of smoke flow down my throat and fill my lungs, then release the cloudy beast back into the wild. “You got any more?” He asks. Who asks? And we’re back in the room, and it’s Ben. “Fully Ben, how many do you want?” “Ten for twenty quid?” “Sorry man, I can only give you eight for twenty.” “But you sold me five for a tenner earlier.” “Yeah, that was just an introductory offer, to reel you in.” “… It worked.” He smiles through clenched teeth. I fight back a yawn. My wallet’s bulging but my body’s drained. Page disappears again. V's being chat-up by some graphic design student wearing a Fred Perry polo shirt and a pair of pristine white Dunlop plimpsols. Neon Neon turn into Metronomy. My eyelids are drooping. This is getting long. I see Tyni leave. Page emerges. "You wanna get some air babes?" She asks. "Yeah safe." As I exit I catch eye contact with V, the graphics student still rabbitting in her ear. I mime, “I’ll call you" with a finger-thumb telephone to my ear and she nods. Safe. Fresh air is amazing. I take a long deep breath and we walk over to the Level and sit on the skate ramps. Page is smoking a Vogue and talking about the Beard and money and fair trade. I try to smother another yawn. "Am I boring you Esser?" "I dunno, I wasn't really listening." "Fuck off." She says with a playful push.

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"Nah, sorry, I’m just knackered." "Go home then." She gently kisses my upper lip, slides down the ramp and heads back the way we came, towards bright lights and loud sirens. I hail a cab. At home Koop turns into Little Dragon and I empty my Eastpak rucksack. There’s a lot of money and a lot of pills. It doesn’t look like tonight’s damaged them at all. They’re very intimidating. There’s far more than five hundred here. I count the money. Nearly three hundred pounds. Wicked, I guess. I've never made so much money in such a short space of time, all for just getting messy and chewing the fat. It doesn’t seem fair, it’s like cheating. But I was just helping people have a good time, so what’s wrong with that? My bed is a welcome retreat. I skin-up a spliff, smoke half and drift off. Sleep is good.

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Chapter 2.

I wake up around noon. Harsh rays of sunlight beam through my venetian blinds and abuse my unsuspecting eyelids. The hairs on the nape of my neck rise to attention, saluting the sun. I rub the sleep from my eyes and feel pretty good. I roll around in bed, wrapping myself in the duvet and experiencing the most sensational comfort ever. Once I’m ready to get vertical I spring out of bed like a kid on Ritalin. I haven’t enjoyed pulling the curtains apart since the first day of summer holidays in year six. Glorious sunlight floods my room. Pills are great, I’ve got no hangover and the thought of facing another day seems like an exciting opportunity rather than a daunting obligation. I drink a pint of water and sign into Last.fm where Bonobo turns into Blockhead. Resisting the temptation to smoke the half-spliff sitting in my ashtray I put the kettle on and have breakfast; Frosties mixed with Coco-Pops, beans on toast and an orange. Breakfast of Champions. Text Page “U in? x” and start tidying my room, which doesn’t take long because it’s still not fully furnished. I make my bed and sort out the clutter on my desk, which constitutes throwing away unopened bank statements and forms for the student loan company. I chuck most of my unwashed clothes into a dilapidated canvas cupboard. I reckon minimalism is an easy way to achieve a positive feng-shui. I look at the top drawer of my desk and think about all the money in it. I want to count it again, I can’t really remember how much is there. But at the same time it feels safer to leave it shut in the drawer. Drug money. Instead I check Facebook. I’ve got seventeen new notifications, that’s

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a record. Fuck-loads of friend requests, all people from last night I presume. Message G back, write on V’s wall and update my status to 'is hanging'. I sign out and head to Page’s. After a few minutes wait, she opens the door. “How much mula did we make last night?” “Good morning to you too Page.” This is my first visit to her place. Empty Lambrini bottles are dotted throughout the front room, as are ashtrays and mini skirts. It’s like a Manchester morgue of good times. She’s in ripped denim hot pants and a shirt that says “who the fuck is Harry Potter?” and she’s looking surprisingly perky considering last nights shenanigans. Ladytron turns into Nightmares on Wax with Big Brother muted on T4. The house mates are lounging around the living room. “Anyway, what’s all this we talk? I made around two ton.” I’m reluctant to give her the full figure for some reason. That’d be greed I guess. “We, I, fuck the semantics without me you wouldn’t have made any… So I want at least twenty percent.” “What’re you, my agent?” “No babes, agents make ten, managers make twenty.” She replies indignantly, exhaling smoke with a silent ‘fuck you.’ “Well before you get a cut, I’ve gotta pay the Beard back.” “No, you don’t.” “Of course I do.” “Non non non monsieur. You left in the nick of time last night.” “What d’you mean?” “The Beard got busted.” She makes no effort to hide the smile on her face. “What?!” “His party was raided. The police rushed in all shouting and shit, like something straight off ‘Police, Camera, Action’, I half expected a camera crew

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to come in with them. They held everyone there until they confiscated all the drugs, which took till dawn and then they dragged the Beard out in handcuffs.” “…Deep.” “Deep? Fucking deep? This is a touch Esser. Now we’ve got a little less than a thousand beans that we don’t have to pay for.” “I knew there were more than five hundred!” “Of course there were, and now they’re all pure profit.” The default Nokia text message tone keeps chiming from her mobile phone. “…It’s too good to be true.” “Well believe it babes.” She says running her index finger under my chin. “The Beard’s gonna be out the picture for a while.” “How long?” "Well, considering he had just reloaded… Plus the fact that everyone at the party was on his drugs, so there's no doubt of intention to supply… He's probably looking at like, eight or nine years, with a minimum of serving five...” She says triumphantly. “And sooo, with the stock that we have from last night, we’re looking at making well over three grand." “That amount of dirty money will never go unnoticed Page.” “Always with the worrying Esser.” She slides behind me and gently massages my shoulders, whispering in my ear. “Loosen up, it’s all good. The Beards behind bars and we’re in the flush with enough ecstasy to get the Titanic high.” Page's phone rings, a hideous polyphonic tone of some Girls Allowed tune. She says “yeah” six times, followed by "OK" and then hangs up. “Who that?” I ask. “How many beans you got on you?” “About a ton.” “Good, let’s bounce, we’ve got business on the beach.”

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We walk through town and Page seems to know every other person. Pierced-up punks, urban hippies, fine-art hipsters, goths and rockers. They all look so well defined. All milling, cruising and bimbling about boutiques, and cult comic book shops followed by the odd quirky pub. Obligatory small talk about the weekend pre-emanates the real purpose of all these encounters. Drugs and money, drugs and money. In the North Laines there’s a tight rope walking violinist. I chuck some silver into the bowler hat below him. The beach is packed, drenched in golden sunlight and bare skin. Pretty girls and pretty boys parade themselves from pier to pier. We meet our targets in front of the Fortune of War pub. It’s a group of good looking trendies, wearing trilbies and tight pipe jeans. Maybe I should get some pipe jeans, although they’d probably draw to much attention to my chicken legs. Names fly at me from all directions. Sarah, Voytek, who looks like DJ Praiz from last night, Ursula, K.T, Maya, Not-Gay-Tom, Roxy and Rain, who looks a bit too slim. If they’re not students they’re either producers, DJ’s or club promoters. As well as some members of a Brighton based nu wave band called Maths Class. Everyone’s smoking Marlboro Lights and one of the girls is reading a Heat article entitled “Why Sex With My Sister is the Best Ever” and she’s giggling quietly to herself. I sell thirty pills before I even sit down and knock one back with a long sip of Corona thinking about how much I love Brighton. Trust, it beats the shit out of chavvy suburbia. I want to call V, but I don’t. I could at least text her. I don’t. Page is on my left taking off her scarf. “Why d’you need a scarf in this weather?” I ask. “Fashion babes.” And she chucks it over my face. It feels nice. I take it off slowly, letting the soft satin flow down my cheeks and brush over my lips. “What ya doin’ Esser?” “Just appreciating fashion.” “Safe, but appreciate it without your lips yeah?” And she whips it back and it glides away between my fingers.

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G turns up and slumps disconsolately next to me then proceeds to throw pebbles at other pebbles. "Whassup G?" "... If my dick doesn't make itself useful soon, my bollox are gonna pack up their testosterone and leave." "No joy last night then?" "About as much joy as the holocaust." "Ouch. What you on tonight?" "Probably go Devotion with this lot. Up for it?" "Yeah fully." "Bring a lot of pills, you'll make a lot of money." He says. "And the music?" "Oh, drum & bass, breakbeat, probably dubstep." "Who’s playing?" “It’s an odd one, like Pendulum, Reso and DJ Q I think. “Safe.” I say not really knowing if that’s a good line-up or not. I look out to sea and it winks back at me with a thousand glinting eyes. The tide’s coming in.

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Chapter 3.

I can hear the bass rolling out of the club from half way down Madiera Drive. The muffled sound of anticipation reverberates through the doors and windows. The Concorde 2 is bursting at the seams like the busty brunette in the queue. Lead by Page we skip the heckling line of frustrated punters and head straight for the main bouncer, who's name Page tells me, is Lucifer. "I know him." She says. Know him, blow him, tomato, tomato. Fuck it, we're in and unsearched. I’ve put the pills in Tictac boxes, I don’t really know why, it seemed like the most logical receptacle during our drunken pit stop at Tesco Express. In the front room Stimpy turns Noisia into Friction. The molotov crowd’s made up of rudeboys, pikies and townies sprinkled with the odd emo kid and just enough fit girls to keep the less than reputable characters happy and horny. It’s all Nike caps and Ben Sherman shirts. But what do you expect from a drum and bass night called Devotion? High Contrast turns into London Electricity. There's a five man wait at the bar but this doesn't dissuade Page who slips around the side and flirts with the barman to get us two cans of Red Stripe. Before we can make it to the main room I’ve made sixty quid. “Pendulum’s headlining.” Page tells me. “When’s he on?” “In about an hour.” I can hardly hear what she says. Green lasers cut through the smoky space above our heads and

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silhouetted hands reach up to touch the intangible surfaces of toxic light. Brockie turns into Bad Company. Page has drifted towards the front of the stage with a loyal following of sweaty heads gurning after her. I double drop and brock out for a bit. Soon people are drawn to me by some primal party instinct. “Ya got any pills mate? Ya got any pills? Ya got any pills mate?” It’s annoying, but also flattering. Sorting people out, there’s control there, a power trip on spreading the love. Plus there’s enough fit raver girls picking up which puts me in the perfect position to pull. I make sure I stay in the middle of the dancefloor, well hidden from the closest bouncer at the side door on my left. As long as I keep half an eye out it’s well easy. Then a tap on the shoulder I wasn’t expecting. “…Shit. Alright… Tyni, is it?” I stutter. “Outside.” He orders with his fried breakfast bulk towering over me. He won’t start anything here, too many people, too many bouncers, surely. We exit via the double doors to the right of the stage where the dehydrated raving elite are leaning on the outside of the club, gasping for air and pumping their tops in a desperate bid to cool themselves down. I wipe the sweat from my forehead and notice an unhealthy river flowing down the back of Tyni’s Stussy T-shirt. “You owe me a monkey blud.” He barks, lighting a B&H Gold. “I owe the Beard.” “And I’m his debt collector.” “…I’ve got till Friday.” “’Fraid not dickhead. Coz the Beard's been banged up you’ve now got three days, and I want what you’ve already made, right-the-fuck-now.” He bears down on me blowing smoke in my face. “Well… I haven’t really made much… yet.” His massive paw clamps around my neck and shoves me against the wall.

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“Don’t. Fucking. Lie. Not only do you owe me a whole G, you’re also the prime suspect for the fucking raid last night.” “What the fuck?! I wasn’t even there!” “Exactly! You tic a thousand beans and then breeze out just before the pigs turn up. Ain’t that a bit convenient blud?” He growls and flicks his half smoked cigarette into the darkness. I don’t like that he keeps sayng blood. “How come you’re not locked up with him? I saw you leave right before I did.” I protest. “Shut-the-fuck-up-you-little-cunt.” He states, bobbing his head to give the words a rhythmic beat. With his yeti hand still tight around my throat and a grinding bassline pounding through the wall from inside, Tyni fishes around in my back pocket and pulls out a crumpled bunch of notes. “I’ll be taking this. And seeing as you obviously do have some beans on you, we’ll link up out front when the last tune drops and you’ll give me whatever you make from tonight. Clear?” “…Crystal.” I choke. Inside Page is pulling some skinhead and I glare disapprovingly but she’s too involved in his tonsils to notice so I take a wander to the back-room chill-out area. I see G in his Liam Gallagher outfit, hassling people for Rizla, the people being Maya and the fit trendsetters from the beach earlier. You know the six degrees of separation rule, where everyone knows everyone in six steps? Well in Brighton it seems more like two degrees of separation. Maya doesn’t acknowledge me, she’s sitting on a plastic chair hugging her knees so her skirt rides high and she’s flashing her white thong at anyone lucky enough to notice. “Esser ma man!” “Easy G.” “You still stocked?” “Yeah.”

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“Fantastic mate… Now, I don’t technically have any cash on me, but we could trade, narc for narc?” “Sure, whatcha got?” “Banging beak.” “Alright, let’s loo.” “Safe.” The toilet is a pleasant escape. G unwraps about an eighth of coke from a flyer and cuts a couple of hefty lines on the cistern while I place a couple of freebies on his tongue and feed him some Red Stripe. We take it in turns to snort. “How’d you know Maya?” I ask. “Dunno… friends of acquaintances of friends.” “Right. She’s pretty fit.” “Yeah, she’s hot.” He says turning to unzip his flies. “But… big feet.” “... I hadn’t noticed.” “You will… God damn it man!” He strains. “I’m pisstipated! Fucking drugs, what’s a guy gotta do to take a piss?” “Relax G.” I say putting a sympathetic hand on his shoulder. “When it’s time, you will go.” “…Nnh. So, did you come with Page?” He asks, straining. “Yeah.” “Where’s she at?” “Half way down some chav’s esophagus.” “Fucking slut-bucket.” “Sucking lemons G?” “And you’re not?” “…Touché.” I answer. “So the Beard’s banged up.” He says. “How’d you know?”

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“Everybody knows.” “Oh. Yeah, yeah he is.” “Who’d you think squealed?” “No one, pigs just turned up.” “Pigs never just turn up Esser.” “It was a coincidence.” “No such thing as coincidence ma man, only consequence.” We head back to the chill-out area where Maya’s arguing with Voytek or DJ Praiz about Pendulums set. “See, Tarantula. I told you!” He shouts. “They're shit mate, they’ll only play their own tunes, mostly from 'In Silico', then every other track, they drop Tarantula.” “Why not, it’s a good tune?” Asks Maya, struggling to skin up a rollie as her fingers shake. “It was a good tune, about 4 years ago, but after you’ve heard it thirty times a night, every night, it starts to grate on you.” “Masochist was a good tune.” She says. “Masochist was a good tune. Before they went all electric guitars and drum snares, before it became drum and bass rock for dancefloor grungers.” “Come on bass-snobs, capé pm.” Appeals G. I’m thinking I need to leave before the end and duck Tyni. He’s already robbed me of a ton. Well, not really robbed, seeing as I did owe it to the Beard, but it sure feel like I’ve been robbed. So we head to the main room where the jam-packed crowd are chanting “Tarantulaaa!” and stabbing the air with gun fingers. We weave through the endless mass of screw faces and I’m tired of getting elbowed in the ribs and tripping over pikey’s feet so I make for the front room. I think I see Page, I wonder what V’s doing. I get a Red Stripe from the bar and discreetly sort out who I think are Tom, Dick and Harry, but can’t be

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sure. Everyone’s faces are gaunt with thin skin stretched over their prominent skeletons like wet latex over faded steel. I hope I don’t look that bad. I clock Page exiting via pikey piggy-back. “Bon soir babes!” She shouts. I just nod and get back to aimlessly searching through my mobile’s inbox although I know there are no new messages. “She’s off then.” Says G sidling up beside me. “Looks like it.” “What about you?” “Duno, havn’t thought that far ahead. I’ve gotta go soon though and duck Tyni.” I say. “Cool, come to Maya’s place for some post-apocalyptic wind-down?” “Safe, if that’s cool with Maya?” “Maya!” Shouts G. “Is it cool if Esser joins us?” Maya rolls her eyes and turns to G, then looks at me quizzically. “…Why not. You’re Page’s new dealer right?” “…I’m her new friend.” “Yeah, ok.” She says getting three for a tenner.

Maya’s place is in Kemp Town, something Mews or Muse. People sit, lay and perch wherever they can. It’s basically the same group of trendies, plus Ben and L, who I didn’t see at Devotion but may well have been there. Are they together? Fit girls do go for gay guys. I’m not really sure of anyone else’s name so I resort to calling people mate, man and pal. Some pal’s just ordered two crates of Oranjeboum and Strongbow, two bottles of Smirnoff and three bottles of coke from Booze Brothers, they deliver. If you’re not smoking a spliff you’re rolling one, and if you’re not snorting a line, you’re cutting one. Four Tet turns into Aphex Twin. You know those Kanye West sunglasses that are just slits of plastic? They’re in. So are lapels. The guys from Maths Class

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all have different colours of the same style pipe jeans. Except the drummer who’s in an aqua blue suit with lime green leg warmers and crisp white Reebok high-tops. He looks good. There’s a girl from an art collective called ‘Daa’. They squat abandoned buildings and put on exhibitions. She’s currently living in an empty hotel in Mayfair. People give me the time of day as long as I give them pills and listen to self-appointed critics battle it out. “Trust Esser, everyone's on a post punk nu-rave tip mate.” “Nah man, everyone’s listening to nerdcore-glitch with like, four by four basslines.” Another tells me. I nod along making encouraging sounds but never fully committing to anything. I think Maya’s making eyes at me, but I’m not certain because I’m feeling pretty fuckt and having trouble focusing, plus she hasn’t really looked at me since the club when she was picking up pills. Square Pusher turns into Prefuse 73. There’s a mirror being passed around as a chemical launch pad and I catch my reflection. I need to go to the toilet, fix up and look sharp. Not before a line though. I’ve never done MDMA before, I hope it doesn’t hurt. Fuck! It hurts! It fucking hurts. My nostril is on fucking fire. It feels like inhaling the whole of the western world’s toxic waste up your nose in one go. I think my septum might fall out. I don’t wanna do this again. I probably will though. The toilet is a sanctuary. I check the wad of twenties and tens spilling out of my pocket. I can't be bothered to count it now. It looks about right, minus the ton Tyni stole off me. No, not stole, I owed it. But it’s drug money, it’s illegitimate funds so surely the rules of ownership are different? Fuck it. Pissing is awesome. I barely think about Page, or V. Just as I finish shaking off and zipping up the door opens slowly. "Sorry… I’m just about done." "Don't be." Says Maya, closing the door behind her. Don’t be? What the fuck does that mean, keep pissing? She pushes up against me and our mouths are one. She shoves her tongue to the back of my

26


throat. I’m pulling her top over her head and groping her soft pert breasts. Her hands are down my trousers pulling my cock up and unbuckling my belt. Maya, I say to myself as a reminder. At least I hope it's to myself. Our tongues are fighting for space in the others mouth and I push her up against the door, hitch her skirt up and raise her left leg and put her foot up on the side of the bath. She does have big feet. Fuckit. I slip her dental floss thong to one side. Her bald pussy's moist and glistening but I’m... I’m. I’m not. I’m nothing. Fuck. My dick's on the drug shrivel. Shit. I wish for the ground to open up and swallow me. I wish for a stray terrorist attack on her flat right now. "What the hell? Why the fuck is it soft?!" She demands. "Maybe coz you're shouting at it." I reply. “Fucking useless.” She says exacerbated. I’m still desperately mashing my flaccid crotch against hers. “Don’t bother.” She says. “You ever got a slug into a slot machine?” “What?” “Do less, yeah.” And she struts out. Bollox. I face the mirror but don’t really want to look myself in the eye. I just hang my head in shame and hope Maya doesn’t tell anyone.

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Sooner than Now  

A tale of sex, drugs and hip rhetoric set in England's most liberal city, the seaside student haven of Brighton. Follow Duddleyheath Esser's...