“Stupidity, here I come!”, Clayton chided himself as he parked his battered Civic beneath a flickering streetlight.
As a fully-tenured professor of anthropology, he had thought his days of doing field research were far behind him. True, in his day he’d squatted in muddy jungles, lost gallons of sweat in boundless deserts and nearly lost digits in the frigid wastes above the Arctic Circle but those days were in the past. Or were they? The university was…displeased he’d attracted so few candidates for his post-doctorate program and had decided he needed to take a more hands-on approach with these students.
For that reason, he found himself striding down an alleyway strewn with things best not considered. There were no addresses in view on the hulking warehouses lining either side of his concrete pathway but his students had assured him he would know when he reached his destination.
He felt as much as heard the pulsing throb of the music as he stood outside a short blocky structure not noticeably unlike those to either side. Though he knew it to be impossible, he swore he could see the steel walls bulging outward in time to the pounding bass rumbling from within. Steeling himself for hazards at least as daunting as those of any jungle, he pounded on the heavy door before him.
Having passed muster, more by dint of handing over the green paper likeness of the 18th United States president than by appearing to belong here, he was granted admission. The murderous assault of the music was staggering and he clutched the tubular steel handrail tightly. Passing along the walkway he came to a point he would designate in his journal as the “main gathering place’.
Some 30 feet below, amidst the cacophony, strobing lights and swirling vapors of a fog machine were more people than he’d have thought it possible to pack into such a space. They drank, laughed, sweated and gyrated in a hedonistic ritual not unlike those he’d observed in many cultures. Squinting against the stinging smoke, he thought he saw Tia, Aleks and Robert amongst the others. His erstwhile charges, he noted, had abandoned their scientific objectivity in favor of a sort of bonding ritual with the ‘natives’.
Almost as one, the trio joined the rest of the crowd in a series of turns and twists as the music entreated them to “spin right round, right round”. Clayton found himself immersed in the sea of light, sound, perspiration and an indefinable energy that transported him with memories of times and places nearly forgotten by him. His blood rushed and his senses reeled as he allowed the forgotten freedom of the primal, the wild, the unrestrained to take him.
Seeming to fly down the narrow steel stairs, his voice joined in with the singer as the last vestiges of the closeted academic fled his mind and he howled, “Watch out, here I come!” before surrendering to the mindless celebration of life his students had led him to.