"Caw, caaaaaaaw, CAW!"
That's bird talk for "Fuck, shiiiiiiit, FUCK!"
I flapped dizzily on the thunderous beats of the astrally amplified dance music and struggled to determine which direction I needed to fly. I was a clumsy cloud of feathers as the notes sliced through my wings and tail. Spiraling higher towards the ceiling of the Pavilion, there was real danger of snapping the ethereal cord tying me to my physical shell. I had to find my bearing if me and the Stevies were to have any chance against the horde of demon ticks sucking our bodies dry.
I stopped freaking out. Instead I allowed the panicked souls of the Stevies to orient me towards the stage where Stevie Knick-knacks held mystical sway. There she was. Her astral form a white winged dove. One on broken wings. She paced, nervous and alone, cut off from her flock.
I scrutinized the glowing pool of souls beneath me. The ones at the foot of the stage burned brightest, they were joyous, under the thrall of the enchantment, but understood this wasn't a natural high.
The souls in the center of the crowd appeared frightened as the ticks climbed on for feeding. Behind them, souls flickered out completely, their essences drained. The demons detached and moved forward to feed on other helpless hosts.
And there I was, or more specifically my body was, still dancing, hypnotized, alongside the remaining Stevies whom the ticks hadn't reached yet. Then I noticed the green glow. One of the ticks had attached itself to my throat. And another was gnawing on my left wrist.
I had to hurry.
Like an onyx dagger, I cut through the ephemeral eternity of the astral plane. Sleek and black, I glistened under the stage lights. I picked up speed and tackled the dove. My talons ripped at Stevie Knick-knacks.
A crunch and a thud. Blood and feathers.
"Did you see that? That pigeon flew straight into the window!" The mother of a little boy looked to the front of the store. Another crunch. A woman screamed. Now a blackbird, too, had hit the window of the dollar store leaving a second bloody smudge for customers to gawk at.
"Nicholas, honey, I'll be right back. Find yourself a G.I. Joe to play with. Here's a dollar."
It was 1968.
The mom walked away to survey the animal carnage with the other shoppers. Nicholas had a buzzed shock of white-blond hair. He absentmindedly stared at the action figures. He was the skinniest thing I'd ever seen.
"Hey," I offered.
The little boy didn't look up from the toys, "I'm not supposed to talk to strangers."
"I'm not a stranger."
"You like G.I. Joe?"
"Yeah," Knicki hesitated then tossed me a defiant glance. "No. I like Barbie."
"Me too." I laughed.
The little boy covered his mouth while he giggled. He also recognized the silliness of speaking as a little boy version of himself.
"Shall we do this as grownups?" I asked.
"Can we at least be a little bit younger?" Knicki softly pleaded.
"Sure." I knew I was running short on time, but often the key is in the details.
Knicki looked like a Barbie doll. We both did. Gotta say I looked pretty fierce in a blond wig and pink lipstick. We were side by side, crammed into a dirty mirror, frantically applying base and perfecting our arched eyebrows.
It was 1979.
"Why this place? Why now?"
"Cause it was my very first night as the headline act," Knicki pressed her lips with piece of tissue paper.
She continued, "That old bitch, Casserole Channing, fell off a boardwalk. Can you believe it? She showed up anyway to do her show. Drunk as a skunk. Covered in mud. Head bleedin'! Shoutin''The show must go on! The show must go on!' Mendelthimble was not happy."
A busboy poked his head into the dressing room, "Five minutes, Miss Knick-knacks."
"Thank you, Jimmy darlin'."
She turned back to me, "You gotta understand. We put on a real show back then. We worked our hineys off! Not like these girls today. My sugar, Mendy, he managed the Pavilion back then. He told Cassy to go home and sober up. He then asked me if I could be ready in ten minutes. Well Miss Cassy, diva of all divas, was furious! Ohmahgawd. She started throwin' liquor bottles, hollerin' that she would NOT be replaced. It took three men to carry her out!"
"And what were you doing?"
"I was back here puttin' on my makeup and laughin' my hiney off!" Stevie Knick-knacks chuckled and powdered her jaw. She waved away the excess baby powder with a feathery brush. It landed on the table in a thick coat.
"Why were you laughing?"
Knicki leaned over the glass coffee table and with a rolled up dollar bill inhaled a fat line of cocaine, "Because I knew I'd finally won."
It was 1984.
She rubbed her teeth with her index finger and offered me the dollar bill.
"No thanks," I declined.
"Suit yourself. This shit is, like, totally primo, one hundred percent pure Colombian. Mendy has some guy in Miami who knows some guy all the way down there who buys it straight off the donkey!!" She laughed hysterically and did another line, "Ohmahgawd! So goooood. You sure you don't want?"
We sat in an expansive living room overlooking the ocean. Everything was gaudy pastels with chrome accents. Mendelthimble's clan seal, a sterling silver mining pick, rested above a white-brick fireplace. Knicki looked tired. I wasn't feeling so hot either. In this human astral form my neck had begun to bleed and a piercing pain caused my left wrist to spasm.
"Ain't it ugly?" Knicki stared at the seal. "But Mendy's clan is important to him. Between you and me, sometimes all those Gnomish holidays get a little boring. All that ritual! What's so wrong with Christmas?"
I seized on that, "Yes, Knicki about the ritual. Mendy said you had some books. Some old scrolls written in Spanish."
She did another line and blew her nose into a tissue. Her eyes were red from crying. The tissue was red with blood.
It was 2005.
We were sitting on the beach, both of us crying. It was another six a.m. morning. Mendy threatened to leave us if we kept buying coke. Me and Ms. Stevie Knick-knacks held each other on a dirty blanket, and we cried some more. We were crying because we were out of drugs. I was getting lost in this queen's pathetic reality. Just then we saw it; a dark corner of something peeking out from the Fire Island sand. We staggered over to it. Slowly we dug globs of cement-like paste off the object, the ocean hindering our progress. With every crashing wave, sand and more of Ms. Stevie Knick-knacks' perceptions and demeanor washed over me.
We finally uncovered the cryptic case from beneath the beach. The dawn sun cast light on our discovery. We realized what we had found.
A box, one covered in Mexican words and loopy swirlies and criss-cross marks. There was this shiny lock on it. The lock looked like the devil, ya'll.
Gah! I had to get out of her mind.
It was 2010.
My neck bled profusely. My chemise was soaked, and my left arm was numb from the bloody gash on my wrist. I was also hogtied in the wooded area between the Pines and Cherry Grove colloquially referred to as the Meatrack.
Knicki kneeled above me, brandishing a bone dagger, as she recited Spanish sorcery from a tome titled: Magia Muerto. With the point of the dagger she traced an elaborate pattern above my heart.
"You don't have to do this," I assured her.
"I don't have any choice. Its the only way they'll love me again," Knicki's eyes were bloodshot and caked with mascara. Her wig was a wreck, filled with leaves and twigs. "They're gonna destroy the Pavilion. Mendy sold it! That bastard Kristakos and that faggot from England. They're gonna tear it down because it's old. Because I'm old! The Pavilion is me. I am the Pavilion! They might as well tear me to the ground. I'm not gonna let them do it! Fuck LadyBoy Gaga. She'll take my stage over my dead body!"
She shouted Spanish as the bone dagger stabbed through my sternum. My head slumped to the left. In my dying moments I saw myself standing on the edge of her conjuration circle. I was covered in blood watching Knicki sob as she roughly tore organs from a deer she'd just sacrificed with a bone dagger. I'd lost a lot of blood, but this was my only chance.
I sucker-punched the crazy drag queen and fastened my arm around her throat and head. I had to take drastic control or I was, ohmahgawd, gonna be consumed.
Someone jumped me from behind! Fuckin' weirdos in the Meatrack! The faggot was ... cough ... choking me! I scratched at the faggot's eyes!
But her nails just clawed at my forehead. I dropped lower to avoid them.
I couldn't scratch the faggot's face. He was choking me, and screaming at me!
"Knicki, release these people. They are dying! You're dying."
It was now.
We stood, myself barely, on the Pavilion stage in our contemporary avatars. Only a handful of Stevies remained dancing. Most, myself included, had slumped to the ground and were covered in demonic ticks, some as big as kittens.
"I can't release anyone. Or myself. I'm stuck here too! Scarin' the investors away didn't work. I figured everyone lovin' me again would do the trick. Or at least get Mendy to love me again, instead of fuckin' LadyBoy Gaga," she spit the name of her replacement.
I collapsed, "Then just release me..."
"I don't know how!"
"Yes you do. Trust me. Mendy loves you. He sent me here ... to save you. He ... needs you Knicki," I struggled to speak. "You've released me once ... already. Now go further. Knicki you can do it. You are ... a fierce ... DIVA!"
I could move again.
The adrenalin surge from being snapped back to my physical body startled me awake. I had control. I immediately reached to my neck and grabbed hold of the greasy, softball shaped tick and pried it's fanged face from beneath my skin. It popped in my hand like a water-balloon. The second tick tried to escape. It squirmed deeper into my wrist. I slammed down my left arm, leaving a carnal kiss on the Pavilion dance floor. Using every last drop of stamina, I stood and addressed the scene around me.
"OK! You nasty ... evil ... shits! The buffet is officially CLOSED! You came to the disco..."
My hands instinctively worked ancient patterns and the air and crackled with arcane fire. All the ticks detached from their human blood bags and converged on me.
"So let's dance."