I wrote this short story for the ‘Exhibitionists: Photosoirée No.3.…
I wrote this short story for the ‘Exhibitionists: Photosoirée No.2. fanzine. The theme was ‘Cusp’.
As Sadie and Jonathan staggered out the door of Longwave Bar and into the crowds outside Corsica Studios, they were confronted by a pair of cheery twins handing out blank silver flyers.
‘Come to Cusp,’ said the one with a black eye.
‘It’s really edgy,’ said his identical brother, flashing a chipped front tooth.
They were freckled of face, brawny in build and dressed in itchy looking breeches. Both wore white shirts, split with wide, black braces. They looked very unfamiliar.
‘CUSP?!’ snorted Sadie with a wobble.
‘WherethefuckisTHAT?’ she slurred, turning the blank card in her shaky hands. She scanned the boys’ faces with coke fuelled impatience and drunken curiosity.
‘You’re almost there,’ said the Black Eyed Twin, with a slick wink.
‘Almost there,’ repeated Chipped Tooth, smiling widely.
The crowds on Elephant Road milled about in a Friday night fashion, shouting, laughing and smoking. Few took note of the strangely dressed twins. They were busy. Chatting to friends, ambling to their next destination. Jonathan pondered the odd brothers with a suspicious wince and lit a cigarette.
‘Is it his Cusp a gay club?’ he asked, through a slew of Mayfair smoke, fixing the duo with a glassy stare.
‘It’s on the verge of it,’ quipped Chipped Tooth, his tongue peeping through the dental gap.
‘At Cusp, we exist on the fringe,’ added the Black Eyed Twin. ‘That way, we avoid the authorities’.
Sadie ogled the twins with boozy amusement and decided if she had to sleep with one of them, it would be the Black Eyed Twin. She couldn’t work out why they were dressed as Victorian urchins, but she conceded that it was a bold ‘look’ and yes, they were both attractive, in a below-the-stairs- Downton Abbey kinda-way.
‘Can you put us on the guest list?’ Sadie asked, urgently. She’d suddenly become aware of a pressing need for a drink and a line. The twins laughed at her question, like it was the funniest joke they’d heard all week. Sadie blinked at them and tried to remember what she’d just said. Jonathan found himself smiling at their mysterious amusement.
‘There is something about them,’ he concluded, as he clocked Sadie, doubled over with laughter. She was whooping and wheezing, leaning on the Black Eyed Twin for support. Jonathan raised an eyebrow. What is so funny?
As The Black Eyed Twin and Sadie giggled into each other’s arms, Jonathan and Chipped Tooth glanced at each other awkwardly. They were stood in the road. A beat up Fiat sounded its horn, shifting them out of the way. As the car chugged forward, it split the foursome in two.
From the corner of his eye, in the Fiat’s window, Jonathan saw Sadie kissing the Black Eyed Twin. Chipped Tooth gave him a playful punch on the arm. Jonathan wasn’t a fan of macho posturing. He shot him a withering look, then fussily dusted the spot on his jacket that had felt the twin’s fist.
‘We’ll walk you to Cusp,’ said Chipped Tooth cheerily. There was contrition in his eyes, for the misjudged punch. They were joined by Sadie and the Black Eyed Twin, who stopped and with improbable skill, kicked an empty can of ginger ale into a nearby skip.
‘Lets go,’ urged Sadie, clutching the Black Eyed Twin’s arm.
Chipped Tooth led the way, to the end of Elephant Road. They turned left onto New Kent Road, towards the shopping centre. A sprawling queue for a garage night at The Coronet created a human slalom for the foursome to fumble through. They walked down the concrete ramp and into the tunnels of the pedestrian subway.
‘Are you gay,’ asked Chipped Tooth, glancing at Jonathan. He nodded, avoiding vocals, aware that Elephant and Castle has pockets of violence, bubbles of hate.
‘And you?’ asked Jonathan, as they plunged left, down another tunnel, kicking litter into the night.
‘On the sexuality spectrum,’ began Chipped Tooth with a leer. ‘I guess you could say I’m on the cusp.’
‘ARE WE NEARLY THERE???!’ screamed Sadie from behind.
Jonathan felt confused, unable to work out which exit they were heading for. He scanned the tunnel, pondering the lack of revellers. Not even a beggar. On a Friday night?
Then he heard it. A beat. The thud of kick drum. And cheers. Was that applause? His heart thumped in the ensuing silence. Jonathan span round, looking for the source of the sound. The tunnel rustled quietly. Sadie was oblivious. She was snogging the Black Eyed Twin very vigorously.
Then he saw it. Felt it. A sliver of multi coloured light. A thin, blinding prism. Like a crack of a sunlight through a curtain. Almost subliminal.
The bright flash was followed by a tantalising mix of aroma; smoke, sweat, fragrance, dry ice and hairspray? Coconut? Something.
Jonathan looked at Chipped Tooth, hoping for an explanation. The twin smirked knowingly. It was then, that he noticed Sadie and the Black Eyed Twin were gone. It was just him and Chipped Tooth.
‘What the FUCK is going on?’ he demanded. ‘Where’s Sadie?’
‘They’ve gone in,’ said Chipped Tooth. ‘Are you coming? Or are you always going to stay on this side?’
The thump of bass landed once more, louder this time. The sweep of a neon green laser filled his vision. Then it was gone in a blink and he was completely alone in the tunnel. No Sadie. No Black Eyed Twin. No Chipped Tooth.
The police never found Sadie Roberts. Jonathan was the last person to see her alive, but they found no evidence to link him to her disappearance. There was concern for his mental health. Nobody believed his story. Why would they? A system crash on that fateful night deprived the Met of CCTV footage. It wasn’t long before he was sectioned, then released six months later, but he was unable to look after himself.
Jonathan sometimes resides in the pedestrian subway beneath the Elephant roundabout. You can find him, tapping along the walls with his calloused hands, ‘trying to find the door’. ‘WHERE’S SADIE?!’ he shouts at shoppers, tears filling his rheumy eyes. Sometimes they give him loose change, but nobody’s able to answer his question.
Well, not on this side.