Hell’s Gate, by Daniel Ritter
The Six on Park and Twentieth is the be-all and the end-all, at least, it’s the place to be when a party is happening, which is usually most every night. Creative people can always find a reason to party.
The biggest party that happens at The Six is the Hell’s Gate pre-Halloween party. It’s made up of equal parts; half party and half calendar week. Hell’s Gate starts generally in mid-October and only really ends because a bit of mopping up needs to be done right before the annual Halloween Party begins.
Hell’s Gate is a drink-fest, let’s be honest, oh, and a costume party as well. There’s no real rules, per se, since there’s no real identities. The drinks are real. Real drunks, too, more than you can count. Some bats. Mostly real, the bats.
One real bat in particular loosed it’s grip from the crest of a filigree lamp post and fell. It back-flipped a parachute-like maneuver involving the cupping of the wingskin, and landed fully sized as a crouched woman on the pavement. She stood, glanced around for witnesses. None.
She walked around the corner, and filed into the line of costumed people waiting to gain admission to The Six. Another woman was at the end of the line with a long fake cat’s tail. She was laughing and screaming and spilling liquid from a red cup she was trying to carry with the three fingers she wasn’t using to hold a lit cigarette.
“WHAT ARE YOU?” The woman with faux-fur cat ears attached to a headband asked over the noise of the crowd.
“I’m a vampire,” she replied.
Cat-lady looked her over. She was dressed impeccably in black, with the pants and the form-fitting shirt, not a scrap of lint; but Vampires are supposed to have capes, or a talisman or something. She had no… shine… to her at all.
“YOU’RE A SHITTY VAMPIRE.” Cat-lady took a drink from her red plastic cup, spilling some on her face. She smudged her eyeliner-drawn whiskers while drying herself off with back of her wrist in a paw-like contortion.
“Ahh, but you, you are an excellent, fake, cat,” she replied.
She scrunched up her face, disapproving of her disapproval, and turned back around to be with the people in front of her instead.
The line paced inward and until she was stopped by the bouncer.
“Eh, what are you supposed to be? Costume party, miss.”
The bouncer looked her over. “Where’s your necklace and cape, Vampirella?”
“I have neither, but I do drink blood. Would you like proof?”
“Listen. I’ll let you in, but I know your face now, yeah? So don’t come back tomorrow without putting in a little effort. Some glitter or something, at least. Go on in.”
As she entered, the cool night air was engulfed by a sweaty cloud of cigarette smoke, colognes, and perfumes of every funk. The thick smelly haze flashed with the house lights and lasers in beat with the music, if one could call it that. It was certainly structured noise, without qualification. Seemed to fit the crowd, though, as if they bled off this fog from their skin directly into the air.
She chewed on the air as she swam into the crowd. She wanted to spit it out or choke it back with something more, fresh, less dead.
Through a parting of the crowd, she found herself at a waist-high railing, overlooking the pit portion of the dance floor. She watched as super heroes and lycanthropes paired and tripled up with mummies and zombies and at least one young couple dressed in nothing but colored paint.
“We’ve, come. So far.” she thought to herself.
At that point, any normal person of her stature would have been thrown head-first over the railing and into the pit as a very large, very inebriated, drunk man, dressed like a priest, plowed into her back. She was, however, able to maintain her position and balance with remarkable skill.
They both turned to face each other.
“WHAT’S YOUR GODDAMN PROBLEM?” barked the priest. Cheap whiskey stink dripped off the cloud of his exhalation.
“You, sir, fell into me.”
“‘S’NOT MY FAULT. SH’YOURS. SHORE. IS.”
“I blame your drink, sir, for challenging your self control.”
“YEAH THAT’S RIGHT… HEY THAT STILL BLAMING ME! YOU KNOW WHAT I THINK. I THINK YOU’RE BEING A …WHAT ARE YOU?”
Another large, very drunk, man, wearing saffron robes and costume bald cap wandered over, followed closely behind by another man looking much like the Pope. The Pope, it appeared, had been drinking.
“WHERE YOU ALL BEEN I FOUND A VAMPIRE.”
“Shitty looking vampire,” said the Pope. The Pope’s arm swung around as if carrying a heavy bag. His hand came around into view, latched onto another hand, which was attached to the cat-lady.
“Heyyyyy…” she slobbered, her whiskers had long since smudged beyond recognition. Her nose was still eyeshadowed brown, though. “I fink I know you. You’re that shitty vampire arencha.” She cleanly dropped her red cup while not releasing her cigarette butt, which had long since extinguished itself. Her hand remained shaped, as if holding the cup.
“Then, Father, the fault, must be mine, to have, and to hold.” She lifted her hands and opened her fingers to reveal the palms of her hands. Her palms rippled and split and bled, forming open stigmata wounds, “Forgive me.”
“WHOAH HEY I’M NOT A REAL PRIEST.”
“Your blood will be just as warm.” In an instant, the vampire leapt up onto the cat-lady in a weirdly awkward mount. With one foot on the back of her catty waist and the other on her shoulder, she folded downward and clamped her jaws into the scruff of her neck, sucking hard to get to vein to pop open.
Her eyes went wide and frenzied, and her fingertip bones, the distal phalanges, elongated and pierced through the skin forming curved claws. The palms of her hands split open wider to reveal an esophagus within each hand, nestled between the middle finger and ring finger metacarpals.
The drunken Pope stumbled over to knock her off his date’s back, but the vampire clamped around his neck with one of her sucker hands and began a concurrent feeding.
The monk departed in haste.
She surfed the wilting cat-lady’s body to the floor as she fed. Presently, she released the white Pope, who crumpled downward, and she then looked at the drunken priest.
“Evolution is a bitch,” she said, and slapped her other sucker hand onto his neck and gripped her fingerbone claws deeply.
The panic had taken hold from wall to wall. People were running in every direction, stumbling over high heels and loose costume fabric. Screaming, quite a bit of screaming. The DJ had abandoned post, but it didn’t matter, since the playlist had more or less taken over. Have you ever heard the house-trance version of “Born Free”?
As you might expect, there was a miss-step made at the front entrance, causing a pile-up of patrons, which led to a complete blockage of the exit. Typical.
Mellificious Petronica Gik stood at the pit railing, sucking at her teeth to dislodge a clot, while the screams reverberated.
“Oh, calm down, food,” she said.
She watched them scurry about, then, laughed and yelled, “I’M THE ONLY ONE HERE NOT IN COSTUME!”
She stooped to pick up the cat-lady with one hand, and threw her body across the room. It went up and through a cluster of windows. An inky blackness of bats poured in through the opening. They each took their turn doing the backflip/transform maneuver, landing in the pit, then, picking out their dinner from the throngs.
They each fed, one, two, even three at a time, when they could get both suckerhands free.
“WHY!” Melli mocked the crowd, “Why, why, whyyy! Because, you, are food. Because we, need to eat. It’s no different than lions and zebras, spiders and flies. It’s gone on forever, and forever it shall go. It’s not like any among you is happy. I’d wager none! Who among you is NOT going to die anyway? None! Anyone here without sin? Anyone? No? Very well.”
Hell’s Gate. There was, in fact, a bit of mopping up to do before Halloween.