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16+ Mature Content

Hypoxia

by Glauke


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for mature content.

Click here to view this story as a Google Doc with proper formatting. (I always have trouble formatting short stories on here.)

C/W: Drug use

Liverpool, 1992

I was in the backseat. The rain was slowing down.

Outside, the metal door of the phone booth clanged shut. Gemma bounded over and climbed into the passenger seat. She was out of breath, giddy.

“Where are we off to, then?” asked Simon, leaning into her.

“The tunnel under Wallasey Station.” She smiled as she divulged this, in the cheeky way one does when they share some exclusive piece of information. And it was exclusive – Gemma was the one to whom the top-secret, all-important rave location was entrusted. There was a reason there were 20 or so cars full of teenagers lined up behind us, snaking along the dark suburban streets. No doubt the cops had already been called, but it didn’t matter. Gemma was thrilled and beautiful.

Simon kissed her and started the car. The entire street revved to life behind us.

“Rosie, don’t be nervous.” Gemma reached back for my hand and squeezed it. “It’s going to be such a fun night.”

We parked along the riverbank, at the top of a hill.

“Why don’t you lead the way, Gemma? Since you’ve been before.” In the twilight, I could see the glint of Simon’s boyish grin that had made the girls in secondary school go mad with desire.

Gemma saw it too, and wrapped her arms around him. “I’m so happy you’re here with me tonight,” she said into his neck. I could only see their silhouettes, dimly illuminated in shades of blue against the darkening sky. “And you, too, Rosie. Sorry for making you third-wheel tonight. I really am glad you’re here.”

“It’s okay,” I said, brushing raindrops off my jacket. I ached to be just a few years older, to know what that felt like. “I’m glad to be here too.”

She smiled and pulled a torch out of her backpack, switched it on. “Follow me.”

Looking back, it seems as though the air was charged with electricity, the way it is when you’re young and out with your friends at night. There was a buzzing sensation pulsing through everyone, even though Gemma and Simon and many of the other ravers were older and could do as they pleased. For them, it was calmer, more subdued. For me, it was pure unbridled thrill. I remember every moment, because I had the distinct feeling that nothing like this would ever happen to me again.

As we descended toward the tunnel, the restless sound of acid house came into focus. Purple and red lights pulsed hazily in the distance. We crossed a wooden bridge and continued down a dirt path lined with candles to help ravers find their way. They filed past us, laughing and smoking fags. The smell of spray paint and petrol made my nostrils twinge. I was so excited to finally be here, in the shiny dark underworld of music, drugs, and sex. The night was pregnant with mystery and promise.

When we reached the mouth of the tunnel, we stopped. Gemma turned toward Simon, who handed her a small plastic zippie from his pocket. There were dice printed on it and blue pills inside. Gemma popped one into her mouth and one into Simon’s as well.

“Do you want one?” she asked me.

“What does it feel like?” I asked her.

I could barely hear her over the pounding music. She said something about euphoria and dancing all night. I told her I wanted to experience my first rave sober, and to be able to drive us home later. As much as I would have hated to admit it, I was just nervous. I had never experienced anything like this before. I was not popular like Gemma, whom everyone stopped to greet as though she was their dearest friend. And I was certainly not cool like Simon, who was leaning against the tunnel wall smoking a fag.

He flicked it away and hooked his arm under Gemma’s. “Let’s go dance,” he said.

Gemma cast a radiant grin at us and hooked her other arm under mine. “I’m so excited,” she said into my ear. Her breath smelled like chemicals.

Walking into the tunnel side-by-side with Gemma, I felt admiration for her in a way that was almost filial. She was adored by so many people, and here she was — choosing to spend her night with me. I was on the verge of a new identity, one that revolved around my friendship with Gemma and my blossoming adulthood. I still remember the way her face looked then, awash with anticipation and framed by a halo of blond curls that had frizzed up in the humidity of the tunnel.

The crowd was densest in the back, and the music grew louder and fuller as we approached. The air was hot, pulsating and sticky. The DJ, a lanky white man in a tracksuit, was flanked by two towering speakers that visibly vibrated with each beat. The music was frenetic and aggressive, clanging off the walls. Everywhere, bodies danced and writhed frantically, drops of sweat flying off them. Someone was tagging the wall with the word “KUSHTY” in massive blue block letters. The smell of spray paint in the stagnant air made me cough.

Against one wall were two large metal canisters. One I recognized as a beer keg, but the other was alien to me. I watched as a green-haired boy used it to inflate a green balloon, then pinched the end and offered it to Gemma. She took a deep breath off it and Simon did the same. Gemma sank against the wall of the tunnel, smiling as if in a trance. They had a conversation I couldn’t hear.

I was jealous then. I wanted to be at ease like she was, to unclasp my wringing hands and talk to strangers and do drugs as if it was no big deal. I became suddenly aware of how trapped inside myself I was, caught between excitement about what I might experience and overstimulation from what I was experiencing. I poured myself a cup of beer from the keg and gulped it down, gagging at the bitter taste. I poured another.

On the dance floor, I couldn’t get my body to do what everyone else’s did. I couldn’t seem to loosen my limbs enough to properly dance and instead shuffled awkwardly in place, watching Gemma. Of course, she could dance to this fast, driving music in a way that was fluid and bouncy. Not overtly sexy, but casually sensual. She looked like she was having fun, and people were having fun watching her. Simon danced shyly like me but tried his best to keep up with her.

At some point Gemma turned to me with laughing eyes and kissed me. My breath caught in my throat. I felt her hand brush past my cheek and settle on the nape of my neck. “It’s okay,” she said, “it’s okay.” Something rolled through me like a fever.

There are out-of-body experiences, and then there are moments like this. I still wonder what that kiss meant, if it meant anything at all. Gemma and I danced for a few songs, closer than before. Simon eventually swept her off to dance with him. Time passed in a warm electric blur after that.

It wasn’t until the sky began to lighten that I realized something wasn’t right. At first I thought everyone was just getting tired; the dancers’ movements had become woozy and jerky. Then I noticed the DJ begin to slump over his turntables. He was nodding off the same way I’d seen junkies do when I visited London. I suddenly felt suffocated by the dank air. Two or three people ran past me to vomit in the grass outside.

I grabbed Gemma’s arm. “Gemma? I think I want to leave.”

She turned to face me. Her pupils were dilated, framed by black makeup that had smeared into dark rings. Her hair was frizzy and stuck out at odd angles. “Why? We’re having fun,” she yelled, louder than she needed to.

“I feel weird. Like, lightheaded.”

“It’s just the spray paint,” she said, pointing at the fresh graffiti. “No big deal.” Her words had a strange lilt to them.

“No, I think… I think there’s something wrong here.”

Gemma tried to make sense of what I had said. Her eyes were swimming around in their sockets. “You want to leave?”

“Yeah, I feel like I can’t breathe in here.”

“It’s just the spray paint, Rosie,” she repeated. “The fumes.”

“I think I’m gonna get some fresh air.”

She watched me as I left, but it seemed like she was looking past me.

Outside, the air was clean and smooth from the rain that had fallen earlier that night. I inhaled deeply, greedily. Moss-covered motorways and rail bridges criss-crossed the hillside, forcing an Escherian perspective that turned a pastoral daytime scene into a dizzying dark tableau. I fell to the grass, still gulping the cool air. I laid there for what felt like ages. 

Eventually I was pulled from my haze when I realized that the music had become a grating loop. I stood up and peered into the tunnel. It was eerily still. I couldn’t see anyone dancing, but the lights and music were still going. The same four-beat loop was playing over and over. I remember thinking that the police must have shown up and cleared everyone out. But as I drew closer, there were no cops around, just bodies lying scattered on the concrete tunnel floor.

In the strobing lights, I could only make out flashes of closed eyes and tangled limbs. I didn’t see Gemma or Simon. I felt strangely calm, compelled to keep moving towards the back of the tunnel. There I found the DJ on the floor behind his turntables, and it was then that one of the two petrol generators sputtered down and died. The lights went off, but the awful looping music continued.

The petrol generators. The petrol generators. The thought pierced my mind like a bullet. My whole body jolted. Quickly, I stepped over the DJ’s unconscious body and fumbled with the generator in the dark, trying desperately to turn it off. I had never used one before. Didn’t know how to power it down. Couldn’t see anything. Felt myself getting woozy and felt my body itching to leave. I think I began to cry.

I remember scrambling out of the tunnel while that wretched music looped in my ears. I remember feeling soft heavy flesh under me and stumbling over it. I might have screamed. I don’t remember flagging down a motorist and calling the police. I don’t remember leading them back to the dark tunnel with that hellish music still looping.

I do remember waking up in a hospital bed with the acidic sting of vomit in my throat. I remember seeing Gemma in a glass hyperbaric chamber, perfectly preserved like an unkissed Sleeping Beauty. I remember her chipped pink nail varnish that seemed so tragically girlish in a place like this.

Of course, I remember the funerals.


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Fri Sep 30, 2022 9:05 am
MailicedeNamedy wrote a review...



Hi Glauke,

Mailice here with a requested review! :D

My first impression of the story was a beautiful, dramatic narrative. I was curious to see how the story would change over time and how this nice festival would turn into a literal horror trip.

I was very curious to see how you managed to sneak in that moment of danger, as you put a great focus on the characters and also the descriptions at the beginning.

For example, here is this section:

Looking back, it seems as though the air was charged with electricity, the way it is when you’re young and out with your friends at night.


You put the reader in the middle of the action at certain moments and if you've experienced something like this before, you can really put yourself in it. I like this kind of interaction very much because it leaves a deeper impression on me as a reader. You are not just a reader, but a participant.

You also describe Rosie very very well. Instead of giving a paragraph of her character, you give scattered hints about her emotions and what she is like as a person.

I was in the backseat. The rain was slowing down.
Outside, the metal door of the phone booth clanged shut. Gemma bounded over and climbed into the passenger seat. She was out of breath, giddy.

It starts with you introducing it here at the beginning of the story. The short sentences show for me a kind of worry or simply excitement before the unknown, which you stage very well. Only afterwards, after you have read the story, do you realise that everything has already begun here.

I could barely hear her over the pounding music. She said something about euphoria and dancing all night. I told her I wanted to experience my first rave sober, and to be able to drive us home later. As much as I would have hated to admit it, I was just nervous. I had never experienced anything like this before. I was not popular like Gemma, whom everyone stopped to greet as though she was their dearest friend. And I was certainly not cool like Simon, who was leaning against the tunnel wall smoking a fag.


Also this section here, I find very well described to shed some light on Rosie. From the dialogue, you can already tell how insecure she is. Here, however, you manage to depict Rosie's doubts very well. One notices a very reserved, perhaps even introverted personality, especially because she puts herself in the centre of attention and, in contrast to a narcissist, the doubts are here.

I was jealous then. I wanted to be at ease like she was, to unclasp my wringing hands and talk to strangers and do drugs as if it was no big deal. I became suddenly aware of how trapped inside myself I was, caught between excitement about what I might experience and overstimulation from what I was experiencing.


This moment is also very well designed, because you put that "I" in front again. "I suddenly became aware of how trapped inside myself I was. I like this description very much. Since I assume that the pill she took contains ecstasy, I can tell that she either took a small dose (which is rather unimaginable compared to Gemma or Simon) or that she really is so trapped that she can't open up. For me, this point seems to be the real start of the end. You build it up emotionally very well and again you are not there as a reader, but as a participant.

Time passed in a warm electric blur after that.
It wasn’t until the sky began to lighten that I realized something wasn’t right.

Here's the criticism I have; you jump from one section to the next very quickly here. I would have found a better transition, maybe more descriptions of how everything changes. Especially towards the end, it gets a bit too fast. I can understand that the panic does its job here, but for the reader (and participant) it feels overhasty and really dramatic. Of course, this has its benefits, because it describes well how one deals with a situation that is not sober, but I think you can expand on it.

Moss-covered motorways and rail bridges criss-crossed the hillside, forcing an Escherian perspective that turned a pastoral daytime scene into a dizzying dark tableau.


Beautiful description. That's all I have to say. The poetic highlight of the story!

In summary, I don't have much to say. It's a great story. Definitely worth reading and even if I have the impression towards the end that it's a bit more fast-paced, I still think it's a beautiful, un-shocking story! Oh, is this based on a real event in Liverpool or just made up?

Have fun writing!

Mailice




Glauke says...


Thanks very much for your review! I appreciate your insights.

No, this is not based on a real event, but we do have a tunnel system where I live and my friends and I throw raves there. Someone was telling me once that some inexperienced organizers put the gas generator in the same tunnel as the rave and people started getting lightheaded, but luckily they realized what was happening and cleared everyone out. It made me think about how easily things could have gone wrong.



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Reviews: 462

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Tue Sep 27, 2022 4:59 pm
vampricone6783 wrote a review...



Hello! I’ve come to review your story.

First off, I would like to mention how much I love the creepiness of it. The idea that a party literally kills toy from everything it has to offer makes me think twice about attending any old party.

However, I don’t understand what killed everyone at the party. Was it the spray paint? If so, why was it toxic? Another thing is how Rosie doesn’t remember contacting the police. Why doesn’t she remember? Is it because she never did or because the spray paint got to her?

Is the ending intentionally vague? I’m not sure.

Overall, this was an interesting little horror story. I only wish I knew more about the thing that had killed everyone there.

I wish you a lovely day/night.




Glauke says...


Hi, thanks for your review - to answer your question, running gasoline generators in an enclosed space creates carbon monoxide, which is fatal for humans.



Glauke says...


I should rephrase - it *can be* fatal for humans, which is why the ending is ambiguous as to whether or not the partygoers lived or died.





Okay, thanks!




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