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Excerpt from Dead Kings of Nothing

Breaking the seal

The party that ended the world was remembered in short, brilliant flashes, where night spun to day and back again like a disco strobe. The blurring rush of days were a delirious symphony of yelling, singing, pounding and screaming, of smashing, banging and living, tangible harmonies – the angels’ own music – inside the house and out in the world beyond the debauched, amazing mess. Neighbours thumped on the doors and walls with their angry fists and up at their ceiling with wrathful broomsticks. They roared, unenlightened and tiny-minded, at this upside-down world of sheer, life-changing, mindless genius.

Nick and Jenny argued with Emma about which song needed to come next on the ultimate playlist they’d spent days constructing, erasing and rebuilding. Ryan sat with his arm around Suzie as they chattered and laughed at the world and its stupid rules they’d left behind. Emily, Katie and Jane danced, whipped their hair and whooped with abandon at their escape from the mundane and all that didn’t hum or sing around them on the frequency of the sound that enveloped them.

Jack and Joe played cards and drinking games that they improvised as much as followed while they sat cross-legged on the floor, childlike and oblivious, as Tom strummed his guitar to the songs that played and embellished them with dis-chords of his own.

‘Boys, boys… look at this. I guarantee that after this, there’ll’ – Andy hiccoughed – ‘there’ll be no survivors.’ His fluttering, spidery fingers smoothed a crease on a three-pronged joint the length of his forearm.

‘It looks like a Devil’s pitchfork!’ said Jane.

‘And that’s precisely what it’s called,’ Andy replied.

‘We’ve got ketchup, gin, beer and marmalade in the jug – whoever loses this hand has to down it all!’ announced Joe.

‘I hope he makes it to the bogs, cos I’ve had two kings up my sleeve the whole time,’ Jack whispered to Emily.

‘People have been saying things behind your back,’ said Nick.

Sarah scowled ‘Like what?’ she replied.

‘Like, “Hasn’t she got a nice bum, and—” Ow! What was that for? Darling, why must you hurt me so?’

‘Nick, you’re such an arse,’ said Sarah.

‘Nice painting,’ said Emma. ‘What’s it of, a bunch of flowers?’

‘No, it’s an abstract portrait of us all, in our astrological spirit colours,’ said Katie as she put finishing touches to the paintwork on the wall. Still smiling, Jenny squinted and turned her head to the side.

There was a vague memory of people calling for everyone to pile on Tom as he lay paralytic on the floor. Ryan made them laugh as he saddled Tom and clapped his backside rodeo-style as Tom feebly bucked on the floor and made whining noises.

There were dim recollections of Jack taking apart a remote control and looking with fascination at the insides, of Matt droning on about his life story while one by one people sneaked off to hide in the bedroom.

There were hazy flashbacks of Emily crying because the Pinot Grigio rosé was gone. Sarah hugged her, rocked her like a child and tried to console her with White Zinfandel. Joe hugged a toilet and talked to it for hours.

At some point, some vague, indefinable, wondrous point, all of this brilliance merged in with the bustle of a crowd outside. A legion of their very own fans swept by in a vibrant mass on a thriving high note of voices and car horns as vehicles bulled their way through a fiesta down on the street. The friends watched over this scene with delighted, uncomprehending, dilated eyes and wondered what festival or concert had come to town that drew such an audience and made such pane-rattling, booming music that echoed with their own and launched fireworks that flashed and dazzled through the sky. Who made all these clouds of bonfire and barbecue smoke? They were like the plumes and rings from the burning drug they breathed out as they, gasping, reached new stratospheres of giddy ecstasy.

Somehow, the sheer cosmic vibrations of their party had spread to the world around them. It infected everyone with their new-found love of life, and they were so overjoyed, so glad that peace had come to the world, that they wept.

The joyful chaos of the street party died away, and it left behind the litter, mess and sprawled revellers who slept it off around the neighbourhood. The friends’ party wound down to its conclusion as music faded and reddened eyes rolled back in their heads. The date, let alone the time, was discovered with horror, as lectures, appointments, birthdays and deadlines had been missed in barely enough time to build the ultimate playlist. One by one, they crawled to beds, sofas or passed out where they sat.

 

When they emerged outside, they held their heads and rubbed their eyes to see a hungover world of silence and dereliction where time had stopped and left them out of sync, trapped in the space between ticks of a broken watch.

The sleeping revellers didn’t get back up and the fiesta’s litter was never cleared. Ashes, debris and clothes twitched in the wind and oily curls of smoke twisted on the horizon above Huddersfield town.

The neighbours no longer hammered on the walls and ceilings and their houses were silent, empty, doors even unlocked and ajar.

Up and down the street, doors tapped and drummed arhythmically, eerily, as they swung in the breeze.

Rats ran out in the open along the roads and pavements, crows wheeled overhead and flocked above the partygoers lying face down and collecting dustings of ash that settled like powdery snow.

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