Once upon a time, in a land not far away, people craved exclusivity. Exclusivity existed in two forms: the first was a nightclub at the edge of a cliff overlooking the city’s entire sewage system. The second was suicide. Out of the one percent who could afford exclusivity, the majority opted for suicide since it was marketed as a less constraining option with minimal subscription fees and no thorough background checks. One ad even mentioned that “post-departure views beat any sewage system.”
Marlene was raised on the myth of the nightclub, its dazzling interiors, its ensorcelling aromas. Her eleven boyfriends, from the sixth grade all the way through college, were always more interested in the nightclub than in her stories. She wrote short stories for a local magazine called Democracy Is Real where ads for the nightclub drowned the sound of everything else.
Chicago had never heard of the nightclub before he set foot in the park. On Friday, he decided to go for a late night walk with his cat Tanya, when he found a young lady sitting on a bench by herself, gazing into a crystal ball. Caressing Tanya gently, he tried to avoid eye contact with the lady but she suddenly grabbed his wrist and placed his hand on the crystal ball. The crystal ball shone red, bright red, then a series of dizzying lights emanated from it for what felt like an eternity. Chicago stood still, mesmerized by the lights. “You belong in the nightclub.” That was all she said before dropping the crystal ball and running away, leaving Chicago agape with shards of glass by his feet, fizzing with the pale colors of an alluring dream. Tanya, curious and stunned, leapt out of Chicago’s arms and stepped close to the shattered ball. She poked the broken glass with her paws but when the lights died, she marched away in disappointment.
Marlene went for her grocery shopping every Saturday. She lived above a small but sufficient deli where she found the exact size of cherry tomatoes she liked, as well as the 100% cotton pads she couldn’t live without. She finished her first draft for next month’s short story then got dressed to go to the deli.
The following day, Chicago started investigating the nightclub. He located it easily but noticed the heavy security at the front door and decided to look for an alternative source of information. On his way home, he stopped at the deli where he picked up some beers, a bag of chips, microwave popcorn, mouthwash, and cat food for Tanya. While browsing, he noticed a flashy magazine whose front page declared, “THE NIGHTCLUB: THE PLACE TO BE”
Marlene was waiting in line to pay for her groceries when she noticed the guy in front of her pick up a copy of Democracy Is Real and add it to his items. She smiled; someone might read my story after all, she reassured herself.
When he returned home, Chicago called out for Tanya as he emptied the cat food in her bowl. There was no response. He looked under the bed, in the bathtub, and in the small space between the wardrobe and his desk. He couldn’t find her anywhere. He knew she couldn’t have snuck out of the apartment because he always makes sure she’s sitting on her bean bag every time before he leaves. He quickly opened his Instagram, picked a photo of Tanya laying on his lap, and posted it on his story with the word MISSING in big bold red underneath her paws. Collapsing in bed, Chicago started flipping through the magazine to find out more about the nightclub.
Marlene spent the rest of her Saturday at home; cleaning her bedroom and editing the draft swallowed most of her time until evening. Later, she retired on her small yellow couch and turned on the TV. The minute the screen burst with life, an ad started. It was the nightclub. Marlene sighed as she watched the glamorous people drinking and dancing without a care in the world. The ad ended with the words “THE NIGHTCLUB NOW OPEN 24 HOURS. PASSWORD REQUIRED.” flashing repeatedly on screen in bright blue. Marlene chuckled, she often wondered what the password was. Did it change every day like it did in the movies? Or was it in a foreign language with a very specific pronunciation? If it was up to her, she would set the password as Fuck Karen – her twin sister stole her boyfriend Tony, married him, and moved to Dublin. Less than a year later, Tony craved exclusivity and committed suicide.
Chicago got no replies to his Instagram story and started worrying Tanya may never return. He knocked on his neighbors and asked them about her, but no one had seen her in the building. Overwhelmed, Chicago went out for a walk by himself. Wandering the streets, he looked around for any sign of Tanya. He passed through the park again but it was deserted.
It was rather out of character for Marlene to go out after ten at night. After finishing her dinner, her Saturday night shows, and her yoga routine, she left her flat without a destination in mind; she simply wanted to go out. Aimless, Marlene walked and walked, taking random rights and lefts whenever she got bored of her view. After forty minutes of haphazard turns, Marlene found herself near the nightclub. She could hear the loud music rippling through the night breeze all the way down the street.
Chicago gave up the search and chose to head home, hoping Tanya is already in bed waiting for him. On his way back, he found himself near the nightclub, its big ochre metal doors guarded by two black women in leather suits and white lipstick. He approached them but before he could even say anything they robotically demanded “Password?” He stood silently for a minute before finally uttering, “Have you seen my cat?” The guards quickly responded in unison, “Sorry sir, this is not the password.” Admonished by their steely stares, Chicago walked away and went back home to find no Tanya and no electricity.
Marlene was standing in front of the entrance. The music had changed from loud pop to a smooth jazz. Although separated by two big metal doors, Marlene could hear the jazz music clearly. She’s never been so close to the nightclub before. She took a step towards the guards when they inquired for the password. She thought for a while then replied, “Fuck Karen.” The guards responded, “Sorry miss, this is not the password.” She never really thought it would work but as she walked away from the nightclub, she muttered under her breath, “Well fuck her anyway.”
At three minutes to midnight, Tanya strolled languidly around the nightclub then stopped in front of its entrance, raised her paw, and said, “Gagagoogoo bitch.” The guards pushed the doors open.