Ben watched as the bartender poured the luminescent cocktail from the shaker to the glass, the radiant blue liquid lighting up another tiny selection of space within the otherwise dark room.
A few small beads of sweat began to form on his forehead, though no one could see. His eyes could only barely meet the face of the woman behind the counter, trying to figure out her expression, as he hesitated to extend his hand towards the cup.
Ben didn’t normally drink alcohol, nor was he invited to many parties, but this had been a special occasion, an extended invitation from a co-worker, and a close friend, Joel Hammel. Plus, the bouncer at the entrance told him to head straight to the bar to pick up a complimentary beverage, and how could he resist that?
“When in Rome,” he thought to himself.
“So,” Ben said, finally placing a slightly clammy palm around the glass. “What exactly is in this that uh...makes it-”
“Glow?” the bartender said, cutting Ben off. She pursed her lips, placing a finger over them. “A secret ingredient, perfectly safe of course. It’s a real hit, as you can see.”
The bartender threw out her arm to display the room. She wasn’t wrong, as Ben could see a slew of cups flowing in black hands. Tiny lights of blue, pink, purple, and a handful of other colors were glowing around the room like over sized Christmas lights.
“It's something only the elite drink,” the bartender said, winking at Ben.
Her comment instantly cured the empty pit in Ben's stomach. To be drinking something that the elite drank, the wealthiest of the wealthy, the pinnacle of society, was something he’d always dreamed of.
In fact, being involved with anything elite worthy was more than he could’ve ever asked for. It’s the reason he had accepted the sudden offer to be Joel’s plus one to this party.
He placed the glass against his lips, letting some of the neon drink slip into his mouth, and down his throat. It didn’t taste alcoholic, or very pleasant for that matter. It was almost medicinal, with an artificial fruity aftertaste.
However, it didn’t bother Ben, his focus turned to looking for Joel. He started to move through the dark room, using the other drinks as a general guideline of where others were located.
“Joel,” Ben called out, though over the chatter of everyone else it seemed to fall short. He took another gulp from his drink, starting to stumble a little after it left his lips. It didn’t taste like liquor, but it sure had just as strong an effect on him. Maybe even too strong, as the chatter began to grow distant from him.
“Joel,” Ben shouted this time, throwing a hand up as if to get attention, not taking into account how the darkness in the room wouldn’t help his effort.
Ben’s hand quickly smashed into something very hard in front of him, hearing glass shatter against the floor. Looking down, small puddle of orange liquid started spreading by his feet, before another loud sound, a solid thump, echoed in the room.
The chatter stopped abruptly, and the only thought running through Ben’s head was that he’d just knocked someone over. He wouldn’t of seen the drink if their back was to him.
“Dammit, I’m sorry,” Ben said, the words spilling from his mouth. Was that actually what he said? He couldn’t tell, but even so, he reached an arm down to the ground, grasping around, before finally wrapping his hand around something.
Ben paused for a moment. What he grabbed felt like an arm, at least in shape, but far too solid, and cold even, to be skin, and lightweight too, as if he could lift the whole person up with one hand.
Suddenly, a flood of white light cascaded down from the ceiling above him, temporarily blinding Ben for a moment, slipping his hands from his drink and the arm to cover his eyes. After a while, he spread his fingers away, to peek at the room before him. Ben couldn’t believe it.
Laying in front of him on the ground, on top of that shattered glass and orange liquid, was a black mannequin. Ben backed away, looking up around the room. This whole room, filled with these drinks now much less vibrant in the light, were being held by a number of black mannequins.
They eerily stuck out like silhouetted humans against the white walls around him. He whipped around to the bar counter. The bartender was gone, now replaced with one of these unmoving bodies.
Before Ben could have a real chance to take in everything that now appeared before him, he noticed two curtains at the end of the room shift, revealing a stage.
His whole body went entirely numb, his tongue receding into the back of his throat, as his eyes fixated at the center of the stage. He started shaking profusely, yet unable to actually move.
Stretched out on stage from head to toe, with silver hooks attached to tightly strung metal wires driving out in different directions, hung Joel. He looked like some sort of grotesque idea of an anatomical display, his chest, arms, and legs fully opened, revealing muscle and bone crimson red.
Ben instantly felt woozy, even more so than from the strange liquids effect.
“Oh my God,” he said to himself. “What the hell did I drink? What the hell is any of this?”
A sudden sound cut through Ben’s shock, the same chatter of people he heard before, now revealed to be coming from four stereos placed around the room, before dying down once again.
“Welcome, Ben,” a deep voice crackled from the speakers. “Now that the entertainment has made his way on stage, let’s get the real party started!”
Written by: Nicholas Niedojadlo