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Morvern Callar (Alan Warner)


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  At Spook Factory the bouncers stamped my arm and slid aside the metal door. You walked in through dry ice and dope smell. Parliament doing One of Those Funky Things offof Motor Booty Affair was being played up on the big main dancefloor. People were eating burgers inside the two burned-out doorless cars in front the bar. I pointed to the big bin of mineral water bottles and handed over a five hundred coin.

I walked through to the rave catacombs down the curved corridors. You heard the trancey ambient getting louder. You pulled aside the curtain and stepped into the hot complete pitch darkness. You could tell it was DJ Sacaea: swirly bass patterns coming out the bins and darkside fx getting fed in. You felt air, responding to bodies moving about quickly to the sounds in the blackness. You saw the orangey brightening then steadying tips of joints by the row of carpets and cushions behind the pillars.

The ship's horn honked telling us the lights were going to come up: there were topless girls in shorts and beads doing their thing to the music with guys wearing shorts and baseball caps. A couple were snogging or maybe even going dirty on each other, down on the cushions, it was difficult to tell what was going on even with the low lights up.

You saw people on their own, drinking Red Bulls and looking the same as me then the darkness came again after Sacaea sounded the ship horn.

A dreamy repeating pulse began. Immersed in the darkness, feet kept on the floor by the water bottle, bottom half followed the pulse and drone. Sometimes torso and arms were everything else: the bleepers or synth patterns; sometimes I stretched up fingers--my keys banging, banging against collarbone.

My hair was slapping about, it got so sodden with sweetness and the mineral water I'd tip over it every now and again. The way Sacaea was doing it the music was just a huge journey in that darkness. When we needed brought down to rest the ambient let us relax then he slowly built us up until we were back in hardcore again and he pushed the 'core as long as I could take it before much softer synth waves were beaming across us.

I'd lost my water bottle. Stretching up fingers to touch the ever-so-occasional laser needles you could feel how high up your legs the skirt might be with the pounding, pounding of hardcore all round you.

I was so close some boy or girl that their sweat was hitting me when they flicked arms or neck to a new rhythm. I slid my foot to the left. You felt the whole side of a face lay against my bare back, between shoulder blades. It was still part of our dance. If the movement wasnt in rhythm it would have changed the meaning of the face sticking there in the sweat. You didnt really have your body as your own, it was part of the dance, the music, the rave.

The face moved away then fingers touched my neck and I put my fingers on the cheeks to feel its maleness: bit beard. I leaned forward for the cuddle, our lower halves were still moving fast to the rhythm. No judgement: he couldnt know who I was. I wouldn't know him. I took the kiss, my finger touched his wet curl of hair, like a monocle hanging behind his ear. Having to do this position to keep the kiss we stepped back and a flashing arm caught my ear. The softness of wet bosom pressed my elbow so I threw an arm round a girl and the three of us danced in a link till the repeating pulse slowed and I turned my head to kiss the male mouth all the deeper. The male hand slid up and started to go a bit dirtyish on me so I turned away then felt my way to the left. My foot found the edge of the carpet but you couldnt tell if I was on the near or far side of the room. I started moving left but bumped a pillar then stepped on a leg of someone then you saw the glow as a figure came through the curtain by the air conditioning box. I squeezed between two standing people.

In the curved corridor you saw sweat all up my legs. My tummy that showed under the rave top was shiny and violent-looking with sweat. A boy pushed out through the curtain and we both glanced at each other in a wondering way. I stepped down to the toilets. I went into a cubicle. When I'd finished and stood you saw some talcum powder specks on the dark seat from me. I smiled. I reeled off some rough-feeling toilet paper and dabbed at the sweat.

Out in the corridor I looked back at the curtain then the other way down past the fruit machines. I walked down to where the guy was, by the Formula One machine.

Trips? he says.

I just held out the money for one. He looked both ways then passed it into my hand. I'd swallowed it down before I was back at the curtain.

My ears were buzzing and the strobe flicked way back through the orchards but I passed the pomegranate tree then down onto the promenade. I strolled to the far end looking at late crowds all talking and laughing round the tables in the disco bars. At the far end I sat down on the wall beyond the flashing beer signs. I looked along the shore road to the buildings the woman with the south accent from the letting agency had showed me the day I picked the apartment.

I stood up and moved above the rocks. I saw the lighthouse on the end of the plateau turning round. Below me, among the rocks, old greyheads were fishing. Tall rods were stuck on holders fixed into the sand. The rods mustve had batteries in them somewhere cause right on the very tips, nodding in the darkness, were tiny greeny lights. Back a bit the fishermen had a gas camping lamp on a fold-out table with that pale ghostliness cast out round it. The three men were standing so close in to the glow you couldnt see faces. They were drinking from little glasses. You saw the rich ready jewel of a wine bottle in front the light.

I turned and walked away. You heard crickets chirp-chirping in the scrub off between the summerhouses. I walked to the top of the long avenue where the buildings began. Ahead, lanterns were shining out a building to the right and showing across the pavement. There was silentness. I stepped into the glow. In silence about forty people were sitting round tables on an open veranda. There was such fright at living humans sitting in silentness you just stared. They were sat like people in the bars and restaurants and a waiter was crossing with a tray but there was no talking or laughing. Then you saw the cards. It was the bridge club. You could hear the sea wash way over the roofs of the houses. Some had started to look up at me staring so I walked on.

Further down I turned in between two darkened houses. As you passed scrub the crickets stopped rattling, then started up when behind. Way in front I saw froth as a small wave fell over in the sea. The noise of the falling wave moved way along to my right. There was pitch darkness between me and the wave. I screwed up eyes waiting for them to adjust then shuffled forward a bit.

There was a strip of this queer volcanic rock, small pools of water and roundish nodules of stone. It was like the coast had melted then gone hard again. During the day water mustve been trapped in hot sun, cause some wee pools gave off a pong.

You saw milky light across the smooth skulls and queer blobs of rock with bubble holes and arches drawing fine shadows. Moon had appeared above the vertical cliffs down the coastline.

My ankle skited away under me and I jabbed out a hand into the black: I was right there, by the water. I stood looking out to sea for a bit, the smear of moonlight coming towards. I looked round in the night, over the dark block of the faraway summerhouse. I pulled up the rave top; the keys and stone-thing necklace thumped down on my collar bone. I undid the zip on the skirt and flicked the button with my finger, holding the hem so's it wouldnt go and touch a stinky water pool. I stepped over the skirt with each foot then tugged off each Nike not undoing laces. I put a foot into sea.

Water reached my ankles but I stepped forward again and the leg sunk right in.

You had to stand still while the other foot edged forward feeling for something secure. I brought the foot up but then a small wave hit on the knees so I wobbled. In deeper water caused by the wave I felt kelp or seaweedy stuff shift against my shins. I went a bit shivery.

I cooried down on hunkers dunking my bottom and thighs under. Balancing with a hand on rock I felt out with one leg bent at the knee then my toes found flatness in front of me. When I put the other foot next it and stood, the water was up to the top of my legs. Another wave came in and you could sense by the pull and suck of the water it was deeper to my left so I stepped there. You could hear water pouring off a flat rise of rock behind me. I was getting all the deeper.

I walked forward. For a patch it seemed shallower then you felt a surge of real sea; my feet lifted a little then I swam forward. My heart was really pounding but the pull and tug pull and tug of water against something solid was gone from my shoulders; I pivoted my body down and already I was out of my depth. I started the night-swimming.

Further out I turned to try check my position. You could hear water on rocks; you couldnt see the lights of the restaurants, only moon above the sharp cliffs and moon splattered across the sea I was in. I let out a wee laugh, turned and swam on further out.

I went on my back and floated feeling the keys and stone of the necklace hanging at the back of my neck among hair, snaking and floating as part of the water movements, gently tugging my head backwards.

All was made of darknesses. My chest showed out the oily black surface. I angled my toes round so the moon was rising out right between my bosoms. I let the coldish surface of the water cluck around my ears so's I was looking straight up at the sky. Stars were dished up all across bluey nighttimeness.

I let my legs sink down; my nudeness below in the blackwater; legs hung in that huge deep under me, and the layer on layer and fuzzy mush of star pinpricks were above with the little buzz of me in between.

I sucked in air deep and dived down sharply in the nightwater. I kicked once more, a wave of much colder water surrounded and a pressure was in ears. I jerked eyes open in the nothingness. Salt nipped as I seemed to be spinning slowly so I blew out to stop me rising and when my bubbles were gone, then there was silentness. My ears squeaked, I opened my legs wide, yanked my head back and threw out my arms to keep me down in those waves and layers of cold thick-seeming water. Suddenly there was a rumbling and the liquid slid offof me as I came to the surface: warm air on my face, the sounds of the earth and all under the moon.

I started the swimming in. You noticed how my heart was racing. I was swimming with faster and heavy sweeping pulls of arms. Once my cupped hand broke surface as I pulled back a stroke and it was the splash that sounded like panic. I hissed in a breath then kicked harder.

Something touched me on a bosom so's I rolled over and grunted out loud. My shoulder came against something with a sharp bump: rock. I found I could stand. I sputtered out and laughed. I walked forward, then when I was in up to the knees I bent forward taking breaths with hands on thighs.

I swayed from side to side moving among the queer-shaped stones doused in moon that reflected on my dark wet skin. The keys at my neck chinked.

I'd come ashore from the nightswimming further up the raised beach of volcanic rock. I saw the ravey top. I rubbed my hands on it then just tugged it over my neck. I put on the skirt and the Nikes. I shook my hair and pulled at it to see how fankled and sticky with saltiness it was.

The trainers squelched a little as I began picking my way over the lunar rocks towards the buzzing of crickets. I crossed to the opposite pavement but most of the bridge players had gone from the veranda.

I passed the fishermen then took the path up beside the cypresses and under the pomegranate tree. You saw the strobe of Spook Factory and, through the concrete skeleton of the unfinished apartment block, the lighthouse and the moon. Across the orchard there was something else. You could see part of a giant blue eye in pale light. I stepped into the lemon and apricot trees. You could see the top of the concrete screen at the late-night drive-in cinema.

Among the trees you became aware of the perfumes from the thick leaves that were black in those shadows where I stood.

The massive pale lips-of a girl seemed to turn up to the night sky ready for kissing and you could see the light from the screen flicker on the leaves. I turned facing the sea. You heard a drip come offof my hair. I closed my eyes there in the quietness just breathing in and breathing in. I hadnt slept for three days so I could know every minute of that happiness that I never even dared dream I had the right.

 
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Excerpted from Morvern Callar by Alan Warner. Copyright © 1997 by Alan Warner. Excerpted by permission of Anchor Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.