At that particular moment, three things happened. The first was the sound of breaking glass ringing around the garden; the second was the sound of laughing and yelling; and the third was the very sudden and very strange sensation Baxter began to experience throughout her body. But before she could make sense of any of these something else caught her eye.
One of the windows facing out onto the yard had been smashed almost entirely out of its frame, and as the gathered crowd outside watched, the figure of a person fell through the fragmented space and clean onto the paved ground. Before anyone could investigate whether they were okay, the person – a boy- picked himself up alarmingly quickly and raised his two clenched fists in the air as if in celebration.
‘Yes!’ he cried, but immediately bent over slightly in the realisation he had stood up too quickly. ‘That’s it!’ he cried again. ‘This – this is it! The best years of our lives! The best years of our lives! Wahoo! THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES!’
This last sentence he bent over for and fully screamed into the ground – then he stood up once more and screamed and screamed it into the night’s sky.
‘THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES! THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES! THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES!’
Then he started laughing hysterically and jumping up and down on the spot. Baxter thrust herself at Sam Burrows in alarm. ‘Sam, do something!’ she implored him.
Sam started for the screaming boy. As the crowd watched on he smashed his fully body into him, and, wrapping his arms around the hysterical mess, lifted him clean off the ground and threw him down at the back of the yard, holding his hand over his mouth to stop his yelling. When after a moment the yelling did not stop, Sam laid a hefty fist into the boy’s face.
‘What a total thug!’ exclaimed Joe. ‘And what the hell is wrong with that boy?’
Baxter, however, couldn’t think to reply. Her stomach had begun to turn strangely, and her limbs suddenly felt like jelly. For a few, long moments all she was aware of was the bizarreness of her body and the vague thumping of the music drawing out from the house.
The next thing she was aware of was a girl with green hair pouring words into her face. She couldn’t understand any of it. Then the girl grabbed her hand urgently and pulled her inside the house like a mad puppy.
The world curved into a bilious swirl; Baxter tried to protest, but was barely aware of the words coming out of her mouth. As the green-haired girl dragged her upstairs she managed to say: ‘I’m coming up, I’m coming up, leave me alone, I’m coming up, where’s Joe…’
For a second she thought she was going to be sick – the world started collapsing in, and oh God, OH GOD, it’s horrible, it’s HORRIBLE – but then she was sitting down and catching her breath, and she was feeling alright.
She was on a chair in her bedroom. On the bed opposite there sat three people. In the middle was a boy who was unrecognisable because he had his head bent over toward the ground; to the left was Harry Halfpenny, who had his hand on the back of the bent over boy; to the right were two girls, one of whom was the green-haired girl, and the other of whom was Suzie Pearcy, who had her hair dyed pink. There was a bin by the feet of the boy with his head down.
The green-haired girl, whom Baxter suddenly recognised as Scarlett Roe, looked at Baxter and said matter-of-factly: ‘He’s k-holing.’
For some reason all Baxter wanted to tell them was that they couldn’t be in here.
‘Oh Christ,’ she mumbled. ‘Who is it?’
‘How much ket has he taken? Has he been sick?’
‘I don’t know, but yeah he’s been sick.’
‘I don’t really know if I can be bothered with this, I’ve just come up.’
Suzie Pearcy, the pink-haired girl, stared at Baxter as if she was a wild tiger.
‘What have you taken?’ she asked, shaking in fear at the word ‘taken’ as if it was the devil’s own word.
‘2C-B and mandy.’
‘How is it?’ asked Harry, his hand resting on Max’s back. ‘I’m on mandy.’
‘Yeah, it’s great actually,’ said Baxter. She started gazing around the room. ‘Things look pretty cool.’
‘I’m well jealous,’ said Harry, ‘I’m high as a kite right now and I’ve got to look after this twat. How long does it take to stop k-holing? I have no idea, my god I just want to get downstairs and dance, can’t believe I’m wasting my last night at uni like this, such a pain in the ass. Banging house party though Baxter, ‘ppreciate it.’
‘No problem mate.’
Suzie Pearcy stared at both of them and laughed a forced, awkward giggle.
‘This is why I don’t do drugs. I’m worried that I’ll end up like him. And also I get really anxious and I worry that I’ll have a panic attack.’
‘She gets panic attacks a lot,’ said Scarlett.
‘I have since I was really little, like six years old maybe. My parents never knew what to do with me, and to be honest they still don’t. It’s made me really badly depressed as well, like really badly… And now we’re about to leave uni, I don’t know how I’ll cope. I mean I have depression-‘
‘Alright Suzie!’ said Scarlett, placing a hand on Suzie’s leg. ‘We don’t want to hear about it.’
‘I’m just saying I have depression!’
‘Sucks for you,’ said Harry. ‘How you doing, Max?’ he shouted down at the boy. ‘Alive, yeah?’
A low, unpleasant grumble emanated from the boy’s throat, barely audible over the sound of music that was thumping through the walls.
‘I don’t know what you wanted me to do here, Scarlett,’ Baxter said to the green-haired girl. ‘But to be honest I’m now pretty high and I’m missing my own party.’
‘Yeah, whatever I suppose. Just wanted to let you know he’s not in a good way.’
‘It’s not really my problem.’
Baxter stood up, then immediately caught herself because she almost lost balance.
‘Also if you guys could get out of my room ASAP, that’d be great. You’re not supposed to be in here. I want it empty.’
‘Oh, right,’ said Scarlett. ‘See you later then.’
‘Yep, see ya.’
Then without another glance back into the room, she went out to explore the house on her high.
The world had all of a sudden become a very interesting place. The MD had hit much faster than the 2C-B, and as she walked she began to feel a gentle, loving sense of euphoria growing in her stomach, and then spreading throughout her body. It wasn’t energetic; more it was just dreamy, as if she had stepped from a boat at the outer edges of her consciousness and was now wafting soully on like a tipped brass candle gone daisy-dowing into the nighttime, all playing and suffragetting and appealing in the moonlight that guided the souls home towards death, no longer a fearsome skeleton of terror but now a gently waving curtain ushering in all the outside world through the inevitable acceptance of trans-being. The walls were a-tippy-towing, and the floors were a-wavy-wangling, and the sounds of all and thereabouts were a-sweeping gently all around the ears and ensumed in a bolderous bedashering, in and out and in and out like the shore on a plurplulous goven moontide.
In the downstairs sitting room the music was playing like a whirlpool of canonised colours, and the lighting was swimming among the bubbles.
‘Baxter!’ cried a voice.
‘Lily!’ cried the reply, holding the body close to hers and gorging on the built-wall of friendship. ‘Isn’t this gorgeous? Everything is gorgeous!’
‘I know, right! Everything is! Wow, everything looks so cool. And I feel fantastic, to be honest!’
‘I feel fantastic too! I could just let go of everything and stop caring altogether!’
‘Que sera, sera, mi amigo!’
‘I’m a bit worried the MD won’t last very long though. I only had one bomb, remember?’
‘You’ll have at least, like, what? I mean I don’t know how long it will last. But the 2C-B will last way longer. Just enjoy it, Baxter! Don’t think, just do!’
She meant to ask: ‘Where’s Joe?’ But at that moment a caduberous hand slipped like a felony snake around her waist, and she was all swept and golden at it.
‘You up yet?’ came the voice of Joe. Baxter swung round and almost gasped at how beautiful his face had become.
‘Yeah, I’m pretty up right now. How are you doing?’ She confidently placed her entire arm around his back – she could risk it, and blame it on the drugs. Joe smiled as if he liked very much what he’d just heard. ‘Yeah, so am I. I feel pretty sick, to be honest.’
‘What, like you’re going to be sick?’
‘No! No, I mean I feel great. 2C-B is jokes.’
Baxter laughed at her mistake, and almost immediately forgot about it. All the world was swimming in now through the lens of herself, and as she watched his face everything seemed to be sucking inwards and inwards and inwards…
Time was flying. Was time flying? Who was to tell. Everything was swimming wonderfully. When she looked at the music she could see it pulsing across the room like tentacular ponempticles, and gibbily giring all within and without these four walls and all the outside world within toward. The moon was out – THE MOON WAS OUT! – and it was shining like a great glass bulb gone paradoxing in the sky. Baxter kissed Joe again and again, and his lips became hot property on her shrouding skin. Everyone at this party seemed so beautiful, so beautiful like a kite to the wind, and, oh, if only it would last another night, another week, another year…
How long is time moving? She couldn’t tell the time, not for the proxies on her chinny chin chin. She went all round the house, greeting people she thought she might never say bye to, blowing kisses to the wall to see if they came back again, wishing everyone luck in their afterlife and thanking them for such a wonderful three years at university that she was so terribly upset was ending now, oh how terribly upsetting it was. But on her high, on her high, she felt that this night would stay within her forever, and perhaps – just perhaps – there wouldn’t be a tomorrow to go to.
Around the house she found so many people. The boy who had gone crazy earlier was now sitting in the garden, staring emptily beyond him and every so often raising his hand to grasp something that wasn’t there. Two windows had been broken, as well as a table in the downstairs sitting room. There was vomit in three places around the garden, and behind the shed a couple were having sex.
A lot of time passed, though Baxter was not aware. Ten seconds felt like an eternity, and all the swirling was distracting. She saw all these faces around her that she recognised, but she didn’t know what to do with them.
‘Upstairs,’ said a voice, and she gripped Joe’s hand hard as they ascended. She wanted him, she wanted him now, because without him the cold light of morning would come and scatter the hot passions of the night.
She was kissing him; he was kissing her. Hands were a-flying; the world was a-swirling. Still there was the euphoria in Baxter’s body, still – but it was slipping. She would feel wonderful, on top of the world, as if she had been born to conquer life in all its guises, a genius, a QUEEN! – but then it would slip, and the greatest feeling of depression would immediately replace it. Every time the feeling slipped she started to despair, but after a few moments it would come back – but it was slipping, oh it was slipping, and soon it would be gone, all gone.
There were clothes off now. She perceived they were in her room, in her bed, and the door was closed. Hands were a-fumbling. Lips were raining, slips were feeling.
Suddenly Baxter did not feel well.
‘Stop,’ she said. It was a whisper, weak and sickly. ‘Stop.’ She felt sick. She thought she was going to be sick. Oh God, she felt sick. ‘Stop,’ she said again, then ‘stop,’ once more. Nothing stopped. Joe, this thing, he kept on going. She felt him against her, and she felt sick. ‘Joe, stop,’ she said.
‘No, come on, stay still,’ came the reply. She was hurting.
‘No, no, stop, stop right now,’ she was saying, her voice rising as she felt more and more unwell. She felt anxious now, in fact it was panic, panic, she felt panic rising up out of her chest, great, dark, depressive panic like horror. ‘Stop! Stop! STOP!’
‘For God’s sake!’ swore Joe. ‘Shut up!’
Baxter tried to move, but his great arm swung around her body and held her still. The panic surged like wildfire –
‘OH GOD!’ she screamed, ‘OH GOD! LET ME OUT! JOE, STOP, STOP, PLEASE, STOP!’
‘Shut up, or people will hear you!’
‘PLEASE STOP! LET ME OUT! LET ME OUT! LET ME OUT!’
Her panic was so severe that she could not control herself. A hand suddenly covered her mouth; she felt Joe hurting her once more. She did not know what was happening, but the thing inside her was screaming to be let out.
‘LET ME GO!’ she screamed into his vile hand. ‘RAPE!’
She thrashed and thrashed and thrashed, and finally managed to strike Joe with her hand. He released her with a cry of pain, and she jumped from the bed, her head an unbelievable, disastrous, chaotic hell of hideous panic, panic, PANIC!
She ran – she knew not where – but out the door and down and somewhere, somewhere else, outside, away from this – oh God, the panic was following her, it was getting worse! – where to go? Where to go? Where to go? There was no escape!
A few of the guests saw her go. They saw her coming down the stairs and into the front hall, naked from the waist down. Some of them started laughing, thinking it was some kind of prank. But she did not answer them when they called her name, and she did not stop to acknowledge they were there.
The sound of the front door being thrown open was heard, then nothing else. No one saw her go outside. No one was sober enough to notice. They were all too deep within their own minds to care. For a whole hour, no one wondered where Alice Baxter was.
As daybreak grew closer, Lily and Harry began to wonder where she’d gone. They looked all over the house, but no one had seen her. Joe was not there either. She must have gone back with him.
But then, at around 5am, there came a knock at the door. Harry glanced out the window, and saw that it was the police – the party was being shut down! Quick, turn down the music! Clear up the place! Get rid of any drugs! Who’s sober enough to go to the door?
Lily opened the door. Alice Baxter had thrown herself in front of a lorry an hour and a half ago.
In the morning, everyone had gone. The house was empty; the rooms had been deserted. All there was left was the litter from the night before, and the debris from the broken windows, and cigarette butts scattered around the garden. Everything was quiet. Not a sound remained.
Outside the front of the house, the same trees that had always been there continued to bob indifferently in the wind. They had seen everyone come, and they had seen everyone go. They did not care for the human follies that happened below them. Instead they just stayed still, and continued to live in silence, and in peace.