It was the interior of a large warehouse, transformed into some kind of hidden-world hang out. At one end a large skateboard ramp towered, and the skateboarders crashed and thundered up and down it, showing off their tricks to the crowd of people gathered around the metal prop tables scattered throughout the room. It was mostly dark apart from a few UV lights rigged up around the edges of the ceiling and across the rafters. I looked more closely and saw the difference between this and a normal teenage hangout.
Here, everyone was beautiful. There was nobody older than twenty-five as far as I could see, nobody younger than fourteen. There was a space cleared to the right in front of which was a stage, lit up by the light-bulb adorned backdrop that stated the name of the band that were in the middle of performing a thunderous bass riff, which appeared to be called The Vengeous. Nice name, I thought with a mental eyebrow-raise.
Meena beamed at me - I could just see her face in the dim coloured lights that flashed and whirled around the room.
“Isn’t this place great? We call it the Downworld.”
A boy materialised from the crowds in front of us. He was tall and thin, dressed in a pair of jeans and an old-fashioned yet oddly cute jumper, with tousled brown hair.
“Welcome to the Downworld, ladies,” he said, and I could hear his smooth quiet voice clear as a bell even with the music pounding. Meena gave him a slow smile. Willow nudged me with her elbow, trying not to laugh.
“Can I help you?”
“Oh, I daresay you can,” Meena said quickly, linking her arm through his and winking at us as she led him off to the dance floor, mouthing come on. We followed, Willow shaking her head. The band finished their song and there was a tumultuous round of applause and screaming for more. Obligingly, they launched into their next number, and the crowd towards the front of the dance floor turned into a mosh pit.
“Wow, this is pretty wild,” I grinned, scanning the crowds of teenagers and young adults who varied from Goths, emos and punks to normal guys in smart shirts and jeans and their blonde pastel-wearing girlfriends - most of the latter were gathered at tables sipping what looked like martinis. It was almost surreal - especially when I began to be able to see who was what. The rhythm of the bass was spiking in my blood, and whenever I looked at a certain person I noticed the shade of their skin, the colour and gleam in their eyes, the clothes they wore, until I could distinguish between the vampires, werewolves, and others populating the place. The shape shifters were easy to spot; they moved between circles of conversations, changing their appearance from one to the next, laughing to themselves during their travel time. Of course there were no centaurs; and from what I had heard, elves did not seem the kind of people who liked to party. I could see no ethereal beauties, although there were some very good-looking people in the room, and I assumed the elves would prefer to stay in their glass palaces or wherever they lived and contemplate their immortality or work on their magic or whatever else extremely beautiful and skilled and wise immortal people did.
I was dragged from my train of thought by someone grabbing my arm. My first thought was that it was Willow, but when I looked up I could see her head bobbing after Meena and her new catch as they wove through the partygoers.
I whipped my head round and saw a very pretty girl smiling excitedly at me. She was a little taller than me with a pale pixie-like face and sparkly pale grey eyes. They were lined thickly with kohl pencil which continued in a swirl design down one of her cheeks, and her hair was dyed an inescapable, eye-damaging shade of fluorescent scarlet. My mother’s could have been dull next to hers.
“Hi!” she shouted, over the music; her voice held a tinge of enthusiasm, but didn’t have the same effect as the boy’s had done. I looked the way they had gone, but they had disappeared somewhere in the mass of bodies.
“I’m Charlotte!” she continued to yell, waving the hand that wasn’t clutching me. Her fingernails were painted black with a diamante skull sticker on the thumb. “I’ve heard about you!”