The city lights streaked outside the car, broken up by spatters of light rain. Neon signs and headlights sparkled across the windshield as they drove downtown. J-Pop quietly played on the car speakers.
Janine bounced giddily, clutching the steering wheel. “This is exciting! Isn’t this exciting?” she chirped at her purse in the passenger’s seat.
Shaun pulled himself out of her purse—part of the costume—and hooked his elbows over a heavily stitched leather seam and plastic zipper. He grinned up at her. “I’m excited because you’re excited, sweetie.”
She wrinkled her nose at him. “Don’t you be a pill about this, Shaun. I know you’d rather hunker down in the apartment, close all the blinds, curl up between a pair of noise-canceling headphones and listen to podcasts while slowly getting drunk on whiskey.”
“Shit, was that an option? Turn the car around. That sounds awesome.”
“Listen, big guy.” She swatted the front of her purse and knocked him gently against the seat back. “We’re going to the club tonight and you’re going to have fun! I mean it! It doesn’t cost you anything to put on a good show once in a while and be my boyfriend out in public, okay?” Her nostrils gusted peevishly. “I can’t remember the last time we went out for something nice like this.”
Shaun thought about the disaster at Club Titan last March, when that drunk train-wreck tore down a section of Habitrail, coming after him. He didn’t want to bring it up, however: he knew how horrible Janine felt about that incident. Especially when the cops showed up, even a little guy in Shurta gear. That was only the second or third time he’d seen the police-model BigSuit in action. Too bad it had to be for such a tragedy. They’d cited the management for violation of AHS §270.2, failing to provide reasonable and secure facilities for Anthropole socialization.
They weren’t going to Club Titan; fewer and fewer mixed couples went there as their reputation built up. Instead, Janine had seen fliers for a Halloween party at Timimoto, an electronica lounge on the edge of the rejuvenated warehouse district.
Shaun looked up at his girlfriend. Only her pouting face was visible in her white HazMat hood, with snow goggles strapped to her forehead. “Hey, hey, sweetie. I’m sorry that I hold us back from fun stuff, seriously. I get a little antsy about other people.” He shrugged, but she was staring at traffic in poor weather. “We’re going to have an awesome time tonight. I’m looking forward to seeing Audio Future Cloud. I love their last album.”
The corner of her mouth rose. “You see who they’re opening for?”
“I missed it. Who?”
She half-turned to grin at him, red and green lights glowing on half of her face. “You’ll see, big guy. I think you’re going to like this.” She rubbed the top of his head, in his own miniature HazMat suit, then adjusted his miniature goggles back into place.
They got lucky with parking, finding the second-to-last spot in Timimoto’s private lot. Janine tucked Shaun back into her purse and chittered to him, walking down the block. As long as she kept talking, he felt safe in her purse, where he couldn’t see what was going on around them.
There was a line out the door for the club. Several women and their diminutive dates were geared up in outlandish outfits, creating a spectacle for people driving by. The air was a little humid, with the musk of stone and oil coming off the street, but it wasn’t chilly. Janine wrapped her arms comfortably around her purse, the orange piping on her sleeves and legs standing out against the pure white Tyvek suit. In front of her was a man dressed as a Victorian English explorer, pith helmet, jodhpurs, and everything. Over his shoulder was a butterfly net.
“Rule Brittania!” Janine shouted at him. “What’s your costume?”
He turned around, grinning beneath a bushy salt-and-pepper handlebar mustache. “Oh, just out and about, don’t you know, on the hunt for exceptional specimens for my collection!” His British accent was atrocious. He held up a walnut shadow box: against a red velvet backing, several tiny men dressed as butterflies appeared to be pinned and labeled. Janine bent down to peer at them, and they grinned and waved up at her; one of them mouthed, Call the police!
“What a clever idea! Congratulations on such a great costume, that’s really creative!”
The Great White Hunter thanked her with much blustering and coughing, stepping back as the line moved along. “And whom do you purport to be? I trow it’s familiar, yet I can’t quite put my finger on it.”
Janine grinned and reached into her purse. “Well, if you can direct me to the nearest resizing platform,” she said in a nasal tone, “my son and I would appreciate that very much.” She withdrew Shaun, pinching the neck of his suit between thumb and forefinger.
“Look at me, everybody! I’m the first person in the world to be sent by television!” Shaun waved his arms and shouted over the prowling traffic.
The British explorer’s jaw dropped, as did his accent. “Balls, that’s really smart. Best of luck to you in the contest.” He tipped his helmet and went inside.
“Contest?” Shaun asked his girlfriend.
“I didn’t tell you there was a contest? Here, look.” She dangled him in front of one of the event posters. The night was blocked into four events, black blotches printed on day-glo pink paper. There was a costume contest, the prize for which was the winner’s choice of $25 or covering the bar tab. The Fairview Cowgirls were making a special appearance: Janine vaguely understood them to be a sexy, interactive burlesque. There were special Halloween-themed drink specials, in addition to “Bobbing for Tinies” in the back room. And there was Audio Future Cloud, opening for…
“Holy shit!” Shaun flailed excitedly in Janine’s pinch. “Cry Princess Start! is in Fairview? Holy shit! Why didn’t you tell me!”
Janine grinned and stuck her tongue at her little boyfriend. “Wanted it to be a surprise! Now, are you ready to have some fun tonight?” She surrounded his little face in a smooch. The bouncer was cheerful enough as he checked their IDs and they went in.
Dark as it was outside, everything was darker in Timimoto. Black-light fixtures illuminated glowing skylines of Asian cities on the walls. A long bar divided the building in half, with cocktail tables and performance art on the left and a crowded dance floor on the right. The performance art appeared to be a BDSM cage, where a woman was prepped in shibari and tiny little leathermen crawled over the ropes and knots, tickling her here or flailing her there. She had been suspended by a harness and rotated slowly for the onlookers; the cage was surrounded by low tables, where drinkers did or didn’t watch the activity. Minuscule people lounged on the tabletops, conversing with their partners and guardians or taking a chance with strangers. Little metal catwalks joined the tables, strong enough to hold several tiny people at once, but hinged to permit waitstaff to breeze through without hassle.
Janine plucked Shaun out of her purse and let him survey the action. “You want any of that?” she asked, keeping her tone as neutral as possible.
He glanced back at her. “Not really my thing, sorry. You?”
She laughed. “I can’t tell if you’re lying for my sake.” She shouldered her purse and stroked him gently in her palm. “That little HazMat suit… You look like you’re a bag of candy or something.”
He avoided making a joke about anything sweet or fun-sized. “Why don’t we check out the dance floor? Who’s spinning right now?” His gigantic girlfriend shouldered her way through a crowd of giants, some of whom were dressed up sexily, where others went all-out on elaborate, if ungainly, outfits.
DJ Tone-Brotha Kool was wrapping up his set, as it happened, and people were lining up along the side of the floor to present themselves for the contest. “Yo-yo-yo, whaddup! Y’all ready to get your spooky shit on?” The room cheered and colored lights streaked back and forth over the crowd.
Shaun kicked at his girlfriend’s palm to get her attention, and she held him closer to her ear. “Aren’t we going to enter the contest?”
Janine turned her face toward him slightly, searching for the narrow window of volume to speak only slightly over the roar of the club. “I dunno, lover. It looks like we’re not the only Mike and Mrs. Teavee here tonight.”
“I saw that, but I think you did the costumes better than the others. You don’t wanna try?”
She shrugged. “I’m not planning on drinking enough to want to compete. You can get ‘faced if you want to, though. Feeling like it?”
“We’ll see how I feel when Cry Princess Start! comes on.” His small face looked like a simplified cartoon, in the club’s colored lighting: eensy black dots for eyes, a sharp little curve for a smile. Janine went all doe-eyed and grinned at him, and he waggled his eyebrows at her. “I thought you did an awesome job on the costumes, bee-tee-dubs. You had a good idea.”
“A lot of people thought so, looks like.” Her mouth puckered to the side as she looked around at the other people.
Kool wrested the mic from its gooseneck and walked around his turntables to approach the contestants. “You know how this goes, right. All you ladies in your costumes, y’gonna come up an’ let everybody know who you are. And you out there?” He pointed at the crowd, flashing lights glittering off his jacket. “I need y’all to give it up for the ones you like! Can you do that for me?” They erupted in applause and cheering. Kool grinned and looked around approvingly. “That’s what I’m talkin’ about! That’s how we’re gonna get our winner, the one who gets the most love from y’all. Let’s do this!” He reached back to start a quiet track playing, then waved up the first contestant.
A woman walked up the short steps to the stage. She was dressed kind of like a castle with towers for arms, a wide rampart running around her waist, and thigh-high boots made to look like stone structures. DJ Tone-Brotha Kool made a show of checking her out up and down. “Aww, look at this! Check this out, everyone. Who are you supposed to be?”
She leaned into the microphone and yelled, “Anyone remember Shadow of the Colossus?” Cheers went up; someone yelled “Gaius!” She laughed and waved at the gamer, then spread her arms out and slowly turned around. Behind her, sprinting around the rampart over her hips, there was a tiny man dressed in a blue tunic and miniature gladiator boots. A quick-thinking stage tech fixed a tight spotlight on him as he leaped up and grabbed some of the brick work running up her spine, scaling her like the building she was. The crowd cheered and whistled, and she waved as Kool ushered her off the stage.
“Not bad, not bad!” he said, urging the crowd on. “I can tell we’re gonna see some crazy shit tonight! Who we got next?”
A woman was disguised as a classic drunk, with a rumpled tuxedo and red, blinking nose. A thin wire frame branched out from her crushed top hat, and from this were suspended three little men dressed as pink elephants, slowly spinning around her head as she comically struggled to remain upright. Another woman dressed up as a tall mountain, from her skirt that flared to show a Swiss village to her hair done up like a snowy peak. All over her dress, minuscule mountaineers struggled to make their way around her hips and over her belly, establishing a base camp in her cleavage. She received much more applause and appreciation than did the next costume, which was the Great White Hunter and his collection of tiny men.
“Well, that’s not fair,” Janine said, frowning. “Booing him just because he’s not all sexed up! He did a great job on his outfit, I thought.”
“Maybe they don’t want to encourage cruelty to Anthropoles?” Shaun shrugged. “That simple trick with pinning them to the shadow box might not be apparent to everyone.”
She snorted. “No, I think it’s just about the women showing themselves off. Oh, here, watch this.” One of the other Mrs. Teavees was taking the stage, and the background music became more prominent as the audience quieted down. She was cheerful enough, and she pulled out her own little Mike Teavee from her purse, but this failed to elicit much interest from the crowd.
“See? She’s all covered up,” Janine said, “so no one’s interested.”
“That wasn’t much of a performance, though. She just got up there and… oh no, look at this.”
Another Mrs. Teavee came up and paraded around, wearing a form-fitting Spandex bodysuit that got a few cheers. Omitting a purse, she pulled her miniaturized Mike out from her own cleavage, and the audience responded favorably to that, growing even louder when she flickered her tongue over his kicking legs. She teased him for a while, with people shouting instructions from the dance floor, then pretended to suck him down and swallow him whole.
“That’s a lil’ messed up,” opined Kool. “That’s s’posed to be your son, and all.” The audience disagreed and cheered her as she waggled her butt off the stage. Janine gave Shaun a look and he conceded the point to her.
Several other people got up but it turned out the winner was a very stylized Snow White outfit, meticulously fashioned after the Disney movie. She lifted up a long, thin gold rope, where six diminutive “dwarfs” were suspended by clothespins.
Kool made a big show of counting each of the costumed men. “Hey, yo, you only got six o’ these little guys up here,” he said, holding the microphone nearer her head.
“Oh, no, is that true?” Her voice was a melodious sing-song, and her eyes lit up with surprise. “Let me see. Bashful, Dopey, Doc… Grumpy, Sleepy, Sneezy… Whoops! Whatever happened to Squirmy?” Immediately she began twisting at the waist, crossing her legs, and yelping and cooing in delight. The audience went crazy and Kool, choking with laughter, called the contest right then and there. He thanked everyone for participating and told everyone to get ready for Audio Future Cloud.
Shaun cheered and bounced in Janine’s palm. “Yeah, I think I’m ready for a drink before they come on,” he called up to her. She nodded and swam her way to the bar for a Lillet and an eyedropper of Scotch. She placed him on her shoulder after tugging her HazMat hood down, then carefully looped a Timimoto lanyard over her head, clipping the dropper to it. He wrapped his fist up in her hair and stood close to her ear. “You’re right, that was kind of cheap, just giving it away to the sexiest outfits. What does that encourage?”
Janine shrugged, gently. “Give the people what they want, I guess.”
“Yeah, but you don’t want to compete on that level, do you?”
Her drink arrived, and she administered Shaun his first drop of the evening. On the stage, two lean young men in black and gray suits finished setting up and checked their levels briefly, then launched straight into their set. Janine felt a lock of her hair tug occasionally as Shaun danced on her shoulder. After their first song, she heard her little boyfriend cheering loudly.
“You’re having a good time, then?” She smiled, but she took care not to turn her face toward her boyfriend. He would’ve been whisked off her shoulder, clinging onto her hair, and left dangling down her back.
“I’ll have a better time with some more Islay!”
“You take it easy, big guy. You know I can’t tell when you’ve had too much to drink. Let’s just ride steady tonight, okay?”
Shaun sighed but respected the wisdom of her words, a wisdom that came with much experience. He knew as well as anybody what a holy terror he could be when drunk. “You bet, sweetie. Nothing but Mr. Charming all night long.” He stroked her earlobe and danced along to the next couple of tracks.
Audio Future Cloud started their new single, “We Would See a Sign,” when Janine turned her body fully toward the center of the dance floor. “Uh-oh. Obligatory social disaster in progress,” she commented from the corner of her mouth.
Shaun scanned through the crowd of dancers until he found the activity: there was a young, chubby Chinese woman dancing bent over, and a White woman apparently screaming at her butt. Shaun called into his girlfriend’s huge ear, “You wanna get a little closer? This looks like it could be fun.” Her massive head rocked before him, and they left the bar, her footsteps thrumming throughout her body.
Timimoto had a superior skywalk system, compared to that of Club Titan. Where the latter only patched together an insulting, secondhand Habitrail network of tubes, Timimoto invested in carpeted platforms joined by flexible, jointed steel walkways and ladders. Around the entire club, a well-protected model monorail shuttled Anthropoles around the club to six equidistant locations like the BDSM cage and a shelter at the bar, where they were protected from drunks with big ideas. Regular-sized patrons had to go to the platforms if they wanted to mingle freely, openly with the tinier dancers. Alert bouncers were posted on either side of this matrix, politely but firmly quelling any overly demonstrative displays or aggressive shows toward nonconsenting customers.
Regardless, some exchanges technically slipped through the cracks, and Janine had picked up on one instance of this. In the center of the floor, a young woman was dancing with her butt thrust way out. Her feet only barely retained their balance, and she laughed with overeager awkwardness, her glossy black bob shimmering under the colored lights. She had hiked her white sheath dress up over her hips, exposing her bare ass and a white thong to the other dancers, yet this elicited no more than a raised eyebrow from the nearest bouncer.
“The fuck is going on,” mused Shaun. Janine shrugged and he rode it out expertly.
They edged nearer the scene. There was another woman standing nearby, apparently having an argument with the plump woman’s butt. “Get out of there right now!” she shouted, showing an awful lot of teeth. “You’re embarrassing yourself!”
A wee voice squeaked through the music: “You’re embarrassing yourself! She wants me in her butt!”
“Holy shit,” hissed Janine. “There’s a little man in her ass.”
In a hasty exchange with a few other attendees, the couple learned that the one woman had recently seen some videos of ’80s dancers doing “Da Butt,” and in her intoxicated state, she wanted to perform this with everyone she’d arrived with. Amused at first, her friends had grown quickly tired of this repeated antic. She, however, grew no less drunk and started paying attention to a little man who had been flagging her down for a while. One thing led to another, she pulled up her dress and pulled down her panties, she perched her hips on the edge of the platform, and he packed himself right into her rectum with only his head sticking out. There was a small pile of miniature clothing on the platform where he’d been calling to her. As it appeared to be entirely consensual, the bouncers permitted the entire spectacle, provided the woman presented no physical threat to the man.
What complicated things was that the man had come to Timimoto with his wife, who had stepped away from her drunk husband to use the bathroom. She was understandably shocked at the scene she returned to.
“Is that true?” she screamed at the younger, hysterical woman.
The Chinese woman brayed with laughter. “I want all the men in my butt!”
“And they can’t all get in here, but I can,” shouted the minuscule husband. “It sounds like an ideal arrangement to me.”
“Her boyfriend’s pissed at you!” The wife nodded at a young, muscular man in a stretched black t-shirt, slowly shoving his way through the crowd toward them. A nearby bouncer stepped away from his position at the wall, getting ready for anything.
“Then he can shrink himself down and climb in here and fight me! Until them, I’m dancing in this girl’s butt all night long!”
“I love him in my butt!” More cackling laughter. “I’m never letting him go!” The woman shook her little ass at anyone who’d look their way, her thong tugged to one side to show the minute man’s head. The unfaithful drunk was grinning like an idiot, slightly protruding from the gully of her creamy hills.
Janine swore at the out-of-control fetishist. “You seen enough?” she asked her little man. He affirmed he had, so they brought their drinks closer to the stage for the rest of the trance outfit’s set. After they finished, Janine insisted on talking with the band, though Shaun was suddenly shy about this. After another droplet of Scotch, however, he consented and found himself perched upon a sequencer, talking with the keyboardist, Patrick, about their set at the Size Lounge.”Yeah, that was a great turnout for our CD release party,” Patrick said, “but their sound guy must’ve been stoned. Shit sound system. We probably won’t play there again unless they get a serious upgrade.”
“I picked that out, there were a couple muddy transitions.” Shaun had to shout over the noise of the room. “Wasn’t sure if their woofers were getting old or what. Still, it was an awesome show. You got people moving, that says something. And it was still better than that private set at River House Tavern.”
Patrick laughed. “You were there for that? That was a shit-show. I’d love to wipe that one out of history.” He called over the lead singer, who was chatting with some women. “Hey Jere, little dude here was at our April show.”
Jere palmed his face and moaned. “Comedy of fucking errors. It started when that drunk Anthropole climbed into our mixer, and it just went down from there.” He fished around in his back pocket and held up two glossy rectangles. “Tell you what, we’re playing here in a month, if you and your woman would like to come. As an apology for River House.”
Shaun glowed like an independent source of light for ten minutes after meeting one of his favorite bands. “Thank you so much, sweetie,” he yelled, sticking his entire head deep in Janine’s ear and kissing her canal. “I love your guts. You’re so fucking cool.” He couldn’t see her deep blush in the flashing, multihued light show.
“Whaddup, y’all,” bellowed DJ Tone-Brotha Kool. “You having a good time? You ready for some action?” The audience assured him they were. “Check it: we got the Cowgirls in the Naibun Lounge! They’ll be giving rides from ten to eleven, fifty bucks a pop. Dude in there with the bullet cam, too, throwin’ up the show on the big screen! Whaddya think of that?” The audience sounded amenable to this development, and people began to move to the private room in the back of the club. Kool resumed his spot behind the turntables.
Janine gently lifted her boyfriend from her shoulder and palmed him before her face. “How’re you doing in that little Baggie? I’m getting kinda sweaty, you must be too.”
He shifted his shoulders around and kicked his little legs. “No, I’m feeling pretty good. I’ve got this little insulated pocket of air around me, liking it.”
“You sure? You don’t want to ditch the Tyvek and get in on the full Fairview Cowgirls experience?”
Shaun gaped at her. “We’re not doing that.”
“What? Come on! It’ll be fun. You know who they are, right?”
He shook his head and crossed his arms. “Sweetie. Honey-buns. Goddess of my personal skies. Please don’t put me through that, especially in a roomful of people. It’s degrading.”
She chuckled at him, prodding his belly with her forefinger. “Aw, loosen up, big guy. We’re here to have fun tonight. Why don’t you have another drop and we’ll go look in on it, at least. Okay?”
He couldn’t turn down the Scotch, but added, “Let the record show, I really don’t want to do this.”
“Duly noted.” She hovered the dropper over his face, carefully, and he lapped a bead of golden fluid, flashing with the club lights. “Just let me know if you change your mind.”
She grinned. “You won’t change your mind, or you won’t let me know?”
He pursed his lips and looked away, and she laughed at him as they threaded their way to the Naibun Lounge.
(To be cont.; image by Curran Heller, “Dance Club in Stuttgart“)