The Restroom Door

It was one of those shifty disjointed dreams that moves from scene to scene like a story someone with a short attention span might tell. One minute Veronica was pulling staples out of her forehead, the next she was following a pitch-black raven. It led her past a crying girl in a white dress, past several police officers standing around what looked like a crime scene, to a restroom door. And on the universal men’s restroom sign someone had drawn a penis between the guy’s legs. Veronica found it amusing, in a juvenile, eighth grade sort of way.
     The phone woke her up. An incessant, annoying ringing. Veronica fumbled around on the table next to the bed, answered the phone. "Yeah?" "Hey Veronica, you doing anything?" "Sleeping." "Hey, me and some other dudes are gonna go see Automatic Autopsy and another band." "Who’s that?" "Some band. I hear they’re good." "Yeah?" "Yup. Tonight. Seven bucks. Wanna go?" "Okay." "Great. Pick you up in, like, twenty minutes."
     It was raining again. The window next to the bed showed darkness and vertical lines of silver, like someone had taken a razor blade and slashed the night thousands of times, and instead of blood there was quicksilver. Veronica stumbled out of bed, glanced at the clock. 6:34 pm. She didn’t know she had fallen asleep. She had gotten back from work around 2, took a shower, and then lay down for a minute.
     Veronica hunted around her cluttered, cramped, dark apartment, found some clothes that didn’t smell too much. Black shorts, Skinny Puppy t-shirt, heavy, clunky boots. In the cracked mirror taped over the bathroom sink she applied some black lipstick that was in stark contrast with her pale skin, a little kohl around the eyes, did something with her hair.
     A knock at the door. Veronica opened it a crack to reveal a thin vertical slice of Kevin. He greeted sarcastically, "My, you’re looking pale tonight. The mime look?"
     She gave him the finger.

Veronica was sitting in the back seat between a purple-haired girl named Rochelle who always carried a switchblade and a list of people whose carotid arteries she wanted to slit, and a guy with short spiky hair who was calling himself The Wraith because he claimed he shoplifted 10 CDs at once without the use of a backpack. The two were arguing at the moment.
     "Where the fuck did you hide the CDs?"
     The Wraith shook his head. "Secret."
     "What, you shoved them up your asshole?"
     Veronica leaned forward and asked Kevin, "What was the name of the band?"
     "Automatic Autopsy."
     "And who’s the other band?"
     "Love Decays."
     "And you say they’re good?"
     "Hey man, seven bucks and a dry place to hang out."
     Veronica shrugged. Sudden silence fell on the car. The guy and the girl had finished arguing. Veronica wondered what the outcome was. She sat back and looked out the window. They were driving through the bad part of town in Kevin’s shitty car. The rain had stopped for now, part of the moon gleaming bone-white through a hole in the clouds. The hookers and the drug dealers had come out again. Neon reflected on the rain-slicked asphalt, blurry red and blue and green colors.
     "Can I see your list?"

The concert was in a club called the Penal Colony, in the basement of a dilapidated old building that gave the impression that the slightest breeze would knock it over. It was a five story apartment building, the brick walls blackened with dirt and grime, the first floor coated in several layers of misspelled graffiti. Most of the windows were boarded up. Veronica didn’t know why the hell someone would have a club here. Someone told her this was the last concert in the Penal Colony. The place was condemned, scheduled for destruction the next day.
     There was a good sized crowd outside. Especially for a couple of unknown bands. They made it inside without incident. Kevin stopped them momentarily inside the front door. Veronica glanced up at the ugly gargoyle head over the door scowling at the crowd.
     "Hey guys, don’t split up. I wanna leave quickly when this thing is over."
     Veronica ditched the rest of them and wandered into the crowd. She could feel the excitement in the air, like something big was going to happen. Most of the club-goers were well behaved: she didn’t have to elbow people to move around, unlike some other concerts she’d been to that were populated with drunken college boys who had to prove how tough they were by being rough and yelling a lot and shit.
     The Penal Colony had an atmosphere of decay. Darkness gazed apathetically at the club-goers from gaping holes in the rotten wood of the ceiling. Graffiti crawled over the walls, band names and quotations and such. There were at least some attempts at decoration: rotting black velvet sagged from the ceiling, creating dozens of upside-down arches of dark softness. These mingled with rusty, greasy lengths of chain that also hung from the ceiling, a dance of cloth and metal. Veronica also noticed several nooses. They were just high enough that nobody could actually reach up and hang themselves.
     At one end of the basement was a waist high stage. One of the bands was setting up. A huge drum set, a nest of keyboards and samplers and synths surrounded by cables, metal oil drums, big stacks of amps.
     Veronica wandered around some more, and then the lights blinked off and the stage exploded in noise. The band had this big searchlight behind them aimed at the crowd, blinding Veronica momentarily. Blue lights pointed up from the feet of the band members, bathing them in an eerie glow. She wondered where they got the money to buy all that stuff.
     The wall of amazingly loud noise pounded relentlessly at her ears and wouldn’t let up. The crappy PA system seemed to actually add to the distorted music. At one point one of the band members stopped banging on the metal drums with a hammer and instead picked up a power saw and started cutting up the drums, a flume of sparks leaping into the air, the shrill screech adding to the music, feeding the fire. Veronica could feel the whole building shaking, throbbing in time.
     A pit started, and Veronica found herself pushed back against a door. She glanced at the sign and her heart skipped a beat.
     It was the men’s room, and on the sign someone had drawn a penis between the man’s legs.
     Just like in her dream.
     Veronica no longer found it sophomorically humorous. She found it utterly creepy. Goosebumps appeared on her arms and an ice cube slid up her spine. She was asleep in her bed and dreaming, and any second now Kevin was going to call.
     Her fear subsided gradually, giving way to curiosity. Maybe it was an omen. Or maybe it was just a bizarre coincidence. She wondered what was inside the restroom. Probably nothing. Probably everything.
     Veronica pushed the door open and went in. Nothing. It was just your usual shitty club restroom. There was a graffiti scarred stump Veronica recognized a moment later as a toilet. Some guys were smoking pot. They looked at her like she was a horny girl looking for action or something before they went out, taking their marijuana smoke with them. Veronica gazed around the restroom, trying to find something, although she didn’t know what.
     Maybe something happened on the atomic level and the building had a total structural failure, or maybe the music was too loud, or maybe shit happens, but at that moment the building fell in. Just collapsed. It all came crashing down in a cloud of choking dust and created a sound like something you’d hear at the end of the world. Bricks and wood and steel all fell onto each other and into the basement. Death came noisily and clumsily for the club-goers.
     Darkness. Binding, claustrophobic, oppressive darkness. Someone was screaming. Veronica realized it came from her own mouth and stopped. Somewhere a little girl was crying.
Later Veronica found out the building was just too old. All the pounding rain and loud music had taken their toll on the building and it just shattered. The men’s room was an old bomb shelter that had been converted to a restroom. The walls were solid steel and capable of surviving a bombing. Or a collapsing building. The police said she was lucky, she was the only one who wasn’t injured. 57 dead, 124 injured. A damn shame, another one said.
     The paramedics checked her one more time. Veronica went home.