From a clothes line hanging above the main dance floor across the third floor gallery area is a clothesline and from it hangs a wide variety of female under garments that were not there when the club opened and the evening began.
The origin of these under garments is a source of amusement for the casual patron and a source of unspoken shame for a variety of young women hired as trial waitresses and bartenders, also unseasoned patrons left drinking heavily and unattended.
Sometimes a seemingly small place can become a vast labyrinthian and impregnable fortress when inundated with a bit of black magic, vodka and immigrant elbow grease. Perspective is but a cheap pair of sunglasses after all, paradigms are but Costco contacts to be shed and quietly replaced at will.
Were you to visit Mehanata on a Thursday you might come to think it only a single story lounge. Friday and Saturday patrons might access the basement Ice Cage and third floor table galley, but when it gets past 400am Sunday morning, not only can carriages change to pumpkins, but the depth and girth of the rabbit hole here can delve expansively into the fourth dimension.
Oh yes, the tavern is vast entrapment.
Its 409 am. And everyone that isn’t meant to be in the club has been pushed, cajoled or driven out like a herd of drunken cats and those that remain are only staff or spoken for card carrying regulars.
Astika and Corona bottles litter the establishment on any number of table booth perches, the dive bar black piss fluids of spilled drinks irrigate all floor space.
A flurry of activity directed at securing the premises from external assault comes quite suddenly.
Justin Azzello bolts the door with the pull of a large metal brace and shortly after James White and James Behemoth begin piling tables against it. There is an urgency with which they carry out this task as well as efficiency. It is not the simple and previously observed urgency of men and women working long hours and just wishing to go home. The three man Mexican kitchen staff lines up and begins stacking crates and kegs and assorted furniture against the storm shutters now pulled down and latched closed over the second exit to the tavern.
Martina the bartender begins placing bottles of liquor below the bar, vigorously. Conspicuously absent is all of her clothing and in the strange new light of the bar her wild black curly hair for some reason appears fire red. How curious, thinks Sebastian through the haze of his own vodka and pilsner soaked observational capabilities, which maintain some attention to idiosyncratic detail.
Ernesto Lynch looks as though he is half asleep, a zombie casually examining his drink seated at the bar on the swing seat, taking dainty swigs his head drooping, intermittent half singing accompanies the dull steady thumping of his palm to the bar. Victoria Lynch is also entranced so it seems, seated beside him on one of the four two-person bench swings abutting the main bar.
The lighting has completely changed. It’s become eerie in here on the eyes. Everyone who smokes is now smoking which is absolutely everyone except the Mexican kitchen staff, the Lynches and James White the Irish bouncer who used to be a cop and still carries himself like one, except more jolly. The plumes waft about like ghosts of tobacco island taking on shapes most various in the doldrums of the shifty light which remains other worldly, blue tones and greyscale which emphasize reds of Martina’s lick stick, reds of Dasha’s large pocket book satchel, and the reds of the wine.
Sebastian without using words makes a quiet Hebraic motion of his hands pantomiming a peace signed puff and his eyes go half black wolf, half-drunk rabbit and so thus alerting Dasha Andreavna that he wishes her to retrieve the packet of Newports out of her deep red pleather purse, and share one with him.
Her hand bag seems as though in contains an endless assortment of things that cannot via the laws of normative physics fit inside it. Were a sledge hammer to be passed out of it he wouldn’t even feign surprise.
As of lately they seem to share all their cigarettes when they are happy with each other and tonight the are indeed happy because she has plied herself with eight types of vodka infusion and he has sipped on enough Astika to be doing an accomplished impersonation of Latin American dancing all evening.
Sasho is watching everyone and everything from the end of the bar, his back to the wall of the kitchen. The boss is wearing a black leather jacket his face stern and commanding; he snaps his fingers and fire takes form off his index finger. From this miraculous flame he lights a long cigar.
An uncanny display of black magic, thinks Dasha.
If anyone else notices this trickster subterfuge, then they hardly seem surprised. Martina takes from below the bar a chalice of usual size, Byzantine even in proportions and pours him off a tall glass of what is presumably a thick red wine, although the lighting, quite unusual as said, makes it appear as though it is thick sanguine blood.
But he doesn’t sip this concoction, just leaves it out.
Sasho remains at the head of the bar with his unusually large chalice of blood red wine having ordered the entire fortification effort with simple subtle nod.
Misha Korovyov with his flowing brown hair and one eyed squint, and playboy bi-winning manic grin with some European designer cigarette dangling out his mouth throws his arms around Dasha and Sebastian. It was a though the eccentric Bulgarian materialized behind them.
“Joyous epic times new friends! Where but five weeks ago we were all merry strangers now we are intimate coconspirators!”
As if to coincide with the subversions of reality and convention already underway, Dasha and Sebastian although aware of phantom lights, of the mesmerization and stupor of the Lynches; of Martina’s brazen nakedity; now also it appears James Behemoth mostly called “James Brown”, to differentiate him from “James White” the former cop in casual conversation, the sly and charming Puerto Rican bouncer; well for lack of a better description, he has now transformed into a hippopotamus sized black cat! Walking upright still in his leather jacket, James Behmouth is now at the bar and Martina is pouring a pint glass sized frothy frozen vodka shot and leaving him the bottle.
“Are we in the secret company of angels or demons?” asks Dasha in a whisper.
Misha grins, “That’s the spirit! What my lovely Mademoiselle if I told you that the combination of man’s primitive brain with his powers of creativity with his latent albeit savage thirst for self-importance, self-aggrandizement creates an ongoing wildly unstable variable where bye all manners of mythology have been generated turning vastly complex phenomena, into well, cautionary children’s tales?” rambles Misha K, the wild eyed Bulgarian millionaire.
“I’d go even further to say, to caution even the arrogance of making Judeo-Christian spiritual assumptions in this day and age. The utter epitomes of self-absorption most grand that would make you all assume that you were either the center of the universe figuratively. Literally or neurologically; more so spiritually. Even now putting these base ideas into Ameikanski I must use nine words when in my own native tongue I could use a hand gesture, a syllable.”
“He speaks a lot while not saying anything,” notes Dasha.
“Indeed.” says Sebastian.
“Good, Evil, Angels and Demons! Flabergashy I say. Well I’m sure someone from the former Soviet Union once has explained how there is no such thing. No such thing as either. I’ve never seen an angel before I laid eyes on this woman” he says taking Dasha Andreavna’s hand and kissing it gently.
“Enchante,” she responds facetiously doing her famous micro curtsey.
“To which I attempted to refute that with my American understandings of hope and heroism there are both angels and demons battling everywhere, and certainly good and evil are quite real I assure you,” Sebastian retorts.
“Mere devices in service of the ego sir, you see there may be deeds that cause pain or deeds that cause pleasure, but all of them get accomplished without some god or the devil whispering in the ear of human kind.”
“I’ll believe what I believe and you believe what you believe,” Sebastian says paraphrasing the Prophet Muhammad.
“And I’ll believe what I’ve believed all along which is that you men say a lot of drunk bullshit when you all drink!” Mutters Dasha, “darling tovarish let’s leave now, these wily tricksters offer us little besides their temporary refuge, their wine and some vodka.”
“Darling tovarish, it looks as though they have sealed us in,” Sebastian notes.
The fortifications are very much in place.
It even appears that the enormous vodka drinking black cat that was once James Behemoth is welding the metal door behind the barricade right to its frame. Ernesto is singing some old folk tune in Spanish as he gently swings the bench back and forth. Sasho has not left his standing perch at the bars end.
“It is not to seal you in. It is to keep the law enforcers temporarily at bay when they arrive,” states Sasho.
“Well sit down,” Sasho commands.
There is age as well as gypsy wisdom expressed in the features of this strong man, though his Semitic black eyes burn with casual madness. But, it is also as if he has not aged in ten years, will not age in ten more. Perhaps he has never aged at all thinks Sebastian as a remarkable feeling of de ja vu over takes him. He had wandered into this tavern many times over the course of the decade, but when had been the very first time?
What had that original indulgence cost?
Sebastian Adon and Dasha Andreavna seat themselves on the plank of the bar bench swing closest to Sasho. Martina drops shot glasses in front of them. Her nakedness is ignored by virtually everyone. Dasha notices. And out of his corner eye Sebastian does too. And in this noticing of her pale, curvy and naked Bulgarian body he sees although flawless in her nude form she has what appears to be a subtle ecchymosis of the neck, a hicky perhaps, but black and blue. The only deformity to her naked perfection.
“I have plenty of doubts about helping you,” Sasho begins. “Just because you’re adulterers doesn’t mean you came to play with a full hand of cards.”
“They’re not consummated adulterers, just wild reckless ones with intent to achieve adultery,” Martina interjects.
“Please do remain quiet, Hella,” Sasho commands.
“What is it you want from me again?” Sasho asks.
“A trade,” says Sebastian. “A job,” says Dasha.
Their answers came out at once.
“You have nothing that I cannot just take, either of you.”
“I respect you sir, your powers I mean and this establishment generally, but we are not afraid of you,” Sebastian says, “Unlike many others we are neither enthralled nor intimidated easily. Our regularity has not indebted us to your, tavern.”
Sasho grins and his smoke trails take form before then, out his lips the smoke becomes a floating diorama of urbanity unraveling into anarchy.
Misha K. interjects himself into the palaver with wild hand motions and flailing;
“You ought to be more afraid of your fellow humans. And each also other since both of you albeit human are both vigorously more endowed. There will not be dawn breaking in two hours. Outside lawless mobs are looting and burning, the whole city is on fire. Heads are being cut off as though this were Jacobin France. The police are killing people in the streets. Sheer and total anarchy! And as we speak cordons of police are marching their way across the Lower East Side, heading here! They are after you two who they wrongly suspect of being key players in this bloody revolution being carried out. The Authorities dejour mean to arrest you both for high crimes, conspiracy and treason! In any number of minutes they will be banging on these doors asking for your heads on platters.”
Martina pours shots for them from a deeply frosty unmarked bottle.
“Do you love her?” Sasho asks pointing to Dasha.
“Of course I do,” Sebastian says. “Of course he does,” she responds siltaneously.
She turn to him as if surprised, although it’s come out once before.
“She doesn’t love you.”
“I realize that.”
“She most likely and I say this respectfully but with great faith, she never will. Not in this lifetime anyway.”
Sebastian turns to Dasha and takes her hand. She doesn’t pull away from this grossly sentimental display.
“Well as we all know. It’s not as if you only get one try.”
Sasho grins and breathes about smoke.
“I’ve run out of people to help me run and places to hide are running short. If I am not mistaken many of my friends and associates have been taken or killed over the course of this black night. If I am not mistaken, the authorities think I am higher in the non-existent chain of command of this uprising than I really am. If I am not mistaken some rather grisly crimes have been committed over the past five weeks, my alleged role the general uprising not withstanding; it seems that the authorities wish to try us not just for treason but for sick, an heinous offenses committed by some rampant cult in grey.”
“Well it is certainly not Behemoth and I who are the poster children of the uprising or the slaughters of young wayward women,” notes Justin Azzello.
“We may be an establishment of handsome devils, trickster Gypsies and seductresses and thieves, but we are not sick fuck murders,” states James White seated now at the long bar with a Corona which is also the neighborhood in Queens that he lives in.
“Are you asking me for help?” Sasho asks.
“We don’t have anyone else to turn to, at this juncture” Dasha says.
“Are you saying your god is ignoring you?” Misha K. asks with a grin, “are you saying you tried to pray and nothing happened?”
“Imagine that,” says sly Martina.
“Look here,” interrupts Dasha, “we are not at your mercy. Although he doesn’t exactly look the part right now per-say, this man is or was; Vasa the gunslinger.”
“Vasa the gunslinger!” echoes Martina.
“Vasa the gunslinger,” repeats Misha with glee.
“Yes, yes I know the human protégé of Archangel Michael, guardians of the unborn children of potential messiahs,” states Sasho.
“If such fantasies are still believed in,” says Misha K.
“I believe,” declares James Behemoth.
“Me too,” says James White, the injured and retired cop. A mortal and a Catholic too.
“Martina, my Hella, what think you of us assisting agents of, the other side?”
“Well now!” She leans her supple frame over the bar painting up her lips deep blood red as she does, “Well most interesting is that neither of them reports to remember anything of their past lives and associations, in a word, sorcery made them mortal this round, but who’s sorcery? Not ours surely or we’d have known about it.”
Justin Azzello with a cowboy killer in his mouth is now also seated at the devils bar table and declares, “We definitely would have known about it.”
Martina continues, “The mystics long believed that in each generation would be born one hundred and four candidates out of the bloodline of King David, house Judah that these candidates would be hidden from the so called forces of good and evil, that then three would reveal themselves by their 33 year as the Tzadik haDroriim, the three potential candidates for messiah. Only these three; a warrior, a sage, and an oracle might reverse the tide of human suffering and usher in an age of reason and compassion. Suffice to say, a good much was invested to snuff this nonsense out. Many factions have at one time or another joined hands to abort this prophesy as close to the womb as possible. Mostly by killing or corrupting them before the year of their revelation. Often by getting at their mothers before they are born. Have you heard this Old Soul mythology before?”
“Emma Solomon!” yells Justin Azzello suddenly and neither Dasha or Sebastian flinch or appear to recognize the name.
“Who’s Emma Solomon?” asks Sebastian.
Sasho, with a poker face says, “Never mind.”
“If I told you that you were both super natural beings with auspicious births and no biological fathers, at least not genealogically speaking what would you make of that?” asks Sasho.
“I’d say stop fucking around with drunken people and get down to business,” Dasha retorts.
“Alright then, if it is in my power, I’ll make you both a good deal. For a job I require you to follow this man to the cross roads and keep him from selling his third soul to anyone, anyone at all. I will help you escape and you will be in my employ for three years of human time which is considerably more or less fourth dimensionally speaking, though cost no more than three life days here in this reality. As for a trade I will trade you her contract to me and help you both quite literally disappear if you will go on a little field trip on my behalf once you escape.”
“So my job for your establishment is to escort Sebastian on some mission into exile?” Dasha asks.
“Exile isn’t any place to hide. We offer you fourth dimensional time travel,” states Misha.
She looks at them all blankly, this cohort and Otriad of thieves, whores and devils.
“What in the fuck are you talking about!?” Dasha asks.
“Let me blunt, before I am specific because time is for once not really on your side tonight new friends,” says Misha, ” Sasho might I be so bold as to lay out the terms?”
Sasho makes a hand motion and a shrug indicating the international indication of; carry on.
“Daria Andreavna. We know what your husband will do to keep you. He’s found Mr. Adon’s letters; he has your passport and Adon’s parents address and your mother’s too. He’s not going to let you just walk away. Sebastian Vasili. Since the little melee on that train your little band of black brothers has been hunted down and exterminated down to almost the last woman and man. Not only are you all being accused of being of house of subterfuge and treason, when you are arrested they will accuse you and she and your associates in the Z.O.B. of being sadistic vampires cannibals! They will drag you before trial and say that the thirteen of you were kidnapping, raping and vivisecting young girls for sacrifice.
And then they will line you up and execute you all to make an example. Under any scenario your little five weeks of romance have yielded impending catastrophic dividends.”
Dasha shrugs. Sebastian again with a different Bulgarian hand sign often utilized by Sasho and Misha asks Martina to fill up their shot glasses and get Dasha a red bull chaser.
“How now?” he says.
“Most basic. We will hide you in the past. She will belong then to us, and you can auction her freedom with your abilities. You will thus work under a contract with a devil like me for three days’ time. Which will feel to you like three years over three past lifetimes. And when it’s done you’ll both be free and your friends will be alive and your city will be secure and spring time will be near. Instead of torture, prison, murder, death, not just yours and hers but your friends and families, instead of another victory for one side or another, you get freedom. You get to absolve yourself of the burdens you were born into, and in five weeks flirted your way toward courting oblivion.”
“What does he have to do, for us to get that?” Dasha asks.
“Three day’s work,” claims Sasho.
“But three years in the eye of the mind,” warns Martina always quite a fan of Sebastian’s hopeless romanticisms and writing, also the way Dasha moves men.
“What is it that we have to get done in these three days, or lifetimes or whatever to save our families and friends and each other?” Sebastian asks.
“Hella,” says Sasho.
She open her pouty lips and pulls out a tiny scroll and on it reads: “Die, steal the moon, kill a lesser demon, and take good notes of your comings and goings. Return to life.”
“Miraculous levels of detail here,” says Dasha sarcastically.
“If you sign yourselves to me and my gang I will not only harbor you but I will aid you at all stages in getting this job done.”
“How will we convincingly die?”
“I will put your souls in new vessels and leave convincing corpses for the authorities and your husband to find.”
“Dance magic dance. The implications of your voodoo are not as interesting to me as what in past lives and other times you want us to accomplish,” exclaims Dasha.
“I want you to see for yourselves what happened to the man Yeshua ben Yosef in the year 33, I want you to kill a demon I compete with in 1933, and I want you to steal a diamond of enormous size in 1996 and trade it with an old Jew who will give me something I require.”
“In just three days, what the fuck man,” Dasha exclaims, “What expertise do either of us even have for this back magical undertaking?”
“Three days here. Three years there. Over three lifetimes. Understand what you’re signing,” says Martina.
“And what is it you want from the old Jew?” Asks Dasha as if the notion of time travel and other lives doesn’t perplex her in the slightest.
“I want leverage. I’m bargaining now to open a second tavern and I require a bargaining chip.”
“And on your three day journey you will take care of three variables I need adjusted.”
“What’s on the list?” Dasha asks.
“Names of women he wishes to employ at the new tavern,” Martina smiles.
“It’s a rather tall order. Infiltrate and revise the New Testament, wack a lesser demon, and steal a precious stone to get a list of women’s names. Fourth dimensional mission impossible,” Sebastian says likening it to a great American film.
“The things a woman will do for a man in the name of her freedom, sounds like Master and Margarita,” says Dasha likening it to her favorite novel.
“We’re going to help you,” says James Behemoth.
“It’s not as if we’re just going to burn the social club to the ground and quietly plant your lifeless corpses about the city and vanish into blue smoke,” says James White.
“Although that was one plan,” says Justin Azzello.
“Oh no-no, were gonna to that AND transmography the entire tavern down the rabbit hole of time. We’re gonna help you run three mighty-mighty epic miracles,” claims Misha.
“For leverage,” says Justin Azello.
“With whom?” Dasha asks.
“The man who issues liquor licenses and cabaret licenses for the city,” smiles Martina.
“We’re not stupid,” says Dasha.
“We’re not demons,” says Misha K with a smile adjusting his glasses.
“You’re definitely not angels,” says Martina.
“I am a devil though,” states Sasho, “not the devil, because there isn’t just one anything in a universe so vast, but know that if you two don’t live up to my powers of intervention, then the Bratva your keeper associates with, and the security apparatus of the American state investigating you, and the cult that pursues you will be the least of your problems,” explains Sasho.
“By far the least,” says Justin Azzello.
“Why us? Why help us though, what makes you think we can do what you want?” Sebastian asks.
“Because you’re Old Souls,” says Misha.
“Because I’m not dealing with paramedic student Adon son of a privileged bourgeoisie, and Daria Andreavna, accounting student debutante, property of Bratva,” exclaims Sasho, “once you leave these bodies I’ll have put two very powerful creatures on my pay roll: Vasa the Gunslinger and Dasha Andreavna Skorbogatova Maccluskey; Candidate 64.”
“Candidate?” She asks.
“Oh poor unfortunate souls, the ethanol clouded all your past lives and accomplishments,” says Martina pinching Sebastian’s cheek.
“Moonstruck until they can’t tell an angel or devil apart,” says Justin Azello quoting the prophetic verses.
Martina leans in, “Why, you’re Vasa the Gunslinger, student of the archangel Michael, the greatest killer of demons in Gregorian time! And you,” she says leaning into Dasha, “well via the blood line of the house of Judah traced only in part by our little gang, well you have Israelite blood, you are candidate mother of a tzadik ha dror.”
“What does that even mean!!” Dasha half yells.
“You might bear the messiah of your generation and he is the man in the grey mask, a historical serial killer. Your blood and your womb and your collective memories will take us where we need to go and his deadly-deadly aim will let us acquire the things we need,” says Misha.
“If we do as you ask we can save our families and his murdered friends and we can return in three days and when we do what we change will set us free?”
“Precisely. And when the new tavern opens I’ll rehire you both happily,” states Sasho.
“Albeit in far more glorious capacities!” declares Misha.
“Absofuckinglutely” says Sasho.
“All this for a cabaret license,” mutters James Behemoth.
“For a cabaret most subversive to the elites of this world and lucrative for me. For all of us. So if you would, Hella..”
Martina pulls a ball point pen of solid gold out her lips.
Rising out of nowhere from each shot glass emerges a rolled scroll.
Dasha takes the one in front of her written in Russian. Sebastian’s is in Russian too and thus he cannot even read it.
“You trust her don’t you?” Says Martina with a wink, “she’ll translate it.”
“What’s it say?” Sebastian asks Dasha not even thinking so hard about the content.
Slowly she translates:
“I will own you and you will own me and Sasho will own us both until completion of our duties to Mehanata which include documentation and surveillance of the man Yeshua be Yosef and his wife Mary Magdalena; the assassination of a demon in the from Mr. Breria head of the Stalinist secret police; and the theft of the blue moon diamond. Once said duties are in order we are free people and all calamities unleashed by our brief passions will be un made allowing us at that juncture to part as associates or should love or passion grow strong enough to marry and allow Sasho the honor of hosting our happy marriage. It specifies that under no circumstances are you to be allowed to sell your third soul, nor am I to have sexual intercourse with you,”
“Vaginal sexual intercourse!” interrupts Martina, “we don’t care about the rest of it.”
Dasha without even squinting continues, “and we are prohibited from drinking.”
“And what does mine say?”
And she looks it over.
“It says almost the same thing except for a sub clause which establishes that should we fail at our tasks you assume full responsibility for all resulting actions.”
“Dude, just sign the thing, the cops are gonna be here to kick in the door any minute now, I have a good tip. You’re gonna get accused of harvesting and eating women’s sexual organs. Just sign the thing. Its three days of work and it your only way out,” says James White, who as the only human privy to the sorcery at work is rooting for Sebastian as a former civil servant.
“I love you,” Sebastian says looking into Daria’s big blue eyes and he signs the contract totally unable to read it.
She marvels at this then calmly signs hers.
A banging on the metal doors shakes everyone out of their surrealist stupor.
“Welcome to the staff,” Martina says extending her hand.
The banging continues muffled shouts through a public address system declare everyone must come out before the authorities come inside. It sounds as though a battering ram has been deployed.
“‘James White and my noble companeros please exit via the roof and see to it that the body doubles are put in place before dawn,” commands Sasho, “Tomorrow is Friday thus this is when Dasha must be found lifeless in Brighton and it must be believed that Adon murders himself on Saturday. And please call the Lynches a cab. Everyone else! To the Ice Cage.”
James Behemoth still in the form of a cat kicks over an enormous canteen of petrol as does Martina. Everyone forms a line behind Sasho and then go down stairs. The stink of petrol is over powering. Justin Azzello opens the freezer door. A hatch in the floor is then unlatched and they behold a bottomless pit.
“Down the tunnel you go, we’ll be right behind you as soon as we burn this place to the ground,” Misha K. declares.
“Remember, no matter where you end up find the tavern and there we will be,” Martina says.
Daria turns to Sebastian and takes his hand as they enter the freezer box with wall to wall vodka for the very first and possibly last time.
“No drinking, no fucking and no selling his soul,” Justin Azzello repeats.
“I’m sorry that I’ve gotten you into this whole mess,” Daria says to Sebastian.
“Did you do it on purpose?” He asks her as they stand at the precipice.
“I did. But I had no choice.”
Contemplating the utter madness of the past five weeks, the misadventures the brushes with death, now the signing of a contract with the devil and a step into the unknowns of the past!
“Bze platnee syr ve mishalovka,” Sebastian declares. The only free cheese is in a mouse trap. He pronounces everything correctly this time.
“If you do a good job, and we get them what they want, then I promise ill make love to you until you don’t even know the difference between your wants and your needs, between lust and loving, I will give you everything you ever wanted from me.”
“For how long?”
“Three days, or forever.”
“Daria, no matter what happens I’m glad that you found me.”
“We shall see,” she says with her famous poker smile.
Holding hands they step into the void.