When I returned to that little town in the middle of nowhere with a flier for The Midnight Show in hand, I was somewhat prepared. I mean, I knew what the townspeople were going to tell me, in their peculiar, half-sleepy, judgmental way.
You must not have the sense God gave a goose, girl—go home. There is no new management. Phaeton burned to the ground and nobody in town mails those fliers anymore.
Don’t worry, my sweet connoisseurs of depravity; this is not where my story ends.
True enough, a deeply zealous gaggle of Brother Thises and Sister Thats had torched the Phaeton ten years prior, and nothing had been built in its place since that fateful night. But one of those fliers had reached me from somewhere, signed by an old friend who made it to the last show exactly one year ago.
Above the haphazardly scrawled signature was the most intriguing message. It consisted of four words and five syllables: it will transform you. Rest assured, I had decided there was no way I was leaving before midnight.
Do you know what inspired the name Phaeton? There are two answers that work, by the way—an open carriage pulled by horses in the late eighteenth century or the son of Helios, who nearly set the earth on fire driving the chariot of the sun. Both were fast and dangerous, and, therefore, appropriate as a namesake for the place in which I was about to set my well-booted feet.
At the exact stroke of midnight, the clanging of the old clock tower in the heart of downtown split the air. A spot of earth in the rubble where the club had once burned became lava. It twisted, and writhed, and arose as a funnel of magic. The magic jumped, and it spun, flinging out the foundation, walls, and roof of the Phaeton all around it; its former glory was restored, in seconds, before my astonished eyes.
When the door opened up, music and laughter waited just beyond the threshold. A rather large, decadent man wearing nothing but a feather mask and a lovely smile appeared. He slipped an open book, a leatherbound ledger of sorts, into my hands, mentioning that initials were required. Having come this far, and desperate to see the marvels that lay ahead, of course, I agreed. What’s a little blood, anyway?
Inside the building, my loves, there were such wonders to be seen—barbarians and contortionists, shuddering angels and marvelous fiends. If you gave me a lifetime to describe the delights—the sensual pleasure, the fabulous torment—I sampled and tasted in one night at Phaeton, quite frankly, it still wouldn’t do … which is why I decided to stay on as part of the show.
We’ll be visiting your town soon—you might call it a once-in-a-lifetime engagement. Look out for our flier in the mail, and promise me you’ll come at midnight.
Don’t be late.
It will transform you.