The Flaming Sea Limbo
[Here’s a little descriptive piece from the novel, on the far flung world of Aryell…]
I noticed a seat at the counter just as one of the Sea’s gals left it. She smiled as she passed, her face painted a light green, lips ruby red, tiny sequins on her forehead. A white flashstick, its holo-mist curling in multi-colored patterns toward the ceiling, sat beside a glass half full with a ruby-colored liquid. Lipstick marked the rim of the glass. I didn’t understand flashsticks, which were more for show than anything, the stimulants the manufacturers built into them relatively benign and hardly a reason to suck on them.
I sat down, ordered a beer, an Earth import, and the bartender plopped it down in front of me. I paid for it and waited for the time to pass.
The Free-Pop band, called Suzy and the Poppers, came back from a break and opened with a Zed Tomlin classic. The dance floor seethed with bodies swaying to the music like enchanted snakes. The tables were jammed. Seagals and Seaguys floated from one table to the next, taking orders, returning to the counter, piling drinks on their trays, and vanishing into the melee once again. I’d never seen the Flaming Sea so busy.
The band finished its set, and the glass cage lowered to the floor. The band piled out, and a man in black leather took a spot in the cage, prompting the crowd to applaud with wild abandon. I knew what was coming and smiled as the memories flooded back. The cage lifted above the heads of the crowd, and canned music started.
“Hehhhhhh-Loooohhhh!” the man in black leather screamed.
The crowd yelled back in unison, “Hey-O … Daddio!”
“This is the place, this is the time, folks, and I am Daddio, your host for the Union-famous, Flaming Sea original!”
The noise in the place increased. A man next to me whooped right in my ear. I gave him a dirty look, but he ignored me, keeping his attention on Daddio in the cage.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Daddio chanted, “it’s the Flaming Sea Limbo!”
Raucous music thundered in the room and about eighty people crammed onto the dance floor, squishing themselves into a knot of arms and legs right underneath the cage. Somehow, they managed to dance a little, if nothing more than hopping up and down, bending, twisting. The canned music intensified, and the cage cranked lower.
Slowly. Very slowly. People were ducking now, avoiding the bottom of the cage. Down came the cage another notch, and the dancers all bent at the waist. Feet on the floor, nothing else; that was the rule. People were forced out when they lost their balance and fell. Those still up made sure the guilty ones left the shadow of the cage.
“C’mon, you can do it!” Daddio screamed.
The music continued, the heavy bass booming like ground explosions. The cage lowered, and soon only ten people had managed the contortions necessary to remain on their feet. Then six remained. Then three. Then two.
One man in shorts and a Flaming Sea T-shirt stood an instant longer than a woman in a long white dress, and the crowd cheered and came over to acknowledge the man’s dexterity, taking him out of the way as the cage lowered all the way to the floor. They took him to the bar for his free drink and coupon good for fifteen minutes free with the girl of his choice. The applause died down and Suzy brought her Poppers back in to do another set.