It's J.J.'s swing again on the tables, and in the multicolored lights, Taro is trance-dancing.
Because he is a priest in training, he must take the floor and lead the worshippers for exactly one hour three times a week. The flock sway their arms blindly in the air and do not recognize when one blurry beat melts into another. CDs swap. Taro hears his cues rise out of the depths of synthesis and wipes the sweat off his upper lip.
This night is played for him.
The ravers do not care when the music changes, more interested in keeping themselves upright as they shove at one another drunkenly and call it the latest fad. The bass beat of the hymn is strong enough that Taro's eardrums vibrate with each pulse.
J.J. always picks the hardest songs when it's Taro's turn. It's because you remind me of my little brother, he smirked once when asked, and then spun up the volume. Preach the right feed tonight, okay?
Duct-taped shoes squeak on the scuff-carved floors. Fashion changes and rebels against itself. Wafers pass from table to table, wrapped in crackling plastic and blessed with the stamp of the latest chemical code.
While Taro may not have to pierce his chest with needles and lash himself to a pole until delirium takes him from the sun, fatigue sets in early during his shouts, morphs the chant he leads them with into hoarse nonsense verse. Holy communion for the Knights is performed in cheap concrete basements with ignorant club-goers to serve en masse.
Cyberia is only one cell in a widespread organism. Across town, other acolytes are conducting worship in similar chambers, fingers on the pulse of electrical transmissions. Raves provide metabolic energy. Everything connects.
In the shifting spaces between the dancers, Taro catches flicks of white noise manifesting as the club writhes and bucks in its alcohol-laden heat. Phantom fingers spread as he watches. Translucent nails bulge into numbers, the bodies faceless in real-time streaming.
Digital ghosts walk and dissolve into equations that merge together in the crowd.
No one in the club realizes that Taro is the locus. The circle of space around him is unconscious. They are simultaneously the backdrop to his ecstasy, and his flock. Taro screams his preprogrammed sermon until his throat burns and all he's succeeding at is pushing out air from the raw volcano of his mouth.
And Taro is dancing with baby-fat still on his arms and his cheeks, child acolyte, Knight-to-be, and instructed that this was another duty meant to grease the wheels of the path to the Truth. He didn't understand some of the things they promised at the time, but he referenced them later on one of the library Navis.
They all sounded good.
Myu-Myu and Masayuki have already gone home, Myu-Myu sucking on lollipops that distended her schoolgirl cheek. Both of their families expect the children in by nine at the very latest. Taro's family is used to his claim of extra study programs and endless tutors that keep him out so late that it's early. Once the subways have shut down and forced errant businessmen to mewl in annoyance at their watches, Taro will ride the taxi service, watching midnight come and go like a dream.
Behind the bar, J.J.'s clock ticks out the hour. Green slab numbers tally the beginning of a new day. Junior high classmates will be at home in their beds. Neighborhoods will sleep.
Taro will order another glass of club soda, and cough on the bubbles.
The other bishops who serve the Knights all have their assigned haunts. At times, older Knights enter Cyberia and watch Taro from the sidelines. They are attracted to the places where the real and Wired worlds blur; the rituals are sacred and always have been, despite the metamorphosis of years. Each night summons the digital closer. It's an ongoing performance.
Taro's eyes are half-closed. He cannot keep them open. If he does, he dizzies himself, and the vertigo causes the room to pitch and spin, his gorge to rise until the fantasy of vomiting becomes more and more appealing with each gyration. Revelation races him during these times, tempting him with his answer just one step ahead.
J.J.'s face is a furred blur in the psychotic lights.
Present-time locomotion means nothing to Taro. As his sweaty feet hit the floor again and again, he believes he is following the paths of the past. He is a mystic entranced by cinnamon-spiced narcotics in a ritual of sand dunes and dervishes. He is dressed in Greek temple clothes, inhaling the gases rising from stone crevices. Bells clash invisibly around Taro's ankles, around his wrists, as history synchronizes with his adrenaline.
He is possessed by all of them. The ant-buzzing of white and black crawls across his vision to swallow him whole, just like a television receiving every signal at once.
Taro reaches for the Truth now even as it slides out of reach beneath a flood of dizziness when he snaps his head too quickly to the side. It tastes like copper wire, and solder.
Then he realizes he has bitten his tongue, and wonders if that is enlightenment.