Neon (meaning new) – is the fourth most abundant element in the universe, but rare on Earth, found at 1 part in 65,000.
It is an element which doesn’t like to react, because the outermost shell of the nucleus is full, giving no incentive to swap with other elements. Produced through fractional distillation, the chill factor makes neon important. A high electric charge excites the neon and it glows as it returns to its neutral state.
It’s inertness makes it long-lasting.
Chapter One - Reticular Formation
The neurons of the reticular formation all play a crucial role in maintaining behavioural arousal and consciousness
Part I – Danger
Contamination - making or being made impure by polluting or poisoning
The neon light glowed in the darkness, reflecting electric colours that reverberated off the sidewalk. The tall glass buildings he hugged gave no protection from the incessant rain that streaked in cords from an unseen sky. “Join us for a new dawn...” the smiling face, ten times larger than reality, announced from the red and blue electric billboard, so far up towards the invisible sky that it towered over the street.
“Watch It!” The loud voice jarred him back to earth. He bumped into the figure of a man dressed in a grey hat and overcoat, the collar turned up, his face obscured. The man walked quickly on, ignoring him, mumbling something that was lost in the noise.
He stopped, looked down from the giant billboard which was now saying, “life has never been this good...” and turned, watching the figure disappear. He was soaked through to the skin, the clothes he had on offered no protection from the torrential downpour.
The loud screaming hum of an electric vehicle zoomed past, a mist of water swirling and scattering behind it. His attention was drawn to watching the rear lights recede down the street. He jumped, startled at the touch of a hand on his shoulder. Turning rapidly to look behind him, he was staring directly into the face of a boy. Another dark figure, cloaked in a hoody, about his own height.
“You can’t be on the street during curfew.” The boy offered a half smile, as if he wasn’t sure what the reaction would be.
A quizzical expression crossed the stranger’s face, but was gone almost in the same instant. Perhaps he had decided something? His hand gripped Joel’s upper arm.
“Come on, let’s go.”
He pulled him back along the sidewalk, back in the direction he had started from.
Any resistance was momentary. Joel followed the boy.
Walking side by side they turned into a small alley between tall buildings. Suddenly Joel stopped. The boy turned, looking at him. They faced each other silently. The rain was dripping from his hair and from the hood covering the boy in front of him. Joel watched, distracted by a glistening rain drop on the tip of the other boy’s nose.
“I can’t stay here,” the boy broke the silence.
The whirring of another car passing along the main street added a sort of highlight to that assertion. Joel was torn, undecided, was it safe?
“Come on! “ There was an urgency in the boy’s voice, but Joel didn’t move.
The rain bounced off the buildings and pooled in a dark puddle around their feet. The darkness was deeper in the ally, only a faint red glow shed any light, and that was at the far end, almost obscured by the gloom.
“Where are we going?,” Joel had found his voice.
And now the boy pulled his arm, urging him forward along the alley. Once again he didn’t resist, although his question just hung in the night, unanswered.
They stopped below the red glow of an electric sign hanging above the door at the far end of the alley. The dim light it provided washed out by the rain. It flickered, grew momentarily bright, then faded and came back alight. The neon inside buzzed and crackled in rhythm with the flickering glow, but looking up it was still clear enough to read the name – ‘BB Club.’’ The boy tapped a code, pushed the door open, and virtually shoved Joel inside. He closed the door behind them.
Joel perceived the closing door like another statement in a long series of events. The images crossed his mind one after the other of closing doors, their apartment, the car, the train, the centre.
The boy’s hand moved down Joel’s arm and found his hand. The warmth of the touch was as if a switch had been flicked – this was the first human contact since the door closed at the centre.
He led the way down a dimly lit corridor, only tiny LEDs at floor level marked the passage. They moved right, descending some stairs which turned, twice, ninety degrees. Now it seemed they were in some kind of basement below ground.
Across the far side of this underground space, the boy opened a door and they went inside.
As the door clicked shut behind them the neon tube came alive, buzzed that insane electric hum, like it was gasping for breath. Blinked one final time, as if saying with some satisfaction – I’m alive again – the white light shattered the darkness.
Joel looked around. There was no furniture apart from a large bed and a dark brown leather armchair, cracked and broken, the stuffing trying to escape in several places.
The boy stood in the middle of the room and started to undress. Joel stared, he didn’t know what to do. What was happening?
“Take your clothes off,” the boy looked up as he removed his jeans.
Joel didn’t react immediately, he looked at the boy, now almost completely naked, standing with hands on hips in his underpants. The boy waited.
“Like what you see?” The boy smirked, turned, opened a cupboard and then removed a towel.
Joel made no reply, just watched the boy.
He threw the towel, which hit him and dropped to the floor.
“For God’s sake, get out of your clothes and get dry!” The boy turned back to the cupboard, pulled out another towel and began drying himself.
Joel started to remove his clothes. He wasn't shy, or concerned, the boy was nice, but his head was fuzzy. It was hard to get coherent thoughts together. Joel was not sure if he had suffered something, maybe he’d been contaminated?
He did as told, removed all his soaking wet clothes, bent down and picked up the towel to dry himself. He looked at the boy standing there, picking clean clothes from the cupboard.
Something stirred inside him. His eyes rested glued to the figure in front of him and in particular to the fine rounded cheeks of the boy’s arse.
The boy knew that Joel was looking at him, he could sense the gaze of Joel’s eyes staring into him. He didn’t have to look, he felt it. He pulled on some clothes. He thought to himself – ‘this could work out.’
Once dressed in shorts and t-shirt, he turned around. Joel was standing naked next to a pile of wet clothes, holding the towel in front of him.
“We’re about the same size, come here and pick something.”
Joel walked over, standing closer, still clutching the towel. The boy turned and they accidently brushed shoulders. He smiled at Joel. It was definitely a smile, not a smirk, a genuine smile. Joel reached out to take a t-shirt from the cupboard, his towel dropped a little.
The boy moved away to sit on the bed, still watching Joel. Joel pulled the t-shirt on letting the towel fall to the floor. It was his turn to feel that sensation of someone’s eyes staring.
Once the t-shirt was on he picked out some underpants and turned back towards the boy on the bed. “Can I take these?” He held them up.
“Yeah, everything’s clean.”
For some weird reason Joel was getting hard. He had no idea why. Joel could look at a person and admire beauty, and this boy was a fine example, but he had never been predisposed to any sort of attraction towards another boy. This was a first!
Joel realised that his head was clearing. He got dressed, choosing a pair of jeans, then closing the cupboard and taking a seat in the armchair, which clanged metallically as he lowered himself into it.
“It’s a worn out bit of shit,” the boy told him.
Joel smiled back.