Burn!

WHEN CHINA ANNOUNCED IT WAS TURNING USER-PAYS IN EARLY 1994, JEREMY DECIDED IT WAS TIME FOR A NEO-MARXIST revival. All the indicators were there. Class conflict had been out of style for more than a decade, the most liberal universities were teaching the new Market Management historical perspective. For once even Trax agreed.

<<Silikon's getting too mainstream for its own good>> he said. They were at Flux one night, and the mood was ultramanisch. <<If it doesn't redefine itself in a month, I'm giving it up to the pre-pubescents.>>

The redefinition came, and just in time - from the rusty factory towns and unemployment queues of eastern Europe came Industrialism, the new, back-to-basic prequal to Silikon. For the first moment in living memory it seemed anything grotty, grey and low-tech was back in style. And for once Jeremy could finally feel proud that his Dad was a mechanic.

He was so excited the morning the news came out in Sub he accidentally interrupted Trax interfacing some Flux swing-on named Rochelle. The Second Industrial Revolution would sweep Australia that Sunday, he told them hurriedly, breaking out of Silikon vokab, and it would be sparked at the Blast Furnace Insurrection Ball, Port Kembla, only $45 admission!

Perhaps unnerved by the user-unfriendly syntax, and perhaps because he couldn't stand Jeremy rambling so early in the morning, Trax was unimpressed. <<Sorry man>> not caring to cover Rochelle's torso with the sheet <<Port Kembla's just too far away.>>

After that day, Trax didn't expect to hear from Rochelle or the Furnace ever again.

TUESDAY WAS CAPACITOR NIGHT AT Flux and all the usual crowd were there (unfortunately.) As soon as Trax walked in, he was confronted by the sight of Rochelle pounding the floor with her cluster of instant untouchables. What a freaking nightmare!

There was only one honorable solution for a inveterate swinger like him: bail. Slinking out Trax was surprised to notice, hanging on a noticeboard, a poster advertising dance holidays to the great manufacturing belts of the world. He was even more surprised to notice, hanging next to it, a small leaflet designed in an early 20th Century agitprop style, interspersed with random and inappropriate Crylic letters, and boldly proclaiming:

CLUBBERS OF THE WORLD UNITE!
BLAST FURNACE INSURRECTION BALL
PORT KEMBLA
*Seize the means of production! *All power to the proletariat! * Featuring Lenin and Polycentric DJs!

Just a little crush... Celestina, and the Martians

Trax panicked. Industrialism could be mainstream within months.

Anyone can keep up with fashions; to get over these days you have to keep at least one movement ahead.

<<YOU WON'T REGRET THIS, I PROMISE YOU>> Jeremy gushed. It was three nights later, and they were standing at the back of a long queue at the Port Kembla Blast Furnace #5. <<I swear, this is going to be the hottest rush!>>

<<Maybe<< Trax said. He'd come dressed as a British trade unionist circa 1920s, complete with flat cap, tweed waistcoat and pockets stuffed full of thick cigars. Jeremy, a little less imaginative, was in his cousin's work uniform and hard hat. <<Or the dampest fizz>> he continued. Sub often went in for speculative hype; he had an uncomfortable suspicion the whole thing was just a gimmick to revive a depressed local economy.

The club was set in an actual working blast furnace, a gargantuan chamber with coal-fired stoves, torpedo ladles brimming with molten iron, hissing steam, slabs of red steel sliding on conveyor belts and rolling trains from which make-believe welders sprayed sparks on to the dance floor and performed short raps about exploitation. Jeremy was right about something, Trax thought when they finally milled in: the crowd was crude in the extreme, rattling in grotstained overalls and swiveling miner lamps, or Red Army coats and flimsy Polish T-shirts.

They started the night at a workbench with a few vodkas and other corrosives, Trax's eyes a constant blur from girl to girl. This was the incubation period, the slow build-up: after two hours he should start laboring, and have something produced within four. After two drinks Jeremy was already at the tipsy, rambling stage.

<<The reason the unemployment rate's still at least 15 per cent is because, whether we like it or not, the age of heavy manufacturing is over - with the macro revolution all the jobs are migrating to Malaysia and New Canton, but we're so partisan that we keep blaming it on Keating5...>>

Comrades Marx and DJ Lenin, at the Insurrection Ball, near Wollongong

At that moment a caricature of Lenin jumped from a torpedo ladle train and yelled: <<Ravers of the world, unite! Are you tired of commercial radio stations polluting the airwaves with their relentless golden oldies? Have you had it up to the proverbial with bogans6 on public transport accosting you and trying to shame your musical tastes? Don't take shit from heathens trying to oppress your hardcore spirit! Join the Second Industrial Revolution at 2am in Blast Furnace #6.>> Then, waving his hands to the conveyor belt bang of Maschine's Iron Lung he said: <<You'll never melt this hardcore!>>

Before Jeremy could mutter <<Now, what were we talking about?>> Trax sprung up from his chair and declared: <<All right, fuck this. I'm going for a roam.>>

TRAX ALWAYS WONDERED HOW PEOPLE MET, what accidental encounters, collisions of eyes, sparked mutual smiles, bridging introductions. Not being a fatalist, all Trax knows is that his latest collision happened as he pushed his way through the crowd to the mens room, and that he'll be forever grateful.

He felt a soft elbow in his backbone, span to see her eyes first, a smoldering ozone blue, an ethereal contrast to the hellish monochromes of the Furnace.

<<Sorry>> he said shyly; like all his introductions, he left plenty of room for a retreat. But she smiled broadly, running one hand through the fringe of her short dark hair, cropped at the back to show the hollow of her neck. She was wearing torn blue overalls smeared with what appeared to real grease.

Before she was pushed away by the crowd he anchored her with a <<I'm Trevor. You look like slag7.>>

She stopped confused, trying to work out if it was a compliment, or if he was just being rude. Thankfully, she gave him the benefit of the doubt. <<Slags are bad, but slag singular is cool. You can call me Lidija.>> Then, more flirtatiously: <<You don't sound like a local. How strange it is to see a tourist here, in a city with our reputation.>>

<<I was apprehensive at first>> Trax confessed <<but I swear tonight's been fucking wild. I guess having such a hot party in such an awful place sort of justifies its ugliness.>>

<<This must be our 15 minutes>> she said.

Though she was gorgeous, Trax suddenly picked up a twang in her voice - definitely second-generation Slav, almost state school. It was unfortunate this observation coincided with the bloom of nearby sulfur jets. <<If we made every factory and factory town in the nation like this>> he pronounced feeling the opening thumps of a migraine <<Industrialism will last a few months at least!>>

A new track came on, with a frantic hammer banging against a hard anvil of electric guitar feedback and a bassline ripped off Sigue Sigue Sputnik, decorated with samples of fiery Cold War rhetoric, Yuri Gagarin's first visit to outer space, and propaganda from the Korean War. Trax was ready to come in with a witty oneliner when she said <<There's someone I have to catch up with. I'll see you later.>> and disappeared into the evergrowing crowd.

<<Maybe in the revolution>> Trax said wistfully.

Jeremy was no relief back at the table. <<Trax, where's it all going?<< he slurred, girl-less, over his empties. <<Socialism's dead, the Third World's getting poorer every day, Iran is about to go nuclear. What's going to fill the vacuum?>>

A vat near the table burst into flame, showering them with sulfur. >>Not Industrialism, that's for sure<< Trax said. >>Honestly, how can you build a viable scene out of this? Pre-pubescents or not, give me a smart, user-friendly club any night!<<

Even as he said this he saw a familiar shape looming over him inside a unfamiliar HAZMAT suit and mask. <<Rochelle...>>

<<I would have told you I was coming>> she said removing her mask <<if you had given me your correct phone number.>>

The music broke down and DJ Lenin said over the dislocating silence: <<Ravers of the world, the moment of change is come! Five minutes to the sparking of the Industrial Revolution!>>

<<We can't miss the revolution>> Trax said and made a dash to Blast Furnace #6. A large space had been cleared at the center for a heaving pile of Australiana kitsch, thongs and beach towels, Holden memorabilia, bottles of Victoria Bitter and chardonnay, Rugby League jerseys and assorted merchandise, Elvis and Billy Joel records, on top of it all a middle-aged disc jockey in a leather swivel chair and cradling a record turntable. A vanguard of Bolshevik ravers approached him carrying DJ Lenin on their shoulders.

<<The heathens>> Lenin roared <<wallowing in their outdated mires, fail to appreciate the explosive power of Industrialism and have tried to suppress it. Well, you can't suppress an explosion without getting burnt!<<

He lit a kerosene-swabbed torch with a BiC lighter and tossed it to the pile. >>The revolution has begun! But the forces arrayed against us are formidable. The only was we can win, the only way we can build an industrial-strength utopia, is to show the heathens how to dance - through stomp.<<

He kicked in an incendiary track called Burn which instantly had the mob stomping and crying >>Meltcore, meltcore!<< Trax, noticing Jeremy and Rochelle behind him, bore his way the front.

A dark hand clasped around his wrist and a voice so lusciously seductive said >>Trax, how's it?<<

It was Lidija, bright-eyed and open. Oh well, one door closes... But he didn't have to make the move: she quickly grabbed his other arm and said, as if there were no question about it, said <<Let's dance!>>

She knew how to stomp, Trax thought: he was hard-pressed keeping up. She watched his eyes stray from her face to her propped breasts and trim waist, played upon his sleaze with more adventurous dance steps, bedazzled him with sizzling, molten looks.

Shunting forward, he rested his hands on her shoulders as they stomped, prompted her to do the same. He chanted <<Meltcore! meltcore!>> as her arms slid down his back, stiffened. Their lips moved slowly together, hesitated, then met briefly. More passionately, she gripped his head with vicelike strength and kissed him again, body still moving, headless chicken frantic, in reasonable time with bass.

Meltcore! meltcore!

The bonfire was really blazing now, flames licking the belly of the bogan, a stereotypical clown writhing in his chair and ranting <<Turn that rubbish down!>> and <<Strewth, you call that music!>> >>It's getting hot in here<< Lidija whispered.

Jeremy and Rochelle were closing in, so Trax took the hint and dragged her quickly into a nearby chill-out room. With the revolution near fever-pitch the room was deserted so he slumped Lidija into a coal trolley nestled in a corner, climbed on to her. >>In cleansing fire the commercial state is consumed and recycled<< Lenin said >>and from its ashes, Phoenix-like, the next stage of human development will arise... the Industrial Utopia!<<

Squirming together to the metallic bass, Trax rose, entered her, climaxed, lay still glossy with sweat mouthing Meltcore! meltcore! <<That was so... industrial>> he sighed. As Burn! extinguished they heard the crowd cheer and the death scream of DJ Bogan echo through the furnace.

<<Next week's ChloroFest<< Lidija said, putting her clothes back on.


Literary Me, at the Halfway House Squared