Before you embark into the depths of darkness where avocado toast goes to rot, you’re required to put on the MILLENNIAL UNDERGROUND SPOTIFY PLAYLIST.
“What are you wearing? Is this supposed to be an Ironic “Sexy Dwight from The Office” Costume?” Trigger asked me.
Despite that being an accurate description of my thrift-store wardrobe, I attempted to shove him into oncoming traffic. (Failing, because Trigger has a good few feet on me.)
I was offended. It was November 1st, people don’t wear costumes, only the masks of our day-to-day existence. Our month-long Halloween holiday had come to an end: it was basically Christmas.
It was also the night of Keke’s disappearance, but we didn’t know that yet. We were just kids with stupid names we picked for ourselves when we sold our belongings and moved into six-bedroom Highland Park homes with other artists trying to make it in the city, or city-adjacent.
When you move to Los Angeles, you offer up who you used to be to the pavement gods, and in return you’re given a new life, a new identity, for sacrificing your old self on pedestal at the feet of sweeping skyscrapers.
I became Misty, a neon artist learning how to be a DJ so I can pay the bills doing something other than serving $4 coffees to people who can’t be bothered to turn on a coffeemaker at home.
People’s eyes glaze over when I say the phrase “neon artist,” but it’s why I’m here: I’m a moth attracted to the bright neon lights, pulsing like the city’s heartbeat. I like pouring light into shapes it wasn’t meant to fill.
Trigger’s a dancer. His gangly form doesn’t look like it now, but he can shape himself into pretzels so gracefully I’d assume he doesn’t have a spine. Well — maybe he doesn’t. Trigger can be a slippery one: I don’t know if I can always trust him and his sly smiles.
Lethal like the curve of a trigger.
“So, where’s the show?” I asked, just along for the ride up until this point. We had gotten hot dogs at Pink’s, and were walking down La Brea back to Trigger’s beat-up silver Prius. (Eco-Friendly, he’d remind me, shoving it in my face. I didn’t care, I’d drive my Ford F150 to my grave, even if it meant I was always circling the block for parking. Our small towns stay with us in weird ways.)
“Animal Style,” he said. He took in my blank look. “You’ve been there before — it’s the place with the green door behind the In N’ Out parking lot where all the high school kids smoke by cars that aren’t theirs. The one with the single stage and the dude selling beers underneath the staircase?”
“I’m not dumb, Trigger. I remember. That place was shut down years ago.”
“If Keke says that the show’s there, that’s where it is,” Trigger said, shrugging. “Maybe they fixed it back up again. I trust her.”
It was true, we trusted Keke. Everyone did.
Keke was orbited by the universe — we were just living within her starry dreams.
I’m not even trying to wax poetic or anything. It was the fuckin’ truth.
Keke was one of those rare souls who wasn’t snuffed out by the suffocating smog. In her music, we could hear a kind of life that felt just out of reach. She transported us, allowed us a space to feel and heal and… just be.
But more than that, she was our best friend. The three of us had weathered heartache and loss and — well, we never missed a show. Keke always showed up for us, so we showed up for her. No matter what.
“Here we are,” Trigger said, pulling his car into the back of the In N’ Out. He parked, and I felt a current of dread tickle my nerves.
“Are you sure this is the right In N’ Out?” I asked.
“I dunno,” Trigger said, unbuckling his seatbelt.
As I stepped out of the car, I didn’t see anyone in the parking lot. Below my feet, piles of cigarette butts squished like soil.
A cool fall chill had just started to settle across Los Angeles, and a wisp of fog — or smog — was slinking through the air.
I looked around. The parking lot was dead. This was unusual for both a show and an In N’ Out.
“Text Keke,” I said. There was something horribly wrong, here. But I couldn’t tell what it was, and didn’t understand why Trigger was being so nonchalant. We were at the wrong place, why didn’t he see that?
“She didn’t respond to me. She’s probably getting in her zone or something. Let’s go.”
Trigger stared to walk toward the green door set into the cement wall of the
But then, as we started to approach —
The green door creaked open.
Darkness on the other side. Not the darkness of a show, but the darkness of desolation. Emptiness.
No one’s on the other side.
Trigger started to walk toward it. I grabbed his sleeve.
“What the fuck are you doing?”
“I’m going to find her.”
“We’re at the wrong place, Trigger.”
But he’s determined. Walking toward the door. As we get closer, I can see the signs of rot, splintered paint, a stench of the forgotten. My heart started to pound.
I reached into my pocket, pulling out a glowstick. Unwrapping and cracking it — it’s deafening, it sounded like a gunshot — and Trigger shot me a glance but let me light it. My fingers itched for the neon light. Trigger made fun of me for carrying them around, likening me to an addict needing her next fix of glow, like some kinda drug. I didn’t correct him, he wasn’t wrong.
As we got to the door, I held up the green glowstick. We couldn’t see very far in the thick, muggy darkness.
“Abandoned. I was right. You owe me a milkshake,” I said, hoping to shake him.
“Fine,” he said, giving in. He started to turn away — and then the neon caught something.
I held up the light.
There, hanging a few feet in front of us from a nail in a wood beam that lead to the ceiling, was Keke’s favorite necklace.
Eaten Alive by the Millennial Underground is a multimedia fiction series written daily by writer Amy Suto. Check out her blog here for more about her nocturnal excursions and writerly pursuits. Read the full Millennial Underground series as it’s coming out in the month of November at AmySuto.com/underground, and be sure to subscribe via email so you don’t get #cancelled.
Special thanks in this edition to Shilah Stanford who plays Keke. Thank you for lending your talent to this project ❤