The email heading simply read ‘from the AC’. Simon’s eyes grew wide when he read it. He knew he had to act quickly. He opened the email and was greeted by a single link without a message. It read ‘serendipity’. He clicked on the link without hesitation.
The screen was black. A slow throbbing beat was becoming audible. It grew in volume, picking up a swirl of complex samples in the background. The samples seemed to be a mixture of Indian and Arabic instruments and voices. Suddenly the screen flashed white and then returned to a deep blue background. A single Tibetan chant from an ethereal female voice accompanied an animation of a pinkish white lotus flower opening to reveal twelve petals. He moved the cursor over the animation and as he did so each petal changed colour. He clicked on a petal and both the screen and sound changed. His heart was racing now because he had heard that the site would only be in existence until it reached a certain number of hits.
Each petal revealed information about a rave. This was a rare invitation to the next ‘event’. One petal revealed the co-ordinates, 37S52, 145E50. Another petal revealed the rules; no alcohol, no nasties only goodies, no glass, no recording equipment, no pets, no food, no camping equipment – bring sleeping bag, waterproofs, warm clothes; food and fluid provided. Another said: put your name and address on everything; another petal revealed the time and date; another the fee; another told the story of the three princes of Serendip; and another petal opened up to reveal the sound of ecstatic Arabic music and the following verse in flaming letters.
When we enter the excitement of the night
We’ll amass gifts from the ocean of the night
The night veils the unseen witness from sight
We cannot compare the day to the night.
After he had explored all twelve petals and written down all the information the lotus closed and disappeared into black. The soundscape shifted to an augmented heartbeat and the word ‘print’ appeared. He turned his printer on, clicked the words and his printer whirred into action. It printed out a colour picture of man and woman in sexual embrace seated in the middle of a lotus. Below the picture was writing he didn’t recognize, although he thought it might be Sanskrit. The instructions had told him that this was his entrance ticket, without it he would be denied entry.
Once the printing had finished the site closed itself down. Out of curiosity he returned to the email and clicked on the link again. There was no response. Whoever was behind this site were skillful web designers indeed. He guessed that the words on his invitation were different for each person to prevent copying. He also guessed that once a certain number of invitations had been issued the site closed down completely. A clever way to control numbers. If he had hesitated he may have missed out.
As he headed north out of Melbourne and started to rise into the hills, as he came around a bend, he spotted a young woman sitting by the road. She had a sign that simply read ‘AC’. He remembered the word serendipity and stopped to pick her up.
She said she called herself Bliss Baby. Her hair was a wild mess of dreadlocks and she had a pierced nose and pierced eyebrow. She had an Asian appearance but he noticed she also had freckles on her face, so he guessed she was of mixed parentage. Her entire upper left arm had what looked like a complex Celtic design tattooed all the way around. She said she had hitched all the way from Queensland to get here. He asked when she got the email and she smiled and said she didn’t have a computer. She had found the invitation and a set of instructions slipped under her front door one morning. She looked directly at him and smiled.
As the journey progressed they joined a steady flow of cars, vans and motorbikes that formed a caravan winding its way into the hills. They arrived at farm hidden in a small valley. It was late afternoon and the heat of the day had released a strong eucalyptus smell that mixed with the dust kicked up by the traffic, creating a golden haze. As he stepped out of the car he could hear the rapid murmur of many excited voices. A wild array of people were making their way toward a copse of trees on a small hill. They were of all ages; some were children, though none seemed to be younger than nine. Some were couples, some seemed to form larger groups, some were dressed in vivid colours with eccentric style and others were dressed in simple casual clothes.
At the top of the hill a small band of people dressed as court jesters were checking the invitations and taking money. From this vantage point he could look down into a small valley and a gently curving river: on the other side of the river a steep, forest covered hill rose to create a natural amphitheatre. A stage had been set up on the river flat to create what seemed to be a deliberate circular pattern. To one side sat a collection of tents. As he looked around he made a guess that there were about two thousand people. Some had stripped and were swimming in the river, others were sitting around the stage, and others were mingling around the tents where he guessed food was being served.
He turned to see how Bliss Baby was reacting only to see that she had already disappeared into the crowd.
As he got down into the valley and started walking around he noticed that there were more people dressed as court jesters. They were smiling and helping people find their way. Some were down by the river watching the children amongst the swimmers. Some were performing circus tricks. The sound of acoustic guitars was waxing and waning in the shifting breeze and he heard what he guessed was a type of Spanish folk music being sung. He stopped to listen to a young Middle-Eastern woman singing a plaintive love song to the accompaniment of a lute. A jester standing by told him she was a modern troubaritz – a female troubadour, singing a song by someone called Bernart de Ventadorn. He heard her sing:
Never have I been in control of myself
or even belonged to myself from the hour
that she let me gaze into her eyes-
that mirror that pleases me so greatly.
Mirror, since I saw myself reflected in you,
deep sighs have been killing me.
I have lost myself, just as>
handsome Narcissus lost himself in the fountain.
He moved on and found a tent that served Turkish coffee and an array of Middle-Eastern food. A nearby tent served chai and Indian food. As he sat at a table provided he watched a jester on stilts lead a parade of children to a special tent. They were laughing, caught up the carnival excitement.
After about an hour, as the sun was beginning to finally set, the place lit up with multi coloured lights. He was surprised. He looked around and it was only then that he noticed that the whole valley had been carefully lightscaped. A laser etched a mandala on the hill across the river and small but powerful coloured search lights swept across the landscape. He guessed that the generators had been carefully hidden over the hill, the throb of their engines masked by sound dampening and the cable carefully buried. Everything had been carefully and skilfully organised.
The crowd was beginning to move toward the stage area and gather around. A steady heartbeat could be heard building in volume. A voice came over a loud speaker and said;
In such revealing nights I swoon
Others crescent is my full moon
The night when beloved is in our midst
A night as revealing as a hundred high noon.
He noticed several people around him reach into pockets and bags and put their hands to their mouths. He was puzzled. Had he missed something? He felt a tap on his shoulder and turned to see Bliss Baby standing beside him. She was now bare from the waist up, he could see a tattoo of a sun around her belly, both her nipples were pierced. She smiled at him, her eyes wide with delight.
She spoke softly, ‘you didn’t bring any goodies?’
It finally dawned on him, ‘no, I guess I didn’t catch on to what that meant.’
She smiled and said, ‘open your mouth, for the ride and for serendipity.’
He swallowed and she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, ‘I’ll be around’ and then she slipped away into the crowd. As she left he noticed that she had a tattoo of two inter-twining serpents reaching from below her skirt waist to the centre of her back.
He turned to centre stage to see drummers setting up. The heartbeat was changing pitch and timbre, morphing into a driving acid beat. The drummers began. First with simple rhythms that then steadily built in complexity. A troupe of African dancers came on stage – they were all naked from the waist up, their black skins glistening in the stage lighting. They began a simple movement and beckoned to the crowd to join in. He could see some people at the very front stripping to the waist as well. The rhythm began picking up and the people at the front began to circle around the stage. The shyer ones like himself simply stood in the back and watched. He felt no particular need to join in but as the beat built in speed he felt drawn forward. The dancers began to chant and a woman began a soaring African song. He moved forward a bit more. He noticed that some of the crowd had now removed all their clothes and nakedness moved in and out and between flying skirts, swirling beads and flying hair. He thought he caught a sight of Bliss Baby naked, showing the full serpents rising from the base of her coccyx. The beat became even faster and the dancers began a ululation. He closed his eyes and felt the tab he had been given begin to kick in. He could feel the rhythm pulsing through the ground and into his feet. He was moving now; he couldn’t help it. He had his shirt off and he could feel sweat beginning to form. He moved in closer and could feel himself moving in a circular motion. The mass movement was strangely co-ordinated, people bumped into each other gently and then gave way.
The centre began to move faster. He looked down and saw a cacophony of feet. He looked straight ahead and saw flashes of smiling faces, faces looking skyward, faces looking outward and faces looking inward. He caught a quick glimpse of Bliss Baby’s face, eyes closed, face beaded in sweat, dreadlock hair swirling. The drumming picked up again and the background synth beat shifted key and split into a more complex sound. People were starting to shout out now and a strong male voice took over the singing. The sudden shift sent a quick chill up his spine and he could feel tension in his shoulders relax. He laughed and threw his hands in the air, letting out a roar of joy. The beat took over completely and he lost himself in the movement.
The dance ended with a sudden crescendo of drumming and then a sudden silence returning to the steady heartbeat. He stood still, eyes closed, his chest rising and falling with his rapid breathing, his own heart beat throbbing fast. Then he felt a spray of cool water on his face. He opened his eyes to see jesters moving among the crowd with atomisers and cups of water. He smiled as a young man gave him water to drink. His attention was caught by laughter; jesters surrounded three naked bodies and sprayed them with water. Laughter broke out and spread as jesters and dancers indulged in water fights.
After a moments silence the heartbeat was replaced by the sound of a wailing guitar. The stage burst into light. It was a live band beginning its set. He recognised the sound and was amazed. It was a well-known world fusion band called Global Reach. People began to sit down to listen and the hard-core dancers moved forward to the stage.
He decided he wanted to lie down and absorb the atmosphere. The music coming from the stage was making him feel strangely emotional. It was a fusion of jazz and North African music. It was both happy and sad and made him feel like closing his eyes. The music paused and after a moment’s silence a male singer sang in lilting a capella:
I eliminated duality with joyous laughter
Saw the unity of here and the hereafter
Unity is what I sing, unity is what I speak
Unity is what I know, unity is what I seek
He came to awareness with Bliss Baby stroking his face. He realised he had momentarily tranced out. She was smiling at him, ‘you okay?’
He smiled back and caught the glint in her eyes. ‘Yeah, good, I must have just tripped out for a bit.’
She grabbed his hand and pulled him up to a standing position. ‘Come,’ she said, ‘there’s some people I’d like you to meet.’ She led him away and he noticed that she was fully dressed again.
They made their way to tent area. The music had shifted to a chill mix and people were grabbing things to eat and drink. She led him to a table of people and he recognised one of the drummers who introduced himself as Justice Mbenko. He also introduced four others. His sister, Prosperity, one of the dancers, who was sitting with her arms around a red haired woman called Helen; and two men, Paul and Raven.
‘So, first time?’ Justice asked, his face breaking into a broad smile.
Simon returned the smile. ‘Yes, It’s all a mystery. I have no idea how I got the invitation.’
Prosperity and Helen began to laugh. ‘Yes, yes – a mystery, always,’ they said in unison.
‘So what do you know?’ asked Justice.
‘Nothing. I’d heard about these amazing raves that were invite only, just street rumours, just enough to know that when the initials AC appeared…’
‘Angelic chorus,’ said Bliss Baby laughing.
‘No, Ananda Collective,’ corrected Raven. Simon could see where he got his name. He had jet-black hair and serious, piercing eyes.
‘You obviously have a friend who thinks you are ready,’ said Paul. ‘What do you do?’
‘I’m a photographer, really a digiographer, I specialise in digital.’
Paul smiled. ‘Cool. So I guess it may have been someone who knows your work.’
‘So, ask us any question you like, we have all the answers,’ said Prosperity.
Simon looked at them puzzled. He couldn’t tell if it was the effect of the acid or whether the situation really was a little strange. But his mind was clear and he was feeling a mild high. They weren’t going to turn into giant insects any time soon.
‘Okay, who and how?’
Justice laughed, ‘to the point, to the point.’
Raven took a deep breath. ‘DJ Anand started it back in 95.’
Helen saw his curious look. ‘DJ Anand is a genius. He was a mathematician and gee-whiz computer programmer but he got bored and got into the rave scene. Turns out he’s also a musical genius and he made these break out mixes.’
Prosperity broke in, ‘and he got bored with that and had this vision of a community of artists creating mind scapes using whatever technology and technique they could get their hands on. So he started making connections and using his DJ sessions to explore ideas.’
Raven spoke, ‘he was one of the first to introduce dance, spoken word, video art and live musicians into his sets.’
Justice added, ‘he was the first to break out of the rave scene and put on performances with other artists. His first collaboration was with a Circus group. Man, it was wild, a fucking rave with clowns, a trapeze act overhead, contortionists, fucking Cirque du Soleil on trance and eccies.’
‘Each had a theme. Circus was about madness,’ said Raven.
‘And his next one was even wilder,’ began Prosperity.
‘His next one,’ continued Bliss Baby, ‘was a collaboration with a collective of witches called the Sacred Whores who practice sex magic.’
‘Sort of like Rock Bitch but with trance music rather than rock,’ added Paul.
Simon had heard of Rock Bitch, a group that had eventually been banned for performing live sex rituals as part of their act. He could only imagine what that rave had been like.
‘You see; he wants to explore the boundaries of experience, push the edges of art. I mean there’s a whole theory behind it based on some Indian sage called Abhinavagupta and his theory of aesthetics, but it’s too intense to go into.’ Bliss Baby grabbed his hand and looked directly into his eyes. ‘The deal is that a group of people who shared his vision formed a collective.’
‘So, he’s like some sort of guru?’ Simon was beginning to feel a little uncomfortable.
‘No man,’ Justice was laughing again. ‘Far from it. He’s sort of disappeared, gone to a cave in the Himalayas or bumming around the beaches of Mexico. No man, the collective has no leader. It runs itself.’
Raven added in a serious tone. ‘It’s a new social formation man. If you want to explore the leading edge you have to do it with something that’s leading edge itself.’
Bliss Baby spoke and again she looked straight into his eyes. ‘It’s self-organising and it’s brought you into its embrace. You give to it what you can and it returns the gift a thousand fold. It’s no accident you are here.’
Justice laughed again and said, ‘Serendipity.’
Bliss Baby held his gaze and said, ‘yes, serendipity.’
The four excused themselves saying they had matters to attend to. He turned and faced Bliss Baby. ‘You’ve been very kind.’
She smiled and touched his wrist gently. ‘Fate put me in your path and in the AC we follow…’
‘Serendipity,’ he added smiling.
‘Yes. You’re my responsibility.’ She stood up. ‘But now dear one I have things to do. I’ll catch you later.’ She blew him and kiss and said, ‘It’s only just beginning.’ And with that she turned and half walked, half skipped into the crowd.
A throbbing trance beat began building and people began moving back to the stage area. Simon followed. He could feel the acid begin kick in even more and he felt as if he were drifting rather than walking. The beat was now accompanied by Middle Eastern music and it dawned on him that the event had a theme of travel from Africa across Arabia toward India. He smiled as he began to see the connections. A female voice sang:
Happy the one who has become like us:
who has become all surrender and contentment;
who has become the pledge of love and madness;
who has become a jewel in the sea of purity.
He let himself move to the beat and joined the many people now dancing wildly to the music. He surrendered to dance movements suggested by the driving beat and the complex swirl of electronic and traditional music. He noticed that some people were dancing like Dervishes, skirts whirling, one arm pointing to the ground and one to the sky, their heads staying centred to avoid the sensation of dizziness. He felt his centre of balance move from his stomach area to his chest and he lost awareness and became the music.
He was pulled into awareness with a shift in the music. The beat was less frenzied now. A soft voice announced, ‘kind souls, Rinchen Drolma, sky singer.’ He had heard the name. She was a Tibetan exile who was a renowned folk singer. He had heard her pure voice before.
He moved to find a spot to sit close by the river. He looked up and laser beams flickered across low clouds that were parting to reveal the full moon. By the position of the moon he figured it was now about three in the morning. Rinchen began her plaintive singing and with the first note he felt himself sink into the ground in deep relaxation. As he watched the moon’s reflection in the water he saw a shape standing with arms raised. One of the lights swirling near the stage caught the shape and he could see it was Bliss Baby standing naked near the river. She seemed to be performing some ritual. The sight of the two serpents tattooed on her back captured him, they seemed to be glowing and undulating. She must have sensed his gaze and turned to face him. She smiled when she recognised who it was. He found it a powerfully erotic smile and he became charged with sexual energy, an erection pressed against the material of his trousers.
Bliss Baby walked slowly toward him, her shape becoming more defined as she came out of the soft shadows. He could see her full body now, her radiant face partly covered by her dreadlocks, her pierced nipples, the sun tattoo around her navel and now he could see had shaved her pubic hair and instead had a small Celtic design tattooed there. A shiver of sexual energy raced through his body. She moved close to him, knelt by his side and kissed him on the cheek. He shivered again and she said softly, ‘how are you sweet thing?’
Her voice sent another chill through him and she looked at him curiously. She placed her hand on his bare chest and he took a deep breath. He smiled sheepishly. She moved her hand down to his stomach and his breathing deepened. She slid her hand down to his crotch and feeling his erection smiled, ‘it’s okay baby.’
He smiled back; words seemed to have failed him.
‘Are you suffering?’
He laughed. ‘No, if it’s suffering it’s exquisite suffering.’
She broke into a broad smile. ‘Are you okay with this?’
He looked directly into her eyes and said, ‘yeah, excited and relaxed. It’s weird. I’ve never quite felt like this before.’
‘Good.’ She reached down and slowly undid his belt and fly. They both slipped his trousers off and he felt another rush of sexual energy as his erection was freed from the restrictions of his clothing. She placed her hand over his testicles and then moved it over his erection.
‘Keep breathing.’ She moved her other hand to his perineum and said, ‘breath slowly and deeply into here.’
As he did so he could feel himself calm down. Bliss Baby shifted her position and swang her leg over him, straddling his waist. She hooked her arms around his neck and looked into his eyes and kissed him on the mouth. A deeper sexual rush rose from his perineum to his mouth. It seemed to pass into her. She raised her hips and slowly guided him into her. The moist warmth sent wave after wave of sexual energy coursing through him. Normally he would have felt such intensity force an ejaculation but not now. It was as if every tiny move was amplified into an orgasmic wave.
She whispered in his ear, ‘keep breathing, relax, let it take over.’
He closed his eyes. In his inner vision he saw the image of the two serpents on Bliss Baby’s back glowing, one was red and the other a moon-like white. They untwined and shifted in position. As they moved he felt wave after wave of bliss roll through his body. He could feel Bliss Baby’s breathing grow faster and deeper, and her heartbeat throbbing. The music from the stage had shifted to a lilting song with the drone of deep-throated Tibetan monks chanting in the background. One of the serpents turned and grabbed the tail of the other in its mouth, which also grabbed a tail. When this happened he felt an electricity rush from his spine through his erection and into Bliss Baby’s spine. He also felt an energy rush from her vagina into his penis and up his spine. The serpents began to swallow each other and they became one entwined red and white circle. He could feel Bliss Baby’s vagina contract and relax with wave after wave of orgasm. He felt his whole body shudder with reciprocal orgasmic energy. The voice of Rinchen sang out like a crystal bell. She sang in English now:
Liberate my soul.
Fill me with your love and
release me from the two worlds.
If I set my heart on anything but you
let fire burn me from inside.
The circle created by the two serpents contracted into sphere, which exploded into white light. He didn’t know if had screamed out in joy or was caught in the current of a piercing inner sound.
He woke to the first signs of dawn tracing bright red and orange flames across low cloud. Bliss Baby was still astride him but she had collapsed on his chest and was sleeping. His flaccid penis was still inside her. He fell asleep again and when he awoke she was gone.
The email heading simply read ‘from the AC’. He opened it and saw a simple link that said ‘welcome’. He clicked the link and a picture of a dragon in a forest grasping its own tail appeared. He recognised immediately as an arcane symbol from an old text on alchemy. He clicked the image and realised that he had been granted entry into the Ananda Collective’s home page. In it he found a wealth of information and details about he could get involved.
Simon lent back in his chair and laughed. He realised with joy that his life had just changed forever. When he had read as much as he could take in he saved the address in his favourites folder and closed the site.
To his surprise he noticed that another email had arrived. It read:
If it is a sign that you seek
In this path, my dear friend
Yourself you must transcend
And signs to you will speak
Luv BB – cu J
Simon could feel tears well up in his eyes. He was about to type a quick reply when he noticed that the sender’s address belonged to a university department. Bliss Baby had obviously borrowed a computer to send the email. He smiled and guessed he would catch up with her when chance allowed.
He reached behind his back to trace the still sensitive tattoo of two entwined serpents. He figured Bliss Baby would be pleased.
All poems by Rumi, except as noted.