Chapter 2: Labyrinth
Ooh-lala awoke slowly, her eyes squinting against a bright light. She sat up gingerly, brushing her white hair out of her eyes and using her hand to shield her eyes. As they gradually adjusted to the light, Ooh-lala was able to see the green hedges that surrounded her in a perfect square. There was no sky, only a glowing dome with no discernable changes anywhere across its length. Lola lay next to her, still unconscious with her clothes in tatters. Not that there was much of them to start with. But most bizarre of all, Lola's clothes had turned a bright white and sparkled a little in the bright, all-encompassing light. Ooh-lala looked down her clothes, they too had been transformed.
Ooh-lala shook Lola's shoulder violently.
"Wake up, I think we might be dead."
Lola opened her eyes, "There is something wrong with that statement."
Lola looked around her, taking in the glowing dome, the hedges, and Ooh-lala's bright white rags in one casual glance.
"Lola cannot be dead. This isn't heaven, and there are no hot, naked angel-men."
"I would love to read your bible sometime, babe, but I agree. Where the hell are we? The last thing I remember was driving into that tree…"
"Maybe we are in the tree?" Lola looked around again, taking in an entrance in the hedges to their right. "And that looks like a way out." She pointed.
"We are not 'in the tree.' But we are probably not dead. Unless death is much more confusing than some peaceful, endless oblivion. And has a dress code." She shrugged, "We might as well enter the maze; it is not like we can do anything here."
"Lola is ready for anything." Lola stood up in one fluid motion and reached her arm down to help up Ooh-lala. They both walked through the entrance of what was obviously a hedge maze.
"Should we leave ourselves a trail?" Lola gestured to the scant rags covering her body, "I say we have 20 minutes of clothes left until we are naked."
"As much fun as that would be, leaving a trail implies you want to get back. We started, as with everything in my life, with a dead end. Lets keep our clothes on for now."
Lola and Ooh-lala continued to walk in the maze, vague sounds of laughter and music were heard in the distance. And something seemed to be guiding them, as they turned left and right, winding through the maze, they never reached a dead end. Both of them felt the same tugging, and without speaking they were able to navigate the twisting path with ease. They were headed to towards the center, and after ten minutes the music and the laughter could be clearly heard.
"Where ever we are going doesn't sound too bad. Lola is in the mood for a party."
Ooh-lala smiled wryly but said nothing. She was also curious about what lay ahead, but was not nearly as optimistic.
They turned the last corner, and entered a scene of revelry. Strange, misshapen creatures were dancing with one another around a bonfire. Small birdlike creatures with human faces fluttered in the air, and a jaguar slowly prowled through the crowd. There were humans too, or at least almost humans, their white clothes glistening as they twisted and gyrated in a frantic dance. The music was everywhere but there were no musicians to be seen. It seemed to be welling up from the ground, which vibrated under their feet. At the center of the celebration was a throne, which a man had casually draped himself over. He seemed larger than life; Ooh-lala and Lola felt their eyes drawn to him despite the fantastic sights before their eyes.
The man saw their entrance and stood, clapping his hands together. The sound rebated across the space, abruptly ending the music and stopping the dancers in their tracks. All eyes turned towards the two women.
Lola and Ooh-lala remained oblivious to the attention that they were receiving; the man took as of their interest. The man's face was beautiful with sharply defined cheekbones, full lips, and eyebrows that rose sharply upwards. His blonde hair rose from his head like a crown of thorns, his black eyes were dramatically lined with black and purple. He wore a loose, flowing shirt open in the front and a pair of skintight leggings. The leggings bugled in a most fascinating way, and Ooh-lala found herself compelled to stare at it.
The man spoke, his voice deep and smooth, "We must make our visitors welcome. They have come a long way. Do you know where we are, my pretties?"
"No, but Lola would love to find out." Lola looked downwards significantly and licked her lips.
The man smiled, "You are between the beginning and the end. The drink and the hangover. The last note and the applause. You are not dead, but you are not alive. You are between time and space where the laughter never dies."
Ooh-lala raised one eyebrow, "I am not laughing yet. Why don't you let us in on the joke? Why are we here? What happened to us?"
"You died. Or should I say, you are dying. We are in that moment right before your spirit leaves your body forever. And I am here to offer you a deal. You can die, or I can let you live in this moment for a while longer." The man walked closer, his eyes mesmerizing as the looked into hers.
Ooh-lala couldn't look away, "And do what? Dance here with your freaks? No offense, but I have been better at dying than dancing."
Lola took a step forward, "Speak for yourself. And we could do things other than dance." Lola smiled, her eyes devouring the man's muscular frame.
"Allow me to explain. I am a god. But not any god: the god of wine, of women, of ecstasy."
"My favorite type," Lola purred.
The god grinned but continued, "The Greeks knew me as Dionysus, the Romans as Bacchus, but in the world you know I have grown weak. I have a few followers, but most celebrate in excess without me. I yearn to return to power; I need to find those who will embrace the madness, if only for a short time."
"And we can help you with this?" Ooh-lala had relaxed, the god's charm overcoming her defenses. As the god stood closer, his scent of spiced wine and honey teased her senses, calming and exciting at the same time.
His voice became softer, more intimate, "You can do what you do best. Play, perform, and drive the crowd insane. Bring them joy, rage, lust. The power is in you, I can increase it. Play the right songs at the right time and you can convert the world. The more that love you, the more that love me. But I need both of you," his eyes moved to from one woman to the other, "your power together is twice as strong."
"What would we get out of it? Any fringe benefits?" Lola was less effected by the god's hypnotic presence, but she too found it difficult to look away from him.
"You would get to live, or at least, not die a while longer. And if you are successful millions will hear your songs and know your face. You will become a legend."
"If we succeed? I thought you were going to make us irresistible?" Ooh-lala interjected.
"I can give you the power, but you have to use it. It will take all of your skill and determination to create the frenzy needed to create my worshipers. I can only give you the tools. But you do not need to decide now. Come and join in the celebration." He clapped his hands together and his court began to dance and cavort again. The music began to pulse from the ground, and Dionysus took each woman by the hand and led them to his throne. A chair had appeared on either side of it, and the women sat. He gestured carelessly with his hand, and one of the small, twisted creatures scurried up with three glasses of wine. He handed Ooh-lala one, his hand deliberately resting over hers for a second too long. He gave the other glass to Lola, and gently stroked her cheek. She shivered, her breath coming a bit faster. Dionysus sat between them and they drank as they watched the dancers lose themselves in the music.
One glass of wine became many, and Ooh-lala and Lola felt themselves slowly lose any worries and concerns about their near death state. Lola, her eyes dreamy, moved to sit on the god's lap. He smiled, his arm around her waist as he fed her grapes. Ooh-lala came to sit on the arm of the throne, running her fingers through Dionysus's silky hair. His hand moved to her thigh and he rubbed it gently.
Dionysus knew the ritual would work, the women had become relaxed and pliant after drinking the sacred wine. The dance in front of them changed, growing more slow and sensuous, most of the creatures picking partners instead of dancing alone. The rite was nearly complete.
The god's voice flowed over them like honey as he whispered, "Join me and live. Help me and be my maenads, my chosen ones. There is no pleasure in death."
Ooh-lala's eyes met Lola's, and they nodded in unison.
"We accept," they chanted, their voices perfectly in sync. Ooh-lala and Lola felt some energy bind them to the god between them. Their fates were now linked to Dionysus and his divine mission. Lola's head grew heavy, and she leaned it into his neck, his scent surrounding her. Ooh-lala's head rested on his other shoulder, and her eyes began to close.
"Sleep peacefully, my pretties, you will need all of your energy for the future." The god's smile grew tender as he gazed on his sleeping prophets, "You are my only hope."