We are thrilled to share an excerpt from Kathe Koja’s new book, Dark Park, a follow-up to her immersive novel Dark Factory.
The only thing wilder than a night at the club is the morning after, in Paradise.
DARK FACTORY opened the doors to a reality-bending dance club, an online immersive portal, and the feeling that the whole world is on the brink of something new. DARK PARK takes you there.
DARK PARK follows documentary filmmaker Sergey Kendricks as he tracks Ari Regon and Felix the DJ through the fever and chaos of stardom and celebrity culture, while Max Caspar quests deeper into the unstable gaming landscape of Birds of Paradise: pursued and idolized by fans, acolytes, haters, and schemers, all dazed by beauty and searching for the end of the end of the world.
Join us at DarkFactory.club. The story has already begun.
Out from the lav in a whiff of sweetish smoke, a few fortifying Kuba Kuba puffs, Ari pauses for Sergey the filmmaker—black braids and red wristband, red camera rigging looped like veins across his sky blue t-shirt—Sergey nimble, backward as Felix advances, head high, gaze fully inward, down the hallway lined with event posters, RIDE THE LIGHT, BANG & BLOOM XIII, a brand-new QUEST FEST with Felix’s own stylized face gazing back. Meghan follows, blue leather shirtdress, intent on her phone—“Then it is available? We can get on-site?”—as they all turn the corner toward the glassy studio space, the Mix Masters hosts waiting, music already thumping, “Balcony” of course.
And Ari feels Felix sigh, Felix beside him so beautiful and tired, no time today even to shave so “One second,” he says, hand up to halt Sergey’s camera, halt Meghan too to give them space, their own space and “You want to go back to the hotel?” his murmur, “after this? We’ll talk to these people, me and Meg will talk. Then you and me are out.”
“Out till tonight?”
“Out till tonight,” a nod, a promise: tonight will be long and loud and crowded like all their nights are now, but the hotel is small and very private, an old stone convent with slit windows, and a vertical plunge pool adjacent to their suite, the concierge said it was once used for baptisms; Felix was in it last night, upright floating, eyes closed in the cold green water . . . Felix is clearly over the promo and interviews, the remixes of the 12-inch, the run-up to Quest Fest, Felix only wants to work on a new performance he calls his lab, working so hard that he needs to be nudged to stop, to breathe, drink some wine, kiss and fuck and rest and dream.
But Felix is even more attentive to him, even more watchful, ever since Dark Park: Felix very silent at that morning-after afternoon table, until Ari spilled coffee with his clumsy swollen hand, sprained hand, blue bruised chin and Where were you? Felix stern to Ilias, righting that cup. Where was Gus, where was fucking anybody—
Gussie was right there! Ilias defensive, wired, swamped by turmoil and sudden success, Ari was all right! Right, Ari? and his own nod, it was no one’s fault, no fault at all, one minute he was dancing and the next all he could see was flesh and the dirt, mobbed to the ground until Gus elbowed and dragged him upright again. Then the fire lit the sky like God’s own spotlight, Ilias said the trees were so old no fireworks could hurt them, Ilias said Nobody got hurt! I told the fucking mayor—
But Felix had turned away from Ilias, turned back to him and From now on, Felix said, very firm, you stay where I am.
Today he and Felix are here, tomorrow they will be somewhere else, together at the center of whatever this is, this living speeding branching apparatus, everybody who comes at them wants something—validation, an explanation, an interview, a linki, a job, a fuck, Uni’s team screens them but they still get through: the dancers, the fans, the Y producers and festival bookers, a DJ whose handle is Fuxury pushing hard to do a b2b, a neue Klänge collective in Munich, a queer lifestyle app called Aussi, You’re our perfect brandbassadors!—all in that hot vacuum of celebrity, shoutouts and callouts on Beat Buzzer and Afterglow and Pyramid, so many that sometimes he just stares at it all, Uni set up a spillover MePage for him and he stares at that too; and at the journos too, not only industry but news sites, KZN and News Immediate and NYNY, even some political journos, Uni says There’s a lot of people out there looking to score points, nothing to turn blue over but we want to be careful . . . And all of it multiplying on its own, faster and faster, what is that called? exponential? starting things, ending things, changing things, changing people—Meghan has changed, Meg dancing in that fire with Suze of all people, and I understand, now, her hand on his arm outside the Indigo guest room, as wired as Ilias but blissful, she still smelled like the scorched trees. What Suze calls the Artemis wilderness—
—and I’ve just messaged Clara, I won’t be working on the game anymore. AWIP is meant for you, to give you all the tools you need.
What tools, but it was not a question: Meg, and Ilias and Gussie, the jittery mayor and overwhelmed Polícia, Border Security red-flagging his name, they all expect him to have answers, they all seem to credit him with, or suspect him of, a level of control that is almost funny, it is funny, Ari Superman—Because the one thing he knows for sure is that everything comes from that spin, andeverything is spinning so much faster now, is so much bigger than he ever could have dreamed, demanding just as much as it gives, an entire level of presence, Max wrote about that in his notes, Max on that X’d-out beach, has Max changed too—
—but now Felix is smiling again, smiling at him, Felix his love, his star, what is it called, the star that points the way home? and “Maybe grab some food?” Felix says. “That taverna, with the jackfruit kebabs—”
“And some wine,” his own smile, and when he smiles everyone smiles, Meg, the studio hosts, Sergey’s camera lights up again and “Meg,” he says, turning with Felix toward the studio doors. “Come on and talk.”
“Oh, no, they only need you two—Look,” showing her phone, “I finally heard from the site manager, that monsignor—”
“Come on,” still smiling, a different smile, authority, he is learning how and when to use that too. And she nods, and Felix takes the chair nearest the door while a third chair is hastily positioned, as “Cool outfit,” says one of the hosts, while a tech clips a lav mic to her mottled blue lapel.
“It’s from Desplanets,” she says. “Mushroom leather.”
“Mycelium,” Ari says to no one, to the air, as the music segues from “Balcony” to the show intro, as Sergey crouches in the rootlike twist of cables, watching with one bright augmented eye.
About the Author
Kathe Koja writes novels and short fiction, and creates and produces immersive fiction performances, both solo and with a rotating ensemble of artists. Her work crosses and combines genres, and her books have won awards, been multiply translated, and optioned for film and performance. She is based in Detroit and thinks globally. She can be found at kathekoja.com.