Pub toilets. Nasty places. Nasty. Not very... clean. Not exactly clinical. Certainly not the sort of place you'd want to administer anything.
Back a few squares. I've found a new way of getting round the city. Wake up one Saturday afternoon a few months ago. Eyes crust-open, familiar taste of battery acid. The plastic bin I keep by the side of the bed holds an inch-deep of frothy, orange-brown vomit, like all a coffee-chain's summer product range mixed together in a bucket.
Grim. But as I carry it to the toilet bowl, eye-catch. There, floating on top, a small white lump, size of a swollen pearl. Rinse it off - silverwax surface and faint smell of vanilla-vodka. What the?
I tuck it away - how did they live, before those little ziploc bags? Later, make some discreet enquiries over a Malibu and merlot with a friend from University, now in pharming. One who's been known to experiment. His eyes widen. It's a lump of Noctilukre - colloquially known as "night luck", although "night glow" would be more accurate, he tells me.
You know ambergris - whale vomit, used to make perfume? Well noctilukre is like human ambergris. It's an accretion of all those London nights out - all the booze, the pub-smoke and club-floor grime, slowly built up into a solid deposit inside the body. Like the pearl in an oyster - the blags that came off, the chat-ups that worked, essence of guest-list - the city, concentrated. And like ambergris, it's vanishingly rare. People would be interested - money people.
But I ain't selling. Cos experimentation juss happens to be my thing, too. I find that Noctilukre is versatile stuff. Turns out you can dissolve it in alcohol, smoke it with weed or plain tobacco, lace it into a finger of coke, pretty much cook it up with anything you like.
The effects are quite subtle, but quite something. Things just kinda... go your way. There's a space at the bar. The door doesn't mind your trainers. People laugh at your jokes. Girls like your shirt. Night buses turn up. Hangovers are slight, and comedowns are less. Like you're somehow harmonised with the city, in the London groove.
Can see why people would pay big bucks for this stuff. But that ain't the half.
Closer. See, in small doses noctilukre enables easier travel round London. But in larger doses it enables travel BETWEEN Londons.
Lemme 'splain: there's isn't just one city called London. There's dozens of parallel but related Londons, inhabiting the same physical location but different psychological planes. For example, London if you've got money, and London if you don't. I mean yeah, same time-space, same bat-channel, but very diffrent places. Truss me, I seen 'em both.
Or Gay London. Nominally the same town, but actually a different town centre, different clubs, different people drinking in different bars. Only overlapping with the other Londons when it wants to. Then there's Black London. Student London. Homeless London. Each one superimposed on the others, like Google Map overlays meet Jackson Pollock.
Or Londonistan - Jihadi London. You-lookin-for-a-girlfriend-we-got-some-nice-chinese-girls-in London. First-time-buyer London. Junkie London. Getting-Katherine-into-a-church-school London. Settra, settra, and soforth.
Not to mention transport-for London, I mean that is definitely a parallel dimension. That's why a train 3 minutes away by their watch is 10 minutes away by yours.
No kidding - Interlondimensional travel.
Here's how I got it down. Friday evening's best, 'cos you never know quite how long you'll be gone. Start at a gateway pub - you know, a pub that leads to harder pubs. Say, six pints of cooking lager, or suitable narcotic equivalent, with a tiny dab of the old nocti on the back of the tongue about once every hour. Slowly raising the concentration as the dark draws on.
Then, I take the final step. Timing it right, maybe 1AM. Grab a bourbon and ice, no mixer. Get to the toilet cubicle and wedge the bolt. Working quickly, sticky-sweat and thomp-baddathomp-baddathomp from the dancefloor. Put the seat down. Take the nutmeg grater from my jacket pocket and shave two good pinches of the white stuff into the drink. Swirl once, then down. Flush to cover my tracks.
A trick here. Too little and it's just a good night out. Too much and it's goodnight - out, wake up Wednesday with wacky dreamovers of shooing away cab drivers and listening to pigeons talk football. But get the dose just right - bit of practice - you can surf the wave.
A few minutes more and I'm underway. The cyan-yellow-magenta-blacks of the different tube maps start slow-sliding out of register, noctilukre my roister-card. So far I've just been finding my feet. My first ever excursion was to early-morning London, back in the summer. Never knew my alarm clock could show numbers that low. But that wasn't under steering, pretty much a random hop.
Since then I've been slowly developing more and more control over where I go. Recently I took a night-trip to Sleb London. A few weeks later, found myself briefly in Polska London. I plan to return. Polish girls. One word: Lithe.
Nie opuszczaj mnie teraz, kwisatz haderach!
Now I admit there's still a lot of work needed on this. Even the most succesful London-jump only lasts half a day and they all have side-effects: dislocation, ringing in the ears, and, erm... memory loss, definitely memory loss. One night I lost 512 megabytes, and that damn phone wasn't insured. But now I'm ready to really start exploring. Reckon I'll write a book - a kinda travel guide, describing all the different Londons, complementing the A to Z. I'm gonna call it "The 000 to 999 of London". See the city I'm in now, telling you this, is London number 020. But I reckon there's at least a thousand.
Problem is, my lovely little lump rock of nightluck is wearing away. But I know how to get some more. You and me, we'll go out for a few drinks. I'm buying.
And if you feel sick, get to the toilet - I've brought a bag.