(after Babe Rainbow (1967) by Sir Peter Blake)
The tunnel explodes with light. Blocks of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet ripple towards you, radiating from the gold curtains obscuring the exit. The pattern repeats every ten seconds. Pulled off balance, you sway forwards, then back; hypnotised by the psychedelic motion.
Snatches of music leak into the air. The tune’s unfamiliar, but reminiscent of the brass bands that opened the summer fetes of your childhood. The walls move; the tunnel grows shorter. The conveyor belt under your feet runs so smoothly you’d swear it was the world that was moving, not you.
The gold curtains part as you approach, and the music grows deafening. The conveyor belt stops at the top of a staircase which leads down to a large auditorium. There’s a wrestling ring at its centre.
The lights dim. A spotlight encircles you. Twenty-six thousand heads turn in your direction. Fifty-two thousand hands applaud your presence.
A second spotlight picks out Babe Rainbow, parading around the ring in her famous white two-piece and knee-high red boots. The badges on her hip-belt chink as she moves. The sprung floor of the ring adds bounce to her movements, giving you the impression gravity’s struggling to keep hold of her feet.
You walk down the stairs. Babe leans on the ropes and watches you clamber into the ring. She tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear, then smiles. She’s glad you’ve arrived.
Sugar-herb smoke and cinnamon sweeten the air, the brass band continues to play, but
the audience fades.
There’s no one else left now, it’s just you and Babe Rainbow.
The champ and the challenger.
The bell rings.
It’s time for the main event to begin.
Jacqui Pack’s fiction and poetry have appeared in a variety of publications, including Litro Online, Fictive Dream, Storgy, and Synaesthesia. She was among the winners of The London Magazine’s 2013 ‘Southern Universities Short Story Competition’, was awarded Long Story Short’s ‘Story of the Year 2009’, and holds an MA in Creative Writing.