Suddenly, everyone gathered in the 2nd story garret – you, the middle-aged twins, and the woman of a certain age – hear a cry from downstairs.
‘Quick!’ the woman hisses, leading you through the next room (a dusty collection of show costumes) and onto the theatre’s rafters. She points down and whispers, ‘They’ve started.’
The theatre looks like a czarist palace flooded out when a dam retaining a reservoir filled with Arizona Iced Tea collapsed: the upholstery of the tiered seats have been eaten through by maggots, the incongruous Rococo molding caked in gold varnish (imported from a Medici estate thanks to a generous contribution by George Gordon O’Hoolahan himself), and the stage itself – large enough to stage Phantom of the Opera, even though the theatre department principally serves as a front for the school’s poaching of oil oligarchs (backdoor purchases for the performance rights of fictitious plays, seven-figure matinee seat prices, ‘Ibsen’).
Offstage, you recognize two old college friends whom you’ve fallen out of touch with since graduation, Ajax and Achitophel. Ajax sports a wild mane of red hair and looks like he just left a Korn concert (your older cousin listened to them, not you, you assure yourself – your inner monologue making that reference doesn’t make you old. Though they did appear in that one South Park episode). Achitophel, on the other hand, is wearing the same clothes you saw her in last – seemingly the entire Vineyard Vines Summer 2014 catalogue – though she’s also holding a massive two-handed Infinity Bludgeon. It is an elegant weapon, from a more civilized age: the adamantium handle is sixteen hands long, and laced with a criss-crossing inlay of silver which blossoms out like a mandala over the bludgeon itself, a heavy boulder famously dug up by the school’s founder, Erich von Straussheim, in The Year of Our Lord 1744.
Most alarming of all, however, is on the stage itself: a dozen alumni of varying ages – you spot a septuagenarian in there, surely – run in a circle on-stage to the atonal beat of a timpani drum, each wearing flesh-colored suits and featureless masks over their faces. In their center stands a naked young man caked in black oil and holding a silver shiv, waiting with grim fatality for… something.
You overhear Achitophel say, impatiently, ‘Where is Horus? We have the offering waiting for him.’
‘He’s upstairs, preparing the Bed’e’akiné for Urlu-Ketańa-Rå,’ Ajax answers, ‘we cannot rush our passage into the Shadow Realm, nor our summoning of von Straussheim.’
‘But do we have enough hosts?’ Achitophel insists, ‘Our friend was supposed to be here – it was foreseen in the Enla’ra.’
‘The what?’ Ajax asks.
‘Our undergrad alerted us to their coming, remember?’ Achitophel answered, ‘She told him of our theatre meeting, and he came here for us.’
‘Oh yes, of course, the Enla’ra,’ Ajax replied, though he is unmistakably anxious. ‘I’m gonna go upstairs and check on Horus, anyway.’
‘Fine. Go,’ Achitophel dismissed him, looking at the stage as he left. ‘I’ll oversee the offering.’
Then Ajax is heading upstairs, where he’ll no doubt discover Horus – the jock, presumably – dead, along with you and the others soon thereafter. You could wait where you are, and try to reason with Ajax when he arrives. Or, you could run down the stairs and try to waylay Ajax, taking him out along the way. Or, even more boldly, you and your comrades could jump off the rafters and onto the stage, attack Achitophel, and presumably take care of the other dancing alumni, as well. What will you do?