Putting on your best Crusading Protagonist, you force open the double doors and stride (or perhaps strut) in, eyes darting around to survey the scene.
A group of alumni, alarmed, have turned to face you. One has 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). His hands are empty, yet that is not true of the woman standing to his left: she’s your age, as well, sports the entire Vineyard Vines Summer 2014 catalogue, and brandishes a 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.
“Where did you get that?” you ask automatically, momentarily forgetting the situation.
“What’s wrong, old friend,” she asks, fingering the handle playfully, “a few years since graduation and you’ve already forgotten that I know all this school’s secrets?”
Your eyes adjust, and suddenly it dawns on you: the Vineyard Vines Summer 2014 catalogue – of course! She was wearing it the last time you saw each-other in civilian dress, the day before graduation.
“Achitophel!” you cry, throwing out your arms and embracing your old friend with postcard joy. Yet something isn’t right.
“Something isn’t right,” the red-maned man growls, and, looking over, you recognize him, too.
“Forgive me, Ajax,” you say, allowing him to kiss your hand, “I got a little freaked out on the walk over here.”
Naturally, you expect a cordial response, yet Ajax offers none: he simply stares back at you, with a blank expression. The others do the same. Huh. Looking around helplessly, you say, ‘So… is there something I missed?’
‘You missed the Light of the Nine, evidently,’ Sphinx-like Achitophel observes, ‘otherwise you would have known that fear is never to be forgiven.’
Achitophel delivered this last line as matter-of-factly as a weather report. ‘The Nine?’ you ask, bamboozled.
‘We’re not here to discuss theology, old friend,’ Ajax replies warmly, laying a hand (suggestively?) on your shoulder. ‘We’re here to enact it, in mystery cult theatre 3000.’
Leading you forcefully, with Achitophel following close behind, Ajax ushers you through the antechamber’s antiquated doors into the main theatre. You feel as if you’ve stepped into the shelled out ruins of 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 Roccocco 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 hold a performance of 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’).
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. What kind of networking event is this, exactly?
‘So what is this, The Rite of Spring?’ you ask, trying to retain your composure.
‘You were always a literary type, friend-o, but no,’ Ajax replies, taking a hand off your shoulder, ‘this is the ultimate networking experience.’
‘Some real participatory theatre,’ Achitophel adds.
‘I thought you were putting on Shakespeare?’ you recall.
Achitophel lays a hand on your chest and looks deeply into your eyes. ‘You were performing Shakespeare out there. We’re moving beyond that here.’
And with that, the maelstrom onstage halts, with each actor (participant? Victim? Potential employer?) stopping in place to form a triskelion: three lines of people, four in each, extending from an empty center, which Achitophel points to.
‘That’s for you,’ she says, as the players on-stage and Ajax turn to you.
So, what are you gonna do?