Demure, and suggest that someone else goes forward.

Looking at the stage, and the empty space in its center, you are convinced of one thing: you don’t want to be there, you don’t want any part of whatever it happening, regardless of whatever networking opportunities it could possible entail. You say as much to Achitophel.

‘Umm, you know what, my thespian skills are a little rusty – how about you go, instead? I’m happy just watching.’

‘There is no light on the outskirts of life,’ Achitophel sighs, after pain streaks across her countenance at your denial.

Ajax nods sadly. ‘You could have been great, you know. Remember Junior year Spring Break, in Bayonne? You showed such promise, then…’

Did you? You remember that trip, vaguely – a farcical idea on Achitophel’s part, who suggested taking a vacation to a mundane destination. The trip itself was as unremarkable as its premise promised: twice-daily commutes to a local Denny’s, movie marathons, ketamine. You’d slid into a K-hole, it’s true, and retained your sunny sanity only by adopting an entirely different persona – Kathleen Third-Eye, a Messenger from the Shadow Realm of Urlu-Ketańa-Rå – and speaking in tongues for twelve hours. Afterwards the world was your domain, and you ordered blueberry pancakes with Himalayan repose, your palm raised in the air as you said to the waitress (who had a degree from the University of Las Vegas), ‘There was a time when I would have said, No, I would never order breakfast at 9pm. But I once told myself that I am many things, which I am no longer. There is only the pancakes, the stomach, the hunger, and time is maya created by the pantomime of the self’ and then you poured syrup on the pancakes before eating them with your lustful hands. Sure, you were quite the mystic, then… but that was before resume writing classes, before seeing yourself in the mirror in a shirt and tie for work, before losing years of your life to something far less awe-inspiring than the Void.

‘I show plenty of promise in professional life,’ you reply, defensively, ‘I can become a member of the bourgeoisie while retaining my bohemian values.’

‘Perhaps. Per-haps,’ Achitophel replies, walking in a tiny circle while facing away from you, towards the stage, ‘but there can only be Nine, and the Nine are each spokes seeking to return to the One, who both Is…’ and then turning to you, planting her feet, ‘and Is Not. Ajax, Levortho Nil’Enkala.’

Taking a purple Gameboy Color out of his back pocket, Ajax approaches you. You haven’t seen a Gameboy Color in years. Yours was purple, too – is that somehow your Gameboy color, that Ajax is holding? You’d lost yours, or, then again, your mother took it away from you – was she in on this, too?

‘You refused to play the game,’ Ajax says, placing a hand on your shoulder again (though, this time, it’s the opposite shoulder), ‘so the game must play you.’

Ajax kicks you in the crotch. You collapse, gasping for breath, streaks of light criss-crossing your vision (since when do you get migraines?) as Ajax drags you by your hair onto the stage. Scream all you like, entreat them about the Halcyon days you shared, it’s no use – they’ve drank some kind of Kool Aid, and it goes well with something they’re gonna serve you to. The skin-colored star of the dancing alumni uncoils and starts chanting as Ajax places you in their center, opens your mouth, and forces the Gameboy into it.

This is so fucked up you reflect, accurately, as the Gameboy grates against the inside of your throat. The other alumni are about to do something to your body, they’re pulling on your limbs, you hear cracks and gratings of the bones – this isn’t gonna end well. In fact, to cut to the chase…

Time to get back up on that undead horse.

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