William Firth led me through the marble hallways. Each one
had large pressurized windows showcasing the different buildings that made up
Rapture. The atmosphere was really something else. Aside from the fact that the
city was underwater, it really was a testament of artistic prowess. Ornaments,
statues, blue spotlights, and lighted shop signs filled the city and made what
could have been a gloomy city into a lively one bustling with personality.
There were more posters, only this time they were not just showcasing plasmids;
one advertised facial surgery, another promoted something called The Oxford
Club. It gave me an idea on just how diverse the market was here.
What was strange to me was how empty the welcome center was. The only person I saw in the entirety of my visit was Mr. Firth. Other than that it was unoccupied. But I heard music and people chatting in the distance. I suppose everyone is at the New Year’s party.
The music grew louder with every step I took, along with the chattering of people. We took a left and now there were multiple hallways. One led to another bathysphere station, the other to the elevator room, and the last to a place called Kashmir Restaurant. We were heading to Kashmir. We walked a few more paces and no longer did I hear soft murmurs, but a loud vibrant crowd of people gathered together for a celebration. It felt familiar to the club I used to work at; the laughs, conversations, stirring music. I finally arrived to the entrance to The Kashmir;the hall was wider this time and had bushes in the center. It had a large neon sign that said ‘Kashmir Restaurant’ in elegant cursive. On top of the sign were multiple neon arches and flanking it were two nude female statues holding out service trays. On top of all of that was a giant arch that overlooked the front entrance.
“Here wear this”, Mr. Firth said, handing me a bunny shaped mask that covered the top of my face, “Masks of invitation”.
“Is this a masquerade?” I said tittering.
“Exactly that,” He said while putting an elephant shaped mask on himself. “These masks are highly sought-after. I was going to give it to my wife, but she doesn’t have the stomach for large public gatherings.”
I was a bit bewildered “Oh my… I don’t know how to thank you Mr.Fir-“
“Please call me Will”, He said smiling, “I think it’s safe to say we’re passed the pleasantries”.
“I agree”, I said happily. It has been years since I felt this joyous. Finally I felt like I was somebody again. I mean look at what this Firth fellow has already done for me; he gave me an invitation to what seems to be a highly coveted party, as well as a polished black tuxedo, all this after talking to him for only thirty minutes. I don’t know what happens next, but am I looking forward to it.
We went through the entrance; standing in front of us was a hostess and behind her was an influx of waiters serving a variety of dishes and drinks on their platters. The hostess was stunning; she wore a long elegant, silkdress,unusually high heels, and a bunny mask similar to mine, only this one was brown.
“Good evening Mr. Firth, lovely to have you this evening, will you be with anyone special today” She said. Just the sound of her voice alone was arousing; I was almost spellbound by her presence. If only she took off that mask so I can get the full picture.
“Thank you Brenda, and yes as a matter of fact, though not in the way you might envision”, He said, then looked at me “This is the owner of this lovely establishment, Brenda Wilson”.
“Pleased to make your acquaintance Ms. Wilson”, I said, kissing her hand.
“Well-mannered and charming”, she said, making me flustered out of my mind, “butit’s Mrs. Wilson, sorry if I burst your bubbles.”
“Oh not at all”, I said with an artificial laugh. Of course you burst them! You call me charming then tell me you’re married? That is without a doubt the harshest thing you can do to a living breathing man who is attracted to women.
“If you two would follow me to your table”, She said walking down the hallway while we followed behind. William smiled and put his hand on my shoulder.
“Don’t be soglum over this; there are plenty of fish in the sea. You only met a Blue Tang, wait until you come across the Coral Beauties”.
10 feet from us was another extravagant door. The music and the crowd were louder than ever, it was behind this door that the New Year’s party was taking place. She opened the door and I looked at William; he once more gave me a comforting smile.
“Welcome to Kashmir”
I took a step through the door and my eyes widened in disbelief. This was the largest and most opulent restaurant I’ve ever seen. It had two floors, each had about fifty or so tables with elaborate zigzag decorations that could fit ten people each. Large marble columns held the building, they had no base or roof and were much wider than any columns I have seen; around it were spiraling marble staircases with stainless metal rails that curve with the stairs. There were two large open areas within the restaurant, one at the very front and another at the very end. Both had large, beautifully crafted fountains with steaming water coming out of each one. Elegantly cut plants also inhabited the restaurant adding a refreshing amount of life to it. Both the left and right of the restaurant were plastered completely in marble like a large portion of what I saw in the city, but the wall at the very end was completely composed of glass and gave a stunning view of the city. Along with that nothing here architecturally is composed of straight lines, everything is curved and circular; from the sides of the second floor to the ceiling all the way down to the handrails. This place screamed art deco.
On top of all that, there were hundreds upon hundreds of people gathered in here. Many were sitting down in their assigned tables, many more roamed around the restaurant seeking good conversation partners. Every one of them was elegantly dressed. The men wore a variety of different colored vintage tuxedos. The women wore long beautiful gowns, most of which were eccentric and dark colored but nevertheless ravishing. All of them were wearing masks of different animals or fictional creatures; ranging from elephants to devil shaped masks. It truly was a masquerade! Speakers were set up all across the restaurant playing lively jazz music that helped elevate the mood of the party.
I followed Brenda to my table and started to climb up the winding staircase. This place was absolutely packed. Every step I took there were new fascinating individuals discussing matters ranging fromthe philosophical nature of humanity, new discoveries in science, and artists bragging about new compositions they wrote. Everyone here seems to be refined, well-educated and ambitious. They were people I wanted to talk to, but at the same time was too intimidated to. I was impoverished for most of my career; I had nothing to brag about, let alone anything to wear if it was not for William. Suddenly William stopped Brenda, andthen looked at me.
“Now John, you have two options here.” William said to me. “I’ll be having a little chat with a few colleagues of mine about boring business transactions and other such things upstairs. You can either sit with me and my pals to talk about the excitement harvested from measuring capitalization ratios. Or you can do what the rest of the flock is doing and try to find a good lad to talk to. I would recommend for you to go to the bar on the first floor. That’s where all the decorated artists and musicians meet.”
I thought about this for a few seconds. Part of me wanted to be with William, he’s been so accommodating and was a pleasure to be around. But my forte wasn’t in business and I would only embarrass myself if I take part in that conversation.
“Thanks for sharing”, I said gratefully, “I will have to take the latter option”.
“Wonderful”, He said with a gleeful expression. Once again he put his hand on my shoulder and said in a lower voice. “Now listen to me, parties in Rapture are not only celebratory, they present a wide range of opportunities if one is willing to take them. Make a damn goodimpression on any of these renowned artists and by tomorrow you’ll be getting letters from them asking you to be one of their disciples.”
My excitement grew to paramount degrees. Me? A disciple to a famous musician or artist? This was something I would dream of but never actually put into consideration. No opportunities’ were ever presented to me in the surface. Nevertheless I hid my fervor and tried to remain as calm as possible.
“Which ones are the most distinguished figures here?” I said
“Ambitious, I like it,” He said proudly, as if I were a son of his. “Let’s see, there is Marion Piaf, who’s an outstanding contemporary artist and quite the eye pleaser. There is Albert Knudsen, exceptional violinist who helped create our anthem. Oh, Anna Culpepper, she’s a lyricist, not a particular favorite of mine, but she’s garnered quite a crowd. And then there is Sandor Cohen, the musical and artistic genius of our time”.
“Sandor Cohen huh, what’s his particular skill set?” I asked curiously.
“You name it; poetry, composing, sculpting, he’s even a bloody playwright.” He said“His talents are far reaching. Hell, Andrew Ryan was so impressed with his work that he gave Sandor the entirety of Fort Frolic. He now uses itto show off his artwork and present his plays in Fleet Hall, which by the way is Rapture’s theatre. If there’s anyone you would want to work with, believe me, it’s Sandor Cohen.”
A master poet, sculptor and playwright; that is undeniably a diverse muse.He is definitely on the top of my list of people to talk too.
“Thank you William”, I said while shaking his hand “I hope we cross paths again sometime soon”
“Oh we will”, he said smiling, “remember we still have that interview to finish.”
This is where we parted. Brenda guided Will upstairs and I went downstairs to make something of myself. I felt like I was strangely alone again. I was in a crowd in which everyone seemed to be acquainted with each other. I almost felt like one of those immigrants visiting the U.S., alone and jobless. I reached the first floor and started walking through the crowd. It never felt overbearingly crowded like New York City did. It had the right amount of people to make this feel like a lively, festive holiday. Everyone was drinking, conversing, eating; essentially having a good time. Waiters and waitresses would pass by me holding expertly crafted meals, ranging from superbly plated whole lobsters with a side of lemons and butter sauce to slices of salmon lightly covered in Teriyaki sauce and sesame seeds. This was as luxurious and exciting as life gets; I could not stop smiling while gazing at this atmosphere. It felt completely surreal to me, how thisexistence could be maintained at the bottom of the ocean.
I finally reached the bar, which was, like the rest of this place, spectacular to look at. This was a circular 360 degree bar with four bartenders and an endless amount of liquor. It had a large wheel shaped object on the top that served both as a minimalistic chandelier and as a sign post where the title of the bar (‘Les Temps Perdu’) was placed. There were also geometric shapes that acted as ornaments placed all around it. I should have been drinking here all my life. I was immediately able to distinguish the artists from everyone else. They were much louder and flashier than the rest of the crowd, bragging about their achievements in symmetry and how their rivals were lower than they were. The female’s gowns were also far more eccentric than those of the rest of the mass.
I first met Albert Knudsen; he was a small Danish man with a ridiculous beard and emaciated physique, his tuxedo barely fit him. But he was charismatic, well-spoken, and a highly-regarded musician. We talked for thirty minutes about the nature of man, my arrival to Rapture, the harmonic melodies that we created in our compositions, all the way down to the beautiful presentation of the food served to us. Before we parted he gave me his address and telephone number, telling me to stop by whenever I pleased.
Next I met Marion Piaf, whowas absolutely stunning. She was 5’8 and wore a sparkling white gown with long gloves. She had short blonde hair with high volume and tight curls. Piaf also had a mask that was shaped like a bird of sorts. I was just immediately drawn to her presence upon first seeing her. Then I got to talk to her and was immediately less allured. She was not dull-witted in anyway, just somewhat ignorant of the world around her. She did not know basic facts of Rapture that I immediately recognized upon my arrival; such as who was the founder of Rapture? Who owns the plasmid business? Though I must confess, I myself do not know what plasmids are as of yet. What she seemed to have keen knowledge on was the technical ‘brilliance’ of her artwork, every single little detail, along with the name of all those who admired her work. She almost makes them sound like her suitors. Like Albert Knudsen, she also gave me her contact information. Unlike Albert Knudsen, I threw it away in the nearest disposal. I simply could not work with someone who cannot look behind her own canvas and realize why her admirers are mainly men.
To my disappointment, I could not find Sandor Cohen. Knudsen told me he was not able to make it and preoccupied with the creation of a new opera. I went into a state of dejection; this was my best chance to present myself to Sandor. I did not want to be associated with Piaf under any circumstances. Knudsen was a fine man andviolinist, but his range of talentswas not diverse enough for me to have any large undertaking in it. My ideal choice was Sandor and even if my skills in persuasion failed to sway him, at least he would know my name. Now it will take arduous measures to seek an audience with him no doubt.
I ended up going to the bar to relieve my somber state with alcohol. I sat down in one of the stools and asked for a vodka martini. I was about to get out my wallet and pay, but then the bartender stopped me.
“You don’t need to do that, everything is provided for by Andrew Ryan” The bartender told me.
“Wait as in he paid for everything here? The food, drinks, the entire set up?” I said
“Yup, he’s killin’ it” the bartender said in a New York accent while cleaning a few glasses
“Why would he do something like that?” I said curiously
“Hey you got me pal, I just wash the glasses and serve the drinks, I don’t bother with this type of stuff.” He said in a very cool matter. We were silent for a few seconds and then I spoke again.
“Do you know why Sandor didn’t show up, seems like everyone important in Rapture is here, and he definitely fits that category, so why is that?”
He looked at me and looked surprised by my question. “You haven’t been here long have you?”
“No, I actually just arrived two hours ago”, I said, taking a large sip of that vodka.
“No kidding”, He said giving off a little laugh, “Well better know now then later, Sandor is…. A bit of an oddball”.
“Really”, I said a little surprised, “How so?”
“He isn’t exactly the social type. When he doesn’t have to, he almost never goes to any of these gatherings. But when Andrew Ryan comes crawling through the door and asks for his presence, he gets here at a moment’s notice. But he would usually save a large seating area of his own so he doesn’t have to talk with anyone besides his admirers”.
“Wow”, I said shocked, “How do you reckon that”.
“Heh, who knows what, goes on in an artist’s head these days”, He said with a proud smile, “One time I ended up serving him drinks and all he ever talked about was a songbird, or his lack of one I guess. And you want to know the best part? He wasn’t drunk.”
“Nooo”, I said in disbelief
“I swear to you” the bartender said “he said something about not wanting to put his muse to shame, and here he was babbling on about songbirds completely sober, I swear there are some wackos in this place.”
“Well, thanks for the info pal”, I said holding my drink up
“Hey no sweat”, he said looking the other way at a man who was calling for a drink, “Listen I gotta go. Nice chatting with you, come by the Kashmir sometime, I’ll be here serving a shit ton of artists, I could use some good company.”
“Will the drinks be free tomorrow?” I said jokingly
He laughed a little and then said, “Nothing is free here”.
Once again I was alone in a world where it seemed like every single individual had a conversing partner. The bar soon ended up being ludicrously crowded. It almost became nauseating. I decided to leave the bar and head to the second floor to get a better look at that view of the city. I went passed the crowds of artists and sociologists, the fountains and red marble columns, the waiters serving an endless amount of seafood. I went upstairs into a completely new environment. The atmosphere upstairs was far different from the one below. Men wore simple black tuxedos or traditional business suits over the highly colorful and flamboyant attires that were worn by the men downstairs. Most of them smoked large cigars from brands I never heard of, though they looked awfully similar to those sold in Cuba. Many of the men were seated in circular tables eating large crab legs. I came to the conclusion that this was where the businessmen and scientists would sit. I reached the end of the restaurant and had a full view of the city. As expected the view of the city was gorgeous, you got a good idea of the variety of wild life that inhabit this city, whales and jelly fish would just pass by different buildings and no one here would give a care in the world. What I didn’t expect was how beautiful the area around the view was. There was a small downstairs area that was completely cut off from the rest of the first floor. It had very few seats for people to sit in because at the center of the space there was a large open space that carried a huge marble globe of Earth. The pieces of land were darker than the waters surrounding it and were three dimensional; as in they came out of the globe. It worked like a relief where only part of a statue would stick out from its original canvas, only this was not a statue but a minimalist representation of our world. The seats that were available got a full view of the city. I imagine this was where the richest and most prolific people in Rapture would sit, there were far less people at this part of the restaurant. Here I was with a wallet that carried twenty dollars standing right next to themost decorated individuals of this city, that’s something I tell you. I took a few more sips of my vodka and rolled about in my misery.
“When invited to one of myget-togethers, guests would usually drink away in high spirits. You on the other hand seem to be drinking in complete melancholy. Out of curiosity, what is the cause of this mishappening?” said a mysterious man who came out of nowhere. He spoke in an accent similar to that of a U.S. senator on television. Only his voice had much more authority in it and evoked mystery.
He sounded so familiar, I almost looked to see who he was. But my melancholy reached pivotal heights and ended up looking away from him. “A misadventure of sorts I suppose. I was supposed to meet my future mentor today, only he wasn’t here. Now I have to either involve myself with a lesser woman or a man who will only give me a small role in his masterpieces. It seems like fate continues to toy with me, guess this is mine.”
“Fate?” said the mysterious man. “That is a word I have not heard for a great period of time. Let me tell you this, fate does not exist, it never has. Man has neither a predetermined future nor a set of guidelines. Men are free to do as they will and can achieve great wonders once they realize this. This goes for you as well. You chose to stand here and wallow away in misery, it was not fate, it was not an angel that controls every impulse of your body, it was you. Now, you can go back, empty the bars of Kashmir of all its liquor and become a worthless drunk, or you can take advantage of this misadventure and open your eyes to see what you might have blindly squandered. The choice is yours.”
My melancholy turned into curiosity. Who was this man? How was it that with one paragraph he was able to cure me of my affliction?
“You believe it is impossible to change the course of this misfortune.” He said with a fiery passion “Come let me show you what I have done with the so called impossible.”
When I finally decided to look upon who I was talking to, I ended up facing his back. He was about 5’10 and was fairly built. He had great posture and was wearing a brown vintage suit. We walked down the staircase that led to the globe and we ended up stopping right next to the window that showcased the city.
“In approximately two minutes, it will be 1959, a new year for Rapture.” He said,“We cannot simply overlook this; we must celebrate it with spectacle and commemorate it with the achievements of my fellow citizens. Tell me have you heard of plasmids?”
I tried to get a glimpse of his face by getting closer to him, but then looked away in embarrassment as he asked me the question. “Yes but I haven’t personally seen one yet.”
“Ignore sight. It is not about what you see when it comes to plasmids, but what it does. For as long as I remember, parasites have told me it was impossible to build a city underwater, I proved them wrong. They told me it was impossible to sustain life in an environment such as this, I proved them wrong again. They told me it was impossible to have a man shoot lightening out of his hand; I proved them wrong once more. Time and time again people have told me of the impossible and I made the impossible a possibility. I turned fiction into reality. It came to a point where I realized that impossibility, the whole philosophy behind it, did not exist and if man was given free rein to pursue his endeavors, spectacular things can be achieved.”
“I’m sorry; you said something about a man shooting lightning out of his hand?” I said rather nervously
“Look up, what do you see”, he said
I looked up and saw a giant circular sign hanging at the very top of the ceiling. It was invisible to all except those who looked up. I saw a man next to it; he was using rope to hold himself on the ceiling. He extended his hand towards the sign, and then something strange happened. Blue energy started to surge from his hand and all of a sudden a jolt of lightning hit the sign and it lit up. I fell to the ground stunned at what I just saw, what was that? Am I hallucinating? I looked up again and he was gone, there was nothing but red smoke from where he originally was. The sign started coming down automatically. The smooth jazz was replaced with loud celebratory New Year’s music. People from all over the restaurant started to gather to the front in anticipation for something huge. As the sign came down, I realized it was not a sign at all, but rather a clock, a large neon lighted clock with a loud ticker. The music suddenly stopped. Everybody in the restaurant was counting down to the New Year.
I was behind this stranger, this well-spoken, prophet like stranger who’s name I do not know and who’s face I have not seen. Twenty seconds to the New Year and I finally ask, “I’m sorry I didn’t get your name.”
He showed me half his face and then said in a cool tone “Of course”.
He started to turn around. At this point time started to slow. I do not know why, but my eagerness to see who this man is was the most anticipated moment in my life. He was continuing to turn around and then, incredibly, I looked into his face, his piercing face. The countdown continued
“Andrew Ryan”, he said
Confetti came out of the ceiling, the neon clock turned into a ‘Happy New Years’ sign, the crowd roared in applause and yells. All this was happening and all I can do was look at this man’s face. He started to smile, outside this building streams of light started to rise up from all across the city, and then.
They were fireworks, more than I ever seen in my life. They lit up the entire city, more so than the sun could have ever done. As fireworks were erupting all over the city, I continued to look at Ryan’s face. He raised his eyebrows along with his arm and raised a glass of champagne while fireworks were erupting behind him. It was at this instance that I realized this was where I was meant to be, happily buried at sea.