“Will” said a
male voice that was echoing in an empty space. My eyes were closed; all I can
hear was that voice calling out a name. Everything else was silent; ominous,
“Will’ said that voice again. This time I opened my eyes, everything around me was blurry and unclear. I was in a room, an empty white room. In front of me was a table. There was someone sitting on the other side, he was a blur, I could not make out his face.
“Will”, he said to me again.
“What… who is Will?” I said in a moaning like matter, almost like I was in pain
“Where is the bottle in the winery?”
“Bottle in the.. I’m sorry I don’t understand”, I said
“Where is the bottle in the winery?”
“I don’t know what that is! What is this? Who are you?” I said exacerbated
Everything was silent again, the figure on the other side did not move, the light started to flicker on and off. All of a sudden, everything I saw in front of me started to crack, like fragile glass. The cracks around my field of vision worsened and worsened until, abruptly, it fell apart. That image my eyes produced shattered into dozens of little fragments of glass that fell down, until there was nothing but darkness, lonely desolate darkness.
“WHERE IS THE BOTTLE IN THE WINERY?”
“Aahh” I screamed jumping up from my bed. It was a dream.
I was breathing heavily and covered in sweat. I got up from my bed, went into the bathroom, grabbed a towel and dried myself up. I went out and then took a good look at my apartment. It was not exactly the most accommodating home I have seen. It had cracks on the ceiling and was dimly lit. But it was more than functional. I came here with nothing but twenty dollars, by making the right connections I was able to avoid being adestitute. More than that, thanks to Andrew Ryan, I was about to havean interview with Sander Cohen today, but it will function more like an audition. Cohen demanded that I play one of my original compositions to him or else he will not bother seeing me.
I looked at my watch to see the time. It was 9 in the morning and my audition was at 11. I took a quick shower to get rid of the stench from all that sweat, and then I put on business attire as well as a top hat and left my apartmentto get to the closest bathysphere station.
I had to go to Fort Frolic, which was apparently the wonderland of Rapture. It was a place where residents could lessentension and take downtime in a variety of ways. One could go into the many different smoking rooms, each of which offers a different environment for those with more specific taste. Or why not take a seat in Fleet Hall and watch a play by some of Raptures great playwrights. For the more salacious distractions, strip clubs and casinos are available in Fort Frolic as well. Yes indeed this is the place for one’s mind to unwind and be consumed by pleasure. But I was heading there for working purposes, to make something of myself and live a luxurious life.
The bathysphere station was crowded; there were over twelve platforms. I got my ticket and went to the platform with the smallest line. Once again everyone here was chatting with someone else with absolute exuberance, and here I was with a briefcase and business suit by myself. I was so used to the life style in New York City, where no one interacted with each other. In fact this was a commonality all over the United States, when it comes to strangers we tend to just pass one another in complete silence and never actually bother talking to one another. Here it seemed to be the exact opposite; everyone waschattingabout a variety of topics; sometimes about different events that circulated in Rapture; but most of the time it seemed to be simple family issues. And here I am the foreigner who has made nothing of himself in the past few days. That was all about to change very soon.
I entered a bathysphere with one man and a family of four. The mother and father of the family went in front of the window to show their kids the different parts of Rapture. I only got to see a small part of the window due to the family blocking a majority of it. But even through that small portion of the window, I saw something strange outside. I got closer to the window and to my bewilderment, I saw a man outside one of Raptures many buildings. As the bathysphere got closer, I let out a gasp. I do not think I was looking at a man at all, more like a large creature of some sort. It was over twelve feet tall and wore an unusually large diving suit. Its left hand was abnormally big; it could easily grab a full grown man just with that hand. Where his right hand should be instead he has….. a giant drill. He was using it to remove a large damaged neon store sign. I got a close look at the helmet, it had multiple small viewing holes and was too large for any normal human to be able to move it let alone fit in. It was a large menacing, hulking figure, but seemed to be used for intensive labor purposes on the exterior of the city.
“Excuse me, but what the hell is that thing,” I asked the father while pointing at the mechanical beast
The father looked a little irritated with me, “Watch your language, we got kids here! Don’t they teach you manners where you’re from?”
I gave out a little laugh, “First off, no I was raised in New York, and second, it’s a free society which generally means I also have the right to speak in whatever fashion I choose, unless of course you have the authority to take that right away from me?”
“Why you little-“
The other passenger intervened and said nervously, “S-sir please,not in front of your children.”
The father looked at me with great hatred, but eventually looked away in defeat and took a seat. The passenger who helped me was a young kid. He had blonde clean-cut hair, was skinny, in his mid-20s, and was relatively good looking. But he seemed a bit shy, he did not ask if I was okay, he just glanced at everyone nervously, put his hand in his pocket, and then sat in his seat looking down into the floor.
I went up to him and took a seat next to him, “Hey thanks for that, it would have gotten real messy if you didn’t step up to help.”
“Oh, it’s no problem really, I’m glad to help whenever I can”, He said to me with a nervous smile
“Glad to hear it, John Buchanan”, I said reaching out to shake his hand
“Kyle Fitzpatrick”, He said shaking my hand
“So Fitzpatrick, what brings you to Fort Frolic?” I said deviously“I can’t imagine it’s for the more lustful pleasures it has to offer.”
“No, God no”, He said laughing, “I’m actually here on business matters, you see I’m, well, a disciple to Sandor Cohen.
My eyes widened when I heard this. What a strange coincidence, here I was about to have an audition for him and his disciple is right in front of me in a bathysphere.
“Sander Cohen huh”, I said to him, planning to tell him nothing about my interview with Cohen until I get a few questions out of him. “I hear grand things about him; I was actually planning to go to one of his art exhibits today.”
“Is that so”, he said smiling, “He’s well known for his more abstract works.”
“Expressionism?” I said
“No, heh, more like realism”, Kyle said “he loves to do portraits.”
“That’s good to know”, I said, getting useful information from my source “But enough about him, what about you? Why is Sandor calling you to his presence today?”
“Hehe, prying into my personal life I see”, he said a bit skeptical, “Well I suppose it won’t hurt anyone if I say this. Andrew Ryan asked Sander to audition someone he met at the New Year’s party. He accepted, of course but wasn’t, umm, pleased. He said that this was a waste of his vital time and started rambling about mortality and how every second of his life was, ehhh, precious. So he wanted to make a practical joke of sorts. He invited all his disciples, colleagues and acquaintances into Fleet Hall. Whoever is auditioning is going to, umm, perform for an entire audience who believes they are about to see a comedy. While playing, if he really does turn out to be an amateur, then confetti is going to come out of the roof along with hanging cupids. Trombone players are going to come out to play the, what do I call it, the sad trombone sound.”
Well this was surprising; I thought he would be a bit more sympathetic but it turned out to be the exact opposite, he was completely ruthless. I had to take advantage of this; at least I will not be surprised and to flabbergasted to perform now that I know about his plans.
“Wow, that’s a malicious deception, do you have any sympathy for this poor soul?” I asked Kyle curiously
“Of course I do!” He said defensively “It’s just that if I go against Sandor on any subject, I will end up being jobless, this is his version of high art, I can’t fight him on that.”
“Oh you poor soul”, I said to him sarcastically, I believe it was time to introduce myself to my new found colleague. “You told me so much about your profession, it only seems fitting that I tell you mine.”
“By all means, please”, Kyle said to me
“Well I ended up coming to Rapture a few days ago, so I’m currently on the dole.” I said to him
“Is that so, who are you receiving benefits from” Kyle asked curiously
“Andrew Ryan”. I said “You see I went to that New Year’s party he hosted a couple of days back and had the pleasure of meeting him. I told him about my current disposition and he said he would be delighted to help me. So he assisted me in getting both a crummy but functional apartment and an audition for the most renowned artist in this city, today. So hearing your story gave me a tad bit of déjà vu”.
Fitzpatrick turned extremely red and started sweating; he put his hands on his face and started shaking his head.
“You played me”, he said in disbelief
“No, you played me, I’m just returning the favor”, I said with a prideful smile
He looked away from me and did not talk for the rest of the ride. We finally reached Fort Frolic; the building was shaped like a long dark cylinder with flanking small rectangular like towers. We went inside the itand arrived at the platform. The first thing I noticed when arriving at the station is just how busy it was! Frolic was crowded to the bone; it probably had three times the amount of people I saw in the station at my apartment complex. This crowd was louder and more rambunctious as well. I would imagine that most of them were intoxicated.
I stepped outside of the bathysphere; Fitzpatrick wasted no time and left right away, along with the family that accompanied me. 20 minutes in the sub and I already made a few adversaries. I exited the station and was now making my way to Fleet Hall. As I walked through Frolic, I could not help but notice how different it felt from the rest of the city. They did not have conventional stores; it was filled with elaborate smoking rooms you had to pay to be in, art galleries, casinos, and strip clubs. Surprisingly the busiest stores would tend to be the art galleries; they were full of individuals studying different abstract artworks.
I was walking down the center and was about to pass by a strip club, but then I froze. I do not know why I did, whether it was out of curiosity or craving, I stopped. When I lost my job, I spent most of what I had on strip bars in downtown New York. Drinking excessively and having private dances. It gave me a feeling of superiority, but it was also the result of addiction. I made good money back then and could have easily put that money in my savings for pressing emergencies. Instead I squandered it on petty things, all because of addiction. This is one of the many negative aspects of being human; we are all slaves to pleasure and desire. One can tell you about the health risks and the consequences of performing immoral action, but at the end of the day rational thought is thrown down the toilet and is replaced by an unquenchablethirst. We start making excuses for the things we’ve done and in turn we go back to that hell hole over and over again.
I took a few steps forward to the club. A large white security guard was in front of the door and stopped me, I woke up from my unconscious state.
“Hold it”, the security guard told me “Do you have a membership card?”
“No, I don’t.” I said a little dazed and confused “I’m sorry for the trouble I’ll be leaving right now.”
I was about to walk away, but then froze again and turned to the guard.
“I’m just curious, I understand this city is all about free market, but how does Ryan allow places like these to exist? He advocates individualism and how everyone has potential to do something remarkable with their lives. And here I am looking at an establishment that forces women to do horrid things. It’s just another form of slave labor; you go to desperate women and give them no other option than to do this for a living. How does that fit in with Andrew Ryan’s philosophy?” I said with fervor
He looked at me in disbelief but then burst out laughing.
“Where have you been all your life, a 1000 leagues below Rapture?” he said “First off we don’t force anyone in here to do anything, women come here and try to be the best at what they do. In this case it’s stripping. And what’s with the morality talk? If you’ve paid attention to anything Ryan said then you’d know ‘petty morality’ doesn’t exist here.It limits our ability to grow. Now scram before I call security on you for wasting my time.”
I quickly left the security guard and was back on route to my destination. I exited the crowded two story center and found myself in front of a wide marble staircase that led me to my destination, Fleet Hall. There were a large number of elegantly dressed couples in a single filed line walking up the stairs, chatting and laughing about what was to come. Fitzpatrick wasn’t lying; it’s going to be a full house in the theatre.
Speaking of Fitzpatrick, to my surprise, he was standing at the front entrance of the theatre. He looked as pale as a corpse and looked like he was anticipating someone. He then made eye contact with me, let out a sigh of relief and ran towards me. I walked towards him while taking out a cigarette to smoke. He reached me, but I just continued walking.
“Mr. Buchanan!” Fitzpatrick said “If you would follow me, Sandor is-“
“Kyle!” I said with artificial glee while fast walking and smoking my cigarette “great to see you again, but that won’t be necessary, I know my way to the backroom.”
“Oh, very good Mr. Buchanan, very good”, Kyle said nervously trying to keep up with my pace. “Listen about that, ummm, conversation that we had back in the . . . well it would mean the world to me if you don’t tell Sandor about our little meeting.”
“Alright, but first you will have to tell me how that benefits me” I said to him “You’re the only other piano player in Sandor’s employment which means you’re my only competition. I tell Sandor, he kicks you out and I won’t have to worry about a thing ever again. So give me a few reasons why I shouldn’t tell him.”
He looked at me anxiously and started to turn red again. “I . . .I . .. ummm-“
“Hey, relax I’m not going to tell him anything”, I said smiling while putting my hand on his shoulder to comfort him. “I got you good didn’t I.”
“You..you son of a bitch, don’t jest around with my work like that”, he said in a joking like matter. “Thanks for this, I-I’m in your debt.”
“So, do you know what the play is called?” I asked curiously
“The Fool, the Trial, and the Cupids” he said looking slightly embarrassed “It’s supposed to be a comedy”.
“Well, this should be fun”, I said, throwing away my cigarette into the nearest astray.
We reached the backdoor to the theatre, in front of it was a man wearing a white tuxedo and a bunny shaped mask.
“Mr. Buchanan?” he said
“Ah, Mr. Cohen is expecting you.” He said, opening the door for me and Fitzpatrick
I stepped through and walked into a production room of sorts. It contained many different props, ranging from confetti machines to the large cupids that Fitzpatrick warned me about. The production crew was huge, it had over 30 people, all of them were wearing bunny shaped mask. They were each assigned to do different tasks, ranging from lighting tech all the way to arranging the props. It felt as if they were getting ready for a circus. Everything looked so flamboyant; the production team looked like they were wearing set costumes, there were rabbits scurrying across the floor, classical music was playing from the speaker, and fog was being produced by a contraption of sorts, and the theatre was entirely composed of red marble. All this for my audition, I did not know whether I should feel gratified or belittled.
“Noooo, nooooo, NOOOOOOO”, said a voice that roared across the stage “WHY DO YOU FAIL IN THIS FASHION? THE DAMN CUPID IS TO BE FACED AWAY FROM THE AUDIENCE, NOT PARALLEL TO IT YOU DIM WITTED SLOTH.”
“Mr. Cohen, repositioning it would mean having to redo the entire-“
“Excuses, excuses, mundane EXCUSES!” said Cohen “Remove that honorary mask from your grotesque face and leave my presence. You bring shame to my muse, who by the way is a fickle bitch WITH A VERY SHORT ATTENTION SPAN!”
“OUT”, said Cohen
The man Cohen bawled at took off the mask and then ran out of the theatre. The production crew froze and looked at Cohen who put his hand over his face.
“Little ants, I apologize for my small outburst, but that does not excuse you from your TASKS AT HAND! QUICK, QUICK TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE, YOUR QUEEN IS GROWING IMPATIENT WITH THIS LACK OF APTITUDE!”
Everyone quickly went back to work. Fitzpatrick led me to Cohen. I didn’t see his face directly due to me staring at his back, but he looked like an average man. He was tall and had a beautiful rich accent, even when ranting. He spoke in slow speech patternsand with eloquent dialogue. Though at the same time there was something sinister about his voice, something that made him feel more threatening than it should.
“Cohen”, said Fitzpatrick
“Ahhhhh, young Fitzpatrick”, he said turning around looking directly at me “Is this our newly born caterpillar?”
I looked at his face and was somewhat horrified at what I was looking at, it was grotesque. It was not that he had any facial deformities but what he put on his face was atrocious. He had a lean face, was in his late 40s and his forehead was completely bald. He was wearing….. eyeliner, eyebrow extensions, had fake eyebrows along with a fake moustache. It was sickening to look at.
“John Buchanan,” I said shaking Cohen’s hand “Caterpillar sir?”
“Yes . . . caterpillar” Cohen says smiling “We are all born into this world trying to discover our wings, our purpose in this dull affair we call life. There are two possibilities a domain such as this gives us. One is that nature has its way and you die in a pit of darkness, never to grow them out, never fulfilling your aspirations. The other is that you survive nature’s harsh rule, get out of your cocoon, spread your wings and soar . . . into the air, becoming something truly great, shining like the sun in an early afternoon. So little caterpillar, which route will you choose to take.”
I froze before answering that question. His face and expression of speech somewhat traumatized me. All that confidence I felt before about surpassing this man’s expectations completely faded, it was all just too overwhelming. He seemed completely out of his mind. Not even the flamboyant stage could properly represent what’s in this man’s mind.
“I choose to take the latter path, Mr. Cohen”, I said with a false sense of confidence.
“Is . . . that. . . right . . .” He said widening his eyes, vividly showing off his surreal eyelashes, his face moving ever closer to mine. “In that case, take a seat, relax, play the composition you seem so adamant to show me.”
I looked at the center of the stage and a large amount of fog began to appear. Within that fog came out a grand piano. The crew began to clear out, along with Fitzpatrick; soon only Cohen and I were left in the theatre. He smiled at me one last time, and then walked away with the rest of the crew.
“Show me what you are made of Buchanan”, Cohen screamed across the stage
Cohen was the last to leave, he shut the door and I was alone in the stage. The classical music coming from the speakers turned off, the rabbits scampered away, and ominous silence crawled into the stage. I took a deep breath and took a good look at the instrument I was about to use, and then the composition I was about to play. I had so much confidence on my way here, and now I feel nothing but apprehension. Am I good enough of a player to prevent the upcoming storm? Can my piece save me from the confetti and the trombones?
The curtains suddenly went up; in front of me I saw nothing but darkness, but I knew there was a large audience that was waiting for the punchline of the show, waiting in complete anticipation. Slowly a headlight began to turn on, pointing its light towards the piano. That was my calling; I took a deep breath and walked towards it, the instrument that will determine life and death for me. I took a seat on my stool, and set up my sheets of music, positioned my hands on the piano, but then froze suddenly. I did not have a scrap of confidence in me rleft, my hands were shaking and I was sweating. Cohen’s presence was just too much for me, I felt like there was no circulation of blood in my body. I had to play soon, I felt like I was about to lose consciousness. I could hear the crowd murmuring amongst one another, which only added to my condition.
“Three seconds” I whispered to myself, sweat dripping from my face. I positioned my hand once again and took one more breath before the storm.