As she stepped out of the car, Erin said, é─˙Youé─˘ve got to be kidding me.é─¨
We were standing in front of a narrow door, attached to a cramped, squat, suspiciously non-Euclidian building sandwiched between two hulking behemoth towers that loomed overhead, windows shattered like broken teeth, or spare eye sockets gouged out of the walls.
é─˙I know, I know. They like a certain sense of mystery abut it. Makes é─˛em feel dangerous.é─¨ I took her hand (the sensation of my fingers entwining with her made me think of copulating Seraphim, of snakes in the spring), and led her to the door. é─˙Hey, OB!é─¨ I shouted at the door.
é─˙Who are é─˛Theyé─˘?é─¨ Erin whispered. I didné─˘t have a chance to answer, as the surface of the door swelled, and suddenly had the appearance of a round, friendly face, about three times the size of a normal head.
é─˙L, how are you? Ié─ţé─˙The huge eyes rolled towards Erin, and scowled. Erin let out a muffled shriek and flinched back, as the door looked her up and down. é─˙What do you think youé─˘re doing, L?é─¨
é─˙Sheé─˘s a client, OB. Play nice. We were just assaulted by a cell phone.é─¨
é─˙You sure? She looks too good to be one of yoursé─Âé─¨
é─˙Hey, thanks a lot, OB! Now, are you going to let us in, or am I gonna have to do this the hard way?é─¨
The door grinned, é─˙Oh, I was just kidding. We know your credit is good here. Cé─˘mon in.é─¨ The face disappeared, and the door was a door again.
Erin looked at me quizzically. é─˙Whaté─˘s the hard way?é─¨
I chuckled. é─˙Darling, there is no hard way. The Open Bar likes to play that ité─˘s just a little kid, having awoken only a few months ago. But really, it basically could control everything that happens in itself. This includes entering. Ité─˘s a good thing we raised the energy through sex and not violence. I wouldné─˘t want that much negative energy in one consciousness. I prefer his silly goof at immaturity.é─˘
OBé─˘s face popped out of the door again. é─˙I heard that.é─¨
é─˙You were supposed to.é─¨ The face disappeared again, and I grabbed the doorknob. Turning to Erin, I said, é─˙you ready for this?é─¨ as I swung the door open.
é─˙I guess soé─Â Holy shit!é─¨ On the other side of the door was an enormous room, wood-paneled, with large wooden columns supporting a stories-high vaulted roof. There were tables scattered about, an enormous mahogany bar with brass railings, a stage off to one side, and what looked to be private rooms in back. Nick Cave and the Bad Seedsé─˘ cover of é─˙All Tomorrowé─˘s Partiesé─¨ emanated from nowhere in particular. The place was about three-quarters full, and filled with all sorts of odd types: Scrabblers, Emo kids, Metalheads, Drunken Buddhists, Renegade Kareokists, and the Ubiquitous Barflys. I led Erin over to the bar, where a man with an enormous polystyrene nose was wiping a glass down with his shirttail.
é─˙Hey, Mangrove, two martinis.é─¨
He looked up. é─˙LMNO, havené─˘t seen you here in a while. Whoé─˘s the lovely lady?é─¨
é─˙Ah, yes. Erin, this is Mangrove. Mangrove, Erin.é─¨
é─˙A pleasure,é─¨ Mangrove said, as two martini glasses filled with expensive gin and a lemon rind delicately twisted along the rims materialized in front of us. Erin looked at them dubiously.
é─˙Ité─˘s ok,é─¨ I said. é─˙Look up.é─¨
The ceiling was barely visible, as there were oddly shimmering darts of light folding in upon themselves, in a perpetual mobius strip of color and illumination. é─˙What is that?é─¨ asked Erin, enraptured. I turned to her to answer, and was momentarily caught up in the sense of wonder she radiated, the raucous noise of the bar dimmed, the rest of the world faded away.
é─˙Um. The, ahé─Âé─¨ I followed her gaze up, and came back to myself. é─˙Those are the collapsing wave states. Theyé─˘re what made the Open Bar. When you concentrate hard enough, one of the wave states will fold the universe into what you were thinking about. Thaté─˘s how we got this place to look the way it does. Apparently, OB can fold space-time. Mang here decided that a good bar should always be almost full, but never packed, because it adds to a atmosphere of solidarity and community. Or Something. Did I get that right?é─¨
é─˙Indubitably, L. Now miss... Erin, was it?é─¨
é─˙é─ÂErin. LMNO tends to get snobbish about his drinks, I was wondering if you would like anything other than the bitter taste of gin?é─¨ Mangrove had a sly grin on his face as he asked. I knew what he was up to.
Erin smiled back. é─˙A white wine, if you please. Sauvignon Blanc, preferably.é─¨
é─˙Absolutely.é─¨ A chilled glass of wine appeared in front of her. I decided to step in before things got out of hand.
é─˙Mang, weé─˘re looking for Aini.é─¨
é─˙Why the fuck would you deliberately look for her?é─¨
é─˙Face-Raping Baté─Â Ité─˘s a long story. Ié─˘ll tell you later. Anyway, is she around?é─¨
é─˙Back corner. Just look for the large amount of people deliberately avoiding her.é─¨
é─˙Thanks.é─¨ I grabbed my glass, and took a long pull. This was gonna be tough. é─˙One more thing, Mang,é─¨ I said.
é─˙What, pray tell?é─¨
é─˙Lemme get a cold wrought-iron crowbar.é─¨