As she stepped out of the car, Erin said, ‚ÄúYou‚Äôve got to be kidding me.‚Äù
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.
‚ÄúI know, I know. They like a certain sense of mystery abut it. Makes ‚Äòem feel dangerous.‚Äù 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. ‚ÄúHey, OB!‚Äù I shouted at the door.
‚ÄúWho are ‚ÄòThey‚Äô?‚Äù Erin whispered. I didn‚Äôt 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.
‚ÄúL, how are you? I‚Äî‚ÄúThe huge eyes rolled towards Erin, and scowled. Erin let out a muffled shriek and flinched back, as the door looked her up and down. ‚ÄúWhat do you think you‚Äôre doing, L?‚Äù
‚ÄúShe‚Äôs a client, OB. Play nice. We were just assaulted by a cell phone.‚Äù
‚ÄúYou sure? She looks too good to be one of yours‚Ä¶‚Äù
‚ÄúHey, thanks a lot, OB! Now, are you going to let us in, or am I gonna have to do this the hard way?‚Äù
The door grinned, ‚ÄúOh, I was just kidding. We know your credit is good here. C‚Äômon in.‚Äù The face disappeared, and the door was a door again.
Erin looked at me quizzically. ‚ÄúWhat‚Äôs the hard way?‚Äù
I chuckled. ‚ÄúDarling, there is no hard way. The Open Bar likes to play that it‚Äôs 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. It‚Äôs a good thing we raised the energy through sex and not violence. I wouldn‚Äôt want that much negative energy in one consciousness. I prefer his silly goof at immaturity.‚Äô
OB‚Äôs face popped out of the door again. ‚ÄúI heard that.‚Äù
‚ÄúYou were supposed to.‚Äù The face disappeared again, and I grabbed the doorknob. Turning to Erin, I said, ‚Äúyou ready for this?‚Äù as I swung the door open.
‚ÄúI guess so‚Ä¶ Holy shit!‚Äù 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 Seeds‚Äô cover of ‚ÄúAll Tomorrow‚Äôs Parties‚Äù 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.
‚ÄúHey, Mangrove, two martinis.‚Äù
He looked up. ‚ÄúLMNO, haven‚Äôt seen you here in a while. Who‚Äôs the lovely lady?‚Äù
‚ÄúAh, yes. Erin, this is Mangrove. Mangrove, Erin.‚Äù
‚ÄúA pleasure,‚Äù 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.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs ok,‚Äù I said. ‚ÄúLook up.‚Äù
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. ‚ÄúWhat is that?‚Äù 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.
‚ÄúUm. The, ah‚Ä¶‚Äù I followed her gaze up, and came back to myself. ‚ÄúThose are the collapsing wave states. They‚Äôre 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. That‚Äôs 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?‚Äù
‚ÄúIndubitably, L. Now miss... Erin, was it?‚Äù
‚Äú‚Ä¶Erin. LMNO tends to get snobbish about his drinks, I was wondering if you would like anything other than the bitter taste of gin?‚Äù Mangrove had a sly grin on his face as he asked. I knew what he was up to.
Erin smiled back. ‚ÄúA white wine, if you please. Sauvignon Blanc, preferably.‚Äù
‚ÄúAbsolutely.‚Äù A chilled glass of wine appeared in front of her. I decided to step in before things got out of hand.
‚ÄúMang, we‚Äôre looking for Aini.‚Äù
‚ÄúWhy the fuck would you deliberately look for her?‚Äù
‚ÄúFace-Raping Bat‚Ä¶ It‚Äôs a long story. I‚Äôll tell you later. Anyway, is she around?‚Äù
‚ÄúBack corner. Just look for the large amount of people deliberately avoiding her.‚Äù
‚ÄúThanks.‚Äù I grabbed my glass, and took a long pull. This was gonna be tough. ‚ÄúOne more thing, Mang,‚Äù I said.
‚ÄúWhat, pray tell?‚Äù
‚ÄúLemme get a cold wrought-iron crowbar.‚Äù