Arthur Pidgemont, my esteemed colleague at Whitmore Biomedical Research Labs, informed me that our superior, David York, believed I was ready for a new experience.

“Saturday, 7 o’clock, be out front of your house waiting. Dress nice.” These were my only instructions, for what Arthur said would be a party I would never forget.

I couldn’t pass up a chance to mingle with C-level executives and portfolio managers.  I dressed to the 9’s. In the suit I wore to my brother’s extravagant wedding, I stood outside of my home, waiting.

I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I waited.

Excitement coursed through my veins as a white Cadillac limousine pulled up in front of my house. Boy did I feel important. It’s been so long since I’ve felt anything like this. I must’ve done something right, I remember thinking to myself.

The chauffeur opened the limo door for me. I was puzzled at first. I was expecting to see other people in there, like a party bus or something. Never mind, I thought, this should be a night to remember.

We drove for a while before I plucked up the courage to inquire as to where, exactly, we were going.

“Casa Avalonti” the driver said in a monotone expression, as if not impressed whatsoever.

“Casa Avalonti!” Oops, I didn’t mean to shout. Casa Avalonti. That would explain why I was in a Cadillac limousine drinking 1906 Chateau Lafite wine. I was on my way to see the elites!

Casa Avalonti (not Casa de Avalonti, just Casa Avalonti) was a manor estate about 2 hours from where I lived. It was home to billionaire Chester Avalonti of Avalonti holdings; which owned majority stock in Whitmore Biomedical, as well as countless other companies.

I started to feel anxious as we drew closer to our destination. I also felt guilty for drinking so much of their ridiculously expensive wine. I needed to steady my nerves. I was relieved we were able to make a pit stop before arrival. I didn’t want to rush right to the bathroom as soon as I walked in.

We soon pulled through a security gate at 9 o’clock sharp. There were at least 50 other limos parked on the grand lawn just before the main entrance into the manor. A sight that absolutely blew my mind. I was astonished that everyone who was at this party came by limousine. Mr. Avalonti hired drivers and rented limos to pick up all of his guests.

I looked around for Arthur as I walked through an enormous archway that led to a beautiful Romanesque fountain, surrounded by cobblestone, which was centered before the main entrance. People were gathering in front of the manor where pre-party festivities were taking place. No one was allowed inside yet.

Atop a stone balcony, to the right of the main entrance, there was a jester juggling knives while riding a unicycle, riding dangerously close to the ledge. On the balcony to the left there were shirtless men in baggy pants blowing fire. Iron lanterns and torches lined the exterior. Violinists, wearing velvet capes, stood on the stone railing below the balconies, playing classical allegro pieces. Above the main tower there was a hot air balloon. Inside of the gondola there were dilapidated stuffed animals having a tea party.

Mysterious and magnificent ambiance enshrouded the estate. Alluring and stunning attention to detail was implemented into every aspect of the entertainment and decor.

I didn’t recognize anyone. I had not seen anyone from Whitmore Biomedical. I attempted small talk with a few people who were standing around me, to little avail. The other guests struck me as pompous. They just grinned as if they knew something I didn’t know.

I heard growling in the distance. I raised an eyebrow.

“What’s that?” I nervously asked a woman standing next to me.

“The coat checkers, of course” she sarcastically replied.

Two full-grown Siberian tigers then emerged from the main doorway. No leashes, no guards, no trainers. They were just walking out into the crowd. They walked down the stairs from the patio..One to the left, and one to the right.

“What the fuck!?” I shouted as I turned to run away.

A man quickly grabbed my arm to keep me from going anywhere. I struggled.

“Relax” he said calmly.

Just as the tigers sat down on either side of the fountain, a thunderous ovation, and bursts of flames from the fire breathers, greeted the one and only Chester Avalonti.

Mr. Avalonti walked but a few steps out of the doorway and spoke to the crowd. “Wont you come in?” Chester bowed then motioned his arms toward the doorway, signaling that the party had begun and we were to enter.

Cautiously, I walked past the Siberian tiger, who sat perfectly still amidst the commotion. I was the only one who appeared nervous.

The grand foyer was spectacular. Twin marble stair cases, marble pillars, marble floors, large paintings in golden frames, hand crafted furniture, wall carvings and light fixtures. It was something out of a storybook to me.

What stood out the most, however, was the countless shot glasses full of whiskey that lined the base of the walls around the inside perimeter of the foyer. As I looked at all of these shot glasses on the floor, I realized that this was not going to be an ordinary party, even for rich people standards.

The older woman, who joked about the tigers being coat checkers, saw that I was out of place and confused.

“Evelyn, and you?” she introduced herself.

“Bill” I said “Bill Hammond, Whitmore Bio…”

“ah, I don’t need your life story, Bill” she cut me off.

“There are 2,750 shot glasses on the floor” she said in a slow and enchanting tone.

“Yeah, I mean Yes, I was wondering about that” I said awkwardly. I gritted my teeth, pissed at myself for being so cloddish.

“a Ho-mage” she said, exaggerating the H-sound in the word ‘homage.’ “to 9-11.”

She walked around me in a circle, looking at me, amused by my confusion.

“And a riddle” she added. “They’re all yours if you can figure it out.” She chuckled as she excused herself from my presence. What a strange woman, I thought.

As the newcomer to one of Chester’s extravagant parties, I felt increasingly self-conscious . I felt like an idiot every time I nodded to someone who made accidental eye contact with me.

“Where the fuck is Arthur?” I said under my breath.

“Hors D’oeuvre?” a Pakistani server in a stylish leopard skin Tarzan outfit inquired to me.

I glanced at the tray he was holding. There were some sort of mini cheese and bread sculptures made to resemble aborted fetuses. Exceedingly elaborate for a mere appetizer.

I forced a smile and said “No thank you, sir”.

Everyone was dressed immaculately. Their attire was a mix between mostly formal modern with a touch of Victorian renaissance. Some wore a more post-modern, artsy ensemble. There were a few dressed like me. Traditional black suit, black tie. So I didn’t feel completely under dressed.

I walked around a bit more.

I came across a recirculating fountain sitting on a crystal table in a corner by the marble staircase; a sculpture of the Virgin Mary. Her eyes were carved out. Water that was dyed red dripped out of her eyes into a pedestal below her. In her hands she carried an ornate glass candy dish, as an offering, that was filled with dried, psychedelic mushrooms. I stood over the candy dish examining the mushrooms and the statue.

“P. Cubensis” a young man standing near the table blurted out.

“Huh?” I said, still a little shocked by the nature of the statue.

“That’s what the mushrooms are.” he arrogantly informed me,  “Psilocybe Cubensis.”

A couple of people walked over as he was divulging his extensive fungi knowledge.

I immediately felt like the biggest dork on the planet as the following words slipped off of my tongue:

“Aren’t they illegal?”

The onlookers laughed as if I were just a peasant who knew absolutely nothing about the complexities of the elite. It then dawned on me… I was merely a peasant who knew absolutely nothing about the complexities of the elite.

What I did next was completely out of my character. I felt humiliated. I felt like a wuss. I wanted these people to think I was something I was not.  I grabbed a handful of the mushrooms and I stuffed them into my mouth.

I remember hearing someone say, years ago when I was in college, that you were supposed to chew the mushrooms up real good to get the best results. As the party guests watched me, I emphasized my chewing, making sure they knew that I knew what I was doing. But I didn’t know what I was doing.

The young man had an expression on his face as if to say “hmm, not bad you middle aged fuck stick” and proceeded to grab a handful himself.

He chewed them up and displayed his tongue to the crowd. He gestured mockingly, like a corny magician, showing that the mushrooms had vanished. He then resumed a confident aura as if the entire charade was merely sarcastic jest. It was. He was making fun of me.

I glared at him for a moment. I didn’t like him but at the same time I was intrigued. How did a young man, not a day over 30, find his way to such an exclusive party? What did he do?

Wait… What did I do? Why was I here?

These people were oddballs. There was a man smoking marijuana out of an ancient Chinese opium pipe. Another man stood behind him. With his arms wrapped around him, rubbing his chest in a sexual manner, he would say “you’re such a good woman Clara, you’re such a good woman Clara” over and over.

Not one single person found it peculiar, other than me, which was peculiar unto itself.

Another man took a whiskey shot glass from the floor and poured it into an amber, 19th century apothecary bottle full of zebra milk. Catching me starring at him, he closed his eyes, took a sip, euphorically sighed, then looked over at me and said “aaah, poison for the soul,” then faded back into the crowd.

Hanging out by the staircase, I sipped a scotch and just watched everyone for a while. Every attempt fear had made to climb its way into my mind, I pushed out with another sip. Realizing I had made a mistake eating the magic mushrooms, I braced myself for what might come and talked myself out of becoming panicked.

A woman in an elegant black dress walked by me. Her hair was perfectly styled. A diamond necklace hung gracefully from her neck. I felt relieved that there was someone normal there… until I noticed that under her black stilettos she had attached scraps of latex that resembled pieces of human flesh. This was to symbolize her dominance over others.

All of the guests, I soon realized, had some sort of uniqueness about them. Even the men, who I originally thought were dressed in simple black suits and ties like me, had some small deviation from traditional attire. The only person who looked like a blazé sears catalog model, was me.

I needed to splash some water in my face.

“Where’s the bathroom?” I asked one of the servers.

He directed me up the stairs and through a small corridor.

“Thank you, sir” I said. He didn’t reply.

I walked into the bathroom and was startled when I looked into the mirror. I looked like I was 200 years old. I thought it was the psychedelic drugs kicking in. It wasn’t. What it actually was, was a computerized mirror with a built in app that added high definition filters to your face. An engraved plaque on the bottom of the mirror displayed the words: “You’re Running Out of Time”.

The drugs did eventually kick in. I noticed exquisite detail in every thing that I looked at. Everything had an inexplicable sparkle to it, like a highlight.

I didn’t see pink elephants or little green men or any of the other cliches you hear about from people who said they took psychedelic mushrooms.

I felt a sensation in my body which reminded me of being on the pills I took after I had my wisdom teeth taken out in my mid 20’s, but nothing too fantastical. Back to the party!

As I descended the stairs a man in a light blue chef’s uniform was wheeling a woman out into the foyer. She was laying on a serving cart naked and lying completely still. Lettuce leaves were covering her nipples and private area. The rest of her body was covered in sushi.

The man stopped the cart and in an effeminate voice loudly announced:

“Sushi baaaaaaaaaaaaar!”

People crowded around her and began picking up pieces of the sushi and eating it. I was worried for the woman’s safety. I witnessed strange things so far and I didn’t want to see any acts of depravity done to this woman.

My concern was unjustified. Not one single man touched her in any way inappropriately. They took meticulous care to only touch the sushi and not her. I found that interesting given the otherwise bizarre nature of these folks. I thought maybe I should follow suit.

I approached the woman with some hesitation. I felt like I was playing the game ‘Operation’ as I leaned in to take a piece of sushi. I felt my finger slip and ever so slightly touch her skin. Oh fuck! I felt like everyone was looking at me. I felt like I had made some grave error.

Paranoia, as it turns out, because no one cared. The woman didn’t even notice it.  Nevertheless, I was done with the human sushi platter.

I continued to meander around the party for a while, just trying to blend in with all of the people there. I said “‘trying.”

One of the servers, who was wearing an elephant skin shirt and a Scottish kilt, walked by me with a tray of champagne flutes. As I grabbed one of the champagne glasses, I couldn’t help but notice that this was the same man who was wearing the leopard skin Tarzan outfit a little earlier.

I soon discovered that after each tray was emptied, the servers would return to the staff kitchen and were required to change outfits before returning to the foyer with a new tray. I thought it was crazy, but I was starting to dig all of the eccentric people. So much creativity and artfulness was put into everything.

“Cigarette?” the young man, who joined me in consuming psychedelic mushrooms, offered me a smoke.

I haven’t smoked a cigarette since I was in high school, but I thought’ what the hell?’

“Thanks man” I said, feeling much calmer and perhaps a little high as a kite.

He pulled out a lighter that looked like a derringer pistol and lit my cigarette. I took a deep draw. The smoke in front of my eyes seemed to be moving in very slow motion.

I took another drag, only this time, as I inhaled, I felt like the entire room was sucking into my lungs. The room bent inwards towards me the deeper I inhaled. When I blew the smoke out, the room expanded again.

Oh holy fuck, I was tripping.

Almost an hour had past since I ate the mushrooms. I thought I was going to experience people turning into zombies or some other kind of far fetched scenario, but I guess I didn’t take enough for that.

Everything felt and looked more liquid-like, but nothing dramatically changed in appearance. There were weird things that I was experiencing, however.

I looked at a woman’s face, and when I closed my eyes for a moment, I saw 5 or 6 of her faces just floating in front of me. When I opened my eyes everyone looked like her, but only for a split second. It wasn’t my normal vision that I was seeing this. It was like vision inside of my head, like I had a different set of eyes that were awaken by the drugs.

With my eyes opened things appeared dreamy, but fairly normal. With my eyes closed, however, my mind started pulling random images from nowhere. I felt like I was switching back and forth from two different worlds. One world with my eyes opened and another world when my eyes were closed.

I was curious. I had to see what this other world was. I closed my eyes and drifted inward. Magnificent visuals hurled towards me. How could such a light-show take place with my eyes closed? Where was all of this color and luminosity coming from?

I was lost in a circular chain of uncontrollable thoughts. I felt like I wanted to open my eyes, but I didn’t. I kept going deeper. I started pulling up memories. Visions of yesteryear were colliding with abstract and chaotic imagery. None of it made sense. Closing my eyes tighter, breathing heavy now, I pushed my hands against my face to block any possible light from coming in through my eyelids.

I was in a mysterious, intangible world. Color and light were still bouncing off of each other in a maniacal pattern of uncertainty. For ages I felt I was in this place. Images were spinning and spiraling and driving me further down in to what I knew would soon become madness.

“Hey dude!” The young man shouted and snapped me out of it. I opened my eyes, momentarily befuddled, but I felt like I was back in reality.

“You gonna be alright soldier?” he implored.

“What?” I asked in a daze.

He repeated himself, this time much louder than before.

“I said, you gonna be alright soldier?!” His voice changed dramatically, as if he had become possessed by a demon.  That’s how I heard it at least.

I started to become noticeably panicked; rubbing my hands together vigorously and shaking.

“You need a drink” he said.  “Two drinks, maybe” he added.

He grabbed 3 whiskey shots off of the floor.

“Take this” he handed me a shot. “And this” he handed me the other.

I quickly took the shots.

A few moments passed and I felt myself calming down. I started to feel an angelic presence from him now. Not like before. This kid cared enough to make sure I was okay. He must have known that I’ve never taken mushrooms before.

“Hey, I want to just say thanks for that” I said in a slurred, euphoric voice. My mouth was having difficulty moving properly but I managed to summon a quirky smile.

“No sweat buddy” he chuckled and then took another shot.

“What’s your name?” I asked him.

“God” he replied inconspicuously. I scrunched my eyebrows at him and wobbled drunkenly.

“You’re not God” I declared derisively.

Rolling his eyes because I missed the joke, he held out his hand for a handshake. “Name’s Kevin.”

It took me a moment, but I  realized he was joking, and I shook his hand.

“I’m..”

“I know who you are” he interrupted.

I brushed it off and assumed he knew who I was through David or Arthur, who, by the way, I still haven’t seen at the party.

“Tell me” I said with an intoxicated accent. “You’re drinking a lot and you’ve eaten mushrooms… how come you seem like you’re as sober as a judge?”

He grinned, rooted around in his jacket pocket for a moment, then pulled out a small glass square, an already rolled up 100 dollar bill and a bag of cocaine.

“I told you, I’m God” he said sardonically as he dumped a dash of cocaine onto the glass plate and handed me the bill. “You want to be Jesus?”

Tonight was a night of many firsts for me. Was I being peer-pressured by a charismatic, hipster bully? Or did I have it written all over me that I was in the depths of a midlife crisis and in need of a visceral, wild experience?

Without any further hesitation, I grabbed the rolled up bill and snorted the cocaine. I instantly felt sharper. The mild hallucinations from the mushrooms became favorable, dreamy and welcomed.  Dare I say, I felt “cool.”

He gestured a nod of approval. I felt accepted. After I took the cocaine, Kevin decided that he was going to take me under his wing. I felt a little cumbersome having someone 15 years younger than me taking me under his wing, but this was his turf. I didn’t know anything about drugs and psychedelic soirees with the ‘big league’.

We walked to the other side of the foyer and into an adjacent room. One of the walls in this room was entirely made out of glass. It was a giant aquarium. Party goers stood around in this room, drinking, smoking cigars and carrying on philosophical and intellectual conversation.

A large chessboard hung upsidedown from the ceiling. Kevin explained the significance of the pieces that were super-glued onto the board in a precise setting. Chester Avalonti was an admirer of Bobby Fischer. The pieces were arranged on the board to replicate the end of the 3rd match during the 1972 ‘World Chess Championship’ between Boris Spassky and Robert Fischer. Avalonti believed this to be the most important game in chess history.

Everything in this mansion was intriguing. There were also things that were deeply disturbing.

Paintings lined the opposite wall of the aquarium. These paintings were troubling to me. Kevin insisted that was because I didn’t understand the deeper, hidden meanings behind them.

One painting featured an elegant dining hall where the guests were saying grace over human skulls, sitting on dinner plates, that had been cut open to reveal brain matter. Brains that were apparently about to be consumed. Behind the man in the painting there was an inverted crucifix on the wall.

I thought of the Virgin Mary fountain from earlier. I pieced together a theory that these people were Satanic, but Kevin said it was simply satire that I wouldn’t be able to understand.

Another painting exhibited a pastel, traditional, storybook nursery room. There were teddy bears, blocks, toys, blue wallpaper with clouds… and an empty crib that had been saturated in blood. The ghastly image of the desecrated crib contrasted the innocent surrounding nursery. It was a truly haunting image.

More disturbing, however, was the painting of a little girl standing on a dock by the waterside. An old man was leaning down towards her, holding a lollipop as if he was handing it to her. His tongue was stretched out in a vile and perverted manner, touching the lips of the little girl.

What kind of satire was this?

I decided to look at the aquarium wall instead. Kevin handed me a bottle of craft beer and told me to nurse it. The affects of the mushrooms were starting to subside, but I was still intoxicated from the concoction of other festivities that I partook in.

“What the fuck!?” I shouted as I jumped back and dropped the beer from my hand.

A man dressed as a mermaid was swimming in the aquarium inside of the wall. It startled me. Kevin handed me another beer, not concerned whatsoever that the previous bottle was now shattered all over the floor. He explained to me what was going on.

Mr. Avalonti pays workers well to wear costumes of all sorts and to act out various roles. Not to be confused with the party guests, who were actually just bizarre on their own. This particular worker, Kevin explained, was paid to dress as a mermaid and periodically swim around in a super sized fish tank.

According to Kevin, it was all about the ambiance. The guests were artists, musicians, CEOs, directors, producers, congressmen, congresswomen, and some of the most important people in the world. Their taste in decor and ambiance was different from the average person. They were to be entertained in a manner that suited them. The artfulness, of which, may appear to regular people as shocking or absurd.

Kevin cautioned me that I would be seeing much more intense “ambiance” throughout the night.

Just then there was a commotion out in the grand foyer. Men had setup a velvet rope and were preparing an area by the far side of the foyer for a special event.  The guests started converging on the foyer, awaiting the featured entertainment.

Kevin and I walked out into the foyer. I was looking over people trying to catch a glimpse of what was going on. Nothing was happening yet.

The audience began to clap and cheer as a woman walked up behind the velvet ropes.

Natasha LaBianca was a vastly wealthy, controversial, and revered woman. A self-proclaimed feminist, humanist, author, activist, and once accused of murdering her late husband. Charges that were unsubstantiated and resulted in acquittal, but nevertheless added to her mystique.

Her assistants directed 12 men to line up, single filed, on the other side of the rope. Another one of her assistants helped her undress and then tied her hands behind her back.

“What’s going on?” I asked Kevin.

“Performance art” he softly replied.

The crowd hushed. The performance was about to begin.

Natasha, a beautiful, young Italian woman, would stand naked in front of the audience with her hands bound behind her. The 12 men that were randomly selected from the crowd, and agreed to participate, were given special instructions.

The first man approached Natasha and gently caressed her cheek. They smiled at each other. He then walked to the end of the line. The next man walked up to her and touched her shoulder and nodded then went to the end of the line. The following man kissed her on the forehead, then walked to the end of the line.

“I don’t understand what’s going on” I whispered to Kevin.

Kevin explained.

This was performance art, yes, but it was also a game. A game that would serve as an experiment. The 12 men were allowed to do anything they wanted to Natasha. The rules of the game? They weren’t allowed to kill her and they were only given 5 seconds each time that it was their turn to approach her. Any one of the men could stop the event at any time, should they feel it had become inappropriate or dangerous.

If/when one of the men spoke up, the game would end and would not resume. If none of the men stopped the act, they would repeatedly go up, have 5 seconds to do whatever they wanted, then go to the back of the line and wait for their next turn.

Assistants stood guard to ensure that the men did not go past their 5 seconds, but would otherwise not interfere. They assisted only in providing hand sanitizer and what appeared to be condoms that were spread out on a silver platter.

The game continued.

After seeing the previous man kiss Natasha on the forehead, the next man decided to kiss her on the lips. The next man licked her neck and touched her breasts. The following man approached her and touched her breasts as well, but added a quick stroke of her vagina.

A pattern seemed to be forming. I watched with keen, but not perverted, interest. I was genuinely curious of the statement she was trying to make. The crowd seemed to share my interest as well.

The game continued on for some time, with each act becoming more depraved.

One man would push his finger into her vagina, then the next man would reach around and put his finger in her anus.

Eventually, one of the men decided that he would be the brave one and signaled to the assistant to give him a condom. There were two men in front of him. He pulled out his erect penis and the assistant, now wearing rubber gloves, placed a condom on him. The assistant lubricated the condom by rubbing a special antibacterial lotion on with his hands. All of the assistants were men.

When his turn arrived, he quickly and awkwardly managed to get his penis inside of her, and pump 2 or 3 times before his time ran out. Natasha did not seemed bothered by this, in fact, she had a look on her face as if that is precisely what she wanted the men to do.

“Wait, isn’t that rape?” I whispered to Kevin. He just shook his head ‘no’. She had given consent to all of this.

Before long, most of the men had vaginal intercourse with Natasha during the performance. One man attempted to sodomize her but was unsuccessful; his time ran out before he could get it in.

The experiment was about to take an unexpected turn. At least, unexpected to me.

The first man who had requested the condom had chosen to do the same act 3 more times. Each time becoming more agitated than the last. He appeared to become angry after the 4th time. The assistant had to pull him away because he went over the 5 second time limit.

The next time that it was his turn, he didn’t request the condom again. What he did next was extremely shocking to me, but the crowd didn’t seem to be phased by it much. He charged up to her, reached his arm back and with swift force slapped her in the face.

I shouted “Hey! Stop this!” Everyone in the crowd looked at me like I was an asshole. But it didn’t matter what I said. Only one of the 12 participants in the line could stop the event. Kevin elbowed me and shook his head ‘no’ again. Apparently I didn’t “get it”.

I was perturbed that none of the other 11 men stopped the event. This was part of Natasha’s experiment. The purpose of this performance was to show how behavior can quickly become socially sanctioned once it had been established that there was a benefit to all offenders. None of the 11 men stopped the show because they wanted to act out what they had in mind next. Also, they feared ridicule from the rest of the group. They didn’t want to be the one who stopped it.

What was interesting to me was that the man who slapped her was one of the men who were eating sushi off of the ‘mostly naked’ woman earlier in the evening. When he was taking the sushi, it was expected of him to be professional and not touch her. He complied. Once he was given peer permission to, he acted violently and with perversion.

This was the intention of Natasha’s performance. She attempted to show that the capability of sexual violence was inherent in all men, but also cultural. I yelled out ‘hey, stop this’ because I wasn’t part of their group. My morality hadn’t shifted due to permissiveness. I was still locked into a different moral mindset, one that had been established by a different group. Had I been invited as one of the 12 participants, I’m not sure how I would have behaved.

The performance continued.

After the man slapped her in the face, all of the men in the group changed from sexual or sexually violent behavior to purely violent behavior. The next man walked up and spit on her. The man after him walked up, gritted his teeth and pulled her hair. He pulled her hair so hard that there were strands of hair on the floor and some still in his hand.

The next man put his hands around her neck and began to choke her. She coughed and was starting to look ill-favored and exhausted from the abuse. Another man reached behind her and dug his fingernails into her buttocks, causing her flesh to tear.

I was starting to feel sick. I didn’t know how much more of this performance I could take.

The line moved and it was now time for the man who initiated the violence to take another turn. Natasha looked straight forward as he approached. She didn’t make eye contact with him.

He punched her hard in the stomach. She lurched forward. There was a gasp from the crowd. The man was intensely angry, and as she bent over in grimacing pain, he reached back yet again.  He closed his fist and clenched it tightly. She fell to the floor unconscious after he struck her in the cheekbone. The strike would cause the skin under her eye to split open.

Several of the participants simultaneously and abruptly signaled to end the event. It was over. She endured bites, scratches, sexual depravity and violence. It was only until one of the men nearly killed her, and knocked her out cold, that they agreed it had gone far enough.

A doctor had already began tending to her, holding gauze to her face to stop the bleeding. She would soon receive 8 stitches in her face. Before the doctor carried her into the other room to stitch her up, Natasha regained consciousness, smiled and waved to the crowd. She would consider it to be a successful performance.

Everyone, including the participants, were clapping for her and showing admiration and love for her. It was the strangest, most horrific thing I had ever witnessed. To think this was considered entertainment at a party was simply beyond my comprehension. It was, however, quite a learning experience.

The assistants cleared the area, but another event was about to take place. New assistants joined the floor.

Chester Avalonti walked up to where Natasha had stood just moments before. The crowd cheered for him. He motioned to have everyone’s silence.

“Good evening my friends. I hope tonight is finding you well.” The crowd cheered again.

“Let’s give it up for the beautiful Natasha LaBianca once more!” The crowd cheered louder.

“Ladies and Gentleman, it brings me great pleasure to move to our main event.” The crowd awed.

“Most of us know why we are here celebrating tonight” Chester said as he looked at me. I could feel his eyes peering into mine. Many in the crowd turned to look at me as well. I was the only one who didn’t know what was about to happen.

A black man wearing only his boxer shorts was escorted out of a small room by the far end of the foyer. I leaned over to Kevin and said “more performance art?”

“Something like that.” Kevin replied.

Chester took off his suit jacket and began rolling up his sleeves.

“Let the games begin!” He shouted in a resounding boom.

The crowd became uproarious. Chester and the other man were now engaged in combat.

Chester was a bull, but he was 65, and the man he was fighting was 39.  His name was Clive Strohman, an employee of Chester’s.

Clive started off with an advantage, punching Chester in the face numerous times. Chester backed up, spit some blood into the corner and charged towards Clive.

Chester grabbed his testicles and forced Clive to the crowd, elbowing him in the face. Blood hit the floor.

The fight raged on. I was disgusted. I didn’t like violence and I had witnessed all I could handle. I reached into my pocket and grabbed my phone to call for a cab. I knew it was going to be an expensive ride, being 2 hours away, but I was finished.

Shit. I wasn’t getting any service out here. I lost all interest in these people and the party as they displayed such an inhumane lust to see this brutal fight. I started walking towards the door. Kevin was so preoccupied with the fight, he didn’t even see me walk away.

Glancing over to the ring on my out, I saw that Chester had secured his victory, punching the living shit out of this poor guy.

Chester stood up and walked back to his corner. He knew that he had won. Just then, one of his assistants walked up into his corner and presented a large case, which was lined in black velvet and silver.

The assistant opened the case for Chester and he selected an authentic 12th century ‘Knight’s Templar’ dagger.

The people and the events of this evening were so strange that I didn’t know if this was really happening or what.

Chester slapped Clive, who was on his knees, being held up by two assistants, in order to get him to open his eyes. Once Clive looked into Chester’s eyes, he drove the dagger into his heart.

Immediately I pushed my way past a couple who were standing by the main entrance and I bolted out of the door. Horrified, I ran as fast as I could towards the main gate where we first checked in, which was 700 feet from the mansion.

A police car was stationed out by the gate–hired as security for the event. I ran towards the officer who was smoking a cigarette by his cruiser.

The officer was startled as I ran up to him.

“Hey…”

“He…” I was trembling and couldn’t catch my breath.

“Just take a breath sir” the officer said in a calming voice.

“Chester… He… He just murdered someone.” I whimpered.

The officer flicked his cigarette and put his arm around me, trying to calm me down. In the distance I saw Kevin running towards me.

“Tell me what you saw” the officer inquired.

I took a deep breath and attempted to explain to him what happened.

“They were fighting. Chester and this man.” I paused and took another deep breath.

“Chester won. He took this dagger and buried it into him.” I told him as I almost fainted.

The officer, a large black man, helped me to keep my balance. Just then, Kevin finally ran up on us.

“Get the fuck away from me!” I passionately exclaimed to Kevin.

Kevin just stood there and looked at the officer who was holding onto me.

The officer spoke in a deep voice: “Listen Bill.”

I pushed the officer’s arm away from me and jumped back.

“Bill? What the fuck do you mean, Bill?” I was absolutely petrified. There’s no way this man could have known my name. Was there?

“Mr. Avalonti didn’t murder Clive” the officer suggested. “It was a battle of honor.”

I grabbed my face, covering my eyes in a frustrated outburst. Drool started pouring out of my mouth as I forced back tears of horror.

I knew at that moment that I was fucked. I was terrified. This guy Chester, these people, this party, this entire cult, they were more powerful than I could have ever imagined. I remembered that there were judges, senators, politicians, and people of great influence at this party. All of whom were in that home right now, all of whom just watched Chester kill a man. They were all in cahoots. Their treachery was boundless.

Running wasn’t an option. Survival instinct kicked in and I knew I had to just calm down and play along.

“You said ‘battle of honor'” I directed to the officer. “What do you mean by that?”

The officer looked at Kevin, and Kevin agreed to explain.

Clive Strohman was an employee of Chester Avalonti’s. Clive, having access to an account of Chester’s, decided that he was going to rob him. Clive stole $400,000 cash and was en route to board a plane to Sri Lanka, where he would eventually rendezvous with his girlfriend. She was in charge of parceling the cash incrementally to him from the United States, in the form of care packages to her family in Sri Lanka.

Clive never made it to the airport. He was intercepted by Chester’s henchmen and brought back to Casa Avalonti.

Chester has a unique moral structure. He believes a man makes mistakes, and there should be a way for him to reconcile. So Chester made a deal with Clive.

One option Chester gave Clive was that he would be turned into the police and would have the maximum amount of sentencing levied against him for his crimes.

Clive’s alternative option? Fight Chester. All Clive had to do was knock Chester out or beat him badly enough to where he forfeited. If Clive won the fight, Chester would have forgiven him for taking the money and would resume their friendship as if nothing ever happened. Clive would be back into the club, provided that he lived up to a promise of never trying to fuck him over again.

How did Clive know that he was telling the truth? Last year Chester lost a fight against one of his friends, who had slept with his wife while they were drunk at a party. Chester didn’t authorize him to sleep with his wife, and was upset that he didn’t secure permission first.

After Chester lost the fight, he resumed the friendship. He even gave him permission to fuck his wife again.

Clive knew this, so he took the deal. Clive was sure he would win. The thought of prison didn’t work for him. Poor Clive just got greedy. Clive was hoping that he won, because he claimed his girlfriend was the catalyst in this plan to steal from Chester. Clive wanted to be back in good with Chester more than he wanted that money, so he said.

Yes Chester killed Clive, but he did it with honor. He gave Clive a chance to live, a chance to wipe the slate clean. Indeed it is against “the Law” for Chester to take matters into his own hands and  kill Clive. But what is “Law?”

Chester Avalonti is a man of value and respect. A man who is revered by his peers as being fair, like an enlightened King. If you stole $400,000 from a Mexican drug lord, Kevin explained, he would, without hesitation, kill your children, send pieces of your wife to be dumped into every sea on earth, and dissolve you in a vat of hydrochloric acid.

It was hard for me to shake the grisly image of Clive being slain by Chester, but given the situation I was in, Kevin’s explanation suited me. Kevin saw that I accepted the information.

“Let’s go back in and get a beer” Kevin suggested.

I agreed and followed him back to the manor. The officer patted me on the shoulder and smiled just before we headed back.

Approaching the entrance was uniquely frightening. Siberian tigers weren’t half as scary. As I entered the room, the party had regained its pensive, laid back and groovy demeanor.

Natasha LaBianca was sitting on a brown leather sofa talking and laughing with the men who, not long ago, were inflicting strange violence upon her. Marijuana smoke and cheerful piano music filled the foyer. Kevin rushed to get me a beer.

Kevin. Oh Kevin Kevin Kevin. Who are you? Everything started to add up. An epiphany struck me. I wasn’t here as a mere guest. Why the hell would anyone want me to be a guest at their party? I wasn’t a fun guy. I nitpick and I am opinionated. I didn’t even get invited to play poker with my friends because they thought I complained too much.

Why was I really here? Why was I at some extraordinary party with such an exuberant class of people? I didn’t know what, but I knew that they wanted something from me.  I wasn’t being shown a good time for the sake of fun. I was being groomed. I was being recruited.

“Beer” Kevin said as he handed me a fresh craft brew.

“Thanks buddy”.  I said as we clanked our bottles together to cheers.

Merriment and rambunctious partying would carry on for the next couple of hours. The hour was growing late, though. I was fast becoming ready to sleep. Kevin informed me that a spacious, luxury suite was prepared for me and that I could retire whenever I’d like.

On my way towards the staircase, I ran into Chester.

“Are we treating you well?” Chester asked me.

“Yes sir.” I said with a slight crack in my voice.

“We finally meet” Chester said as he extended his hand for a proper handshake.

His hand conjured images in my head. Images of Clive being pierced by a medieval dagger. Here I was about to touch the very same hand that killed someone tonight. I knew I had to, and with reluctance I shook his hand.

“Good to meet you sir” I said with artificial sincerity.

There was a moment of awkward silence.

“I was just getting ready to retire for the evening.” I broke the silence.

“Ah, yes, I think you’ll find the room comfortable. If you need anything, please let us know.” Chester concluded and allowed me passage to my quarters.

A butler showed me to my room and with a golden key unlocked the door.

“Would master Hammond like a night cap?” the butler asked me.

“No sir, I’m good, I’m just ready for bed” I said cheerfully but with an exhausted tinge.

“Perhaps a woman then? Or a man?” he inquired.

“Just the room is fine, thank you” I smiled, entered the room and shut the door.

“If you need anything, just ring the bell that’s on your nightstand sir. Goodnight.” he said through the door.

I felt relieved to be in solitude. A woman? Seriously? Did he really offer me what I think he offered me? Arthur was right, this would certainly be a night I would not soon forget. He never came to the party, neither did David York, our superior at Whitmore.

I didn’t know how I would sleep. Chester scared me, but in a way I respected him. I thought about Kevin’s explanation. I knew Chester wasn’t going to hurt me. I actually felt safe here.

My mind wandered into thought and contemplation. About this night, why I was here, and what they wanted from me. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I started to think that maybe this was okay.

I opened a closet door in the suite, just rooting around, and there was a white silk robe hanging from a coat hanger. The embroidery on the front was a monogram. W.H. For ‘William Hammond.’ They made me a fucking robe?

Maybe this was where I belonged; on a winning team for once. Maybe Chester was right to kill that thieving son of a bitch? Maybe all of this was going to be perfect? Maybe my life was about to become what it was meant to be?

I grabbed the bell, walked over to the door and swung it open. I rang the bell loudly. A few seconds went by and the Butler returned.

“Yes sir? How can I help you?”

I looked at him and smiled…

“A woman.”

 

-The End