The Beast, Pt. 38 (Chapter 15d)

I run my hands over the wall, feeling, probing, seeking, my conviction that I’m right growing with each passing minute. I can half-remember speaking with someone in a suit who must have been a Libretto employee, but the memory is faded, garbled, like radio waves broadcast across the void of space. “Okay, Sir! This is your… It’s keyed to… All you have to do is speak and… Personal… Private…” My memory is telling me (or at least I think that it is) that the elevator is programmed to respond to my voice, to my gesture, to a command phrase. But I have no idea what that might be.

With my back to my friends and the strangers we’ve added to our retinue, I allow myself a frown. This is not the first time my actions and behavior and reasoning while altered have created problems for me the next day. And just like all the times previous, the only solution is to try and guess at what my thought processes might have been. Every drug creates a different me: myself, but depressed. Myself, but overstimulated. Myself, but extra cocky and arrogant. Myself, but humbled. These shades are close enough to me that I can guess at their reasoning, their emotions, their hopes and fears and dreams and goals, but they are not me. They are cruder constructs, base, atavistic. One-dimensional characters with simple motivations. “Oh, I did this? Oh, I did that? I must have been hungry, or angry, or driven mad with lust, or collapsing under the weight of my own self-loathing, or any of a million other things.” They’re guesses. Educated guesses, but ultimately just guesses.

Sometimes even my self feels like a stranger to me. But after a couple of decades, I like to think I know him pretty well.

I take a step back, snap my fingers and say, louder than necessary, loud enough to verge on the theatrical, “Open up, motherfucker!”

There’s a clicking noise. Like the Red Sea, the wall parts, and behind it is a clean, well-lit elevator, all glass and steel and chrome and class and privilege. There isn’t even a button to press: if you’re in the lobby, the thing just takes you to the villa, and vice-versa. It’s ridiculous.

It’s impractical. It’s impressive. Behind me, the girls coo in delight and amusement and wonder.

I turn to the crowd, smiling, genuinely pleased with my success. “Speak ‘friend’ and enter.”

“Huh?”

“Don’t worry about it. Shall we?”

We all enter the elevator and the doors slide shut with hiss. “This is so cool,” the younger of the two girls says, and I’m inclined to agree with her.

We ride in silence for a few moments before Erb, out of nowhere, asks, “Wait, how’d Monk get back into the villa?”

“What?” His words make no sense to me. I’d forgotten Monk existed, forgotten he was with us.

“He must be back in the villa, right? None of us got a call or a message from him saying he couldn’t get back in.”

Next to me, Papa Chub tenses up for a second, sighs. “So he knew where it was and how to get in the whole time,” he says. It is an observation, not a question. My own body tenses up too as I realize how dumb we’ve been, that we could have just called.

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