“The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil water-way leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky–seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.” -Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Yesterday, at approximately 12:45, I arrived at a fashion show. This may not sound terribly unusual for a woman of my profession during the fashion season. But today was different; the air was thinner somehow. I was used to civilized presentations but had been promised a spectacle the likes of which I’d never seen, though I knew little more. Upon arriving at the arena, I discovered an inscription–this was to be a collection of athletic wear designed by Samantha Giancola, know occasionally as Sammi Sweetheart of MTV’s doomed documentary series Jersey Shore. As I ascended the steps of the looming Metropolitan Pavilion and slipped inside, I wondered, “Why would athletic wear necessitate such fanfare?” It was decadence, I’d learn. Decadence all.

Inside, I came upon many grim casualties of cosmetic surgery. They milled about listless with their Louis Vuitton bags, blank eyes searching for a youth they could never recover. They rustled together on towering heels in a long line leading to a trio of PR girls, wielding three clipboards with great gravity and menace. The Erinyes. As I signed in and received my seating assignment, I could hear peculiar music throbbing beyond.

I arrived at my seat a few moments later to find this:

Was it blood, I wondered? Surely the dark splatter across my intended seat was a portent of some kind. Unsettled, I decided to take a walk and observe the facilities, to witness the machinations beyond.

These were the first humans I found. I thought it encouraging that they wished to communicate “peace.” Both, in fact:

Of what kind and with whom, I did not know. But I deduced that they would not harm me. Still uneasy from what I’d seen at my seat, I thought it cold comfort.

At a booth professing that the explorer of this place “Think thin,” I found a man attacking the lights. I figured him crazed by want of thinness.

Next I found a barrel of talismans from a lost culture. “Monster,” they were called. Though I could not deduce their purpose, the markings along the edges were unmistakeable: Mayan. I could not help but think all who dwelt here might be so named.

Next I chanced upon a welcome sight: it was Be. the wine for women! I must say that in such a lonely place as this, it was of no small solace to remember that I, too, could enjoy the grape. Most wines disrupt mystique, you likely know, but Be. is divided by the four primary female traits: flirtiness, freshness, brightness and radiance. One must simply choose her identify from the four and then may drink freely, without fear of abrupt, irreparable masculinity descending on her delicate form.

The time was drawing later. I began a quest for sustenance and found these small sugared cakes from absent members of the tribe Stoli. Alas, they appeared as offerings to some unseen idol–Salted Karamel, I learned–and I thought it dangerous to partake.

I wondered more and time continued to pass. I had not eaten. By a matter of terrible chance, I upon their sacred place and the idol they worshipped. It gleamed there, its impossible richness caressed by a frosted vase. I knew it was not prudent but the dread of this place had overtaken me. I drank.

If only I’d drank from Be.! The palliative struck me to my core and I whirled back. I fell and next came a supple darkness. The amount of time ultimately lost, I cannot say, but when I returned to consciousness, I found myself in a strange land full of strange beings I could not fathom:

This man.

This woman.

Who were they, I wondered? Why was their dress so unusual, their manner of ornamentation so foreign? I hid behind a column and continued to observe them.

Moments later, he arrived. The arena fell silent, reverent. He glided through the crowd in a manner seemingly incongruous with his impressive mass. Admirers scrambled out from the shadows and plied him with questions, demanding intimate details of his exploits. He was their King! He spoke only of an elixir he had concocted and was releasing to the merchant class imminently. Next, he took his place at the center of the room and sat, hulking like a jungle cat:

It appeared something was about to happen. I waited in a tense silence. What occurred next, nothing could have prepared me for.

Three woman emerged from a blinding light:

They walked the length of the arena and stood at its apex.

They took their places and formed shapes with their bodies. I observed their bizarre ritual with quiet detachment, still uncertain where I was and how I’d arrived there. The women drifted back into the light. Another emerged:

Like them, she followed the gleaming white path to its end, stood and posed. She retreated. She was followed by another:

Even the natives appeared aghast.

It continued. One after the other, they burst forth from light, walked to the apex and paused, as if to consider something vague. Then they retreated and were not seen again.

Minutes passed, though they could have been hours. Anxiety bloomed within me. The music swirled to deafening volumes. Suddenly, the whole lot of them burst through again and appeared for a final turn.

Last, a woman not ornamented like the others followed their path. She stopped at the apex again and stood for a long time. Those around me erupted in applause.

At last she stole away. Things were still again, for a moment. Then lights fell one by one upon the arena and those around me lifted from their seats, as if coming from a daze. I, too, was compelled to move. It was over. The spectacle had ceased–was it a dream? A laudanum nightmare? Was it an hallucination from the depths of myself? I could not be sure.

I returned to the sugared cakes and took a slender comfort in them.

What had happend this day, I could never be sure. What I did know, however, was that I would not be the same.

“…it was written I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice…”