At the End of the Universe Part III: Partium Act I

“What are you so chipper about? And why are you dressed like you’re attending an S&M party after a funeral?” Namoira snarked as she watched Henry combing his hair in the hallway mirror.  He was wearing a black tuxedo and a white masquerade mask with silver sparkles. 

“Even though I’m not surprised, that doesn’t make it any less deeply disturbing to hear a literal god talk about S&M.” Henry replied

“So, what are you all dressed up for? And why the mask?” Namoira asked

“Me and Elaina are going to a masquerade party tonight at a renown indie director’s house in the hills.” Henry responded, straightening his bowtie.

“Sounds like a fun time for all.” Namoira said emotionlessly

“Yeah, I just love pretentious parties, especially ones that are derivative of people’s other works.” Henry replied sarcastically

“I would absolutely love to go.” Namoira exclaimed, jumping up from her throne and clapping, causing a striking golden mask in the shape of a skull to appear on her face.

“That was sarcasm Namoira. But I guess you’re not the god of speech for a reason.” Henry smirked

 “You’re playing a dangerous game with somebody who has more power than you could even dream of.” Namoira boomed

“Oh please, save me the vengeful god schtick.  You can’t and won’t kill me, you need me and I know that.” Henry said with a huge wry smile as he went to open the door.

Elaina stepped in as Henry greeted her.  She was wearing a long purple dress with a ribbon on the shoulder and a lime green mask with a purple streak across the front. Henry closed the door behind her as they walked into the house. 

“You look great. I like your mask.” Henry complimented her.

“Thanks.” Elaina replied with a quick smile.

They walked back into the kitchen area and Namoira was standing by the counter leaning on her staff. 

“Oh, Elaina, this is my friend Namoira.” Henry said introducing her “She’s was a set designer on The Mime’s Lamentation.”

“Hi Namoira, did I say that right? Anyway, lovely to meet you.” Elaina said holding out her hand. Namoira looked down at it with a look of confusion.

“What am I to do with this?” she asked

Elaina withdrew her hand and laughed “I see your friend is a comedian as well.”

“Yeah, well we better get going then. Party starts in half an hour and I’m not big enough in Hollywood to be fashionably late yet.” Henry stated “I ordered the Uber.”

They sat down on the couch and waited.  Elaina turned to Namoira and asked “So, are you tagging along?”

“Ah yes, I worked on the set of one of Bruckner’s films so I’m going as well.” Namoira answered, nodding towards Henry.

“Cool. Hey Henry, do you mind if I talk to you in the other room for a second?” Elaina replied

She dragged Henry into an adjoining room and took off her mask.

“You didn’t tell me I was going to be a third wheel, I assumed we were going together.” She said in an angry whisper.

“We are going together Elaina, she’s the third wheel.”

“Really, you’re not romantically involved with her at all?” Elaina replied

“What? No. Elaina, she’s a lesbian.”

“Oh.” Elaina paused for a moment. “Henry, I’m sorry.” She said

“It’s fine, our Uber is here, now let’s go.” Henry answered

They walked back into the kitchen and Elaina put her coat on. She stopped to hug Namoira.

“I know things are tough right now but I just want you to know that you’re incredibly strong and I respect the hell out of you.” She said as she let go and walked into the entry way.

“See, at least somebody here understands how to respect the immense amount of power I hold and the weight of controlling the entropic decay of the entire bloody universe.” Namoira said under her breath in Henry’s direction.

The trio walked down the driveway to the car, a black 4 door sedan sitting idle there, a soft pulsating blue light emanating from the dashboard. They all filed into the car, Namoira taking the front seat.

“Hey, if you don’t mind, can you put the uh… Staff there in the trunk, I’ll pop it for yah.” He said kindly. He seemed to have a Minnesota or northern accent.

Namoira took the staff and tapped him on the head with it.

“Ah, you know what. Never mind what the hey, just put it down by your feet.” He said, changing his tone on a dime.

“So, you guys going to a costume party or somthin’?”  The driver asked

“Masquerade party, yes.”  Elaina replied

“Ah, well I’ll put on a little music for you.” He said, turning the chrome knob on the radio

“This is uh… This is Michael Davis. Over the Hill radio. KOTH… 91.5 FM. LA’s radio station for those of us who peaked 40 years ago. This is the Eagles, Heartache Tonight.”  The DJ said in a very exasperated and defeated tone.

Soon, they arrived at the driveway of Bruckner’s luxurious mansion. It was behind a large gate and there was white light and the sound of music emanating from within. The Uber drove up to the gate and it opened. The driver let them out in front of the house and drove back down the driveway. They walked up to the large front door of the mansion and a man with an iPad was standing in front checking guests in.  Elaina and Henry, walking arm in arm were let in immediately. Namoira was stopped at the door.

“Name please.” The man said without looking up from the tablet.

“Namoira.”

The man used his fingers to scroll down on the screen.

“Not on here.” He said

“Maybe under Goddess of Death.” She replied

“Yeah, still no.” The man replied

“Try pale maiden of demise.”

“I’m not seeing any of your freaky stage names on here lady.” The man responded

“Oh, sod it.” Namoira sighed. She tapped him on the head with her staff.

“Go right in ma’am.” He said with a smile, his attitude changing immediately. Namoira walked in and Elaina and Henry were already drinking from thin champagne glasses and conversing with other guests. Namoira walked up to them and Henry handed her a glass.  She took it and drank it all in one gulp. 

“This sparkling white wine is quite good.” She mused.  “Servant, bring me another!” she said to a man in a tuxedo walking past her.  He handed her another glass, as he reached for her empty glass, she threw it on the ground, smashing it into pieces. 

Elaina and Henry walked to the middle of the main foyer, which had high ceilings and several expensive crystal chandeliers that reflected streaks of soft rainbow light onto the floor and the walls. The top of the ceiling was covered by a clear skylight through which the bright moon shone.  As they walked in, they saw a group of women standing around a tall man in a white suit with a black mask on.

“Oh my god. Henry… I think that’s David White.” Elaina said, trying to hide her excitement.

“Like… From the band The Sex?” Henry replied

“Yes. And from Up at Night with David White.”   Elaina added “6-time world’s sexiest man…”

“Yeah, ok. I liked him better when he was just a Grammy award winning artist.” Henry said in a high-pitched voice.

They walked up to the group and David was telling the end of a story.

“So that’s the story of how I got into a bar fight with Andrew Dice Clay.” He concluded.  The girls around him all laughed. “Have a nice night ladies.” He said as they dissipated.

Elaina and Henry walked up as well as a blonde woman in a white dress with a red mask.

“Ah, honey. I was just telling them the story about the time I…” He started

“About the time you got into a bar fight with Andrew Dice Clay. I know.” The woman had a thick Manchester accent. “You tell that story all the time and it’s awful.” she interrupted

“It is not awful. It’s a great story. It always gets laughs from people.” David replied

“It’s not a funny story David, they laugh because you’re attractive.” Olivia replied “I’m going to go get more wine.” She sighed, walking off.

“Sorry about that.” He said, turning to Henry and Elaina. “How are you guys?” he asked

“Good. Um… I just wanted to say I’m a huge fan of the band. And really all your work.” Elaina gushed.

“Well thank you love.” He said with a smirk.

His wife had returned with a glass of champagne. She smacked David in the back of the head.

“What was that for?” David responded bewildered

“Really? Love?” She said angrily

“C’mon, that’s just how I am, I can’t turn it off.” David responded

“Well you better learn how to very quick or tonight is going to be a very long night for both of us.” Olivia replied, pulling him away by his arm.

“It was nice to meet you!” Elaina called after them with no response.

Meanwhile in the other room, Namoira was snacking on some of the horderves. A man sauntered up to her, glass of wine in hand.

“I like your lipstick.” He said nonchalantly

“I’m a lesbian, bugger off.” She replied coldly. The man turned sharply and walked away. A man wearing a Russian military outfit turned towards her. “I wasn’t talking to you either Comrade Buggerov.” She said dismissively.

She continued standing impatiently, shifting her weight from one foot to the other leaning on her staff when she heard a familiar voice from behind her.

“My word, are we having a party in a morgue or is that just your personality Namoira?” The voice said

“Aara… And to what do I owe your revered presence?” Namoira sighed without looking at her.

“I figured I would stop by the shindig. Thought you could use a friend.” Aara replied

“Don’t you have something better to do than antagonize me all the time? You know, some of us have real jobs to do like oversee the delicate balance of life and death in the universe.” Namoira answered

“I heard you finally came out of the closet.  I’m so happy for you. I’m positively buzzing, like a proud sister.” Aara joked.

“Oh, stop it. I’m a god. You know I don’t feel sexual desire.” Namoira replied stoically. “Besides, I haven’t got a thing down there. Neither d’ you.”

“Don’t even bother looking for compassion and comradery in a psychopath like Namoira darling, it simply won’t happen hahahahahahaha!” A male voice called.  A tall, sculpted man with a strong jaw and cascading white hair appeared out of thin air. He wore a long blue silk gown and a yellow mask over his face.  

“I can assure you I very much am not a psychopath Qynir.” Namoira retorted

“Oh right, my mistake. psychopaths usually have some degree of charm.” He and Aara started laughing as he threw a handful of rabbit’s feet from out of nowhere at Namoira. They disappeared immediately. There was a maniacal, insane energy about Qynir as he cackled madly after every sentence.

“You two cannot be here.” Namoira said angrily “I’m not even supposed to be here.”

“Come now lass, a party without the God of debauchery would be a positive tragedy.” He laughed, falling back into Namoira’s arms. He held up a Greek drama mask on a stick over his own looking up at Namoira. The area around them turned into a theater stage with a spotlight shining on them for a brief moment.

“No. No Debauchery tonight.” Namoira said sternly.

“What do you say we do my dear Aara. Maybe we can put some of your patented love potion in the punchbowl, an all-time classic and they’ll be positively hornier than horned frogs. Or we could spike the wine with LSD and watch the mortals trip the life fantastic.” For a brief second, his eyes turned into kaleidoscopes and there was the droning of sitar music from out of thin air.

“You will do absolutely none of those things.” Namoira commanded “One god at this party is more than enough 3 is just overk…”

“Helloooooooo.” A man’s voice called from outside the open window behind them. The room turned into a colorful 90’s sitcom set.  The crowd cheered when the man put his head into the frame of the window.

“Oh Jesus Christ, not you too.” Namoira sighed

“Hey guys.” A man in sandals and a long white robe said, popping up from out of nowhere.

“I wasn’t actually calling you.” Namoira said in a resigned tone of voice, putting her head in her hands.

“Oh ok, it’s cool.” He replied, disappearing again.

There was a laugh track and Namoira looked around confused for the source.

“Tezthos, I’m glad you made it.” Aara said happily

Tezthos was a short man with the features of an ancient Greek philosopher. He was balding on the top of his head, wore a crown of golden leaves and wore a full mask of Greek tragedy. He spoke in a very deep, labored and theatrical tone of voice.

“Can’t have a party without the God of wine, now can we?” Tezthos said, crawling through the open window. There was a whoo from the crowd and then more cheering.

“All of you get out.” Namoira spat. The room had returned to normal and a man with a microphone was standing at the base of the long stairs in the main room.  He commanded the attention of the whole house by tapping a glass with a small fork into the mic.

“Thank you all for attending. It’s been a lovely evening so far, but I present to you… Your most marvelous host, Bergwynn Bruckner!” he declared triumphantly.  A man with a large fish tank centered around his head emerged from atop the stairs. The tank had 2 fish in it and was fitted to go around his head and eyes so he could see.  He walked down the stairs slowly, trying to avoid tripping on his long red cape that flowed off his shoulders.  He was a rotund man who walked proudly and with great posture.  He wore a black mask with crow’s feathers running off the side and red sequined gloves. The man who spoke before handed him the mic and a glass of champagne as he descended to the bottom stairs. The crowd cheered as he raised the microphone to his mouth. He spoke in an Austrian accent.

“Thank you very much. And thank you all for coming.  We are about to get the real party underway, but first we most toast to tonight, and to our lives!” The crowd cheered again, raising their glasses of wine. “Before we begin the festivities, I would like us all to grab a dance partner and dance together to a classic Austrian waltz.” The lights dimmed down a touch and a 6-piece orchestra began to play a waltz.

Everyone in the crowd grabbed their date or a single stranger and began dancing along to the pulsating 6/8 time of the music. Henry took Elaina by the hand and lead her onto the left side of the room as they started to dance.

Aara put her arm around Namoira’s shoulders, much to Namoira’s dismay.

“Fancy a dance dear?” She asked patronizingly

“Unequivocally no.”  Namoira responded, crossing her arms.

“Oh, will you stop being a stick in the mud for once in your existence?” Aara said, taking Namoira’s hand forcefully in her own.

“He made a toast to tonight and to life. The two things I most despise in the entire universe at this very moment.” Namoira said grumpily.

Aara grabbed her hip and led her to the middle of the dance floor.  Namoira sighed and began swaying back and forth stiffly.

“You can put your hand on my hip too, it doesn’t bite.” She said with a smirk, knowing it would annoy Namoira. Namoira reluctantly placed her hand on Aara’s hip and they moved back and forth together.

“I just want you to know that this is the most humiliating thing I’ve ever done in my life and I am going to destroy an entire planet the moment it’s over.” Namoira grumbled

Henry and Elaina were dancing together, trying to avoid the massive group of people in the cramped area of the house. Henry pulled her in close to him.

“Elaina, you look really healthy by the way.” Henry complimented her.

“Thanks.” She replied coyly “Oh look, Namoira found a girl to dance with. Isn’t that cute.” Elaina said, changing the subject quickly

“Yeah, it’s adorable. The slash fiction writers are going to have a field day with it.” Henry responded

“So, speaking of Namoira, she’s a bit… Odd, wouldn’t you say?” Elaina mused, trying to pick her words carefully.

“It’s LA Elaina, everyone’s a few apples short of a bushel. They don’t call it Hollyweird for nothing, right?” Henry replied with an uneasy chuckle

“And she’s so pale, I mean she knows we live in California, right? Has she ever been outside?”

“She’s uh… She’s a vegan. You know, it’s hard to get all the right nutrients and stuff.” Henry reacted

“Is she really? Wow, that’s impressive. I could never do it. Good for her.” Elaina answered

The pair were moving across the space until they were close to Namoira and Aara. Henry leaned in close enough to Namoira as the two pairs turned near each other to whisper to her “By the way, you’re vegan now too.”

“A lesbian AND a vegan huh. Wow, you’re fitting in wonderfully here darling.” Aara joked

“Piss off. It’s bad enough I have to embarrass myself doing this stupid dance. I swear if this song goes on any longer, I’m going to kill the poor sod who wrote it.” Namoira responded annoyed.

“I’m pretty sure he’s already dead love.”

“Well… I’ll go back in time and kill him again!” Namoira said crossly. The two continued to lead each other around the space.  

“Are you always this cold sweetheart, or are you just nervous around me?” Aara remarked with a smiled

“I’m always this cold, don’t flatter yourself.” Namoira answered begrudgingly

“I mean, I know you’re the emissary of death, but surely you must have heard of mittens.” She joked

Finally, the song stopped and the crowd returned to normal.  Namoira immediately moved away from Aara and tapped her staff twice on the ground.  Bruckner returned to the microphone and tapped it to check if it was on.

“Wonderful. Now, we all know why you’re really here. So, let the festivities begin!” he exclaimed and the lights got even dimmer. Right as he handed the mic off, there was a colorful explosion in the sky, seen through the ceiling skylight that looked like fireworks had gone off. The crowd cheered.  Henry and Elaina were in the middle of a group of people and they all began to get close to one another. A man and a woman walked up to Henry and Elaina and started rubbing their shoulders.

“You two want to party?” The man asked

Henry in a panic, looked around and saw that several groups of people, some very large were starting to rub each other’s bodies suggestively and some were even starting to kiss each other.

“Henry, can I talk to you outside for a moment?” Elaina asked with a hint of anger in her voice. The two walked through the crowd of people and somehow managed to find the door into the back garden. There was a large cement courtyard with a small fountain running a calming current of water juxtaposed with the loud sound of hyper-fast electronic music from the DJ booth set up. The booth had a sign that read “Stray.” In bold letters at the top.  The DJ was jumping around and pumping his fists in the air with his headphones on despite the fact nobody else was out there.

“Henry, what the fuck were you thinking?” Elaina yelled over the music

“What?” Henry yelled back

“What the fuck were you think… Do you mind?” she yelled, turning to the DJ. The DJ stopped the music and walked away from the booth.

“What the fuck were you thinking inviting me to an orgy?” She hissed at him

“Elaina, I had no idea this was going to turn into an orgy ok? Nowhere on this invitation does it say the word orgy.” Henry pulled out the invitation from his breast pocket and showed it to her.

“Look, it says Eyes Wide Shut themed party.” Henry replied

“And what do you think happens in Eyes Wide Shut?” Elaina responded angrily through gritted teeth.

“I don’t know, that film is very confusing. It is not Kubrick’s best work.”

“Well, we are leaving.” She said hastily

“No, wait. I have to talk to Bruckner.” Henry replied

“Ok, but we have to find him quickly and then go.” Elaina stated “And where the hell is Namoira?”