#2: Down the rabbit hole

Let's go back to two years ago, April 2021.

I just arrived back in the Bay Area after traveling for a while. I'm going to a birthday party with an Alice in Wonderland theme. I need a costume, so I buy a deck of cards at SFO airport, some sticky tape, and stick some playing cards to my knee-length black wool dress. Done.

The party is in a modern house overlooking San Francisco. Most people are dressed more elaborately than me, but the hosts also bought some spare costume pieces for lazy fucks like me. I put on an oversized top hat with rabbit ears. I blend in just fine.

At the party, I meet the person I'm going to call the octopus. He's in his mid-thirties, just like me, and one of the hosts who live in the house. He wears an elaborate and clearly expensive mad hatter costume.

We sit and chat a little. A guy walks up to the octopus and addresses him deferentially. He brought a woman that the octopus, as he stresses with a knowing expression, will enjoy talking to. She looks like a runway model - Young, tall, skinny, long blonde hair, Eastern European features. I later learn that he's a tech entrepreneur hoping for an investment from the octopus; the woman and he are dating. They make some small talk. Why is it so important to this guy that his girl and the octopus warm up to each other? Whatever it is, good for them. Not interested in their dating games, I let them have their moment and go check out the elaborate buffet of snacks and hard seltzer.

I run into the octopus a little later. He asks me whether I would like some tea. He takes me to the kitchen, pours a cup from a pot on the stove, and hands it to me. It contains chewy pieces of mushrooms.

Much later at the party, I feel dizzy. By this time, to address some discomfort I felt, the octopus's co-hosts have kindly offered me ketamine in a nasal spray, passed me a vaporizer, and gave me some clear liquid. I sit down on a couch next to the octopus. I put a hand on his arm to steady myself.

The octopus takes notice. He asks me whether I want to see something in his room. Sure, why not. Careful not to fall down, we leave the party, and I follow him down a spiral staircase.

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