The ballrooms were, in general, littered with staircases. Minor ballrooms 2-5 were spined by rectangular horrors meant to fold quickly the thoughts and heighten the climber’s awareness of things ‘otherworldly.’ A network of cubbies had been constructed around the Galleries Chromatiques only days before the celebration. Each compartment held within it a single step, the sum of which was to represent, according to the builders “a staircase in spirit, if not in letter.” The increase in party volume was due to a singular ruckus descending the grand ballroom’s centerpiece, the pride of Useless and the subject of equally grand speculation—the Archimedean spiralcase.
An asymptotically loud recitation of Macbeth’s “is this a dagger’ was being offered by a tall, broad-shouldered gentleman in an embroidered waistcoat. He’d begun his descent in a picturesque imitation of ‘drunken mayor of indeterminate burg’ but had since replaced this staggering gait with that of a prince, paralyzed by indecision. He stepped from character to character seamlessly, offering simultaneous performances of the Car Entrance Scene from Halberd’s “Quaintly in the Morning” and the opening monologue of Panaceau’s “Tour of the Vatican Museum.” These disparate pieces, having in common only the use of the English alphabet, trilled from the tongue of the tall, broad shouldered gentleman, each word a glorious counterpoint to those preceding in the near-hypnotic performance. Halberd’s description of an elegant lady closing the door of an armored sedan gave painless birth to the beauty of The Courtyard of St. Damascus. Auto doors banged and slammed in his voice, syncopating between clicking footsteps, clearly discernible in the Vatican Museum’s Ladies’ Audience Room. His booted foot met the marble floor of the ballroom as he stepped purposefully from the last stair. He drove the crowd to silence with his gaze, and in an adjacent chamber, a woman’s voice whispered the title of the composite piece, whose performance she may or may not have heard: “If Only We Pay the Admission Fee.” The orator smiled, turned in the manner of a man accustomed to mimicking autonomous copies of himself, and ascended the staircase, his back to the onlookers, and upon his waistcoat, the threaded filigree, touched with gold and breathed upon by silver, read “Archetypal Tragic Protagonist.”