This is a part 3. For parts 1 and 2, please go to the links at the bottom of this post.
They went through a door that Brittany hadn’t even seen when she’d gone to throw away her cup, but she figured heightened awareness was probably another effect of idolhood. How strange that I would have decided to use the trash directly across from the place I didn’t even know we were going to, she thought.
Taraji didn’t explain that any door they went through would have been the right door—that was part of idolhood: all doors were open to you. She still wasn’t sure what was compelling her to bring Brittany into the secret world that existed between the one in which they all lived and the one to which they would all one day ascend. Not everyone could handle seeing beyond the veil, after all. Since becoming an idol, Taraji had come to understand that this is part of what drove the drug abuse that had grown to be synonymous with the Hollywood lifestyle (the other part was, of course, excess). Brittany, she sensed, was still building her inner character, but Taraji felt that this exposure would strengthen, not shatter, it.
As they passed through the ornate door, leaving the sunny LA fall day behind, entering the shadows of the idolhood liminal plane, Taraji paused in warning.
“The thing to remember while we’re here, Brittany, is that everything here is real,” she started. “But it’s only as real as you make it. Your experience while here is real, but understand that everything here is an illusion.”
It was like Cirque de Solei and Halloween: a garish distortion of what a social club should be (from what Brittany had seen of them on TV), and what was possible. It was big, and it was dimly lit with a yellow light that seemed to have no source. The walls stretched upward to the point where they appeared to curve toward each other, and though the room and its occupants were modeled on normalcy, they were inherently warped from excess. Everything in the room was overdone: The room itself was overdecorated; the occupants were overdressed. They over greeted each other, their hugs and air kisses seemed to be pantomimes of genuine showings of affection. When Brittany could bear to look into their faces, they seemed to over smile, plastering faces that looked carved with grins that bordered on sneers. The pitches of their voices floated over Brittany, which relieved her because she was afraid of what they would do if they passed through her ears. There was music, but the music itself seemed to know that it was there for no other reason than to meet an expectation, and so it was jarring, hostile even, in its knowledge that nobody was listening.
Brittany drew her breath and reached out to Taraji to settle herself. “What is this place?” she asked.
Taraji, who had shed her wig, glasses and jacket was almost surprised she was solid enough to be touched. “This is idolworld,” she said. “This is the outward manifestation of what you all worship.”
Brittany shook her head. “I don’t worship this,” she said, too stunned to ask Taraji what she meant by “idolworld,” and “outward manifestation.”
“It’s hard to talk in here,” Taraji replied. “Let’s go.”
They left out of the same door they used to enter, not because they needed to, but because Taraji thought it best not to show Brittany any more elements of idolworld while she was still processing what she’d just seen. Taraji could sense from her energy that it hadn’t been a happy scene for the girl, and that was good. That meant that her material desires didn’t affect her enough to alter her inner sight.
It was late when they got back to Taraji’s Beverly Hills home. Brittany had spent the rest of the day and night alternating mentally between trying to push past the scene that still hung behind her eyelids (she was, after all, in LA with an idol escort) and succumbing to it, returning to it, deconstructing it like a book for her Literary Criticism class so that she could find some kind of meaning in that disturbing sight.
She was beginning to doubt that it was real. She was beginning to doubt that it was real, that Taraji was real, that she was really in LA being chauffeured to various places that seemed so normal on the outside—but who knew what lurked behind each door.
It was late when they walked in, and later still for Brittany, who was operating on the three-hour time difference. But the day had been too eventful for Brittany to sleep, and Taraji’s energy level hadn’t dropped all day. She looked as fresh walking into her home at midnight as she did when Brittany entered her limo at 2 p.m. that day, though she hadn’t eaten or drunk a thing the entire time they’d been together.
Taraji gave Brittany the chance to take off her shoes and set down her bag before turning to her. “Are you ready to talk about it?”