The party is a quiet one. It should have been a great night- Ari’s army had made their way from Chavez Ravine to the coast with no casualties at all, unless you counted a little indigestion and light vomiting. They’d plundered and looted a swath as wide as a football field across the remains of the city, and now here they were at the end of a hard day’s work, in Santa Monica, ensconced in the safehouse of the late beachfront luxury hotel, Shutters.
The boss had made a perfunctory toast – thanking everyone for their hard work – but no one was really buying it. He wasn’t smiling, and everyone knew what it meant when the boss didn’t smile at all, which was the same thing it meant when the boss smiled too much- which was that heads were going to roll, and soon.
Mr. Gold disappeared immediately afterward, bound for a sound- and light-proof suite on a floor so secure that 99 percent of the guests at the party would be shot dead before they were allowed to set foot on it. So the party isn’t very good, because everyone is just standing around looking at everyone else, trying to figure out who’s going to be dead before seven tomorrow morning. Some people are trying- there was a run down to the beach, and a few people even went in the water, laughing off the risk of certain, fast, extremely painful death that comes when you feel a forty-foot tentacle tightening around your ankle.
No one sees one of Things in the water on this night; no one sees anything much unusual- least of all the spirit, or avatar, or whatever of Vincent Chase floating in the dark outside the big hotel windows and looking in at Ari Gold holding a glass of fine red wine. Not only do they not see Vince, they don’t see Ari either because Ari has retired a good three hours earlier. Ari is 16 floors up, mired in combination of a meditative state, sleep, and a stupor induced by three of the industrial-grade Sequonel tranquilizers he carries at all times, in a little zippered compartment on the inside of his left boot.
The party actually looks pretty good to Vince, floating outside the window. No one seems to be having much fun, sure, and it’s a total sausage fest. But Vince’s standards are not what they once were. He sees these professional mercenaries- sipping wine and cocktails, and talking quietly in pairs and small groups about who pillaged what and the things and people they shot- and he experiences an overpowering urge to be with them, just for ten minutes, cracking jokes and holding court again, having three or four drinks and then, when his new friends have been brought effortlessly into his orbit, heading out to look for some weed, or some girls – anything – just keep the night going and see what happens.
The urge is so strong, there are so many memories coming back now all at once that Vince wants to cry, or scream that it’s all a mistake, it has to be a mistake it wasn’t supposed to turn out like this- but there’s no time because he’s flying now, away from the hotel and the lights of the restaurant perched on the end of this ruined city: The last light in the world- and it shrinks smaller and smaller behind him until it’s a tiny yellow-white dot swallowed by the endless night, and Vince feels himself being torn away from everything that he ever loved, or wanted in his life, and now there is no light at all and nothing below him but the bottomless black ocean, and now he is falling.