Royal Bedroom

You appear to be in an almost-ordinary bedroom, albeit a richly furnished one. There is a kingsize four-poster bed in one corner, shrouded by what looks like red silk. Sitting across from it there is a large, oaken chest of drawers, and a 5' x 4' mirror with gilded edges hangs on the wall. The floor is covered by plush, thick, maroon carpet. Ornate brass lamps on the walls on either side of the door provide light. Against one wall is a walnut cabinet with a desktop folding out of it. There is a wooden chair by this, as well as two majestic, padded antique easy chairs elsewhere in the room. Overall, these accomodations seem fit for a king (in the seventeenth century). Strangely, however, out of all these antiques, nothing seems old, though nothing like this stuff has been built for centuries as far as you know.

The only other unusual thing about the room is the curious window on the far side. The window is of conventional design, opening inward, and is about 4' x 3'. Through the window, however, you do not see the outside world. Instead, you see a room about the same size as this one, and furnished in an almost identical manner. The only differences seem to be that the room through the window is apparently lived in; there are various personal items lying around on the chest of drawers and elsewhere, the bed has been slept in, and there is what appears to be an unfinished letter lying on the desk. Somehow, you feel that you could step through that window to a world that is not entirely the same as this one. That would probably be more pleasant than returning to that weird black room.

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Royal Bedroom

You are in the bedroom on the strange house side. You can see the weird, black room through the door to the east, and the window to the room with the letter on the desk beckons to the other side on the west.

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The Other Side

Despite the fact that you are still inside, you feel that you have just stepped out of wherever it was that you were in. You are no longer within the strange house. The first thing you do is turn around and look back. Sure enough, you can see the window and the first bedroom on the other side. It looks like you could go back in if you wanted to.

Now that you are here, however, you can immediately see that you are in a far different place. Outside the doorway to this bedroom there appears to be a hallway. You can hear the sound of classical music wafting in through the door, as well as the sounds of many people conversing. It is strange to hear people again after being in such apparently deserted places.

You wonder why you didn't hear these sounds when you were on the other side of the window.

There is a letter lying out on the desk.

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The Other Side

You are in the alternate bedroom. You can hear what sounds like a sophisticated formal affair outside the room. A letter lies on the desk. The window back to where you came from is still (thank God) open.

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Letter

The letter appears to be in French, but luckily you fulfilled your college requirement with this language, and you are quite proficient in it. Oddly enough, the style and wording of the letter seems archaic, as if in keeping with the antique surroundings. You interpret, with some interest:

(July 14, 1780)

Dear Wolfgang,

The piece you have composed for me is wonderful! It is so beautiful, so expressive, that I cannot even describe it. The first time my musicians performed it, I was transported away to another world. The pleasure was so strong! I had not previously known that such effects could be achieved with mere music and I cannot thank you enough for this gift. Surely there exists no one in all of Europe to equal your skill.

I wanted to tell you that tonight I'm hosting a Grand Ball; half the royalty of Europe will be there, and the other half will wish they were. "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" will be the featured piece of the evening, and you will be well known by the night's end, I can promise you. It is my pleasure to do you service, and I am glad that my goodwill will enable others to experience what I have.

Very Gratefully Yours,
(signed)
Baron von Rogenstreich

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Hallway

You are in a long hallway with a shiny tile floor. There is an open doorway near you through which you can see a bedroom. The hall extends about thirty feet on one side, ending in a wide staircase. The noise seems to be emanating from that direction. In the other direction, the passage goes for about forty feet, ending in a dead end with a very large mirror covering the wall. Doors every ten feet or so line both sides of the hallway, but, about twenty feet from the staircase, the wall on the far side ends and becomes a balcony railing. The hall is lit by chandeliers hung at intervals along the ceiling, and the walls are fine paneling, hung with a few portraits portraits, done in the classical style. Essentially, you seem to be in a large, very valuable mansion.

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Doors

All the doors you try are locked.. you shouldn't be snooping around up here when the host is downstairs anyway!

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Portraits

The portraits are all fairly standard; a head and shoulders against a black background. They are mostly pictures of old, distinguished-looking men, although there are a few young ladies and gentleman as well. Unfortunately, there are no nameplates along the bottoms of the frames.

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Balcony View

You go over to where the balcony starts and casually lean on the railing as you observe the festivities below. But - festivities is too brash a word for the elegant, sumptuous event that is going on beneath you. The room is one of the largest you have ever seen and definitely the richest. It must be a hundred feet at least from one end to the other, and the ceiling is everywhere at least 25 feet from the floor (it is at least 10 feet above where you are standing), which is covered by polished tile, with a sort of black and white checkerboard pattern. There are pillars around the edges, and archways leading in and out. At one end sits an entire orchestra, and it is from this that the music you heard is coming. You can see numerous tables lining the walls, laden with fine food and drink. And the entire area is filled with people, dressed in some of the grandest costume you have ever seen. Fantastic, flowing dresses of regal design, the most perfectly cut coats and tails, hair seemingly designed by artists, a true display of society at its finest. You realize that the entire function is itself a work of art.

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Grand Entrance

You walk down the hallway and slowly descend the stairs, trying to be as dignified as you possibly can. Nothing less would pay this place proper respect. As you descend to the lower level, you realize that this is some sort of formal party that you are about to enter; luckily, you happened to snag a tux out of the closet before you left the bedroom.

The room extends back further than you can see, and the ceiling is way up over your head - and decorated. The floor is covered by polished black and white tiles in a sort of checkerboard pattern; ornate pillars rise up every so often along the walls, and archways lead out. The staircase you came down has marble steps with a carved wooden balustrade and a large newel post at the bottom. You can hear some good classical music coming from the other end. From the way it sounds, you can tell that the source could only be a live performance.

Impressive, you think. There are a couple of tables near you loaded to overflowing with fine food and drink, and the entire room itself is filled with the best dressed people you have ever seen. Boldly imaginative dresses, sharp tuxedos, very flashy jewelry; the finery you see is just mind-boggling. Some are dancing, some are eating, and some are merely mingling and conversing, but they all hold themselves with the utmost grace, and overall, it is a beautiful thing to see.

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Ballroom

You stand in the ballroom, just soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying yourself immensely. You know you are not in your own world or time period, and you don't really know how you got here, but at this point, you don't really care. The music is pleasant, the food is fine, the dancing is graceful, and the conversation is both exquisite and sophisticated. No one seems to have noticed your uninvited presence, and you are free to do as you please. Of course, you may leave, if you wish.

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Lords and Ladies

What sort of high-society converstaions might be going on here, you wonder. You decide to casually sidle up to one of the groups and see if you can listen politely without obviously imposing. You spy out a group of distinguished-looking guests who seem to be having an animated conversation. One is an old man with a long, grey moustache and a glass eyepiece which he wears in his left eye. He is short, and seems to be very articulate from what you have seen. There are also two women with medium length straight black hair and a lot of expensive-looking jewelry on them. They seem to hold their noses at a constant upward angle of 30 degrees. Standing next to them is a foppish man of about thirty years. His features are delicate and feminine, and there is an air about him which does not appeal to you. Also, you see another man with light brown hair and a lively, yet wise, face. He seems to be in his early 40's or late 30's, as far as you can tell.

They look as good a group as any to eavesdrop on, so you go for it.

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Evening Conversation

As you arrive on the scene, the old man is saying, "...so I don't see where this has its place in this world, Rogenstreich. Sure, the method is effective, but if you think of it from the individual's point of view, it must be monstrous. Can you imagine what it would be like to be so closely controlled by a ruler as to have your life completely directed?"

The man with the lively face, whom you notice is wearing some sort of military decoration, responds to this. He looks a bit impatient as he snorts, "Effective! Is that what you call it? I call it near miraculous! If a nation can increase its population to double the previous amount and its resources to triple that amount within a year, that's a lot more than effective."

"Ah, but that hasn't really been proven, has it," quips the fop, "I mean, sure, you say it comes straight out of your little simulations, but how do we know it would work in the real world? How do we know life can be worked out neatly and mathematically as you say?"

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Radical Theory

"Oh, don't be silly," one of the stuck-up women says, "Of course Rogenstreich must be right."

Now, the man with the lively face and the decoration (whom you take to be Rogenstreich) capitulates a little and says, "No, Quincois has a point. Although I am sure of the validity of my simulation to a point, one can never really be sure until the same thing is tried in the real world. The real world is a lot more complex than even my simulation has allowed. There are probably effects that I haven't taken into account, such as possibly the poor individual perspective mentioned by Cratticus here. These effects could possibly affect the outcome of my proposed manipulations."

"Well, I may disagree with your particular conclusions, Rogenstreich, but I definitely think the simulation of social, political, and economic aspects of a nation has definite applications toward making better plans for government. I think your system has definite potential."

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Discovery

At this point, the people seem to notice you for the first time, and they all stare at you, regarding you as an intruder in their midst. You decide that it might be prudent for you to evacuate the immediate area before you are questioned. Before you can discreetly melt away into the crowd, however, Rogenstreich asks, "And what do YOU think, then?"

You are not entirely sure what they are talking about, but, remembering that this is only a dream, you answer boldly and with confidence.

"I have heard it said that if you were to attempt to simulate and predict something as simple as the weather - which depends only on moisture levels and air currents - but you neglected to include the effects of a puff of air so small as that a person could produce by a cough, then only a few days hence your simulation would say "calm weather" while outside the most horrible storm in forty years was raging!" You pause for the effect, then drive the point home. "And why should human society, seemingly ever so much more complex than the weather, be any easier to predict?"

Some of the group titters at this, though whether they are laughing at your score over Rogenstreich or your indiscretion you cannot tell.

Rogenstriech looks around at everybody, then smiles and proclaims, "I am gladdened to be in the presence of such a wise man, who knows so much of how to compare the natural forces of weather and the society of humans! Were I able to think on such a high level, surely I would have little need of simulations to become master of much more than I am!"

Everyone laughs loudly at this. Rogenstriech turns away from you, and you can almost hear him say, "Now, as I was saying..." before he says it. Embarrassed, you seize the opportunity to slink away.

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On the Way Back

Everything has its place and time, and you think it's time you left this little party. You head over to the staircase and ascend, giving the grand scene a last glance before moving on to other experiences.

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Fine Wining and Dining

Food seems to be a very attractive idea to you right now, especially since the quality is sure to be good. Wine doesn't sound so bad either. So you hightail it on over to the nearest table to help yourself. You see various wine bottles, a punch bowl, and many trays of snacks. You also notice a little girl standing a short distance away. She seems to be looking on the tables for something.

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A Punch Bowl?

You look inside the punch bowl, expecting to find a bunch of red liquid with ice cubes floating in it. Instead, you see a bunch of cherries soaking in some kind of liquid which looks approximately brown. You decide to try one (what the hey), and you pop it into your mouth.

Whew! You barely managed to get it down! It tasted really strong, and you surmise that the brownish liquid must have been some very strong brandy! You decide to abstain from further exploration of this type of food.

The wine bottles or the food trays probably offer something better. The little girl that you noticed before still appears to be looking for something on the tables.

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Liquid Love

You take a glass, examining the collection of bottles for something you'd like to sample. After a suitable period of investigation, you settle on a red wine which, according to the label, came from the Rhone region.

You sip, and you find the wine rich, full, warming, and satisfying. You are definitely glad you decided to take this drink.

The trays of food and the punch bowl remain. Glancing askance, you notice the little girl is still around.

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A Feast

You reach towards a tray and grab what looks like a sausage wrapped in a crust. You take a bite, and then another, and soon nothing is left of it. It tasted quite good, and you look around for something else to try. Your eyes fall upon some sort of a red tart, and you try it. It's cherry, and one of the best things you have ever eaten. Ridiculously, you find yourself thinking of Alice in Wonderland. "The Queen of Hearts made her tarts..."

The wine and the punch are there for the drinking. You notice that the girl who was looking around before has come closer to the table you are at.

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A Little Problem

You approach the little girl, trying not to appear big and frightening. She is wearing a cute little green dress, and her hair is brown and goes halfway down her back (which isn't all that far, since she's a small girl). She appears to be somewhere between 5 and 10 years old (it's hard to tell these things exactly). Without taking any time to consider which language might be appropriate, you address her in English. She answers in French.

"Pardon Monsieur. Pourriez-vous me trouver un biscuit au chocolat? Je sais qu'ils sont quelque part par ici, mais je n'arrive pas a` les trouver."

You laugh at this, and happily assist her. A plate of cookies of the appropriate sort sits a few tables down, and after giving one to her (which she thanks you for profusely), you have one for yourself. You wonder who she might have been, but you'll have to remain curious, since she's gone now. Deciding you've had enough food, you return to the more central place where you were before.

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The Art of Dance

A thrill of expectation fills you as you decide to join in the activity. You thread your way through the guests towards the music until you reach the area where the dancing is going on. Everyone is paired up, and the couples twirl and move around gracefully. You notice a solitary woman (or actually `lady' would be a better term) standing on the side watching the spectacle. It looks like a dream, and you remember that this is a dream...

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Music at its Finest

The music you are hearing was composed by Mozart, if you judge correctly. It is sweet yet grand, firm yet beautiful, and, in general, perfect for the surroundings. It seems to complement this night beautifully. In fact, it almost seems to describe the night.

You are tempted to go watch the performance, yet there are other diversions as well.

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Great Performances

You casually saunter over in the direction of the music. The size of the room really becomes apparent as you weave your way between the conversing groups. Finally, you approach within thirty feet of where people are standing and listening to the music. The space between you and this is filled with dancing couples, moving in a coordinated and graceful manner. You notice a very beautiful woman standing on the edge of the dancing area. She seems a little lost, and she is not with anybody that you can see. Meanwhile, the orchestra is hitting a marvelous crescendo with the conductor waving furiously. This is definitely a performance not to be missed. Maybe you should check it out.

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The Concert

You advance through the crowd of dancers until you get to where people are standing and viewing the performance. The orchestra seems to be made up of about fifty pieces. Oddly enough, you see only strings. No brass or woodwind instruments anywhere. Every member looks very talented, and the conductor is a master. You have never before heard such a fine rendition of any of Mozart's works. You listen in ecstasy until the conclusion comes, bringing with it a bittersweet return to reality.

Then, a man in coat-tails standing near the front steps up and announces that they will be playing a work by Ludwig van Beethoven. The title he gives is one you do not recognize, and as the band begins to play, you realize that this is nothing like anything you have heard from Beethoven before. It is sweet, soft, slow, and pretty. An entirely different style from his usual works. As you are thinking this, a gentlemanly-looking, middle-aged man who had been standing near approaches you. He seems about to speak, but you really don't want to interrupt your listening to such a fine and unusual piece for a mere conversation. You try to decide whether you should talk to him or ignore him.

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Franz Josef

You look at the man expectantly, and, sure enough, he speaks.

"Bit of an unusual piece for old Ludwig van, wouldn't you say?" he asks with a slight smile. It is almost as if the man read your mind, you think. But, of course, wouldn't any knowledgeable person be thinking the same thing?

"I was just thinking that myself," you answer, "I mean, his stuff is usually so grand and strong, designed to impress by sheer force rather than subtle means. That's why I'd always had a limited liking for his works."

The man smiles, and says, "I agree that what you say seems true at first, especially considering some of his works. But much of Beethoven's greatness lies in his ingenious use of force and grandeur in ways that follow naturally and continuously from softer, subtler passages. Listen to some his piano concertos, or his pieces for string quartet." His eyes focus off into the distance, and he is silent for a moment. "But you are right of course, about the piece - it's actually one of mine... the stupid fool of an announcer just got his list mixed up."

After he finishes saying this, he looks at you, as if expecting you to say something in particular. You decide to oblige him and say it.

"Pardon my ignorant musical knowledge, but who are you? I'm not sure if I recognize the style."

"Ah, not too many people do, actually." He does not seem annoyed, which you were afraid he would be. "Not yet, anyway. But I like to think that that's because I'm not tied down to a specific style. My works cover such a wide range of expression that they don't all seem written by one person."

Here he pauses as the piece ends, and the announcer steps up a second time and says, "And now, I'd like to present our first guest conductor of the evening, the honored Franz Josef Haydn."

Applause fills the area, and the man you've been talking to smiles and says, "Well, you'll have to excuse me, but it seems I'm wanted on stage. They've gotten around to me a piece too late, but oh well!"

You watch him go over to where the conductor was standing and pick up the baton. Amazed, you watch for a while longer as he has a few words with the previous conductor, and then you drift back towards the middle of the ball.

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Music

As the man approaches, you pretend you haven't seen him as you continue to listen to the music. It is very good, and definitely does not sound like Beethoven at all. You puzzle over this through the entire piece, until the announcer gets up and says, "And now I'd like to present our first guest conductor of the evening, the honored Franz Josef Haydn."

Much to your surprise, the man who was approaching you steps up to the conductor's stand and picks up the baton. Haydn! You almost met Franz Josef Haydn. In your surprise, you don't even stop to wonder over just how this might be possible. You stay and watch for a while, then decide to go back and check out the rest of the ball.

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A Lady

You approach the lady, trying to stay as cool as you possibly can. A thousand details about your appearance run through your mind as you try to worry about them all. She is wearing a filmy, flowing dress made of a dark material whose color reminds you of the walls in the room with the computer. Her dark brown hair looks rich and vibrant against this background and her smooth, white skin. Her eyes a light sky blue, her face promises a lively spirit and a compassionate, open personality. She is so much more than merely beautiful.

Suddenly, you are right before the lady and you realize that you don't even know what language to speak to her in. You've heard snatches of both English and French around the room, and while you are fumbling around in your mind trying to figure out which of these you should use and what the ramifications if each choice are, she speaks.

"Hello there. How are you tonight?" she says simply, in English, with a British accent. A smile seems to play around her lips and the corners of her eyes but tantalizingly never quite comes out. Her voice is sweet and lilting, yet full and melodious. All of your nervousness melts away.

"Oh, I'm doing well, thank you. Quite an affair, is it not?" you answer, indicating the rest of the room with a gesture.

"Oh yes, it's amazing. I've never been to anything like it." She pauses. "Would you care to dance?"

You look into her eyes. You fancy you can see a lifetime's worth of conversations and shared times there. There is no way you can see yourself refusing that last question.

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A Dream Within a Dream

"I'd like that very much," you say, and you gently take her arm and lead her amongst the orbiting couples.

Her touch seems magical in quality, sending a feeling of warmth and well-being throughout your body. You wonder at how the mere touch of an arm could have such a great effect.

You begin to dance, and you feel as if you're within a dream, even though you know you are already in one. For some reason you think that you didn't know you could dance to this type of music - indeed, you didn't even know people danced to this type of music at all. For the love of Mozart!

The world is difficult to define at the moment; it doesn't seem to go beyond this dance, and you find that you can think of anything in the universe in its terms. You could live here. How could you ever experience more happiness than this?

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The End

Too soon, though, the music stops, and you find the dance difficult to rememeber in detail. You just get a sort of vague impression, like when you try to remember a dream. You are not even sure whether you conversed or not as you danced.

As you separate, she indicates a couch and says, "Why don't you bring us some wine, and we can sit down over there and talk."

You eagerly consent, and you go over to the nearest table where you see bottles and glasses. You select what you think is an appropriate choice and return to the place the woman indicated. She is not there. You frantically look around, with a rapidly sinking heart. You can't believe it! She was here just a second ago. She wouldn't have deserted you, so what could have happened?

Although you search all over the entire area, she seems to have disappeared, faded away. Disconsolate, you wander back to near the staircase.

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