A Descent into Hell in Midtown Manhattan
Birthdays are supposed to be a time of joy, celebrating a person’s life and continued good fortunes (get out of here birthday cynics, don’t @ me). Whether you go full diva, or just have a quiet dinner at home with friends or family, birthdays are supposed to be fun. Sometimes that fun comes at a cost.
Last year I went out for a birthday with a group of friends in NYC; we all drove in together and stayed in a hotel in Manhattan. The plan was to go to Barcade (that place is awesome BTW), and then see where the night takes us. So we went there, had a great time (if you read or listen, you know we at The Spinchoon enjoy games and beer…. A lot), and got a little sloppy drunk. How could we not? Barcade always has a great beer selection on tap.
After a couple hours, we struck out in search of new places to engage in drunken fuckery (Some of us are more prone to this than others. You know who you are). A quick stop at a couple bars didn’t really satisfy us, although snagging a couple slices of pizza worked wonders for a few minutes. It was then that one of the group said “O I think there’s a karaoke place right near here.” The birthday girl (no names here) was all for it so we begin our wandering once more, the promise of an unknown club and embarrassing singing in our future.
Our (nearly) aimless search lead us into Koreatown (raise your hand if you knew there was such a thing, because I sure didn’t). For reference, it’s probably around 1 or 2 AM now. I think. Who’s to say? But we find the place and are escorted to an elevator, which we take up an indeterminate number of floors. The entrance, and hallway, were a little sketchy looking (picture a bland, brick school hallway) but as our ascent neared its end, we could hear the distant “whump, whump” of unidentifiable club music, so our concerns started to fade away.
The elevator doors opened, and it was a typical club atmosphere: dark, flashing lights, earsplitting music, and neon green mood lighting. No windows though. Still suspicious, but we’re all in at this point. The crowd was an interesting dynamic (late night in a hidden Koreatown club, on a windowless floor of a tall building? Good luck describing that), and the people working there were, well, Korean (I know big surprise). They didn’t seem that keen on helping us out, so there was some awkward milling around as we all reinforced our buzz at the bar. At this point, our resident high roller started flashing some cash and got us a private room to actually do some karaoke.
Money really does talk, because we were all promptly herded into a room, and closed in there. It was weird; it almost happened without us realizing it. After a couple minutes, someone finally came in to explain the deal, handing us a couple microphones and a remote, as well as a package of some mystery items. She gave us the obligatory explanations, and then told us to put the mystery items on the microphone before she left.
Silence. And then “Are those condoms?”
What the fuck is that thing? It’s definitely a condom, although in this case a microphone condom (the “technical name” is a disposable microphone cover). Of course this rag tag gang of drunk 20somethings were not equipped to handle this in a mature fashion.
The karaoke was awful. It couldn’t NOT be awful, we were all wasted, and only one of us can actually sing. Thankfully it was so loud you couldn’t hear most of the debacle that took place. But there was some odd stuff going on in the background that our drunken minds had trouble absorbing. For one, the door was locked, which is strange no matter where you are. Also, the room was basically soundproofed; when the door was opened and closed you could tell the difference in the outside noise level. And when we left the private room at the end of our session, there was another room we tried to go in that we were blocked off from, with some people in there who were arguing. We had a good time with the karaoke, but now the odd feeling that something was off was creeping back. It was time to go.
We tried to settle up and leave but it seemed like we were attracting stares, and the process was unnecessarily slow. For some, a prickling sense of paranoia was taking hold. All the oddities were summing up to something possibly sinister. It was then that someone whispered “What the fuck is this place? I feel like we’re in some creepy Korean sex slave dungeon.”
We all turned to look, and laugh, at that ridiculous statement. The problem is, everyone else also turned to look. I don’t know how we missed it, but the music had stopped; complete silence surrounding us. It was as odd a scene as I can imagine: silence, pitch black with neon backlight, surrounded.
In a movie, this is where someone cracks a joke to break the tension before an epic fight scene. This ain’t that kind of movie. Instead, it was more like a zombie movie, or perhaps a mastermind horror movie, where the surroundings close in around you inexorably.
Cornered, encircled, and totally fucked, we fought. We fought like Hell, and it was then that we realized that Hell is exactly where we were. Our captors transformed before our very eyes into innumerable variants of demonic hellspawn. What we thought was standard neon lights were in fact sconces of unquenchable green flame.
We cut a path through the crowd, pure terror coursing through our veins. Desperate to escape, we clung together, knowing intrinsically that if we got separated we had no chance. Our headlong flight down the corridor was impeded by further minions that sought to ensnare us. As we passed the room we had earlier been barred from, we heard the wailing and screaming of the damned. Reminded of our inevitable doom if we didn’t escape, we pressed on, somehow still able to continue ahead.
We backed up against the elevator doors, fending off assailants on all sides. The doors sprung open, and we fell inside, someone mashing the button to close the doors. We tried to catch our breath, to hold on until we could leave the building. At the bottom, the guys outside the elevator were stunned at our appearance, but we ran past them, heedless of their shouts. We made it to the exit, thankful that we hadn’t made a wrong turn, and finally left. Once we were a few blocks away, we finally took stock of where we were, and headed back to our hotel.
It was like a weight was lifted; nervous laughter and even a stop at a food cart (why are those open at 4 AM? I’m not complaining, I’m just confused). Armed with gyros, water (that amount of alcohol and adrenaline would make for an epic hangover), and euphoric relief, we wandered back to safety as the first rays of sunlight started to creep over the horizon.
One poor soul (the aforementioned high roller) lost his wallet with his ID in it at the club that night. He hasn’t stopped running since. Keep him in your thoughts.