Project Endlessness: Part 2 of 3
There is a place, somewhere in the world, that holds a very uninteresting skyscraper. A massive building; made completely out of white concrete, that fits naturally into the landscape of the city which it resides in. It is a building that many tourists pass by and disregard on a daily basis, as it is a building that they would not wish to see, or hear about, or learn the existence of. Nonetheless, it is the building that you have just entered. Many people who are confused and frightened find shelter in-between this building’s walls. And although it may seem, to anyone passing by, like a simple office building in the middle of the landscape; but it’s my home. And now, it’s your home too. So on behalf of myself, and all of the other residents, may I say that we all understand what it feels like to be lost and confused. But now that your contract has begun, you are safe. And I’d love to take a few minutes to conduct your customary welcome tour.
The first thing that you may notice, is that while the exterior of this building may be plain, uninteresting and discreet; inside our lobby, we like to apply warm, patterned wallpaper to our interiors in a variety of colours from cauliflower to burgundy. It’s what makes our residents feel comfortable and welcome, so we like to encourage its usage throughout our building. You may want to take note that we take great care in making sure that all rooms are kept clean and uncluttered at all times to avoid tripping hazards and unauthorised stimulation. Obviously, as a resident, we would appreciate it if you contributed to keeping our environment tidy by keeping your belongings securely on your person at all times during and after the tour.
The first thing that you may notice, is that everything we offer in this establishment will be offered to you based on your performance. The quality of your food, clothes, accommodation, (which I will get to later) water, heat, electricity, office supplies, physical well-being, medical status, body temperature, hydration levels, mental state, social status; written, audial, visual and primal stimulation, your perception of yourself and indeed, your perception of reality will all be fulfilled and provided for by us depending on your performance. We like to think of this as, not only a unique motivator, but also a way to show just how much we care for each and every person who we offer to facilitate. No matter how large the population of this facility grows, you can be assured that we will always cater to your individual needs. No other place in the world will offer you this kind of support. We offer you the chance to remain completely balanced and comfortable at all times in your life in return for completing the tasks that we give you. Now, if you follow me up the stairs, I’ll show you where you’ll be living.
But first, if I could just take a moment to say how happy we all are that you have decided to join our society. The other residents are always excited to see a new member joining our ranks. Especially as it means more hands to split our workload over.
Here is your room. I know that it’s normally customary to introduce a person’s lodgings at the end of a tour; but since it will be the very heart of your life in this building, I feel that it’s important to start with it. While it may seem a little bit tight at the moment, I can assure you that in time, it will begin to feel much more homely as you grow to get used to it. The computer that you see in the corner is completely yours and is already wired into our network; meaning that you can do all of your work right from the serene convenience of this room. If you sit at the desk, I will guide you through your first job, so that you can get a feel for how things will work.
After you log in, you’ll be presented with this window. In order to receive a job, simply press the ‘Request Job’ button in the corner. It’ll take a few seconds. After all, you’ve just contacted one of your superiors to get ahold of this job, so it’s not surprising that there may be a short queue before it arrives. Ah, there it is. Just click the little envelope in the corner of the window to open it. As you can see, the screen will give you a number of questions to find the answer to. In this case, it’s:
- What is the ISBN number associated with the 1945 hardback edition of ‘The Murderous Mouse of January’ by Henrietta Woodrow?
- How many people live in registered houses in Pine Field Gardens?
- Which country or countries lie on the eastern border of Yersantisgrad?
- How much postage was paid in the purchase of a pair of triple swan beige socks on the 23rd of June 2011 at 23:43:02 EEST? (Order #D11-30043348-9659163.)
- How many lightbulbs are currently malfunctioning in your corridor?
You can use one or more of the wide range of different programs available on our system to research the answers to these jobs. And once you have done so, you can input the answers into the answer fields and send them away.
You can also use this system to order anything you may need in order to make your life more pleasant for yourself. All of the food and living supplies you’ll need will be sent to you through this electronic dumbwaiter in the wall. Think of it like a large mailbox. Don’t worry about how expensive your personal tastes are. As long as you complete an adequate number of jobs; we’ll be happy to continue supplying you.
And if you work diligently and continuously, then we’ll be able to trust you enough to give you a position as a supervisor. That’s right; we pick out our supervisors based on the performance of our residents. This means that absolutely anyone can gain our trust enough to be given the honour of receiving tasks from administrators and sending them to residents. And of course, the honour includes an upgraded room higher up in the building, as well as better quality food and supplies. We believe that it helps to show that only our most dedicated and trustworthy members are given this honourable position.
But don’t feel that a supervisor’s job is simply as a middle man to pass jobs between administrators and residents. Because there are so many residents assigned to each supervisor; it is a supervisor’s job to evaluate each resident’s individual skills and talents. This can be done by accessing each residents performance file, and evaluating their past performance in previous tasks. They will then send tasks relating to categories that would either be within a residents range of ability, or will appropriately challenge that resident to improve their proficiencies and prepare them for becoming advisors themselves, if a current advisor sees potential in them.
And it is of the utmost importance that they are trustworthy. We couldn’t possibly allow an untrustworthy resident to take this position. After all, without the supervisor, who would send the jobs to all of the residents on the floors below them.And who would receive the orders from the administration department to distribute those orders to our residents? And if the residents don’t have those orders, how would they be able to demonstrate their performance? How would we know how diligent and hard-working they are? And if we don’t know how diligent and hard-working they are, how would we know which ones are the most trust-worthy?
That is why we pride ourselves on knowing that our supervisors are always there to hold up the foundations of our society. The responsibility of everyone below them is firmly in their hands. And it’s important that they realise that. So if you are able to prove that you hold those qualities, then you too could, one day, be given this great responsibility. But don’t worry too much about looking too far into the future. You have plenty of time to prove yourself to us.
Later on in your time here, if we do decide to, one day, make you a superior, and if you send enough jobs to residents below you; you will get the chance to prove your loyalty even further; by attempting to obtain the job of an administrator. An administrator is considered a very valuable position in this building. Therefore, we give them quite luxurious accommodation even higher in the building than the superiors; and much more generous supplies too.
The administrator’s single job, is to constantly create and invent the tasks which are to be given to the superiors which are, in turn, given to the employees to solve. Administrators are expected to constantly use their initiative and creativity to design tasks on a variety of different topics that would require both the residents to spend a decent amount of time and ability discovering the answer, and the superiors a decent amount of time and ability deciding the best resident to undertake the task in question.
We need to ensure that, at this stage, all of our administrators are completely dedicated to our eco-system, and won’t attempt to leave. After all, if they did, who would create the tasks for the residents to complete? Who would create the tasks for the superiors to send to the residents? How would the residents and the superiors complete and send enough tasks to prove that they themselves can become proficient superiors or administrators? Without the administrators, our entire way of living would completely collapse, leaving all of the people below them in the dust. Meaning that we must make sure that we are absolutely confident that, should you one day become an administrator, we are completely certain that you would not recklessly abandon us for your own selfish desires, when you are such an important part of our ecosystem.
Because despite everything we do to make our residents feel safe, comfortable and useful; there are always some who make the decision to leave our establishment to pursue their own desires and interests in order to look for something. Something vague and abstract that they can’t even describe themselves. Many of our more saner residents are completely stumped as to why some of their colleagues would want to leave a system that benefits them so greatly. However, as our building contains so many residents it is, sadly, inevitable that our society simply won’t be enough to please some people. With that in mind, we take pride in making sure that those people are best prepared for the world that lies beyond the exit door.
If a resident wishes to leave our establishment, they may order and receive a notice of voluntary leave which they may complete and return for processing. After the form has been correctly filled in and validated, we will send an appointment slip for them to visit our departure checkpoint, so that we can assess if a person is physically, verbally, mentally, and physiologically fit to survive outside. Residents are asked to bring all of the belongings that they wish to take with them when they leave as, if their application is accepted, they will be allowed, and asked, to leave immediately.
The process is very simple. We assign each resident with a checkpoint officer who will help the resident to complete an indefinite absence document which must be completed by the officer relaying the questions verbally to the resident. Examples of questions asked, could include:
- Where will you be going?
- Where will you be staying?
- Who are you staying with?
- How much will it cost for you to stay there?
- What are you hoping to accomplish while you are there?
- Do you know what you are hoping to accomplish while you are there?
- Do you think that you’ll be able to achieve what you are hoping to accomplish while you are there?
- Have you heard of other people who have previously left the building to try and accomplish something that they felt was important to them?
- Have you heard of other people who have previously left the building to try and accomplish something that they felt was important to them; and failed?
- Are you basing your actions on stories you heard of other people who have previously left the building to try and accomplish something that they felt was important to them?
- Are you sure that those people succeeded?
- Do you think that anyone you meet will enquire about your time in this building?
- Would you be prepared to talk to people you meet about your time in this building?
- Do you feel proud of your time in this building?
- Do you feel that people will judge you because of your time in this building?
- Do you feel that you would miss any aspect of this building?
- Do you feel that you would miss any aspect of this building if you knew that you could never get it back?
- Do you feel guilty for abandoning all of the work that you have achieved in this building?
- Do you feel guilty for destroying any positive opinions that your supervisors may have had for you?
- Do you feel guilty for permanently tarnishing your opportunities at, one day, becoming a supervisor?
- Do you feel guilty for purposely branding yourself as the type of person who selfishly declines the comfort and security that we offer them in this building?
- Do you feel guilty for undermining and discarding all of the work that your fellow residents have accomplished in this building?
- Do you feel that you would miss the company of your fellow residents?
- Do you feel any sort of intimate or spiritual connection with any resident(s) in this building?
- Do you feel that you would miss any intimate or spiritual connection that you have previously established with other resident(s) in this building?
- Do you predict that, at any point, you would expect a particular person, whom you had previously established an intimate or spiritual connection with, to be there for you, only to be immediately reminded that they cannot?
- Are you willing to work to achieve your goal?
- Are you willing to work on nothing except for your goal until you have achieved said goal?
- Do you know if your goal is possible?
- Do you know if your goal is impossible?
- If you conclusively discovered that your goal was impossible to achieve, would you still pursue it?
- Do you feel that you would have a statistical disadvantage when achieving your goal based on your gender, race, sexuality, height, weight, physically appearance, mental stability, cosmic energy or your time in this building?
- Do you feel that you would have a statistical advantage when achieving your goal based on your gender, race, sexuality, height, weight, physically appearance, mental stability or cosmic energy?
- Do you predict that you will be put in danger while you are away?
- Do you predict that you will put anyone else in danger while you are away?
- Do you predict that, while you are away, you would ever have a particularly difficult decision?
- Do you predict that you would ever feel unsure of making a particularly difficult decision?
- Do you predict that you would ever be unable to make a particularly difficult decision?
- Do you predict that you would ever regret the decision that you made to leave this building?
- Do you regret the desiccation you made to enter this building?
- Do you predict that the decisions you would have to make, would cause you to fail the accomplishments that you hope to achieve while you are away from this building?
- Are you afraid that, if you fail, you would be left behind to face the harsh realities of life outside this building, without the support and protection that we provide?
- Are you afraid that, if you failed, you would be forever known as a failure?
- Are you afraid that, if you failed, you would die alone?
- Are you afraid that, if you failed, you would die unremembered?
- Are you afraid that, if you failed, the massive risk that you recklessly decided to take and failed to profit from, would prove to your fellow residents that it was unwise for you to leave this building?
- Do you predict that you would ever, at some point in the future, decide to enter this building again?
- Do you believe that we would allow you to enter this building again.
- If you decide to enter this building again and we refused entry to you, what would you do?
- Where would you go?
- Where will you stay?
- Who would you stay with?
- If given the choice between returning to this building and dying alone in the streets, would you choose to return to this building?
- Would you be able to live down the humiliation from the other residents who advised you against leaving the building?
- Would you be able to live down the fact that you would have to work from the bottom to restore the trust of your supervisors?
- Would you be able to live down the fact that you may never be able to become a supervisor?
- Would you be able to live down the fact that you turned away from the establishment and the people who gave you everything that you needed to survive just so that you could entertain a vague, un-calculated impulse that you decided to act upon before you had time to think about it logically?
- Are you scared of anything that exists on the other side of the exit door?
After the form is completed. The officer gives the resident a simple declaration to sign:
“I BELIEVE, WITHOUT A SHADOW OF A DOUBT, THAT I WILL NOT FAIL.”
Once the resident feels that they are able to sign that declaration, they are allowed to leave. And both the document and the declaration are safely filed away; for future reference.
However, unquestionably, there is one feature of this building that everyone desires: The view. True, we don’t have that many windows along the walls; but we do have one that was installed specially. We keep it on the penultimate floor of the building. It’s such a popular spectacle, that only our most trusted and senior members are allowed to look through it. The residents and advisors and administrators who have become too ‘experienced’ to complete, send or create any more tasks. The window is surrounded by tables and chairs and sofas for hundreds and thousands of our members to sit and relax as they look out into the city. They can look down and follow the single road that snakes off far away into the distance. And at the end of that road, the magnificent sunset can be seen as it slowly dips down behind the distant hills in the countryside beyond the city. If they look close enough, they can almost see tiny specks in the distance. While the road looked scary and intimidating when they ran and hid in this building; at this unobtainable height, it looks little more than trivial to them.
And now, just as their contract with us is just about to end; they can see that what they were looking for was a lot closer than they may have suspected. It looks beautiful and inviting, even way off in the distance and only partially illuminated by the setting sun; but that doesn’t stop many members from wearily stepping forward to try and reach it. The place that they were looking for all their life, but were too afraid to look for. And now, as they wait for their contracts to expire; all they can do is watch from this room, and wish that they could go downstairs and run down the road while they can still see it. Unfortunately, while we do not stop them, very few have the energy or the strength to even leave the room. So instead, they simply watch the sunset. Watch the sunset, and wait.
And eventually, their contract expires. And when that happens, we send a specially chosen operative to lead them to the top floor. We have an elevator that we use to escort each member to a room where they can be taken care of with all of the other members who’s contracts had expired. Unlike all of our other floors, on the top floor, all of the walls and ceiling are made of glass. They all sit in the single floor that breaks the clouds in the sky, where only the blue sky can be seen through the windows. Where only the clouds litter the ground. The floor where there is no way back down. No stairs. No unsealed windows. No button to summon the elevator. The room itself, while seemingly infinite in size, is also completely devoid of furnishings. There are no chairs to sit on. No beds to sleep in. No desks or computers to work at. Absolutely nothing. And all the people on this floor can do is find a space somewhere, and sit there. Waiting. Waiting for the rest of eternity. Sit silently on the bright wooden floor, and wait.
But, I digress. I can assure you that you have many years before your contract expires, so there’s no need to think about that for a very, very long time. For now, I’ll take you back to your room. I’m sure you’re excited to start your first job right away, so I won’t keep you standing around. I wish you the very best of luck, and a fond farewell. Unfortunately, you won’t be seeing me again. I’m always awfully busy running this place so I don’t have very much time to stop and chat. And, unlike some of you lucky people, my contract doesn’t expire until well after eternity.
Project Endlessness consists of three short stories: