20 06 2014

The effect was disconcerting to say the least. I raised my hand to my head and shut my eyes until the feeling of vertigo subsided. The light assaulted my eyes when I opened them but quickly diffused to a more manageable brightness. Blinking the effects away, I took in my surroundings. I had a vague understanding of how I got to this place, but the details of it were fuzzy and right below the surface of conscious memory. I had the feeling that all of these effects were to be expected and would be short-lived. Time to explore.

I found myself in a spacious lobby and took my time examining the details of my surroundings. The floors were a white marble as were the walls and the expansive desk that stood between me and a bank of escalators framed in dark cherry. Aside from the large intricate chandelier hanging from the ceiling two stories above me, the lobby was devoid of decoration. I approached the desk.

The sound of my footsteps echoing caused me to pause and look down at my shoes. They were dress shoes, the kind with a hard flat sole. It was then that I realized I was wearing a business suit with a jacket and tie. It was not the kind of attire that I was accustomed to wearing, but it felt right in these surroundings. I shrugged and continued to the desk.

A man wearing a light blue security uniform sat slumped back in his chair. My heart rate quickened as I looked around me in a panic for help of some kind. It was then that I saw the large floor to ceiling doors evidently leading outside the building. But there was nothing outside of them but a uniform gray fog. Turning back to the man behind the desk, I wondered why I hadn’t noticed him before.

Seeing absolutely no one else in the lobby to help, I went around the desk to check for a pulse. The least I could do was to call an ambulance. As my hand brushed his shoulder while I reached for his neck, he gave a start and let out a loud snore. I pulled my hand back and smiled in spite of myself. I decided that the only danger this man was in was if he were caught sleeping on the job.

The desk looked the way I imagined any security desk might look with security monitors and phones and an office directory. Not everything was in order, however. The monitors displayed only static and the phone’s handset lay off the hook. I picked the handset up and heard a tinny voice repeating the phrase, “I’m sorry, the line has been disconnected. I’m sorry, the line has been disconnected…” I replaced it in its cradle and turned my attention to the directory.

The pages consisted of rows and rows of five digit numbers beneath cryptic abbreviations that must designate different departments within the company. The headings bore names like RESP, GALL, MEMRY and DRMS. The book was useless anyway if the phones were indeed down. Of course, not remembering my purpose in being here didn’t help either. I decided to see what was at the top of the escalators.

As the escalator brought me toward the top, I could see fluorescent lights patterned interstitially among the acoustic panels of the ceiling. When I reached the top, I gasped at the sight laid out before me. Hundreds of desks filled a room the size of a football field. Each desk had a person staring at a computer monitor in front of them, many of them typing and mousing as they did so.

I stepped back a bit and considered heading back down to the lobby from which I came. I felt uncomfortable, as if I had intruded upon a space I had no right to be in. Despite my feelings of apprehension, none of the workers seemed to care about my presence or even acknowledge it.

Expecting the memory of my purpose here to break the surface of my consciousness at any moment, I pressed forward. I had come here for a purpose and, whatever it was, I meant to see it through.

The workspace was plainly appointed. The walls had a wave to them and looked to be constructed of cement overlaid with stucco in a pattern that made me think of freeway noise barriers. Alcoves containing large wooden doors broke up the continuity of the wall at regular intervals. I walked toward the wall to my left to examine it more closely when I was interrupted by a pleasant looking man sitting at the corner desk.

“Can I help you sir? You look lost.”

“I, uh, yeah,” I stammered. “Can you tell me what department this is?”

“Certainly, sir. This is Respiratory. Where are you trying to get to?”

“I’m not entirely sure, actually. I’ve just arrived and . . . Well to tell you the truth I’m not really sure why I’m here.”

“Well, hmm. If you’re not sure, I bet Autonomic would know. I could send you to Central, but their network has crashed. A lot of our systems are down right now.”

“I’ve noticed.”

“So you’ll want to take that door right there. That leads to Circulatory. Take a left and then the very first door on the left. After that it’s a right and then you’ll be at Autonomic.”

“Thanks,” I said as I turned toward the door indicated.

The next room looked identical to the first with the same neatly laid out desks, the same busy workers ignoring my presence. I turned left and walked only about thirty feet to the next door alcove. I stopped and looked at it. The man had told me the first door to the left, but that didn’t make sense. The room I had come from had been much longer than thirty feet; this door would likely bring me back to the previous room.

“Excuse me sir,” I said to the man occupying the nearest desk. “Could you tell me where I can find the Autonomic department?” I smiled uneasily. I sounded like I was looking to pick up my car after an oil change. I brushed the incongruous thought aside.

“Certainly, sir. It is right through that door there.” He indicated to the door standing before me.

“But I just came from that room and they told me it was Respiratory.”

“No, sir. That is definitely Autonomic.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’ve been working here for several years and it’s always been Autonomic.”

“I guess I’ll have to take your word for it.” I opened the door and stepped into a long, dimly lit hallway. It had carpet on the floor and the walls and reminded me of a movie theater. The corridor ended in a tee. I looked back at the man at the desk and he smiled at me before going back to work. I entered the hall and shut the door behind me. This place didn’t make any sense; I felt like I was in an Escher lithograph.

I continued to the tee. Each side of it led to a similar door to the one I had used to enter the hallway. Both doors carried signage with the one on the right reading Autonomic and the one on the left reading Central. I opened the Autonomic door first and peered inside. The room looked identical to the first two office spaces full of working, content people. I didn’t feel I could get anywhere with endless rooms like that.

I shut the first door and then went across to the door marked Central and went inside. This room had the exact same layout as the others, but the similarities ended there. This room roiled in commotion with some people up and milling around and others shouting across the room to each other. The man in the desk closest to me was in the midst of pounding his mouse on the desk and cursing wildly when he noticed me.

“Please tell me you’re tech support.”

“Uh, no. What’s going on in here?” I asked.

“Well that’s just GREAT!” He yelled and threw his mouse toward the next desk in front of his. The mouse fell short of hitting its intended target, restricted in its trajectory by its cord.

“I’ll tell you what’s going on here,” he said with gritted teeth. “The server’s down. We can’t get any work done here until it’s fixed. And it’s ticking me OFF!” He lifted his keyboard up and smashed it multiple times on the desk. The guy was starting to scare me.

I turned back to the door and grabbed the knob, but it wouldn’t turn. “What’s wrong with this door?” I looked back over my shoulder at the irate office worker only to see him curled up on the floor laughing maniacally.

“The server’s down, man! Nothing’s going to work in here ‘til it’s back up,” he said before returning to his fit of lunacy.

I scanned the room again and noticed that about ten percent of the workers acted crazy in a similar way to the man before me. The rest acted calmly, but none seemed to be able to get any work done.

I was beginning to feel concerned for my wellbeing when I heard the voice.

“Doctor Yosten, are you in the Workspace?”

The voice cut through the racket, seeming to come at me from everywhere at the same time and . . . it was familiar.

“Karen?” I answered and my voice took on the same ethereal quality as hers. “I’m here.”

“Oh thank the stars. We got worried when the interface was unresponsive after we plugged you in. Weren’t sure if the Construct was stable.”

I let out a long breath. Of course, the Construct.

“I’m in the Workspace,” I said. “The Construct’s stable and I think I’ve found the psychosis.”

“That’s good news, Doctor. Will you be able to do anything about to help him?”

“Yes, I think so, but we need to bring the patient out of anesthesia in order for me to proceed.”

“Are you sure that’s wise, Doctor?” I could hear the hesitation in Karen’s voice. There were a lot of unknowns coming into this experiment, but having the patient anesthetized had always been seen as a necessary safety precaution both for the patient and myself. However, at that moment I started to realize that the patient’s psychosis couldn’t be dealt with without full functionality of his consciousness.

“You’re going to have to wake him up.”




One response

20 06 2014

Wow, entertaining short story. Hopefully there is more to come from this.

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