I awoke from napping in a plush, upholstered chair. I discovered that I was alone in the waiting room of some busy office floor. From all sides came the continuous noises of bustling, quiet efficiency. I struggled unsuccessfully to remember where I was. Standing up, my eyes lit on a large sign: Hell Enterprises Ltd. The incongruity of the sign with my surroundings struck me immediately: supposing the sign was a practical-joke, I ignored it and looked about. Carpeted corridors and office cubicles stretched away from me in all directions. Occasionally I glimpsed some office worker emerging from a cubicle into a corridor, only to disappear again.
I went to stretch my legs – and promptly lost myself in the labyrinthine maze of offices. I passed cubicles filled with bespectacled men and women tapping away at keyboards or reading stacks of reports. Within myself I felt a growing disquiet: but could not assign any cause to it.
Pausing outside a meeting room in the Directorate of Peace, I couldn’t help overhearing the group discussion carrying through the open doorway:
“…wars are fought to bring lasting peace. So we reiterate to the public under various propaganda campaigns. This helps us reduce surplus human populations. So: which countries’ populations are most expendable? According to the list before us…”
My blood ran cold. I walked away quickly to lose myself again in that office maze, my mind reeling. Something decidedly evil was alive and well underneath all this veneer of respectable bureaucracy. I was somewhere in the Directorate of Life when I heard the sounds of an enthusiastic address given to attentive office workers – all seated in rows to face the speaker’s podium:
“The planet must survive! We must stop the growth of the human viral plague: humanity’s growth curve must regress! Our universal abortion program is achieving excellent results – we pay cash bonuses to mothers for each aborted fetus. Our catchy marketing campaigns use pithy sound-bites, such as: ‘Too Many Babies – Just One Planet’, ‘Save Earth – Terminate A Fetus’, ‘Painless Death = More Life For All’…”
I ran from the terrible sound of that well-modulated voice. Well-lit corridors with carpeted offices stretched out before me in all directions. I passed bureaucrats at intervals: all whom politely ignored me, concentrating upon their own business. Sometimes I heard the occasional murmur of conversation. In the Directorate of Health I was walking past the open doorway of a large office when I overheard a man behind the desk instructing several seated subordinates in casual tones:
“Only the useful can live! Utility – remember utility! Hospital beds heal workers quickly to put them back to work. All others are instantly discharged, and given information-packs about our user-operated ‘Die with Dignity’ euthanasia booths. Booths are free and easy to operate – and all come with: comfortable seating; background music selected by the patient; instructions on how to initiate the automatic, painless, lethal-injections. The injection – once administered – sends the patient to sleep: to be soon followed by cardiac arrest and the cessation of breathing. Once the patient is certified dead: the booth contacts the mortuary to come collect the corpse for delivery to local fertiliser processing plants…”
When I was once more aware of my surroundings, I was inside the Directorate of Education. I passed three innocuous-looking office assistants holding an informal conversation in the corridor:
“…’Children are the future!’ A truly remarkable insight! In our brave new world, our compulsory schooling system imprints each little Tabula Rasa – or child’s mind – with only what they need to know in order to become compliant, trained citizens. All children are enrolled after birth in boarding houses until their schooling is completed. Our educational curriculum thoroughly eliminates all those outmoded notions of morality, religion, pretensions regarding objective standards of truth…”
I later paused to catch my breath in the Directorate of Teleology. From a nearby cubicle blared the voices in the middle of a tele-conference:
“…everyone, everywhere has free access to mega-fast Internet 24×7! Modern citizens must have: unlimited games, unlimited movies, and unlimited communications to consume on-demand to keep them quiescent and malleable: the modern equivalent of ancient Rome’s ‘Bread & Circuses’. Citizens require virtual substitutes to replace real-world activities: virtual victories and achievements (via video-gaming), virtual intimacy (via online porn), virtual friends (via social-networks): virtually indistinguishable from the real things themselves…”
I turned to flee – but soon paused as I rounded a corner and stood still. I recognised where I was: for inadvertently I had circled back to my original waiting room: again before my astonished eyes was the sign – Hell Enterprises Ltd. But this time I know that the sign was no joke: that it was simply stating the truth about this coldly-efficient, administrative headquarters.
I was trapped inside this infernal bureaucracy – and I couldn’t get out!
I awoke from my nightmare screaming.