Stories / no way out

Gray buildings, beneath a gray sky, in a gray city. They are not identical, but their differences serve only to highlight their inexorable sameness. And they do not occupy every block. Some are empty, expanses of concrete, fenced off with mouldering barbed wire. You could walk for days, through the streets with random numbers, and the cityscape would blend together, and at the end you might come back exactly where you had started and you couldn’t tell the difference.

Some of the buildings are empty. Some are full of filing cabinets, thousands of rooms of hundreds of filing cabinets, each filled with papers. Some of those papers are blank. Some of them are covered in numbers. Some are maps, or directories, showing precisely where a particular piece of paper is located. Some are full of offices, drab cubicles. Some are vast, labyrinthine printers, churning out billions and billions of forms and data, pumping black smoke into a pitiless sky as their mortal crew fall and perish amid the gears, only to be replaced by someone who is different from them only in ways that highlight their sameness.

In the offices, workers sit beneath the flickering glare of cruel lights. At their desks are boxy beige computers, just battered enough to be unsightly, but not enough to have character. They are merciless engines of hate, churning through meaningless numbers to produce even more meaningless numbers, which their slaves painstakingly copy onto forms retrieved from distant warehouses at great personal expense. Their operating system is drab and rectangular, all hard lines and brutal fonts. They work just well enough that every failure is unexpected, and just slow enough to put them out of sync with human reaction.

Some of those papers are stained with blood. It is not an exciting, red, vital stain that tells you that something is alive and fighting. It is a brown, boring, matter-of-fact stain that says something uninteresting happened here long ago and you weren’t there to see it.

Sometimes the workers speak to each other, when they pass along their meaningless orders, or are instructed by the System to administer senseless punishments. No, not punishments. Disciplinary actions. It is not a euphemism. This place does not need euphemisms.

Here, nobody rules. Here, the System is transcendent. Bodies are pressed through the massive complex of raw, purposeless functionality at the whims of insane processes running for years on hardware both flesh and metal. If you traced the stream of each datum from its start to its inevitable end in a filing cabinet in a grey, numbered building with dim flickering lights, the pattern you drew would be as exhausting to look at as it was to make. And there are filing cabinets filled with those, too.

The System is all that is. The System is all that ever was. The System is all that ever will be. Take a form. Get started.

There is no way out.