My current temp assignment places me in the state’s largest office complex, as measured by square footage. Like the hospital where I once worked, the complex started as separate buildings, together forming an integrated plant for the manufacture of computer chips. Over the course of expansion, separate pieces of architecture merged into one convoluted maze. The company that originally filled these buildings now retains only a ghost of a presence; current primary tenants are another chip manufacturer that bought out the local division of the first and a division of the state’s Health Access Department, where I work.
I’m ostensibly here to do UAT testing, which in itself is its own recursion of absurdity, but, after several weeks, I’m now 86.2% certain that I’m in the Labyrinth. Here’s the evidence:
Everything looks the same. The sadistic genius who constructed this place started off with that thoroughly dank industrial style common to so many 1960s and 1970s office buildings: unadorned square forms the color of wet mud, cement walls, long rectangular windows impossible to open, raw metal pillars, endless corridors – all topped off with liberal use of jaundiced fluorescent lighting. After duplicating this style in several cubes, they then linked the cubes together with identical glass catwalks. I have walked around for fifteen minutes, expecting myself to be in one building, only to realize I’ve gone through three replications instead.
The landmarks aren’t landmarks. When I discovered that one of the glass catwalks had bird decals along its sides, I rejoiced, thinking I had found a way to differentiate it from all the other catwalks. But no. All the other catwalks have the exact same decals, in the exact same pattern, at the exact same positions. It’s like the place is working against me.
The arrows point the wrong way. There are signs pointing to two key locations, the cafeteria and the state offices. 95% of them actually show you which way to go, but 5% of them point you in precisely the opposite direction, just for shits and giggles. Of course I followed the 5%.
The maps show you where you aren’t. I came across a route for indoor walking that described a loop through several buildings. It showed a location where the route started, but there was no indication of where I was in relation to that starting point. What is the point of a map if there’s no basis for comparison?
The denizens have a sarcastic and scatological sense of humor. I saw a sign on a door that said, “We provide fast service…no matter how long it takes!” Also someone scribbled out the first word on the “Records Retention Room” label and wrote “Poop” instead.
Time runs differently here. You may have no idea where you are around here, but you’ll always know what time it is. Well, scratch that. You’ll always see a clock, as they hang throughout the halls at junctions both major and minor. You’ll probably never know what time it is, as each clock seems to preside over its own local time zone that varies from all contiguous ones anywhere between zero and ten minutes.
There are dangers untold and hardships unnumbered. To get to my office, for example, I must traverse the Fiery Corridor of Death, a catwalk in which the overcranked HVAC combines with exposure to natural sunlight to yield about 50 feet of heady, smothering heat. Then, of course, there are the Exits of Mockery, which means that the door most convenient to my car would sound a fire alarm if I opened it, so I have to circumvent it with a 10-minute walk in the opposite direction. And then there’s a Failure Analysis Lab, where, I assume, you are taunted with explicit details of all your past mistakes until you cry. Chilling.
I suppose that, if I solve the maze, I will escape and win a permanent job with decent pay and benefits. But what constitutes a solution? Should I be heading for the center? As far as I can tell, this place has no center. Should I be heading for an exit?
And who’s in charge of this thing? The Goblin King appears to be conspicuously absent, which I suppose is good because he’s an immature, petulant little shit. So should I be looking for Daedalus or perhaps Ariadne? Should I be on my guard for a Minotaur? Now that I think about it, I do hear a dull roar, but that could just be the air conditioning….