It was Joey’s first day at work. He entered the facility nervously, furtively – like a mouse slowly invading a pantry. He knew he was in for the opportunity of a lifetime. He knew the several leaps of faith he had taken to get here. The things… well… could you call them things if they lived? Whatever you wanted to call “them”, he had bent and twisted every law of nature there ever was to mesmerise, to discover and to contribute to this great movement.
He shivered involuntary, even though he had his lab coat on and the temperature in this area was highly regulated to achieve the correct “effect”. “You can do this… just be cool… don’t lose it on your first day!”
But he couldn’t shake off that feeling at the back of his head that he wouldn’t cut it today. He had heard the horror stories already. He had seen some of his friends completely lose it under the pressure of the things they had to do in here. It was not just all in his mind.
He straightened up a bit more, brought some confidence into his gait and reported to his trainer. Linda looked him over like he was from outer space. Joey looked her over like she was the alien. Just as he had decided she couldn’t teach him much, she whipped around and crooked a firm finger in his direction, beckoning him. Her body language was quite clear – follow me and ask no questions just yet.
They entered a brightly lit room and the first thing he saw was red. Not that he got angry. But literally the room was filled with little red blobs.
Linda looked at him and said, “Take 18 of those…. I want six of them cut up in 1 centimeter cubes, another six chopped up long and thin and the third batch needs to be boiled and turned into pulp.”
He felt anger boiling up to the surface, ready to rain down any moment on Linda. With great restraint he said… “Linda, I’ve been through this. I’ve done all this and more. The things you guys made me do, the hoops I’ve jumped to get here. Now this again? You’ve got to be joking! I’m not… comfortable… with the treatment being meted out here.”
Linda looked at him like he had just dropped from another planet. “Joey, this is what you call the opportunity of a lifetime. If I ask you to go out there and murder something you do it. If I ask you to chop something up into little pieces so we can feed…. them, you do it!”
She looked at him then, and at the look on his face, horrified and sad all at once, desperately trying to cling on to his dignity. Desperately and hopelessly.
She softened a bit and put a hand on his shoulder. “Look Joey, I get it. Let me make it a little easier on you. Today, you have to clear three tests. This here, for obvious reasons is called The Red Room. The tasks I just set you shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes each. You will be timed. I suggest you get it right in the first attempt, else you will be locked down in this room and the clock reset… until you get it right or our red buddies are all sacrificed to your attempts.
The next room is aptly named The Hall of Tears. The creatures there are neither as resigned nor as forgiving for the tasks that will be set. That’s all I can say for now. One thing in common – you will be in lockdown again until you get it right.
The last room, that’s called The Crack. It gets more intense of course and is named so because… this is where we see most of them crack.
If you clear all these three rooms in the next 45 minutes, you will join the team that is on the verge of new discoveries every single day. With cutting edge technology and a creative mindset, what we achieve here is nothing short of magic. But this rite of passage… well this is something every one of us on that team went through. And now, it’s your turn. Ready?”
Joey quietly put on the gloves, and glanced at the various implements on his…. table. And then said in a voice that was little over a whisper – “Ready”.