Level 742

THE EVERLASTING WAIT

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"Hope is the worst of all evils, for it prolongs the torment of man."

— Friedrich Nietzche







SURVIVAL DIFFICULTY:

Class Aleph

  • Unsafe and Unsecure
  • Devoid of Entities
  • Time Dilation

Description

"The Everlasting Wait," designated Level 742, presents itself as a vast indoor expanse of waiting rooms that extends indefinitely outward in every lateral direction. Given its spatial infinitude, encountering other explorers within the level are few and far between. More often than not, wanderers are left to naught but their own thoughts—and the bare austerity of their surroundings.

In the air, free specks of dust drift and whirl; nevertheless, shielded by some unseen spell, the seats remain spotless, effortlessly repelling any flecks of grime that dare to approach. Up above, fluorescent lights illuminate each room to its farthest corners, bathing the space in a cool, continuous radiance. Yet, beneath this benign glow, their reverberant ringing permeates the air, an overbearing electric hum-buzz that renders many almost deaf for the duration of their displeasurable stay.

Within the confines of this level, everything—except one's own belongings—is remarkably resilient. The seats resist all attempts at disassembly, and the ceiling tiles cling unyielding to the thick concrete layered above; the realm's architectural integrity remains unscathed by the assaults of trapped victims turned violent. When, at length, such assaults subside with the onset of exhaustion, all that is left is stark reality—the endless monotony of these whitewashed waiting rooms.

Gaze upon my wretched form—am I not a pitiful sight?

The chairs… the chairs encircle me. Their infernal presence reminds me continually of my folly. They sneer and jeer at my misfortune. How easily I succumbed to their deceit!

O, how I dream of someday of deliverance! But now I am chained, chained forever and ever to this cursed chair. Here I have remained, shackled in this stagnant, sorry state, for interminable months—perhaps years!—awaiting something… something that may never come. Thus far, no mortal eyes have beheld my pathetic plight; surely I am eternally bound in this desolate place, abandoned and alone.

My skin, once youthful, has withered, its vigor long faded into somber gray. My hair, once a forest of rich, thick brown, has shriveled now into a brittle shrub of ghostly white shade. Even my bones, inch by inch, gradually come unclothed. How eagerly they await their emancipation from this unraveling, wasting flesh!

I suppose this shall be my final resting place. For in the end, death comes for us all…

— Lawson Wormworth



The Chairs

Countless chairs are scattered throughout Level 742; every room and corridor is infested with seats of various types. Such furniture as worn leather sofas, flimsy plastic stools, and creaky office chairs might well be regarded as the level’s native populace, in the absence of any extant form of life.

Contrary to their diverse and innocuous exterior appearances, these locals possess an invariably hostile disposition. Although the chairs may be shifted about at will, it is advised that touching any of the seats within this domain be avoided at all costs. Upon direct physical connection, an individual will quickly discover the respite offered by any seat to be an insidious lie—finding themselves firmly affixed to the chair at each point of contact.1 Garments are inconsequential; the binding force appears to soak through surfaces like glue, melding bare and clothed skin alike to the seat. Within mere seconds, amputation of all affected appendages becomes the only viable means of escape for those who make an inadvertent touch. Victims so foolish as to sit down completely are not so fortunate.

Curiously, one might also note that the malice harbored by the level’s furniture seems to be directed exclusively, even deliberately, toward living creatures. No adhesive effects apply to inanimate objects in contact with the level’s chairs.


Time Dilation

Level 742's conniving chairs are not the sole threat of which wanderers should be wary. Time itself poses a formidable and inevitable danger here, a lurking predator eager to strike. Within a matter of hours or minutes, wanderers have found themselves beginning to age rapidly, while clocks, watches, and other timekeeping devices continue to tick indifferently at their regular pace. This process of decay does not affect the entire body simultaneously; instead, it occurs incrementally, leaving individuals uncertain about which body part will be next devoured—whether it be their spine, limb joints, hair, or face.

As with the process' natural counterpart, the cycle of aging is inescapable, impervious to the intervention of almond water or other remedies. Despite its swift onset, the malady’s staying power is painfully prolonged; the end may not arrive for several months or years. Regardless, a profound despondence is, sooner or later, sure to arise. Hope cannot stand in the face of certain demise. Eventually, the afflicted will all succumb to their inevitable fate, disintegrating into dust, eternally and irrevocably dissolved into the perpetual grime that clouds the air.

Bases, Outposts, and Communities

None. It is virtually impossible to establish permanent outposts within this level. Structures built by prospective settlers erode rapidly, ultimately collapsing and vanishing without a trace. Deteriorated constructions and belongings—likely remnants of the deceased—fade swiftly into oblivion.

Entrances and Exits

Entrances

Unclear. Visitors invariably fail to recall the circumstances which occasioned their arrival here. Even so, it is widely believed that wanderers find entry through the simple act of sitting in silence, patiently awaiting the unfolding of something significant. Many were likely trapped and lost in Level 0, facing the desperate prospect of starvation, longing for sustenance to materialize. Others, perhaps, were awaiting aid that never came, or the arrival of death itself.

Exits

Unknown.



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At exactly 9:03 A.M. today, Dale Dinklestein would turn forty-five years old.

So he believed, anyway. It was hard to tell. Timekeeping, after all, can be a rather difficult task without a calendar—not to mention when one also has their bottom firmly glued to a chair, and that chair is stuck to the floor of an endless hellscape of blank white waiting rooms.

Thankfully (or, perhaps, un-thankfully) there was a clock hanging at the corner of the wall to help him count the passing days, which did not quite seem to pass at all. Dale did not like this clock. It seemed to watch him, gloating over him with its ceaseless tick-tock-ticking noise as he sat helplessly rotting in his chair, waiting for who-knows-what, coming who-knows-when.

Dale did not choose to be trapped here. Just as he did not choose to be born at 9:03 A.M. on the twenty-first of September, 1979. He was born three minutes past nine on a Monday—the kind of time any disinterested, overworked-and-underpaid office drone would show up for work. And he was born in September, which was by far the most common birth month possible. Moreover, he was born in the fall of 1979, in the dying months of the terminal year of the entirely uneventful decade between the hippie rock 'n’ roll of the '60s and the neon disco-pop of the '80s. All in all, he was born on an ordinary day, at an ordinary time, and left subject to the cruel, cold whims of the common institution we call modern society.

Nothing in particular stood out about Dale as an individual, just as nothing in particular stood out about the day he was born. Unfortunately, he seemed quite powerlessly subject to the circumstances ascribed to him by his birth. From his lackluster grades in school to his dead-end occupation, he embodied mediocrity in every conceivable way. Dale had lived his entire life in the suburbs of Middletown, Delaware, and worked in an office forty minutes away from his home. He couldn’t really remember what he did for his job. He vaguely recalled numbers, spreadsheets, and a landline telephone in the haze that seemed to settle over all his memories. It never seemed to matter, anyway. No amount of work would shrink the ever-growing pile of paperwork stacked neatly at the corner of his desk. That, he did remember.

In any case, Dale did not like how much his surroundings reminded him of his old office. The colorless walls felt like a cruel reminder of his life on Earth: a vast, featureless expanse where time seemed to stand still, and any sense of progress was an illusion. In the final hours before his birthday, his mind wandered about, seeking some shred of meaning from nearly forty-five years of his mortal existence. His eyes fell on the skeletons lying on the other side of the room.

Dale did not like the skeletons. He remembered how he had wept for joy, as any human being would, when he had first caught sight of the travelers in the distance, overjoyed at the first human contact he’d had in three full years. He remembered how he had cried in horror, as any human being would, when they spontaneously withered away, the moment they’d sat down to speak with him. He remembered how he had grieved for months that this one opportunity—for rescue, for community, for anything at all—had disintegrated the moment it had met him. But Dale felt pretty much nothing about the whole ordeal now, since it was long over. His gaze drifted to the long locks of dark hair still clinging to the head of the corpse to the left.

Dale tried thinking of his wife, Barbara. Every morning, Dale would kiss her and head off to work at 8:15 A.M. Worn out from a long day, he would return home at 6:30 P.M. in the evening and sit down with her and the children for dinner, where they would exchange polite pleasantries about nothing in particular. Thereafter, while she washed the dishes and did the laundry, he'd find himself sinking into the couch in the living room, much like he was sitting now. With eyes glazed over, he watched athletes who'd actually made something of their lives quarrel over a football on the television in front of him. All the while, the kids squabbled and played and did their homework and ever-so-slowly began to grow up behind him.

Dale then tried thinking about his children.

He could not remember the names of his children.

Meaning was tragically elusive for Dale. So instead, in the hour leading up to the time of his birth, he found himself philosophically contemplating the metaphysical absurdity of human existence. Here he was, trapped in this sterile purgatory, reflecting on the precise moment he entered the world as if it held some transcendent significance, some secret to his escape. It was ridiculous. Why should one day, one hour, or even one minute, be more important than another? How could it be, when time marched on, and he continued to stay seated, trapped and unchanged, with hope of neither death nor escape? The more time ticked by on the clock in the corner, over his years and years of waiting, the more it seemed like his entire life had been spent in waiting rooms—waiting for something to change, for some spark of excitement to bring him to life, for an opportunity to break the monotonous cycle of life that did not, and would not, come.

As the minutes ticked by, the clock inching towards nine, Dale felt a strange sense of resignation wash over him. Perhaps these endless waiting rooms were his true home, a place where he could finally accept his fate without the pretense of striving for something more. Perhaps, when everything meant nothing, mediocrity would finally be enough.

At exactly 9:03 A.M. today, Dale Dinklestein turned forty-five years old.

And it did not matter at all.


rating: +32+x


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