The first attack comes almost before you’ve left. You notice hostility from those around you. Their eyes are narrowed in anger and impatience as they shove ahead of you, each one self-involved. The annoyance is palpable. Still, this is nothing new. Just the everyday anger of the masses. You’ve felt it ever since you came to this place.
Together, you and your friend press back. At this point, you do it almost involuntarily. It’s a reflex. The two of you are laughing and only the occasional sarcastic comment is any indication to an outsider that you are affected. You press on in search of your goal.
Finally, you arrive at your destination, as noted by the robot that serves you. The construction stretches across the grounds, vibrantly colored, welcoming to all. The sun is just beginning its descent as you approach.
There are crowds flocking to the same place. They surround you: the big ones, the small ones, the thin ones, the large ones, young and old – they’re all here. You are all welcomed by drones whose faces have been frozen into smiles. The drones gesture to the staircase and as you ascend, the aroma of cooked meat wafts toward you. As you reach the top of the edifice, you are greeted by an enormous feast. The air is filled with the wet sounds of cattle chewing their cud. You and your companion receive your own cut of Scandinavian meat and as the flavor bursts on your tongue, you leave the revelers and head for the entertainment.
There is a map to help you navigate the madness, but your friend eschews that in favor of a little spontaneity. The drones hover around you, eager to help, but unable to overcome the programming that prevents them from making the first move. You wander among the other patrons through the carnival, taking note of each feature, unaware of the poisonous substance now working its way through your body.
You’re halfway through the first floor when it hits you.
The energy here is different. The horde is no longer hostile; instead, they are complacent, docile…mindless. They wander from exhibition to exhibition with soft cries of appreciation or disgust. You realize you’ve been doing the same thing. Panicked, you look over at your friend, but receive the same blank look that you’re seeing on the faces of everyone around you. Your throat seizes in terror and your heart races, but when you try to speak, all that comes out are platitudes. Your companion responds in kind.
The panic continues to rage, but the chemicals working their way through your brain quickly subdue the feeling, replacing it with an intense desire. You begin to grab randomly at things around you. You cradle them close to your chest. Seeing your behavior, your companion snatches a large satchel. You pour your treasure inside. You both share a moment of manic glee and you race forward, acquiring more items.
As you reach the bottom of the staircase, there is a click in your brain and suddenly, you are wired into the information center. A matrix of codes opens before your eyes and you utilize it to search for and procure the most precious items. You and your friend drag your treasure toward the gates, but a guard stops you. Quickly, you snatch whatever is in your pockets in an effort to appease him. With your newfound prizes in hand, you stumble home, consumed by the one obsessive thought: to spend the entire night examining their beauty.
By the time you walk through your own doors, the chemical has worked its way out of your system and you see that you have actually acquired random pieces of furniture that you don’t need. Your friend turns to you and you share a look of horror as you both realize that you’re facing the ultimate horror: putting the furniture together.