The place reeked of formaldehyde. It reminded the initiate of a funeral home. It masked the stench of decay.
They were seated, rank and file in rows of seats, five by five. They waited in silence as they’d been instructed. “Noise is prohibited, ” they’d been told ominously on the drive from the city to the Institution.
The “Guardian of the Initiates” as he’d dubbed himself had stormed up and down the aisle of the mini-bus like a drill sergeant, screaming slogans at the initiates. “The only one who may speak is the Man In Charge and the Man In Charge is the only one who may speak. Repeat!”
The initiates began to repeat the mantra quietly but were lambasted into repeating it again and again until they were practically shouting at the top of their lungs. It made little sense but the initiate went along with it, after all, he had applied to the establishment.
In the Grand Hall, the Fat Man stood off to the side, his eyes constantly scanning the assembly. From his vantage point in the second row, the initiate could see between the heads of the other initiates to the podium mounted on the stage before the group. There were black velvet curtains either side of the podium which bled into the darkness at the corners of the stage. Beyond that, he could see nothing. It was as if the curtains framed the edge of reality and beyond that was only the void and despair.
The lights went down. A spotlight appeared on the stage and from the void, out strode the Man In Charge.
The Man In Charge began to speak, but to the initiate it sounded as if he were speaking a foreign language, nothing the man said made any sense to him. Sure, it sounded like English, it sounded like the Man In Charge was speaking in a common tongue, but the words themselves seemed to slip and slide and wriggle past his ears. The initiate strained to make sense of the speech, but the more he strained, the more resistive the words seemed to become. The initiate didn’t even notice that the group around him had to begun to nod in time with the beats of the Man In Charge’s speech, which carried a hypnotic cadence that massaged the initiates mind into submission. He tried to fight but it seemed futile to resist. The initiate struggled to think for himself, to fight against it, but his will became weaker with every parasitic word that the Man In Charge uttered.
Deep in the trance, the initiate didn’t even notice the speech had ended. The Man In charge scuttled off the stage quickly, back towards his place in the fetid darkness.
As one the initiates stood and began to recite the establishment motto “The Establishment must be protected…tow the party line.”
The Fat Man walked along the line of initiates. He checked that each initiate was under the Establishment spell – eyes glazed, speech flat and submissive.
He handed a whistle and a little black book to each and every one.
“Congratulations, “ he said. “You’re now all grade one referees.”