Tuesday, June 21, 2011
A gated condo with no exit?
Gates of Hades at Caesarea Philippi
A gated condo with no exit?
Jasper, the host of the disastrous party, is not a happy man. He finds his life is not turning out the way he wants: being a successful architect does not satisfy him. His guests' reflections on evil echo the tumult in his own mind. His personal life is also in danger; his wife, Marguerite, seems to reject him, and he yearns to recapture their old intimacy. In a last effort to reconnect with his wife, he plans a surprise for her: he has bought a condo in Florida, where he hopes they will find freedom from the distractions of modern life and make up for years of missed opportunities.
The day after the party Jasper drives to inspect his new condo when he has an accident on the highway. A pair of unlikely paramedics pick him up and give him a ride to his destination.
Paradise Point Condominiums looks like in the brochure, but there are several worrisome details. The concierge looks up Jasper's file on his computer and finds his whole life displayed on the screen. Jasper angrily demands that the private data be deleted, but he is told that the records are undeletable. He asks for a cell phone and is given a shrink-wrapped, personalized phone with the brand name "Soulphone". When he calls his wife on the Soulphone, he can hear her voice, but she seems to be talking to someone else. When he complains to the concierge, he is told that this is the only brand of phone available, and there is nothing wrong with the phone: what he hears is what the person is thinking.
Jasper has had enough. He strides down the driveway through the Condo grounds to reach the highway, but he finds his way barred by an eight-foot-high barrier. When he tries to leave through the guardsman's gate, he finds another surprise: the guard's orders are to allow everyone to enter the Condo grounds, but not permit anyone to exit. Jasper tries to get around the rules by using his social charms.
“Hi! I’m Jasper. I’ve just bought a condo here and I want to get to know everybody. What’s your name?”
The new guard was a young man with a cocky glint in his eye. Jasper felt hopeful. This man has a mind of his own, he thought.
“Must be dull work for you here. How long till you get off?”
“Oh, I suppose about eight hours,” Paul said. “One tends to lose track of time here.”
Jasper thought he might have a girlfriend. “Do you live here too?”
“Depends what you mean by live. Do you mean do I reside here? Yes I do.”
Another quibbler, Jasper thought. But he pressed on. “Don’t you ever feel tempted just to sneak out?”
Paul laughed without amusement. “I did at first, but I soon realized that it was impossible.”
“Well, perhaps not impossible. One day someone might discover a way, but right now no one knows how to crawl back through the wormhole.”
The wormhole! Was he talking about a parallel universe? Whoever brainwashed this guy sure sold him a bill of goods.
Paul was in a talkative mood. “I guess the only way to get away from here is to go in for the treatment. But you’re not going to catch me falling for that nonsense.”
“Treatment? What treatment?”
“I don’t know exactly what’s involved,” Paul said. “Everyone I talk to tells me something different. But anyway, it seems to be no picnic. And who knows if the whole procedure is worth it. I think I’d rather hang on to my job here and carry on as usual. What is it they say, ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.’”?
“So, the treatment is not mandatory?”
“Nothing is mandatory here.”
Jasper saw his chance. “If nothing is mandatory, why do they have a guard at the gate? Why can’t I take a walk out there on the highway?” He thought Paul could handle a joke. “I think I’ll just step outside if you don’t mind.”
“You can try,” Paul said, “but I don’t recommend it.”
“All right then, I will,” Jasper said, and he started walking toward the entrance barrier. He was amazed to see the barrier lift, clearing the way for him, but as he got nearer, he felt as if he had heavy weights on his legs. He struggled to drag his feet toward the highway outside. With a sheer effort of the will he pushed himself on.
“I’m almost there,” he told himself. But then he suddenly lost control. He felt his heart pumping and his blood surge through his veins. His ears were engulfed with the noise of beating rain and screeching tires, and then the explosion of a final crash—an explosion that did not stop.
He felt someone pulling him back. The confusion subsided, and he found himself in the calm of the Condo grounds. Paul released him. “See what I mean? If you pass the barrier, you relive the moment of your death forever.”
Jasper looked at Paul and his spirits sank. I am landed in a lunatic asylum. This guy really believes what he says. Now if I could just figure out where they keep the controls for this invisible fence for humans. The architect in him could not help admiring the technology.
He was too shaken by the experience to continue the conversation. I’ll try again tomorrow, he vowed.
[Excerpt from The Condo, or...Life, A Sequel by Dalma Takacs]