Walking through the off-white double doors, Mr. Peterson was greeted by a waiting room overflowing with every type of person imaginable. There was an eerie calmness to the room as not even a cough or sigh was heard. On the surface, the room was coated in an unhealthy yellow tint and the air had a dry, stagnant taste. There was a distinct humming sound as the dull buzzing of countless fluorescent bulbs burned in the background. Each person was sitting in a chair that was arranged in the infinite number of rows leading from the windows to the opposite wall. Although the room was overflowing with people, the only distinguishable sounds heard were the scribbling of pen against paper, the shuffling of turning pages, and the occasional crackle of a fluorescent bulb.
As far as he could see, the green and white tile walls were decorated with small windows; each with a small wooden ledge to lean against. Above each window was a pane of thick glass where the silhouette of a faceless figure stood. A few of the windows were visibly open while a majority of them seemed to be opening and closing at random. At each open station, the clerk seemed to be passing out clipboards with forms attached. Beginning to feel uncomfortable standing at the entrance, Mr. Peterson moved away from the door and towards the nearest open window.
As he made his way across the room, he noticed the floor was the same shade of green and white as the walls. With each step on the hard tile floor, the sound of his hard wood soles, echoed throughout the room with an embarrassing clarity. As he approached the window, he could hardly make out the figure behind the glass. The windows were positioned at an awkward height; clearly designed to obscure the view of the clerk. While Mr. Peterson was not a tall man, it seemed to him, you would almost have to be sitting on the floor, looking upward to catch a glimpse at the reclusive clerk through the small opening.
“Name?” Said the blurry figure in an androgynous, monotone voice.
“Excuse me?” Mr. Peterson responded in an uncertain manner.
“Name.” Repeated the voice in a louder and more annoyed tone.
“Um… my name is Howard Peterson. Can I ask what this is for? Really, I just want to go home. You see, I went to the store to pick up some milk for my wife and then the damndest thing happened. You see, I—”
“Please fill out these forms and someone will be with you shortly.” Said the figure matter-of-factly.
“What? No, I just want to know where I am. I’m not applying for a job, I just—”
An irritated sigh was heard, “Sir, please fill out these forms and someone will be with you shortly. Thank you.”
The small opening of the window slammed shut and the figure behind the glass stepped away. Mr. Peterson was left speechless by the strange and unusual conversation. Looking down at his clipboard, he noticed his name, date of birth, and other private and particular information already filled out. Discouraged by the terseness of the window clerk, he walked to the nearest seat and made himself comfortable.
The chairs were even more uncomfortable to sit in than they were to look at. The clipboard was a standard wood color. There were only a few papers attached to the front and a black pen was clipped to the top. The forms were numbered and each question was in the same format. Beside each question there were two boxes: one marked yes, the other no, and a small line was given for explanation if needed. “Question number one:”, Mr. Peterson read aloud to himself, “At age five, three months and four days, do you admit to stealing candy from your childhood friend, Susan Adams?”. Mr. Peterson, slightly confused by the wording of the question, furrowed his brow and marked no. “Question number two: At age five, three months and seven days, do you admit to lying to your mother about eating your vegetables?” Once again, Mr. Peterson was confused by the descriptiveness of the question and checked no.
For what seemed like an eternity, Mr. Peterson continued to answer each question, constantly in shock with the startling accuracy of the questions. “Question number two-hundred and seventy-four: At age five, six months and nineteen days, do you admit to hitting your childhood friend, Billy Turner?” Mr. Peterson marked yes to an event he faintly remembered. Looking around, he noticed that there were no clocks visible and no one seemed to be wearing a watch. As his eyes wandered around the room, he began to feel bored and a bit curious. He looked over to the person sitting to his right. The gentleman was much older and his hair was almost completely gone. He was wearing a gray pinstripe suit with matching leather shoes. Mr. Peterson glanced over at the stranger’s clip board and read one of the questions: “Question number sixty-five thousand seven hundred and forty-two: At age twenty-seven, two months and thirteen days, do you admit to lying to your wife about your whereabouts between the hours of…”. The stranger checked yes and moved on to the next question.
Feeling a tinge of fear, Mr. Peterson thumbed through his forms trying to get to the end but, no matter how quickly he turned the pages, the clipboard produced an endless supply of questions. In a bit of a panic, Mr. Peterson jumped from his seat and walked quickly toward the window. The clerk was still absent from the window so, in attempt to signal her, he began tapping loudly on the glass with his pen.
“Yes sir, can I help you?” Uttered the faceless voice in an obligated-politeness.
“Why the hell am I filling out these forms? What type of questions are these?” Said Mr. Peterson in an urgent and anxious matter.
“In order for us to place you in the proper department, we must have a full history. Please fill out each form in its entirety and, based on your answers, we’ll know exactly where to place you.”
“This is ridiculous; I’m not answering another damned question! Just tell me where the exit is so I can leave this Godforsaken place.”
“Sir, unless we have a full history—“Mr. Peterson slammed his clipboard against the wooden window ledge. “Look, I told you already, I’m not answering another damned question. Now are you going to tell me where the exit is or not?” As if uttering the magic words, the windows around Mr. Peterson slammed shut in unison. All the windows except for the one he was standing at.
The figure behind the glass paused for a moment and then preceded to hand Mr. Peterson another clip board with a single form and a red pen attached. “This is form #H32L4-U: By signing this form, you acknowledge all charges and suffer liabilities thereof. By signing this form, you may have your paperwork expedited for evaluation and proper placement. You agree to the following terms and…” Still upset but not in the mood to argue over the bureaucracy, Mr. Peterson quickly snatched the form from the clerk and signed and initialed in the proper places.
“There, now can you tell me where the exit is?” Said Mr. Peterson in a singsong voice. “Yes sir, please follow the red line to the double doors at the end of the hall and that will lead you to the exit. Have a nice day”.
Looking down at the green and white tile floor, Mr. Peterson suddenly noticed a solid red line leading from the window, through the waiting room, and to a pair of thick double doors at the end of the hall. As he walked through the aisle, he noticed the old man still filling out his endless supply of paperwork along with the rest of the waiting room. Never looking up, never speaking or acknowledging one another, it felt like he was walking through a graveyard. Passing through the heavy doors, Mr. Peterson looked up to read a strange inscription carved roughly above the frame: “Omissa Spe Intróitum Vos”. Ignoring the foreign graffiti, Mr. Peterson was more than happy to be leaving this hellish place and get home to his wife. As the doors shut behind him, a thin wisp of smoke was faintly visible before vanishing into nothingness…