You cast the invitation aside and decide to think about it later.
A few days later, a note arrives: “We urge you to RSVP to the Masquerade Ball as soon as possible.”
Two more days pass and you receive a phone call, “Your attendance at the Masquerade Ball could be required as a condition of your employment. Please RSVP immediately.”
You grumble, “Drat! Probably another company policy.” You give your RSVP over the phone. “Thank you for your cooperation.” says the voice and then disconnects.
You arrive at the ball with your mask in hand. You are told to put it on and proceed through the big double doors to the party.
As you enter a massive ballroom, you can’t tell who are the hosts and who are the guests. Everyone of course, is masked.
You get an ominous feeling in the pit of your stomach but you decide to play along. What else can you do?
A voice on the loudspeaker invites you to walk around the ballroom single file while following the arrows on the floor. No dancing, singing or even smiling is allowed. Even under my mask?” you wonder. “Isn’t there usually music at a Ball? Why are they telling us all what to do?”
You think this is ridiculous but the voice keeps repeating the same instructions, “Follow the leader” and there’s no one to complain to.
Other games ensue and the rules keep changing, “Walk counter-clockwise…now turn to your left…” Everyone keeps playing along. Can’t they see how dumb this is? You remind yourself that this could be a condition of your employment. “Maybe it’s a test to see how well we follow directions.”
Hours pass and you wonder again how any of this is relevant to the “real world.” You have a crazy impulse to rip off your mask and yell as loud as you can that this is stupid!
But you’ve never been one to make a jerk of yourself so you decide to bide your time until this bizarre party is over. Then you can go home and forget this evening ever happened.
A message comes over the loudspeaker:
“An unknown toxin has been discovered in the air outside. You are of course, free to leave, but opening the doors now could expose everyone else to this unknown substance. We ask that you remain here until we give you the ‘all clear.’ Refreshments are now being served in the back of the ballroom. We’re sorry for any inconvenience.”
You try to decide the best thing to do. You haven’t liked this whole thing from the start but why would they tell us there was danger outside if there wasn’t? Better safe than sorry, I’ll wait it out and try to remain calm. What toxin?
The loudspeaker begins to play messages softly first and then louder, “Good job!” “This is for your protection” “You’re doing the right thing.” and “Play by the rules and you’ll save a life.” “Try not to talk too much to others. It creates anxiety.”
Some people are starting to panic anyway. You can see it in their eyes. They’re worried.
A few people head toward the door, but some in the crowd shove them away, “Are you trying to kill us? Get away from those doors!”
You decide to head in the opposite direction for some refreshments.
Looking back toward the exit, a fight has just broken out. No one seems to be in charge and no one’s willing to stop it.
This is some sort of a sick charade and it’s serious now. People are getting hurt. I’ve had enough of this place. I’m not keeping this mask on either. People seem to have forgotten that they can just take them off. Is that what’s making them so passive? What if the air out there is just fine and in here is what’s totally crazy?
You muster up the courage to remove your mask and start walking toward the doors. You wonder if anyone will try to stop you.
People are shocked and begin to move aside. A smile comes over your face and everyone sees it. You feel your posture straighten as you walk more proudly now toward the exit. Even the fight stops as the agitators stare to get a glimpse of you without your mask. You think triumphantly to yourself, “You can do it too, you just don’t know it yet.”
As you reach the double doors, you hear a loud clicking noise.
The doors have been locked from the outside.