Life After College

This story is part of an ongoing anthology.  However, it is a stand alone, and can be read independently of the other stories.

  • The Archivist

Let me start my story by admitting that I participated in theft and illicit drug use.  I don’t feel even remotely bad about admitting it, in light of the horrible crimes I’ve seen committed every day since that graduation party.  I’ve been kidnapped and forced into some weird kind of slave labor.  I’m getting a little ahead of myself, if anyone is going to call out this horrible business, they will have to know where and what it is, so I should probably tell you how I got here first.

It was the Friday of finals week, and I just got out of the final exams of the last classes I needed for my degree.  Since graduation was just around the corner, one of the guys at my dorm was throwing a wild party.  He found a night club not far from campus, and decided to have a huge graduation party there, complete with reserved shuttles so nobody had the burden of being the designated driver.

I got shit faced at the party, and a little high to boot, so my memory of the rest of the night was hazy, but the drive home was where I started to notice weird things.  At the end of the party, a few of us had missed the shuttles, or so we thought, until one last car pulled into the parking lot.  It didn’t look like a shuttle, so I got a little suspicious.  Someone else in the crowd spoke with the driver, and then gestured for us to come in.  I assumed we were going to be safe, since serial killers try to get their victims alone, right?

Once we were inside the car, it started out taking the normal path back to the college, but crossed through a tunnel along the way that I don’t remember being there before.  I was drunk and stoned, and some of the other people sitting around me were wearing glow sticks, so there were a lot of chances for the light to play tricks with my eyes, but I swear that the view outside the car’s windows looked like the light show from Space Odyssey.

We got back to college safely, but I was so exhausted that all I could do was slump down on a couch in the dorm’s lobby and pass out.  When I woke up the next morning, nothing seemed the same.

I was awoken by someone I didn’t know.  He was university staff, and said that the graduation ceremony was about to start.  I then realized that I had slept into the afternoon!  I started to get worried, asking if I missed anything, but the guy told me to join the crowd that had gathered in front of the dorm doors.

As I joined the crowd and continued to wake up, I began to notice some more strange things.  The people in the crowd looked unfamiliar.  Every single face in the crowd was one I had never seen before.  After getting over the initial shock of being with unfamiliar people, I noticed that the people in the crowd were all male, despite my living in a co-ed dorm.

The group had formed a rough line, moving students through the doors one by one.  As I went through the doors, a member of staff handed me a graduation robe.  He looked to be in a hurry, and so did the students behind me, so I hastily slipped the robe on while moving, not even taking the time to find the arm holes before beginning my march towards the auditorium.

As I walked across campus, I realized how weird things had truly become.  The buildings were different, as were the street names, and school colors.  Why didn’t I notice that the robe wasn’t in my school’s colors when I got it?

As I entered the auditorium, I turned to the nearest faculty member, and tried to explain my situation to him.  When I told him that I remembered going to a completely different place for four years, he just said “You don’t remember four whole years of college in this place?  What did you have at the graduation party last night?  It must have been good stuff!”  As we concluded our short conversation, he herded the group onto the auditorium stage.  I still hadn’t gotten my arms out of my robe, but was starting to scramble against the robe as the band started to play.

The college band played the graduation anthem, as some other stranger in a fancy suit, presumably the dean, gave a speech about how prepared we were for our future lives.  He brought the first student up to the front, and then addressed the audience.  I then noticed that the audience didn’t seem to be parents, but business people.  The audience was composed of men wearing all manner of business attire from doctors’ scrubs to business suits to fast-food uniforms.  The dean ignored the student under the spot lights as he read off a clipboard to his bizarre audience.

“Here, our first graduate, David Jacksonson.  Age: 22, degree in advertizing, blood type: B negative, weight:  two hundred and ten pounds!  Lest open the bids at two-fifty, do I hear two-fifty?”

The audience began raising signs with numbers written on them as the dean rattled off more numbers as quickly as he could.  “What kind of weird graduation is this?” I thought.  “He’s supposed to give a speech, then hand the guy a diploma.  What am I looking at?”  I realized the horror of my situation when the last audience member raised the last sign, and the dean said “Going once, going twice, SOLD!”  It was an auction!?  We weren’t going to be released into the world to seek our careers, but get sold as property to whatever corporation is willing to pay the most!

I could hardly believe what I was seeing, so I turned to ask one of the other people in the crowd if they’re seeing what I’m seeing.  “Hey, you, what’s going on?  Is this some kind of joke?”

“It’s graduation time.”  He said.  “I never thought it would happen to me, thought of it as some future concern, but here I am now.  Where did those four years go?”

“No, that’s not what I’m asking about.”  I said.  “I mean, this isn’t what a graduation is supposed to look like.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.”  Said the other student.  “Prospects for college students have really gone down hill, but I think it’s still worth it.  It’s just like they guaranteed, those were the best four years of my life.  But once this celebration’s over, it’s all down hill from here.”

I didn’t get it.  How could we be sold like property, and how could anyone be so complacent about it?  I realized that these people accepted this atrocity as normal, and I wasn’t going to get any help from them, so I decided to escape on my own.  “Slipping out of the crowd unnoticed will be easy once I get these robes off.”  I thought.  I tried to take off my robes when I noticed something I really should have noticed earlier.  The robe had no arm holes, and I couldn’t get a grip on the fabric form the inside, making this graduation robe work like a straight jacket.

I tried to slip behind the curtain and exit through the back of the stage, but stumbled over the curtain and fell.  I couldn’t get up, and in the darkness backstage, a security guard picked me up and dragged me back towards the crowd.  The crowd dispersed around the guard as he brought me to the dean.

After patting me down, the guard murmured something into the dean’s ear.

After looking over his clipboard, the dean looked briefly confused, then said “Here we’ve got a feisty one!  No papers on this specimen, so what you see is what you get!  Let’s open the bids at twenty five!”  I thrashed against the guard’s hold, but where the robe wouldn’t let me grip it from the inside, it gave the guard a firm hold from the outside.  Eventually, I was sold to a face in the crowd that the dean called “Chunky.”

I thought the things I just saw were weird.  That was because they were, but they now seem normal compared to what followed.

The man who purchased me was dressed in this hideous rat costume.  The rat suit had short gray fur, and realistically proportioned rat features scaled to the size of a human head.  I honestly don’t know how the person in the suit could see, or how the lower jaw could move in perfect synchronization with what the person was saying.  At least he had the decency to wear clothing on top of his costume.

The rat man handed me off to an employee who held me in a mancatcher for the rest of the “ceremony.”  After the last of the students was auctioned off and the dean bid the businessmen farewell, we were unceremoniously hauled away in minivans plastered with the corporate logos.  I saw a bunch of company logos I thought I recognized at first, but upon closer inspection, none of the companies sounded familiar. 

One car looked like it had the AT&T logo on it, but upon closer inspection, the company logo was gray instead of blue, and had an indented line across its equator.  Also, it actually said “AT NT,” and the A was a stylized image of some kind of robot that resembled a boxy head on a pair of bird-like legs.

The van I was loaded into said “Chunky Cheeze,” and it had a cartoon caricature of the rat mascot who purchased me.  During the whole drive there, I didn’t see a single building I recognized.  I did get pretty wasted at that party, but no amount of drugs could have physically teleported me to some third world dystopia, right?

When we reached the destination, a restaurant and arcade named “Chunky Cheeze,” we were herded inside and cut out of our graduation robes by the employees.

If you’ve been to Chuck E Cheese, you know how the people working there will stamp the top of your hand, right?  We were given tattoos showing the company’s mascot, a barcode and a phone number.

Ever since then, I’ve been working at this horrible place.  We’re paid in arcade tokens that have no cash value.  We work over ten hours a day, and I only make enough at the end of each day to afford enough food to sustain us to the next.  Some of us are tasked with working in the kitchen, others with servicing the arcade machines.  I’m glad that I was given the job of janitor, because at least I get to see the whole building.

I’m pretty sure I’m not in America anymore.  Everyone speaks American English, and cars drive on the right side of the road, but the similarities are all superficial, meaning that the differences are thrown into sharp relief. 

After being with an all male group at the auction, I’ve seen very few females here.  We have hundreds of customers every week, but I’ve never seen more than two females visit the place at the same time, and never more than five girls in any given week.

From what little information of the outside world I get, I haven’t seen a single business name I remember; except for the one time a customer referenced McDonalds.  The arcade games are the same way.  None of the games are ones I remember seeing before, but they sound similar.  It’s as if every business in the world was replaced with some copyright dodging knock off.

I didn’t see a single familiar place even on the one day I escaped.  One time, another slave employee caught the attention of everyone in the room when a group of children started beating him up.  This wasn’t unusual, as the children here can be quite cruel.  The overseers went through the usual routine of trying to restrain him so he couldn’t retaliate against the children, but this time, he decided he had enough, and punched one of them out.  All the overseers were starting to gang up on this guy, and that was my chance to escape.

Outside the building, the city was unfamiliar.  I tried to ask someone for instructions, but when they saw me, they started shouting at me, and didn’t look too friendly, so I made a run for it.  Everyone random person who saw me on the street either began to chase me.  I never ran longer or harder before or since that incident.  I ran and ran and ran for many blocks through this bizarre business district.  Though the place was structured like an American city, the named streets all had made up sounding names I never heard before. 

I eventually reached a police station, and ran inside.  I told them everything I know about that college and Chunky Cheeze.  As soon as my rant was over, they handcuffed me and threw me into one of those rooms cops use to interrogate suspects on TV.  One cop pulled out his cell phone and dialed someone.

“Yeah, we’ve got a runaway.  He caused quite a fuss on the way here, but I’ve got ‘em in the interrogation room.”

Even the police were intent on sending me back to that place.  In retrospect, I should have given up on finding anyone who would heed my plight after the first time I saw children play “piñata” with a human being.  After a few minutes of waiting, the restaurant overseers hauled back to that living hell, where the horrible rat man fried my ass with a cattle prod.

After he was done, the mascot threw me into the employee lounge and said five words.  “That was your first strike.”

The rest of the day, I searched for the man who tried to fight the guards.  He was nowhere to be found, so I asked one of the cooks where he was.  “Bennen?  He already had one strike against him.”

“So, he’s up to two strikes now?”  I asked.

“Yeah, that was his second strike.”  The cook sighed.

“He only has two strikes against him, so he can get in trouble one more time, right?”  I asked, more confused than usual.

“What are you talking about?” asked the kitchen slave.  “Two strikes, you’re out.  Everyone knows that!”

“Oh, all right.”  I replied. 

I should have given up on getting through to these people a long time ago.  They seem to be desensitized to all things wrong and abnormal, like the people in that fake horror blog about a college zombie game that got way out of hand.

I thought I would have to resign myself to this fate, until recently.  Some rich child had a huge birthday party, and left his BlackBerry in the restaurant.  Technically, it’s not a BlackBerry, it’s some off-brand, like everything else here, but you get the idea.  I stole the phone, typed my story, and now I’m sending it out to every place I can think of.  Hopefully, someone in America will read this, and blow the whistle on Chunky Cheeze.

Please hurry, someone could find out about my theft and whistle blowing at any moment, and that’ll be a strike for sure.  I’m not sure what will happen to me after my second strike, but, I haven’t seen Bennen since, and the pizza that night tasted better than usual.

 

© Wyatt Waggoner 2015