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Untangle the Beast
You take a step forward, tense, panicking, then look back at the scrap of paper in your hand.
Untangle the Beast, it says. Nothing more is written. What does it mean? You turn it over in your mind once again, yet you cannot find a meaning, but for the obvious. It was supposed to be challenging, or at least self-reflective. You did not expect this. You are half-wary, unsure if there is a catch, for surely it cannot be this easy?
Flustered, you glance back down at the scrap of paper in your hand. Untangle the Beast. Shaking your head, you continue down the dimly lit tunnel, every nerve on end, every muscle tensed. The floor is at a slight slant and you continue to descend deeper, deeper, deeper. The lights are dim, causing the dark walls to look even darker. Over time, you begin to be aware of something.
A pulsing. A vibrating. Something deep inside you roars and rumbles with the sound.
You are near the machine. You are near the beast.
The deep steady thrum vibrates in your very soul. If you hold very still, you can feel your bones shaking, pulsing, moving to the machine’s steady rumble. You listen carefully, and you can discern the growling of the beast from deep, deep within, hidden under hundreds of buzzing, beeping, clicking, grinding, humming, constantly screaming sound of the machine.
It sets you on edge. You cannot stand it a moment longer, yet you know that to pass, you must.
The hallway splits, forking in two directions, and you come to a halt, unsure which way to go. One path winds ever deeper, dark and ominous, and from it, you hear the huge rumbles and roars, growls and groans, screams and scraping that come from the nameless beast.
Untangle the Beast. You should follow the dark hallway that leads ever deeper, where ominous sounds drift up to you. You should find the beast. What else could the scrap of paper mean?
You eye the other hallway, the one that levels off, brightly lit and inviting.
The distinction is clear. One hallway leads to the machine, the other to the beast.
Is this the test? You wonder. Which one will you choose?
Divided, utterly repulsed and yet equally drawn to each hallway, you close your eyes and let your mind drift. Dim or bright? Dark or light? The more you think about it, the more you realize that this decision in itself is the test. Which one are you? And what does the paper mean? The more you think, the more you become confused. Does the paper mean that you should take the path to the beast? Or could it be referring to the machine, which, in your mind, is just as much of a beast? Your body vibrates, the tension and confusion threatening to tear you apart, the sounds of the machine and the roaring of the beast only adding to the general upheaval occurring in your mind. What will you do? What will you choose?
The humming of the machine, the raging of the beast; it all becomes overpoweringly loud in your ears. It grates harshly in your mind, and you have the sudden urge to throw your hands over your ears, to block out the terrifying sounds. But you cannot raise your arms from your sides; they are leaden. You shake more and more violently, yet your body is paralyzed. What is your choice? You must make a choice. You must choose a hallway. You must choose a future. What will you choose? Which one will be your choice?
Suddenly, abruptly, you stop trembling. Your arms rest peacefully at your sides, and the noises of the machine and the beast flow through your mind. Despite their loudness, despite the screeching and thrumming and clicking and beating and growling, you do not find it unpleasant. Instead, it is unusually calming, and a sense if warmth and peace flows through you.
Your eyes flash open. You have made your decision.
You clench your fist, and the piece of paper within crumples and falls to the ground. Untangle the Beast. It sits quietly, no longer threatening.
You turn on your heel and walk back up the half-light hallway you came from, away from the dark and light hallways, and you do not give the paper a second glance. Untangle the Beast. Your mind is peaceful, satisfied, calm. Free from the corridors and the choice behind you.
Untangle the Beast. You already have.