He was a little bit nervous, a little bit apprehensive about the idea of going, but Trevor didn’t have much of a choice… it was mandatory. Becoming a “Journeyman” was an integral part of an adolescents passage from childhood to adulthood. Everyone in the village was sent to The Maze when they turned 18.
Trevor asked his stepmother, Emma, about it years earlier.
“We must all travel The Maze… so that the Arbiter can determine our path.”
“Wait…if its a maze, then don’t we determine our own path? Trevor asked.
“Well Trevor, It’s not that simple.”
Heretofore he had only heard speculation and contentious anecdotes about the obligatory process—of being assessed and subsequently deployed—which was a perennial coming of age ritual. But now, after years of marveling at the mystery of the clandestine tradition, it was finally Trevor’s turn to go.
During the drive there he asked Emma about his father’s experience as a Journeyman.
“Well… your father, God rest his soul, had a very arduous journey. He was like an untamed feral dog—a cross breed—who was seemingly impervious to domestication, and the Arbiter…was a very displeased Westminster judge. Suffice it to say, your father had a difficult time advancing through The Maze. I, on the other hand, was always a quick learner, I was valedictorian of our class after all, so it was something that just came more naturally to me. In my few months I advanced to the fifth level.”
Trevor was bewildered. “Who is the Arbiter?
“The Arbiter is the administrator of The Maze. From his control room he operates a series of levers and pulleys which open and close particular pathways.
“So the maze changes shape?” Trevor asked.
“Yes, The Maze changes it’s shape in accordance with how a Journeyman answers the questions. When a Journeyman reaches a corridor, The Arbiter presents him with multiple choice questions, above each portal is a corresponding letter—answer. Depending on how the questions are answered, The Maze will transform and the Journeyman will either advance… or stagnate.”
Emma told Trevor about a time—The Age of the Macabre—eons ago, before the The Maze was conceived. A time before administrative bureaucracies were established to help foster and maintain social constraints.
“Before the Arbiter… there was perpetual chaos. Before The Maze existed there was no mechanism in place to help cultivate moral constructs—which inhibit unruly behavior.”
Emma, unlike his father, was well versed in history. She knew, left to their own devises, people were inherently selfish and put themselves first. She knew that humans were innately vicious and cruel, and thus a correctional component was required. She knew this… because it was written in her textbooks.
“It sounds like some kind of indoctrination camp,” Trevor said jokingly.
Emma responded with expressionless—passive aggressive—silence. She was patently displeased with her stepson’s sneering remark.
His incessant skepticism and propensity to raise questions was a source of chronic anxiety for Emma. It was becoming more and more apparent that the methylphenidate treatment was not working… and that Trevor might suffer the same fate as his father.
“Remember when your wisdom teeth became impacted? Well… you went to a dentist to have him remove your unwanted, unneeded, vestigial teeth… right? It’s just the same with The Maze. We are sent there to remove our other unwanted, unneeded, evolutionary throwbacks. The Arbiter helps to rid us of our undesirable—primitive—traits, such as self- determination, incredulity, and refractoriness. So… just as an appendix is removed—because it is superfluous and harmful to the system—we must also remove particular psychological components which are extraneous and harmful to our societal system.”
“Is this why dad didn’t survive… because he was stubborn?”
“Unfortunately there are some who aren’t very receptive to the process. After a few weeks at The Maze it became evident to the Arbiter that your father had behavioral problems to the nth degree. He had trouble accepting the premises of some of the questions that were asked, and he would follow up with questions of his own—the protocols of The Maze strictly forbade this.”
Emma reached into the glovebox and dusted off an old unopened envelope.
“Speaking of your father, he wanted you to read this… when you were old enough.”
Trevor noticed the curious return address on the envelope, it simply read: Inmate number B22279, Mittelbau labor camp. He gently opened the weathered envelope—postmarked over a decade ago. Inside was a hand written letter from his father.
By the time you read this, I’ll most certainly be dead. My lungs are weak after working all these years in the asbestos mines—my unsatisfactory performance in The Maze resulted in an unfavorable vocational placement. I wanted to warn you… because nobody warned me, The Maze is not what you think it is. What I erroneously thought was going to be a learning experience—an endeavor of specialization—turned out to be nothing more than a systematic selection for acquiescence, sycophancy, and sameness. It’s like a meritocracy turned on its head. In essence, the Arbiter rewards the imbeciles and spaniels—doors open up for them—while the apostates and iconoclasts are marginalized.
Unless you want to spent the rest of your life shoveling shit… you had better learn to conform. Individualism is not a virtue in the draconian eyes of the Arbiter. Please don’t make the same mistake I did. Feign compliance if you must…a journeyman will not advance according to his talents, but his submissiveness.
Trevor then folded up the vitriolic letter and placed it in his knapsack.
“So what did he say in the letter,” asked Emma.”
“Oh nothing really… he just wished me luck.”
Trevor was reluctant to share the details of his father’s letter… because he knew, not only would Emma become agitated, she would be offended as well. To her The Maze was the end all be all—the perfect method for quantifying journeymen. She completed The Maze with flying colors, she was one of the Arbiter’s favorite apprentices, and her ensuing placement was a reflection of her ostensible prowess. She was a high ranking government official. Yeah… lying about what was written in the letter was certainly the right thing to do.
Trevor now had mixed feelings about going to The Maze. Was this whole process of being a Journeyman merely a system of thought control—under the guise of enlightenment—he mused. He was certain of one thing… If he wanted to get ahead, he would need to curb his iconoclastic propensities. It seemed apparent to him now—that adherence was a prerequisite for advancement in The Maze.
With all that was on Trevor’s mind, the seven-and-a-half-hour trip passed like a kidney stone. He was now apprehensive about the disheartening journey he was about to endure.
“Ok, we’re finally here,” Emma said, as they pulled into the multi-tiered parking garage.
“Do you have all of your enrollment information?”
“Remember your class schedule? You have History 101 from 9:00 to 9:50, Social Sciences from 10:00 to 10:50, and that Creative Writing class from 2:00 to 2:50.”
“I know mom!”
“Oh, and make sure to use the cell phone I gave you, I want to know everything about your progress.”
“And remember to take your pills!”
It was now time for the boy to become a man. It was time for Trevor to be conditioned, like an unruly beast of burden, and learn to shrink and recoil under the lash of authority. If he hopes to become a model student, if he wishes to get ahead—if he does not want to suffer the same unfortunate fate as his father—then he must demonstrate a willingness to blindly obey—like an obsequious test subject for the Milgram experiment. Because here, in this thought stifling institution of “higher learning,” to graduate is necessarily to capitulate.
And thus, Trevor began his academic journey…