Elana doesn't know how to get out of this huge mousetrap of the Busy Room. Everywhere she turns, new things come, evil things... Read on!
It was now or never.
Elana bit her lip as she apprehensively took the next step, and tasted blood. It was truly a bad habit, and she couldn't get rid of it. But she had bigger problems to worry about than lip biting right now.
The tall, young man at the desk finally managed to tear himself from his book, surely a great work of literature, thought Elana. In reality, a comic book. "You've come at last. Why? What force has brought you here?"
"Please, sir!" She held back the sobs. "I can't live like this anymore. I'm trapped like a rat, here in the Scarlet Circle. Nobody likes me. I have no friends. No one will be my Provider. Ah, sir, I haven't eaten in over a week! I-" "Let me diagnose the issue." The young man, who could see perfectly well, placed his professional-looking spectacles atop the ridge of his nose, and pushed them back.
He shoved a fat pile of papers at Elana and asked her to fill them out. The questions were odd: "What's your favorite color?" "Do you like to read?" "How often do you spend time with other children?" "Do you like mushrooms?" "If you were trapped on a desert island, would you bring a pad of drawing paper, a stack of books, your annoying little brother, your cell phone, or a box of chocolates?" "Which school do you attend?" And so on.
After several hours, fourteen-year-old Elana Riverside had filled out all the paperwork, and handed them to the young man for evaluation. After adjusting his spectacles several times until he thought he looked as smart and professional as possible, he read the answers, mumbling darkly to himself, till at long last he looked up.
"I have found the problem."
"You're too bright. You're too intelligent. You're much too creative and clever, and you spend too much time by yourself."
"Is- is that bad?"
"I should say it is! You don't get it, do you?" The young man leered at her, his eye glinting brightly. "My job, and the job of everyone who works in the Busy Room, is to make sure everyone is born just like everybody else. Miss Riverside, do you realize what we're doing? We're creating the world's first utopia!
"Occasionally we make a mistake, and get someone too dull and stupid, or else we end up with someone like you." Elana stared numbly at him. "My dear, in the olden days- well, fairly recently, actually- all the bad eggs promptly got their heads chopped off, Maria Antoinette style. Now, it's worse than than that."
"What- what happens now?" Elana's lip trembled in fear, and for good reason.
"It's no wonder nobody will Provide for you, if you're smart enough to ask questions such as that. Providers nourish only those who merge with the crowd best and follow like sheep.
"Anyway, I'll answer your question: You may never leave the Busy Room; you are trapped here for all eternity."
Elana gazed around her. In one corner was a cluster of giant rats and spiders and bears, bound in chains. In another corner sharks swam in the deep water. Elana decided perhaps it was best not to look.
"However, if you're as clever as I think you are, you may fool the lot of us in escape. Your chances are minuscule, but there, all the same."
Elana nodded, a huge lump in her throat.