This is part of Haunting’s Recollection series – it is a spoiler-rich recap of BL4KM4SS: Prelude, which has finished its run. In the event of a remount, an earlier, spoiler-free review is available. Prelude Prelude Prelude Prelude Prelude
“Really, to sin you have to be serious about it.” – Henrik Ibsen
I am waiting, staring at a mailbox, during a lull in the rain. A long application process has led me to this particular mailbox; from the time I first saw the mysterious BL4KM4SS Instagram, I’ve filled out questionnaires, recorded videos, and followed cryptic instructions. So exact was their recruiting process that I am now obsessing about whether I should be standing by the mailbox in the picture I’d been sent, or looking at it from across the street in the approximate location where it had been taken from. While I fret, a dark vehicle pulls up. “You were supposed to be waiting over here.” Great, I’m off to a fantastic start.
A well-dressed man exits the vehicle, and courteously hands me paperwork to sign. When I’ve completed it, he blindfolds me (equally courteously) and bundles me into the back seat of the vehicle. He sits to my right. The driver, who I’ve never seen, takes a meandering course to another stop, where another gentleman enters the vehicle and sits on the other side of me. Even blindfolded, I can tell he’s large and imposing.
From this point, we drive for a few miles. I learn that the dapper man is Clausen, and the bruiser on my left is Baker. They have many, many questions for me. Some are word associations. Some are word choices.
“Serve or rule?”
“Quantity or quality?”
“Power or money?”
“One or one million?”
“Incest or bestiality?”
Some are more free-form. “What animal do you identify with?” Baker laughs crudely at my choice of the meerkat, but Clausen interrupts. “Interesting choice, but why?” I muddle my way through a justification that I like them because they’re social and cooperative, with a sense of community.
“What deadly sin is your weakness?” Sloth, I think, but they have their own ideas. “Don’t try to deny that it’s pride,” says Clausen.
The conversation isn’t entirely one-sided. I learn that they’ve been on missions all over the world–what sort of missions isn’t entirely clear–but they involve violence and being paid quite well. One of them was definitely in Budapest; Baker expresses strong opinions on the desirability of Budapest women.
At one point Clausen asks me suddenly, “How many turns have we made since we got in the car?” I am completely at a loss. Baker laughs at me, and says, “Guess he doesn’t have much of that…what do you call it again?” Clausen answers, “Situational awareness. And no, he doesn’t.” He takes my hand and inspects it. “Soft.”
As we pull into a driveway, Baker says, “Looks like we’re about to have some fun with this little meerkat.” Clausen has some advice for me. “You shouldn’t think of yourself as a victim. What’s coming soon is something to be transcended, not endured. And remember, to sin, you really have to mean it.”
Still blindfolded, I am taken out of the vehicle and led into and through what feels like a house. Clausen is irritated at Baker for being slow, but Baker explains he has to “set up the apparatus.” I am not exactly filled with confidence. The situation doesn’t improve when Clausen removes my blindfold and I get a chance to take in the room around me. At my feet, a blood-soaked mattress. In the corner, a woman, kneeling, bound, and hooded. Clausen indicates I should lie down on the mattress.
Getting Serious About Sin
I do. There is a spotlight shining in my face, so I see everyone dimly. Clausen and Baker before me, and…someone directly above me, hidden by the light. Clausen begins attaching cuffs to my ankles and wrists. “You will notice that these are not very securely attached. Think of them as symbolic restraints only. Remaining still will be a test of your own discipline. Let’s begin.”
A drop of liquid falls on my face from a height, followed by a trickle. I find myself hoping it is water. Some goes into my nose; I reflexively start to shake my head, but get a stern warning from Clausen. I remain still. The liquid mostly falls on my forehead and runs into my eyes. This is not to be a waterboarding. Following Clausen’s advice, I do my best to transcend, not endure, what happens.
Truth be told, it is more alarming than uncomfortable, and serves to focus my attention on the surreal but fascinating “interview.” If CIA interrogators started a series of motivational seminars, the results might be similar. The questions they ask are personal and insightful, building on the discussion we had in the vehicle. At one point, for instance, we circle back around to sins. I try once again to argue that my sin is sloth. Clausen tells me sharply, “It is very clear your weakness is pride, or you wouldn’t be second-guessing all these questions and trying to be the know-it-all teacher’s pet. You would learn more by listening.” I realize that in my effort “just to be perfectly accurate,” I have also been trying to be the one who was right, proving their point.
They have also not forgotten about the meerkat thing. Looking down at me, Clausen comments, “If you are truly committed to community, meerkat, I hope you are going through this thinking of others and not just yourself.” For assassins, or cultists, or SPECTRE agents, or whatever these people are, they sure have a moral code and a commitment to self-improvement.
These few pointed criticisms aside, they seem pleased overall with my answers and my stillness. At one point Baker says, “You’re doing so well, it’s kind of turning me on a bit. And I’m not usually into guys.” That took a turn, I think. Clausen tells me, “Baker seldom gives praise like that.”
Eventually, Clausen undoes my “symbolic restraints.” “Stand up. There is one more order of business.” As I get unsteadily to my feet, I look down at myself and realize that the liquid was blood. I look like I’ve come from an abattoir.
The final order of business is a test of loyalty, ethics, and practical skills. It is very simple. There is no #2 pencil, just a gun and a prisoner. The nature of the test can be easily guessed; the scoring key perhaps less so. Am I a killer? And is an obedient, unquestioning killer what they want?
Under their watchful eyes, I make my choice, which I will not reveal, and it is apparently acceptable. Clausen’s feedback: “You should feel…not proud – you have problems with pride…but a sense of accomplishment, let’s say. You will be contacted again.”
My accomplishments have earned me another blindfolded ride, back to where I was picked up. I am left on the sidewalk facing away from the street with a tract to read. It is several pages long, largely quotes from Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt. My new associates tell me not to turn around until I have finished reading it. By the time I do, the vehicle is gone as if it never existed.
BL4KM4SS will be continuing the narrative established in Prelude, introducing new characters and plot lines. BL4KM4SS will also present other narratives and new immersive realities for guests to explore.
The creators of BL4KM4SS say of themselves, “We want to modify current consensus reality. We want our guests to feel what it’s like to be another person, to see themselves from an outside perspective, and to explore alternate personalities. Consensus reality doesn’t exist when they are with us.”
Participants who journeyed through Prelude will be contacted to continue to Part I. There will be an additional package offered for new guests who would like a glimpse into Prelude before entering Part I.
Haunting is a resource for immersive theater and horror fans in Los Angeles and across the world, promoting art and community. Want to help us reach even more people, and get some cool perks and experiences? For as little as $1 a month, you can join our Patreon, and help us keep bringing content to life.