Into Great Silence
I stood before an unmarked door, the roar of Chicago’s “L” trains overhead, about to knock — and make some questionable moral choices. I was going into great silence.
Justin Brink’s terror experience Miasma, now in its fourth year, is an extreme haunt through and through, but aims to leave its guests thinking. Shows vary in tone from year to year, but one constant is a darkly sardonic take on deep issues. This year’s show, “Into Great Silence,” explored greed and power.
To get to that door, I had had to fill out questionnaires, undergo phone interviews, and perform tasks to prove my commitment. In every contact, it had been stressed to me that I was to follow every instruction given to me, immediately and without question.
I was expecting some sort of violence to begin as soon as I knocked on the door, so I was surprised when Justin opened it to let me in. Not in a ski mask, not dressed as a demon, but looking quite ordinary. He did have some complaints though.
“You know, I’m losing all kinds of money putting on these extreme haunts for assholes like you. Tonight, I’m going to have you make me money. Remember, do everything you are told.”
Let these motherfuckers know we mean business
Before leaving, he introduced me to my partner, a big, intimidating guy in a ski mask (Ah, there we go, I thought to myself). My partner gave me my very own ski mask, and, to my unease, a gun. “We’re going to go in there and rob some people. Do everything I tell you to do, and say everything I tell you to say. Be sure to grab any money you see.” He paused. “Let these motherfuckers know we mean business.”
We burst into a big empty warehouse room. Inside were some people sitting around a table stacked with money. Well, this will be easy.
Following my cues, I held my gun on them while shouting something about freezing, and hands in the air, and blowing their heads off, all punctuated with profanity (In the heat of the moment, I didn’t get the wording out quite as I was given it). Apparently I got the point across, though. They all stared fearfully at me. Well, at us. We split the prisoners up, and had them huddle in a corner, while I took the opportunity to stuff my pockets with money. Then things started to get a bit darker still.
My partner, it seemed, didn’t just want to keep his hostages under control; he wanted to degrade and humiliate them. And like a good lackey, I followed his every instruction and was complicit in his evil. They were clearly shady, sitting around a table covered in money in an empty warehouse. They had it coming, right? Right?
Their revenge wasn’t long in coming. At one point, I was left alone with one of the hostages, and he realized that my gun wasn’t loaded. Soon, I was the one kneeling on the ground, looking up into his hate-filled eyes.
This doesn’t make you special
“Isn’t it brilliant?” he asked bitterly. “All the options you have to run around the world, looking for something exciting, mysterious, new? Something to break the great silence of your mundane life. This doesn’t make you special.”
The former hostages took their time getting their revenge on this thrill-seeking tourist. The memories of it seem nightmarishly disjointed: the way I flung myself backward as if I’d encountered a poisonous snake the first time a stun gun crackled near me. Working to control my breathing as I lay in a body bag. Crawling along a straight line down a very long room to a woman on a pedestal, who pretended to give me a choice. Choking at the stench after she instead gave me what she thought I deserved. Many electric shocks (Per Chekhov, a stun gun introduced early on must be used by the end).
Through all of this, I had ample opportunity to reflect that I deserved every bit of it for what I’d helped put these people through. Sure, I’d only been doing what I was told, but how had it become that important to do what I was told? Later, as I lay in a bathtub looking up at the man I’d humiliated, and the gun in his hands, I couldn’t think that what was about to come was anything but justice.
Later, back at my hotel room, it struck me that this was the only haunt I could recall that hadn’t had even one monster in it. Then I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror. Oh, right — there was at least one.
For more information on Miasma, check out their website.