Author: Roger L. Wang
Erik fumbled about in the bed of his echo chamber, knowing it would be a restless night. He eventually got up–not literally, but rather with his mind–and entered the studio.
There, he obsessed and went through every detail of the dream he would later submit in the Test, which was overseen and administered by the high council. His submission would be heavily scrutinized before a final verdict determined his fate: he would either be deemed worthy enough for the title of Crafter or he would be cast away alongside the rest of the Insipids. It wasn’t a literal death sentence, but he knew the rest of his life would be utterly miserable. The Insipids were in charge of menial maintenance tasks upkeeping the facilities, where contempt for them was anything but concealed, their prospects bleak and hopeless. Erik shuddered as he imagined himself hidden down below the depths of society, the glares of guards watching his washed-out jumpsuit silently mop the floor until the day of his death. The worst part was that since Insipids were labeled uncreative, protocol forbade them from ever dreaming. Never mind the constant surveillance, he had no idea how he would survive the shameful nights of fitful, empty rest.
In a futile effort to stop catastrophizing, Erik used a state-sanctioned breathing exercise to no avail. When that didn’t work, he desperately loaded up his rankings to convince himself he was too high up to worry about being sent away. He tried not to notice the fact that he had fallen four spots since the last time it updated, nor how his placement was average at best to begin with. Erik lifted his hand and began the starting sequence of his dream. A few seconds in, Erik frowned and began revising. No, no no, how did I miss this before? he thought, I will surely be deemed unworthy with such banal blues. He shrunk the bed of flowers to a vibrant violet, but after a moment of deliberation decided it was too pedestrian and opted for a prickly purple instead–hoping it would evoke the intended mystique and ambiguity in the eyes of the high council.
Opening one of the expensive hologuides he recently purchased, Erik skipped through redundant and platitudinal advice before landing on a helpful list describing what the high council is likely to find original; he checked through half the symbols but worried any more would make his craft appear trite or gauche. He then proceeded to spend an hour and a half redesigning the garlands in the girl’s hair and perfecting the way they twirled in the wind, eager it would all come together to accentuate the irony and subversion in the end. Finally satisfied, Erik stretched and yawned, beckoning himself to sleep after all he had accomplished–lest he allow poor rest squander his performance for the remaining portions of the Test.
Lying down, Erik smiled as he envisioned himself at the Creative Ceremony, acolytes esteeming him with the title of Crafter. “Creative Erik…Crafter Erik,” he whispered, delighting himself with how it sounded as he drifted off into the darkness.