The Company Tour. Short Story.

Ben slowly breathed in and out, trying to settle his nerves. It would be fine, of course it would. Everyone working in the facility had been warned, everything had been cleaned, made presentable, the tour would go off without a hitch. He tried not to think about what would happen if the tour went badly. They had been operating for a few months now, he thought they’d have longer to get themselves established before tours were offered, he understood the need for it, but he didn’t agree with it. It might interrupt work flow then their productivity would suffer and if that dipped too low he’d get blamed. He took another breath. Everyone had been warned, everyone knew to just go about their business if the tour came across them, to pretend that no one was even there. He had been studying all the manuals, all the promotional material since he had been told of the tour, he wanted to be at his best, didn’t want to stumble. This had to go well, failure was not an option. Ben looked at his watch and stood from his desk, he downed what was left of his cup of coffee, then he took a mint and popped it into his mouth. He took one quick look around to make sure there was nothing he was forgetting, then he left the office, he wanted to be outside, waiting to greet them in the courtyard.

He stood in the lobby, with a cup of water in one hand, more so he wasn’t fidgety while he waited. It wouldn’t look good if he was doing that. He was early, which was good, they could arrive at any moment and all he had to do was simply step outside. Three folders sat on the secretary’s desk, he picked them up and scanned them, making sure everything was in order, that done, he turned to look at the gates. A car pulled up in front of them, stopping while waiting for the gates to open. Ben gripped the folders tightly, behind him the secretary called out, “Good luck!” He smiled and stepped outside into the cool air. It was refreshing, being outside, it was a nice day out, hopefully that was a good omen. He watched the car pull up, wondering what they thought of being herded in like that, rather than getting their own, separate transportation. Oh well, it was all for security reasons, they had to understand that.
The car stopped a few feet from him and three people began to get out, all men, all in their late forties and all wearing suits. Ben stepped forward and shook their hands, greeting them warmly.

“Welcome to the facility, here are your information packs,” he passed them out, careful to make sure everyone got the right one, “inside you’ll find a badge, I must ask that you wear this at all times in the facility. It also contains promotional material and general information on what goes on here.” While the men put on their badges, Ben moved towards the door, “Now, if you’ll each step up to the door, we’ve already programmed your fingerprints into it. You’ll have to enter one by one, it’s protocol I’m afraid.”

They lined up and Ben instructed them on how to get into the building. Simple really, each one stepped up, scanned their finger then stepped through the first door, once that was closed, they waited as the camera ran the face through its software, confirming who it was. The door on the far side opened and the first man stepped through. While waiting the Third man frowned, “This seems like it would be very time consuming in the mornings, when workers come in.”
“Well, we have a worker entrance, there are added layers of security, but they can enter in batches of ten and the process moves quite quickly.” The second man stepped through the doors.
“What if there is a fire or an emergency?”
“The door locks disengage automatically and they can be opened, as it is they open from the inside easily.”
Then it was the third man’s turn. Ben thought that everything seemed to be off to a good start. He waited, then followed, when he stepped inside Sarah, the receptionist, was politely chatting, having already offered them tea, coffee or water.
Now, gentleman, if you’ll please follow me we’ll be heading to the extraction rooms first.”
The all turned and followed him as he took a left, at each door Ben paused and scanned his finger. “We have state of the art security systems throughout the building to prevent any sensitive data being compromised.”

“The facility can extract up to a thousand a day, however right now our average number is twenty eight. We expect this figure to increase as more people become aware of the services we offer. This is the first such plant built and is one of several spread across the globe.”
They stopped outside a door and Ben removed a card from his pocket, then he scanned his finger and swiped the card, “This room, being vital to production, has both the fingerprint and key card.” He opened the door and they all stepped inside.

The room was smaller than they expected, on the far side was another door. The walls were stainless steel, shining in the light. A single chair sat in the middle of the room, above it was a complicated looking machine, also made of stainless steel. On the ceiling there were recessed lights, covered by clear panels and four nozzles stuck out from various spots. There three small drainage holes on the floor and several more nozzles dotted about the room. “This door here is where the client enters, it is not as heavily secured as they will have already passed our extensive security tests and undergone the psychological testing required by state law.” He moved further into the room, “The walls and floors and coated in stainless steel to allow easy cleaning between each client, an automatic process sterilises the room. The process itself takes only a few moments, including sterilisation. This is one room of ten. Once the client leaves the room chemical cleaners are sprayed through the nozzles, after which water is used to wash them away. Though the process is clean, we follow the strict guidelines set out for our company to ensure that there is no risk of any kind of contamination for the patients.”
Ben moved across the room to the second door. “If you’ll follow me we’ll enter the client waiting room” He stepped through the door, “The doors are soundproofed to ensure maximum privacy and comfort.”

The floor of the waiting room was covered in thick, plush carpet, several comfortable looking chairs and sofas dotted the room, on a table were a variety on magazines and books, on one wall was a muted television. “At this point the client has removed all personal belongings and changed into one of our soft suits. Once the procedure is done, they are brought to the unwinding room where they are allowed to take some time and do as they please while they adjust. We return all belongings and allow them to change back into their street clothes.” Ben moved to the far door, the group of men trailing after.

They entered what appeared to be a changing room, “Here our technicians ensure that the clients are comfortable. We have private booths in which they can change. They are again asked to confirm that they want the procedure and are aware of the risks.” Ben opened the door to a cubicle, inside there was a bench, a hook and a plastic bag. “Bags are provided to each person, where they can store their belongings. Each bag is marked with a name and ID number linked to the client, this ensures that there are no mix ups.”
They moved into the final room, “And this is the welcome suite. The clients are brought here first, where they are greeted.” The room looked similar to the lobby they had first passed through. Behind the reception desk there was a large door. Ben approached it and again he scanned his finger and used the key card, “Now, if you’ll please follow me.”
He stepped into a corridor and walked along it, “There is currently only one client in the facility, they have agreed for you to witness the process. I can tell you little about the client other than she is a twenty five year old woman. She is in good health and has no psychological disorders.” Ben moved through the maze-like corridors with ease until he finally stopped at a door.

This room was small, but inside was a computer and a table with a row of dials, an entire wall was filled with TV screens, showing one of the operation rooms, a man sat in front of the computer. “Here our technicians perform the process. It is mostly automated but we have a trained operator in the room at all times, should any problems arise. This is Steven, he is one of our technicians. Now, watch.”
A woman entered the operation room, she wore a light blue jumper and soft looking trousers. They could hear a calm, soothing male voice. “To ensure maximum comfort, the client is allowed to choose the voice that gives instructions. It comes in standard male, female and we have a variety of celebrity options.”
“Please take a seat and relax.”
The woman moved forward hesitantly and slid into the seat, “The seat is warmed, to help sooth the client, it also takes away some of the medical association.”
“The procedure will start in a moment, you will not feel any pain, nor will you be harmed. Please, lie back in the chair and relax.” The woman sat back, a large band moved across her stomach, securing her in the chair. “Are you ready for the procedure?”
“Yes. I am.”

Ben turned to the three men, “Would one of you like to harvest it?”
There was silence. He thought someone would be willing. After a few seconds, one man turned from the screens, “I’ll do it.”
“Good man! Just press that button there and it will begin.” The man pressed the button, then he looked at the screens.

The large machine lowered slightly, then seemed to unfurl, long tendrils of metal draped across her body, something descended from the centre of the machine, but it wasn’t quite visible. It seemed to penetrate her chest, but the woman showed no discomfort or pain. She shuddered slightly, then there was a brief, faintly blue flash of light. The machine began to close in on itself, the woman’s face was blank.
“The procedure has been completed,” The bar across the woman’s lap opened, “once you feel ready, please stand and exit the room, there you will be greeted and led to the relaxation area.” The woman stood, she looked slightly paler than before, then she moved to the open door.

“That’s it?”
“That’s it.”
“I thought it would be, I don’t know. More violent?”
“Ah, many people think that. We are currently producing an instructional video which shows the process that we will be using in an advertising campaign, to dispel some of those rumours.”
“But surely it must be damaging?”
“Not at all. She is in perfect health.”
“But we just watched a woman’s soul be removed from her body! Surely she must have felt something.”
“If she did, it certainly wasn’t pain.”
“What do you do with the souls?”
“Well, at the moment, nothing. They can be contained, but we release them. They move on to where ever souls go when someone dies. The body remains behind, the person is still the same, with just a few differences. They make the perfect worker really. After this they are guaranteed lifetime employment with good pay. Before they undergo the process we discuss how payment is made and to whom. We offer a variety of options. Some choose for half the money to go to the families and so forth. They are willing to work long hours and they have little complaints. Of course we have strict rules with the people who employ them to make sure they are not taken advantage of. If these rules are breached we terminate the contract and report them to the government, we also make sure that maximum fines are imposed. I’m sure you remember the last business to try that.” No one said anything. It had been in the papers for months before the entire company had folded under the costs of fines and lawyers. Several of the higher ups were serving significant jail sentences.
“I have heard rumours that the clients become almost zombie like, perfect for repetitive tasks.”
“Well, they can be used for that, however we think that is pointless. They are still a functional human being, they need breaks, food, water, the usual. They just have less distractions. They don’t rely on family or friends, they don’t have many hobby’s. They are willing to work as long as needed and in fact, they live longer than those who do not undergo the procedure once they are treated properly. This allows workers to become highly skilled in their field. Though of course we cannot guarantee longevity as there can still be accidents.However, the first person to undergo soul extraction has so far lived to be almost two hundred. At the moment, he looks to be about fifty years old. He was nineteen when his soul was extracted.”

“Is it not a waste for the souls to be released? Surely they can be used for something?”
“Well, it’s true that the soul contains a lot of energy, as yet we have no way to harness that, nor do we know the repercussions of such an energy source once it is depleted. It is extremely difficult to extract energy from a soul, at the moment it is only a theory that it is even possible. Experimentation on souls is strictly controlled. It has been theorised that one soul contains the same amount of energy as every single nuclear warhead on earth detonating simultaneously, and continuously for a thousand years. So you understand the need to be careful.”

Ben moved past the men and out into the corridor again, “Now, if you’ll follow me, we’ll be going to the final part of our tour.”
He led them through to a large room, inside there were sets of tables and chairs, three of the chairs were already occupied. “These people have already undergone the extraction and have agreed to meet with you, to answer any questions or concerns you might have about their state of being and their mental health. There will be tea, coffee and sandwiches provided while you chat.”

Ben watched as the men went to the tables. He knew that at the end these men would be sold on the idea and they’d have three new contracts. By the door there were three bags containing various items, including a version of the suit the clients wore during extraction along with various items with company logos on them. It was perfect really. The extraction freed most of the people that came through. Many of the clients were depressed or considering suicide. It was an easy way to increase productivity and allow them to move onto whatever waited for people on the other side. They didn’t quite know what that was yet, but that didn’t concern Ben. He was pleased, the tour had gone well, better than he had hoped. He knew that once a few more business showed interest they’d get a dedicated tour guide, but for now that job fell to him. Ben walked over to the table contained the refreshments and poured himself a cup of coffee, he picked up a doughnut and he ate slowly, enjoying the feeling of a job well done.

About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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