Fifteen men and women of all ages, colours, shapes and sizes sat in uncomfortable plastic chairs and watched their life flash before their eyes.
The short film they were watching depicted, in sharp contrast to its audience’s variety, a character made to stay absolutely non-unique in every sense of the word; free of gender, race, sexual orientation, political and religious beliefs, not tall, not short, not fat or skinny, its facial features manipulated on a level beyond regular filmmaking so that they would be adamantly indescribable beyond “average”.
The movie was decidedly a repetitive one, and it was made so. After ten minutes or so of watching, its abnormal qualities kicked in, and the viewers felt their feelings and emotions flooded by a sense of soul-crushing absolute boredom at the same time that they witnessed parts of their own dull life reflected on it.
And so, fifteen people of the most varied kind shuffled in their seats as they repeatedly reached the conclusion that their lives were totally devoid of any sort uniqueness, until finally the movie ended, the projector was turned off and a smiling man emerged from behind the curtains.
For the briefest moment he judged the small crowd preemptively, before producing a microphone, smile still plastered wide on his face.
“HOW ARE YOU TODAY!?”
There was no response, beyond more uncomfortable shuffling.
“I’m glad to see you’ve appreciated the movie”, he said, not shouting anymore, yet still speaking through the microphone. “It’s really one of our tamest works, don’t worry. The stage of empty voided oblivion that you are currently experiencing will wear off somewhere between a few seconds and two hours from now. It’s just a small token introduction to the kind of works we produce. Now, I’m here today to give you a warm welcome to our group, as well as some basic and not-so-basic pointers. Are you feeling cool yet?”
“Good, because you’re not.” His cheery voice died down as his apparently endless smile faded, his expression now flowing naturally with the mood of his words. “See, that’s our first tenet, and also the reason behind our name. “Are We Cool Yet?” A simple question, with a simple answer. No, we’re not cool. Nobody is. Our entire organization is based around that. If you truly want to produce work of the quality that we look for here, you need to be able mention one thing you dislike right off the top of your head. I’m very serious. If there’s not even one thing you’re disgruntled with at the moment, just walk out the door right now. No charge, no harm. Really, feel free to.”
Of course, nobody did so.
“Since you’re all still here, I’ll assume there’s something bothering you right now, something that you hate. Good. I want you to cling on to that hatred. Once you’ve done that, think of a way to create the biggest single statement ever made about that subject. The biggest thing. You have just been introduced to a world where the word ‘limit’ is non-existent. Worth for jack shit. Zero. Nada, zilch, gone, poof, bye. No borders at all. If you wanna convey the pain of your latest romantic breakup by writing a poem that literally breaks the reader’s heart, there is nothing left in the world that can stop you. Granted, it’s a terrible idea, but as of today, there’s not a single thing blocking you from doing so. Wanna create something, something that you think’s really good? Go right ahead, and we’ll give you what you need.
Now, and here’s the tricky part: once you’ve finally created the aforementioned paragon of beauty that you spent so many majestic hours working on, a work of art so perfect that it revolutionizes the way that the world perceives your objective, you’re gonna take two steps back, analyze what you did, and realize why your creation is mind-blowingly idiotic. Why? Because our final objective is not a statement. That’s what makes us different from most artists. It’s the counter-statement that we look for. The art that proves wrong not only the world around it but itself, that’s the subtlety that we’re looking for. Nothing should ever satisfy you, not even your own work. That’s why we’re not ‘cool’, and why we ask ourselves all the time: it’s a small yet effective reminder that we aren’t. Question everything, constantly, on a daily basis. If you ever do consider yourself accomplished, fulfilled, achieved, in short, if you think you’re cool, well, to quote someone who we dislike very much, you’ll be “terminated”; not by murder, mind you. We’re artists, not killers. We’ll just let the human mind work by itself as everyone casts doubt on your previous works, and they’ll fall into the hole of non-existence and be forgotten by everyone as you wonder why you even joined us in the first place.”
Without any sort of previous warning, the man’s smile returned. “As for practical things: we have a communal pool of resources both worldly and supernatural, and you’re free to take any for your pieces as long as you give fairly. You still have to clothe and feed yourself, though. We communicate mostly through the internet, besides having meetings at irregular intervals in irregular locations, of which you’ll be properly informed at the correct times. There are no punishments for bad art; you’ll probably hurt yourself if you screw up while making art with paranormal entities anyway, and that’s punishment enough. Secrecy is important, though. If there’s someone out there who you think would be interested in joining and would be of worth to us, we’ll hold votes for it at the reunions, so don’t get pumped about telling all your art-major-slash-Starbucks-barista friends just yet.
Finally, a small point on hierarchy: most of us here are equals. Hell, the moment this speech of mine is over, we’ll be exactly on the same level, you and me. The amount of people who are indisputably superior to you is so reduced that you’ll just know if someone is. Trust me on this one, you’ll know.
A young girl stood up from her seat, her hand raised above her. She couldn’t have been bigger than eighteen, short, thin, wearing jeans and a lumberjack’s shirt, and with a slight slump about her back.
“Yes?” asked the man, finally moving away from the mic.
“If we all get together just to rally against the world’s general eschews, aren’t we losing the very same sense of individuality that brought us here in the first place? I mean, it’s like we’re just this huge homogenous mass of mindless critique if we do that, and it seems, I don’t know, kind of wrong.”
The man’s grin widened. They were off to a good start.