The Institution comprises a labyrinthine complex of concrete buildings. No one knows how many there are. Many of the blocks are over twenty storeys high, and all are connected by a network of walkways. The way into a building is never the way out: there are strict rules. Security personnel tut under their breaths.
The purpose of the Institution is widely debated. Some conjecture that it’s educational, while others argue it’s military. It may even be a correctional facility, or perhaps a religious foundation or a spam factory. The evidence points many ways. One thing is certain: the Institution is a place of fierce activity. Employees work long hours and remain connected to their workplace after hours through telecommunicative metal discs implanted just beneath the skin. Encrypted messages requiring urgent responses are transmitted from the Institution to its workforce at all hours, often manifesting in dreams. As a result, all employees with managerial responsibilities are prone to neurotic analysis of their own dreams, sifting through the imagery in case it contains some important memorandum or action point.
Most people who work at the Institution are middle managers. But they struggle to articulate their responsibilities and don’t know the names of those who manage them. There must be dozens, even hundreds of senior managers. But that echelon is a mystery.
At the Institution there are strict protocols governing use of the staff toilets. Employees wishing to urinate may do so only when it is raining. Defecation is even more problematic: a 20,000 word rationale must be submitted to a special committee at least a month in advance.
The Institution welcomes a constant stream of visitors: clients, customers, consultants, clowns, costermongers, chiropractors, cadavers. The visitors are ushered into meeting rooms, conference rooms, dining rooms, boardrooms, ballrooms, bedrooms, darkrooms, panic rooms, throne rooms, billiard rooms, bathrooms, cloakrooms, classrooms, lumber rooms, showrooms, laundry rooms. There is no record of what happens to the visitors after they have been shown to their rooms. And since no visitor is known to have left the Institution, we can only speculate about the nature of their experiences inside that slate grey labyrinth.