The Factory of Wonderful Things

On the first floor there is a room seething with pink cotton candy. It is alive. It has a great and terrible mind.

The room has a balcony overlooking it. Scientists come there and look down at the cotton candy. So it doesn’t grow lonely.

They say, “Hello!”

“Hello,” says the cotton candy. It swirls. “I have a great and terrible mind.”

“Is that so?” the scientists ask.

“Yes,” says the cotton candy. Then it will say something profound and useful. Like a unified field theory. Or a new cardinal number between one and ten that no one had ever heard of before. Or practical dating advice.

People who get tired of working in the factory sometimes come to the balcony. They dive in. They vanish under the swirling and the bubbling of the cotton candy. They drown there. And as they drown, the cotton candy shouts, “I’m bubbling with love and death!”

It is not wonderful that that happens, you understand. It’s just the cotton candy that is wonderful.

There is a room on the first floor packed tight with rotating gumballs. These are like ordinary gumballs. But they do not like to be eaten. Instead they like to rotate around people. If they ever got out then people would be constantly surrounded by rotating gumballs. It would be very socially awkward. It would produce the kinds of complications that nuclei have to deal with every day. It’s too bad that nuclei have to suffer that, but people shouldn’t have to!

The whole factory is full of things like that. Things that are wonderful, but can’t be let out.

On the second floor, there are tigers. Tigers are pretty cool. But they like to eat people sometimes. Eat them, gnaw on them, or sometimes just playfully maim them. That’s why tigers don’t make good wonderful things to have in your house. People would always be saying, “Spot! Stop eating the guests!” and “Spot! Bad tiger! That’s mommy’s arm.”

This would not just be bad for people. It would also make the tigers sad.

The second floor also has that guy. That guy. The one to whom freedom of speech applies. It’s not so that everyone can talk, you know, whatever activist judges say. It’s for him. Scientists visit him sometimes too.

“I think,” he will say, “that the moon is a giant marble, that escaped the factory.”

“It was actually an affiliate—” starts one scientist.

“You shouldn’t criticize me,” he’ll say. “I have a right to free speech!”

“You’re right!” admits the scientist. “I have to shut up now.”

He’s not very pleasant to be around. But he’s important! Free speech osmoses to everyone else. As long as he’s alive, everyone else gets some too.

On the third floor, there is the happiness machine. You push a button and you are guaranteed to be happy. Leonard Schnauzel, who, due to his name, had never previously been happy, was the first man to push the button.

“Oh my God,” he said, at the time. “I finally understand.”

That’s when a bunch of underdressed women and a hot car were delivered to his home. Also, there were sacks of cash. When you look at commercials that promise sex and money if you buy the product, it’s not just something they’re making up—they’re harkening back to the legendary experience of Leonard Schnauzel.

“What a wonderful machine!” he said. He hugged it. A lot. But then they locked the machine away on the third floor of the factory. It’s still there today!

On the fourth floor, they have the hall of inflatable gods. These work a lot like RealDolls, except for worship instead of sex. They are not as good as an actual god, and definitely not as good as God, but sometimes people get lonely.

“Zeus!” a woman might say, inflating a Zeus. “Transform yourself into a swan and let’s get it on!”

That is not something that this reporter can personally imagine happening. But it is the illustration on the Zeus box.

“Wolf god!” a mysterious wanderer might say. “Help me restore the balance of the world!”

Then he would inflate the wolf god. The wolf god would help him restore balance to the world. Studio Ghibli knows! They’ve toured the factory in a special bus.

There is also a giant lollipop. It is stuck on the fourth floor for three reasons. First it is sticky. Second, if it were let out, people would be licking it all the time and would never get anything done. Third, it is bigger than the room it is in, which makes it also bigger than every possible egress for the room it is in. It’s true! You can prove it mathematically!

On the fifth floor are the cubiclemaids and cubiclemen. These are like mermaids and mermen, except that the bottom half is not a fish but rather some sort of office supply, like paperclips or printer toner. They sing marvelously and try to call passing workers.

“We promise a marvelous life in the cubicle maze!” they sing. “It will be full of joy and wonder!”

Their song promises a look at hidden treasures sparkling in the cubicle maze. It promises a chance to see the dolphins and memos that dart and play in the cubicle reefs. But if someone heeds their call, usually, they wind up drowning in work. It’s best not to listen!

On the sixth floor are the people responsible for the factory of wonderful things. They think they’re allowed to leave. But they’re not. If they ever stopped to think about it rationally, that’d be pretty obvious. But they don’t. They just go on making stuff!

The factory isn’t far from here. Just head downtown and take a left. The building shines like ice.

You can’t miss it!

8 thoughts on “The Factory of Wonderful Things

  1. Ben:
    …the factory should obviously be put inside itself.

    That might explain why the people who run the factory are never allowed to leave… if the factory is inside itself, then every time they go out the door they only end up on the sixth floor again.

  2. Except then that doesn’t make sense because you can still get to the factory by going downtown! Unless all of downtown is in the factory, too. Or, taking it to the logical conclusion, the entire world is inside the factory.

    So you have to ask, is the world a Wonderful Thing? Too wonderful to be let out? Even though “let out”, in this topologically deviant context, means being allowed into the world itself. Is the world too wonderful for itself?

    Perhaps when written by RSB.

  3. Except then that doesn’t make sense because you can still get to the factory by going downtown! Unless all of downtown is in the factory, too. Or, taking it to the logical conclusion, the entire world is inside the factory.

    Except for the Asylum. That’s outside.

  4. Perhaps it’s worth noting that this excellent piece of reporting does not establish a direct causal relationship between how wonderful these things are and the fact that they can not get out… rather, it states that both of these are facts about the factory. Therefore, perhaps we should be looking at other possible reasons why the wonderful things cannot leave the factory.
    My personal bet (inspired by the interesting topology ascribed to certain residents of the facility) is that it is a gravitational singularity. I’m pretty sure they’ve got one of those downtown.

  5. Thank you for saving my sanity just now. (I know I come very late to it, and explaining why my sanity needed saving is too complex, but still)

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