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Holder of the Downtrodden

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In any city, in any country, go to any homeless shelter or soup kitchen you can get yourself to. Ask the first employee or volunteer you see if he knows where one can find "The Holder of the Downtrodden." If the worker looks around to make sure nobody's listening before he responds, then you have come to the right place.

The worker will imply that he requires a bribe before he will take you where you must go. Give him a substantial amount of cash, and hopefully he will consider it a large enough amount. He will then show you to a door that was not there before, which will lead to a staircase the building should not have.

The worker will take you to a nonexistent floor with many, many rooms arranged in a chaotic fashion. The rooms do not have hallways connecting them, and thus one must walk through various rooms to get to his destination. The worker will make his way through the illogically-arranged floor with speed and efficiency born of experience, and it will be difficult to keep up. You must keep up, however, for being lost on this floor is eternal emptiness. Also, be sure to keep your attention focused solely on the worker whom you follow: the rooms through which you walk are occupied with people who have given in to despair and loneliness, and to pay them any heed is to join them forever.

After what will have felt like days, the worker will bring you to the only empty room, then gesture wordlessly to the door on the other end. Humming nonchalantly to himself, he will walk back the way he came, leaving you in that empty room. If you have any doubt in your heart, then you'd best leave, and hopefully catch up with the worker. Otherwise, push through the door.

You will find yourself in a dingy rat-hole of a place. Despite the effects of centuries of neglect, the room is just barely recognizable as a living room of sorts. On a seat that once was a respectable recliner will be a dour-looking old man. There is something to the man that tells of a life once filled with pride and success, but somewhere along the line went into a sharp nosedive that brought him to the bottom of the barrel.

With an angry-sounding, though unconvincing, bark, the old man will demand to know why you've come. Immediately snap back that it is none of his business, and assume a posture and demeanor as though you have absolutely no respect for this old man - that he is, to you, just human trash, not worthy of respect or dignity.

If you are convincing enough, the old man will cave in and lose what little bluster he had. He will meekly bow his head and become silent. Now you must rummage around the room as though you own place. Open every little cabinet and drawer you find, and rifle through. Take anything you like; so long as you maintain your facade of domination, nobody will dare stop you.

After you have looked through every storage place in the room, march up to the old man and demand to know where your payment is. The man will mumble and fumble for a while, but you must force a direct answer out of him, even if physical force is required. If you are successful, he will tell you how he ended up in his current situation. It is a story of dreams crushed by insensitive rivals, of opportunities missed, of dreams dashed by unfeeling bureaucracies, of success destroyed by a society mired in dogmatism.

This man once had great potential and resolve to change the world for the better, but the world he tried to save turned right around and destroyed him for his noble efforts. It is a story of uncaring powers-that-be, of close friends becoming enemies in the name of ambition, of loved ones turning away because they only cared about themselves, even after everything he'd sacrificed for them. If you feel any remorse - any at all - for what you have done to this man after hearing his story, then you are doomed to take his place. You must harden your heart and feel no compassion if you wish to remain free.

Once the old man's story is finished, grab him by the collar of his shirt and snarl, "What do they gain from the suffering they inflict?"

As the answer rips from him with force enough to bring you to your knees, you will gain the exact answer to your question. What little life was left in the old man will leave him, and he will sink back into his pathetic excuse for a chair. Now you may exit through the door from which you entered, which will open directly into the homeless shelter or soup kitchen in which you started. You will feel, right then, that what little compassion, what little care for others, you had inside you has died with that old man.

The hardness in your heart is Object 129 of 538. Your path will lead only to despair and oppression, for which the meek and compassionate will suffer the most.

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