I don’t remember if I’ve ever really been outside the walls of Majatalo. I’m not sure anyone around here remembers what the world outside was really like, and it’s generally a taboo to try bringing up the matter in conversation. Not something forbidden, like all those terrible words and phrases we’re not allowed to say, but people don’t like it. They prefer to keep their minds elsewhere. To not focus on the truth.
Was I born in this place? I don’t remember for sure anymore. I turned up at the doorstep, all those years ago, so I suppose I didn’t. The overseers asked me what my name was. I tried to give it to them, but they told me that name was already taken. They couldn’t keep track of two people with the same name, they needed me to give them a different one. It took some time, but I came up with something. After they’d christened me with my new name, they asked me, “What’s your mission?”
I asked, “My mission? What am I, James Bond?”
To my shock, the unseen overseers took that to heart, but welcomed me to come up with a different one at any time, if I came up with something else. I was motioned to my own little room. It was a tiny, empty affair that they told me I could decorate however I pleased if I had the coin. I was barely more than a kid then and my parents, God bless them, were left on the outside. They didn’t give me anything to purchase even the barest essentials with.
So, for even basic sustenance and a struggle against loneliness, I ventured into the many rooms of Majatalo. There were lots of places to go and countless other lost souls on the public floors but it was hard to connect with anyone out there. I figured the servers in the pubs may have lost their minds a long, long time ago. I’d never seen a waiter in one of the pubs step out from behind their bar and they just sputtered the same few phrases every few minutes. Duck soup was always ready, but I never saw a bowl of it served.
There used to be an outdoor pool to swim in, so maybe that implied it was safe to go outside after all. But the pool attracted the worst kinds of people. Armies of figures robed in black used to appear, claim the water was contaminated, and refuse to let anyone in. I never saw anything come of that supposed contamination, maybe it wasn’t worth risking. But those figures in black never seemed like the sort to be trusted, so it’s hard to say. Our unseen overseers tried to purge Majatalo of them, but I’m sure many slipped through the cracks.
The overseers of Majatalo are a strict if inconsistent sort. They wield some kind of power over all of us within the walls as if we surrendered some part of our freedom to them in exchange for the Majatalo’s protection. Maybe we did, I honestly don’t remember the terms I agreed to to gain entry. The overseers can catch words on the tip of your tongue and convert them to garbled nonsense and if they should find you too disagreeable, they can make you disappear. Where to I can only imagine. I’ve still never heard definitive word on the outside world, so I doubt the guilty are banished there. I knew someone else who said they ripped him from existence for a whole week. He had no power, no mobility, no presence, nothing. He simply ceased to be within the Majatalo. He didn’t seem especially put off by it, but the very prospect makes my blood run cold. It keeps me a fine, upstanding member of the community, fear can really have that effect.
So with only my most basic needs met in the public spaces, I was left to wander the countless private rooms. Some of them are protected by locks, some even require a specific phrase to get in, but most of the rooms can be entered with no opposition. Usually, there’s no more than a few of the lost souls decorating or talking within but some are far stranger. I have encountered more than my fair share of lovers trying everything in their power to share their affections. That was another thing Majatalo’s overseers frowned upon. Considering their strict judgment on words, some believed the overseers were really some kind of stuffy religious institution. If so, that would be pretty ironic considering the godless place so many of those locked rooms can prove to be on the rare time you gain admittance. As is, the lovers struggle and fumble to show affection with their bodies in ways the overseers will not take notice of. And sometimes, it seems they are not even sure how to share their bodies with one another at all. I have never experimented out of my fear to be labeled defiant, but I feel like even I know many are doing something wrong.
Perhaps because those within Majatalo are forbidden to breed, others try to fill the void. I have seen rooms of people who look the same size and age as me scream and wander about as if they were toddlers. I’ve been to private chambers where women make like they are nursing infants with men and women who may well be older than they are. A little cap and a lisp, that’s all you need to be someone’s child within Majatalo. Some small part of me almost finds that endearing, the rest of me is overcome with confusion and disgust. The countless others within would surely think I’m the strange one for all of my over-analysis, but with so much of the outside world already lost to me, I cling to whatever thoughts I can.
There is no dying within the walls of Majatalo. Make no mistake, there are threats, there is action and for many there is pain. I’ve known a select few who seem immune to the sting of violence, even as it is inflicted on them again and again. They insist you only feel what you believe is real, I don’t know if that’s genuine philosophy or just more mad ravings for the pile.
The Majatalo is a different place now than it was years ago. Newly lost souls who have traded the world outside the walls for its protection now receive basic essentials already in their rooms. The strange “missions” have instead become, “mottos.” And at least one of the overseers has stepped out from the shadows and offers vague guidance to the newcomers. He calls himself Frank, he sports a bushy moustache and a bellhop’s uniform. Maybe the overseers felt a somewhat human face made the transition into this gilded prison easier to digest. Or maybe he was the only one of them ever in charge of this place and he wanted the chance to look us all in the eye. Let us all know that we belonged to Majatalo now.
Of course, Majatalo itself has never really been known by that name. Not the one in my country, anyway. I’ve heard there are nine these days and I doubt even the original in Finland uses that name. I have long called it Majatalo to help me cope with the oddities within. Madmen whispering about disease in the water, injuries that are only as real as you believe they are, people born within days of one another playing out elaborate fantasies of being parents and children.
It’s all too bizarre for a place with a name as welcoming as Habbo Hotel.