Only a phone number was provided. Many of the Frequenters were older, and if not parents themselves, were at least involved with youth in some way through their professions, so something about that phrase preceding the final four words of the advertisement, before merely the cause of waves of dismissal, frustrated eye rolls and irritated scoffs, now seemed to burrow right into the gray suns of their hearts like a glow-worm. If they had collectively compared the prelude to their arrivals, all would have described this as the beginning of their Illumination.
Beyond his own words and ample exposure to Flitter feeds, A. Joe also brought the Unprivileged, in the Flesh, to the Place. And when the Unprivileged came, they came impossibly young, angrily baby-faced, proffering the dregs of life’s ravishment in warm, brightly colored costumes, purringly luxe autos, roiling in the slow evaporation of 1st class hangovers, and with thousands upon millions of Flitter Followers to their names. Remember, A. Joe cautioned the recovering Privileged Frequenters, you are Unworthy.
And they knew it to be True.
There was never direct reference among the Followers to a Before for Joe. But besides some hushed whispers about a past career as a government-level physicist fired for unethical experimentation that were ultimately dismissed as rumors (how could such a past square with the presence of the exalted Anthology?), general wisdom, peculiar for how little it needs direct articulation to form a general picture, filled in the following details: a childhood of humble stock, most likely a farmer; trained himself in his spare time in electronics and subsisted on entry-level engineering jobs (given that he’d had the gift of Genius but not the Privilege of a College Education that more advanced positions often demand), after which there was a marriage to a wealthy heiress with whom Joe fathered two children before absconding with a housekeeper and a good deal of his wife’s family fortune. His moral clarity had ultimately prevented him from making any sort of amends or gestures of reparation to his former family because, as went the wisdom of the Place, his family had the Privilege of Wealth. Only the Privileged need to apologize, atone, and display ample penitence for their undeserved advantages through suffering, while the Unprivileged merely need carry about the great work of mitigating their suffering by any means necessary.
Still, as they tend to do, even among the most dutiful, rumors persisted, growing ever more saturated. And their wordless chatter eventually gave way to something beyond superfluous biographical strata: a final plot on the sequence of time passed in the Place, an End to cinch the seemingly perpetual Present.
It went something like this.
A trip to the Basement, the Frequenters’ first. Confronting an impossibly gargantuan glass cylindrical contraption with a ladder that spanned so high its topmost point was indiscernible. A voice that seemed to boom from everywhere, and nowhere in particular except from somehow above, a voice usually stern, disciplinary, now warm, inviting.