The Waiting Room
This article contains major spoilers for several plotlines within the Manifold Sky setting, including the truth or falsity of various major religions and other unexplored aspects of world's cosmology. If you would rather read about these in future stories or experience them through role-playing game modules, turn back now. You have been warned!Enter The Waiting Room
'The Waiting Room' refers both to a unique administrative complex, found in the District in Oxo, and the eponymous room within it. In short, The Waiting Room is an extradimensional location which draws upon the 'blank' (the cognito-spiritual essences) of a sentient being in the Manifold Sky upon the death of their 'embodiment' (their physical, flesh-and-blood body).
DescriptionThe Waiting Room appears to be a small reception space featuring a bathroom, a reception desk, and a mysterious door on the wall to the left of the desk. The space is starkly lit, invoking the aesthetic of a doctor's office or civic building lobby. A few potted plants, a water cooler, and curiously anachronistic paintings serve as decoration. The waiting area is arrayed with a variable number of comfortable, if old, padded chairs, while side tables at regular intervals contain a wide variety of magazines in various languages. While the known languages of the Manifold Sky are predominant among the magazine selection, a few issues are written in languages which would be unfamiliar to any Manifold resident. The waiting Room is a strange place in which the normal rules of space and perspective do not apply. While many thousands of individuals can die simultaneously within the Manifold Sky, no individual will ever percieve The Waiting Room as containing more than forty-eight seats, and only around half of these will be occupied. By walking around a corner (perhaps to fruitlessly attempt an escape), an individual will simply find themselves in an identical copy of the same room - with the exception that the other occupants will be different. The receptionist is always the same person in all of these rooms, though, when she talks to someone located in an 'alternate' room, one percieves her to be talking to them over a dial telephone rather than directly to them.
DenizensMost visitors to The Waiting Room are the blanks of deceased sentients from the world of Manifold Sky. These individuals will typically appear to still bear the marks of injuries or illnesses which they carried with them into the afterlife, though these soon cease to pain the blanks and do not progress further (i.e. festering). The quiet and tranquility of the environment has a soothing affect on these cast-off souls, though most are agitated when they first arrive.
On the other hand, particularly spiritual individuals (such as experienced heirophants of Rostran Esotericism), are able to percieve the large, eagle-like wings of white fabric that erupt from the small of her back to encircle her body like a huge, loose shawl. Ms. Anubet is friendly, if tearse, and is generally loathe to offer anything but reassurances that 'everything will be ok' and that 'your appointment will be here soon.'
The receptionist, named Ms. Anubet, is a businesslike woman who appears to be in her late twenties. She has shoulder-length hair that she keeps tied up in a bow, wears spectacles, and often appears in a grey suit vest and slacks with a white undershirt. Like all blanks, Ms. Anubet has a monochrome appearance - as though she were a character from a black-and-white movie brought to life - though she can also appear as a normal, blonde-haired woman to simple-minded invididuals. She has limited control over this effect, preferring to appear as human as possible for the comfort of her guests.
Seldom few of the dead ever get to see the outside of The Waiting Room, and even fewer still are allowed to remember the sight. While the inside of the structure has a modern, official look to it, the exterior architecture of the building seems to come straight from Mediterranean classical antiquity. Impossibly vast stoa supported by highly polished marble pillars are stacked atop one another to form tiers, with ghostly, floating orbs of organge and lavender fire lighting the edifice against the starry nebulas above.
Beyond the eponymous Waiting Room lies an administrative complex which houses the House of the Unexpected council chambers, historical archives, interview rooms, Manifold surveilance suites, and offices used by visiting dignitaries (including The White-Haired Gentleman). These portions of The Waiting Room are somewhat more comfortable than the eponymous room itself, as these have a consistent internal geometry and have a warm, intimate aesthetic reminiscent of a well-stocked library or museum.
Individuals who have proven that they are capable of living in the Celestial Realms and utilizing the power of 'the Word' (the language of the cosmos) responsibly are allowed to exit the cycle should they so desire, ascending to parts unknown of the greater Matrioshka Multiverse. This state of attainment is assessed by The White-Haired Man, the House of the Unexpected, and the rest of the celestial bureaucracy installed at The Waiting Room, using a combination of pre-established rubrics and the intuition of those assessing a given soul. Because the 'Substrate' (the greater celestial bureaucracy of the Matrioshka Multiverse) cannot afford another mistake like the one that occured in the Candledusk Instance (another reality) during The Curved Time, the bureaucracy takes no chances when it comes to approving or disapproving a given soul's escape from the cycle of death and rebirth.
The Waiting Room serves as an integral step in the 'cycle' (the process by which blanks are recycled into new embodiments; a form of reincarnation). Epicyclists often have the easiest time coming to accept their fates, though acceptance is not required for the cycle to continue; all memories of The Waiting Room and all past cycles are locked away when a blank is returned to an embodied state. Because of the sins committed during The Curved Time, all souls within the Manifold are required to undergo repeated cycles - growing in knowledge, responsibility, and acceptance with each iteration - until they are cleansed of the hubris that led them to the Manifold in the first place.