Estimated reading time — 5 minutes
In any city, in any country where free elections are routinely held, go to a place of voting during that city’s Election Day. Walk up to the voting stand and tell any election official “I seek the Holder of Democracy”. If the official laughs or looks bewildered, then you will be forcibly removed from the place of voting by any security personnel guarding the premises. The Holder does not deem you worthy enough to attempt his test and it would be best for you not to press your luck.
Should the official stand up and walk away, follow him or her. You will be lead to a door in the wall, far removed from the main polling area. It will look mundane in every way, but looks can be very deceiving. The official will tell you to enter. Should you wish to withdrawal from your quest, then this will be your last opportunity to leave. Make your intentions clear and get out.
If you choose to continue the trial, open the door. You will find a very miniscule room. Make sure to duck, for the ceiling is low and it would not do for you to injure yourself this early in the test. Once you’ve entered, shut the door and make sure it clicks. Don’t bother trying to open it after this point-you won’t like what you see. Now, walk across the room, where you will find a table, a chair and two pipes. One of the pipes comes in from the ceiling and opens up above the table while the second pipe opens up next to the chair and goes into the floor. Take the time to mentally prepare yourself; the test will not begin until you choose to take your seat.
As you sit down, you will feel a manacle clamp around both of your legs. The moment the manacle has clicked onto your leg, a single piece of paper will fall from the pipe. Pick it up and you will see that the paper is actually a ballot. There will be written text, mainly in an unknown and undecipherable letter system with superficial similarities to ancient Greek. However, to your excitement you will see that your name is clearly written on the top of the ballot. Make sure to note whether the ballot was a vote for you or your opponent. Once you’ve done this, deposit it in the pipe leading into the floor so it can be removed from the room. More and more ballots will come out of the pipe at a quicker and quicker pace. You will need to count the ballots as quickly as possible, but it can be done with a mundane, but strenuous, level of effort.
As you hold the second ballot, you will start to feel a strange sensation. At first, it will be a weak and easily dismissed idea. However, as the ballots start to rapidly fall from the pipe, this sensation will become stronger and stronger. Vivid images of disease, famine and poverty will start shooting across your mind. You will then see yourself sitting on a grand throne; with fields of wheat, people working and children playing, bustling trade, hospitals and every other measure of human prosperity in the background. You will think that you can become the person in the throne, the promoter of human well-being and the destroyer of misery and suffering.
If you’ve been counting correctly, you will see that you are gradually slipping in this vote, and that your opponent is getting a greater and greater percentage of the ballot. You will desire nothing more than to stop counting, and declare yourself the winner. After all, you can solve the problems of the world; who cares what the ballots say? You must resist these urges with every fiber of your being; it is this exact type of hubris that will one day bring the 538 Objects together.
The ballots coming out of the pipe will eventually start to level off and finally stop. If you actually continued to count the ballots, then you will have narrowed the gap considerably but will still have lost the election by a small number of votes. A deep sense of sadness will permeate throughout your heart and soul. You will still believe that you can save the world; all you need to do is fudge the numbers a bit. For the love of all that you hold holy, fight this sensation.
Soon, you will hear the door open and a man will enter. He will be wearing a suit and tie, with jelled-back hair and a slightly-unsettling smile plastered across his face. The man will demand that you tell him the results of the election. Immediately and truthfully tell him the number of ballots that were marked for you and for your opponent, no matter how much you want to lie.
One of three things will happen. If you do not answer in time or made an error while counting, then the manacles around your fleet will slowly ensnare your body and compress you until you have been thoroughly crushed. Consider yourself lucky, for the man will have no hard feelings about your honest mistake. The pain will be temporary and your soul will be free to leave.
If you cannot resist the temptation and falsely claim that you are the victor, then the man will jam you into the pipe leading into the ground. When you fall through, you will see that you are in a room exactly like the one you were forcibly removed from. You will have thirty seconds to make one of three choices. You could choose to sit down to take the test for eternity. However, please note that this time around, the ballots will be much hotter, sharper and jagged. Alternatively, you could do nothing. When thirty seconds have passed, you will feel a splitting pain in your chest as your soul is destroyed and you cease to exist. If, however, you are truly daring, you can take the third option: opening the door. As you step out, you will see a world that looks like a subverted vision of your kingly images. Where you once saw grain, you will see miles of cracked and dried up fields. Where you once saw prosperous businesses and hospitals, you will see boarded up and badly dilapidated buildings. Where you once saw people working and children playing will be dead and mangled bodies as far as the eye can see. Some of these were political dissidents, brave and just individuals who were murdered for resisting tyranny. Others were rivals for power, but most were simply innocents destroyed by the megalomania of their leader. Specifically, the demonesque figure clad solely in black that sits on a throne of skulls in the dead center of this macabre scene. This figure is you, or what would have eventually become of you had your attempts at election usurpation succeeded.
You believed that you could promote human prosperity by going against the election results, ignoring the will of the people and assuming total power. However, the only thing your decision promoted was despotism, corruption and murder. For your decisions, you will be forced to live for all of eternity in the hell of your own design.
However, if you respected the will of the majority and gave the man in the room the correct number of votes, then the manacles will shatter at your feet. As you start to stand, a final translucent gold ballot will fall from the upper pipe. Quickly grab it and hold onto it tightly. The man will then approach you and extend his hand. Firmly grasp it and pump it up, then down. The man will then start speaking. He will describe in vivid detail every democratic uprising, the destruction of every tyrant’s regime and the inherent pride of every election. It would be best for you to leave at this point; the man wants your vote and these campaign speeches have been known to drag on for eternity. Make your way to the door, open it (it will be safe to do so), walk out and shut it until you hear a click.
The gold ballot you took from the room is one of 538 Objects. It is perhaps the most precious of the Objects, but know that it is useless unless joined by its kin.