The most popular attraction of the attendant’s world was a large hot spring the worldspeople had named the “Pool of Knowledge”.
It had started as a relatively unobtrusive body of water, until one day a couple of teenagers had jumped in for a dare, and suddenly found themselves spouting the secrets of the universe. Two more had jumped in and promptly broken up, as they locked eyes and each realized the other was sleeping with someone else.
It didn’t take long for word to get around the entire world that bathing in the waters of the spring allowed one to know Everything there was to know, Ever. It took even less time for the banks, lawyers, patent offices, architects, engineers, and advertisers to swoop in and turn the hot spring into one of the greatest tourist attractions the universe had ever seen. The people of her world built an enormous bath house around the spring, complete with changing rooms, a little terrace cafe, and a photographer who would take your picture before you came in, and just as you were leaving.
She was the sole bath attendant. More truthfully, she was the sole surviving bath attendant. The Pool, as it was commonly called, was tricky, for it granted people access to all the knowledge there ever was, only as long as one was in the water. As soon as you left, you forgot all that you had just learned. This led to some extreme reactions. The bath house pictures twisted into a cruel joke: while everyone’s “Before” picture showed happy and excited faces, the majority of the “Afters” portrayed someone sobbing, raving, or on occasion, dead.
People did drown in the Pool. Some believed that if they kept their heads under water for long enough, they could carry the information out with them. Not only did this result in their drownings, it also resulted in the drownings of the several bath attendants who attempted to rescue them. The attendants would either lose track of themselves in the informational overflow, or they would lose their lives while struggling unsuccessfully to bring the bathers back up to the surface.
Many bathers were scholars would come back, determined to steal knowledge away. She had always refused to deal with these people, as they appeared to her both foolish and greedy. In any other setting she would also think them immoral, but any morality in the vicinity of the Pool seemed to be suspended.
These scholars would always bring journals and pencils, and coerce naive bath attendants into taking note of every new bit of information they screamed out. Unfortunately, there was new information to be screamed every second, much too quickly for it to be gotten down. The inevitable outcome was that when the zealous scholars eagerly left the Pool to find nothing but gibberish-filled pages, they would fly into uncontrollable rages rendered impotent by their hoarse voices. At this point, they would simply shoot the disappointing attendants, who were too cramped from writing to defend themselves.
One scholar, imagining himself rather clever, brought a tape recorder, but upon triumphantly leaving the Pool and seizing the recorder, he slipped and electrocuted himself.
The question, to most people, was the Pool’s Usefulness. What was the point, many asked, of having access to Everything, if one could do Nothing with it? This question took lives as well, as people’s intellects cracked from the pressure of how pointless everything about the Pool seemed to be. Scholars who had spent their lives pursuing knowledge suddenly found themselves without a reason to live, once they found themselves unchanged by its source. There was a period of time where it looked like the Pool would have to be shut down, but then some nihilists picked up on it and made the bath house the focal point of all their retreats. After them, the other faiths followed, both in an effort to keep “with the times” and to send missionaries to poach nihilists for their parties. Thus, the Pool stayed in business, the economy of the world flourished, and everybody was slightly less happy for it.
The current, surviving bath attendant had bathed in the Pool once, and quite enjoyed herself. She was, in fact, one of the teenagers who had initially jumped in. At the time, she’d been anticipating getting her hair wet and calculating where her wash cycle would leave her by the next week.In reflection, she often thought that this may have saved her from going mad as so many others did. Having access to all the information Ever had been an interesting bonus to her experience, but also a sort of distraction that she hadn’t minded losing as soon as she’d stepped out. That was all she needed to never go back in.
There were only two people in the universe who had successfully taken knowledge away from the Pool without losing their minds or lives, probably because neither of these people realized what they’d done. One was a little boy who liked to look into worlds. The other was the attendant.
These days she simply sat by the pool with earplugs to block out the revelatory shouts of the bathers. Every so often, she fished a too-long-submerged bather out of the water with a large net-like scoop that she had devised, so as to allow her to do her job without actually touching the water. Since she had been put in charge (by necessity), there had been no more drownings, although the occasional suicide was still committed in the changing room by a scholar who could not handle the disappointment that accompanied drying off. Those, she could do nothing about. So instead she read, she wrote, she watched detachedly, and occasionally used her scoop to break up the arguments that would arise between competing scholars in the water.
‘Knowledge,’ she thought, ‘Was no good without Sense.’