The building, ten storeys high was unremarkable in appearance. It was taller than most of the buildings in the block and just seemed to merge in with all the others. Its position just on the edge of town was in walking distance to where the main train line terminated. The nearest bus stop was just a few hundred metres away.
The ad appeared online across several media platforms. It was short, discreet, and merely stated:
The Galactic Interstellar Company:
‘Staff wanted. No experience necessary, a wide range of positions available,’ followed by the address, and a request for those interested to present themselves at the main entrance of the building at 8 am, and supplied a date.
A google search elicited no information about the company. That fact did not deter hundreds of applicants.
Jimmy Mendoza arrived first. Having been unemployed for more than a year, he figured he had nothing to lose, figuratively as well as literally. Down to his last few dollars, he took the 6.05 am train from the station nearest his home. The walk from the last station took just ten minutes, and he mounted the steps to the front door of the building at 6.55 am. He was prepared to wait the extra hour or so. To his surprise, lights running across the door spelt out his name, followed by a request that he enter. The door slid aside. He could not see anything inside. He hesitated, suddenly uncertain. How did they know who he was? Then he shrugged, thought ‘What the hell,’ and walked inside. The door noiselessly closed behind him.
Jimmy was soon followed by other early arrivals. Two hours later, the building had swallowed up hundreds of people of all ages and sexes. Each inexplicably had his or her name spelt out across the door. After initial hesitation, everyone entered. At 9 am exactly, the door did not open. Those who had arrived late stood disconsolately in front of the building, then eventually dispersed.
It was a week later. Police arrived at the building in force. None of those who had applied for the positions advertised by the Galactic Interstellar company and who had entered the building had been heard from since. From all parts of the city, a crescendo of voices was raised as loved ones, relatives, friends and dependents of those who had set off to apply for a position at the company raised their concerns at their disappearance. A belated investigation by authorities could find no evidence of the existence of the company. The ad had quietly disappeared, and its origins could not be traced.
The front door resisted all attempts at entry. The building had no other points of entry. Eventually, heavy equipment in the form of a bulldozer was used to smash it down. It took a sustained attack lasting over an hour before the door finally gave way. Hundreds of onlookers had gathered to watch, the authorities were forced to cordon off the area. Thousands avidly watched live coverage from television helicopters hovering overhead. They were there to capture the moment police entered the building and found nothing but a vast empty shell. The ten-storey building contained no floors, no internal structure of any kind. To say those who entered were astonished was a huge understatement. Further investigation revealed that the roof inexplicably appeared to be retractable.
Frenzied media speculation followed. Exhaustive investigations came up with no logical explanation, although all sorts of wild theories abounded. The most consistent was that the building had housed an alien spacecraft, and all the applicants had been spirited away. After all, the company had been called the Galactic Interstellar Company. Had that been some sort of clue, or just a sick joke. If so, no one could explain how the spacecraft had arrived, nor departed without anyone noticing. Who had placed the ad, how had it disappeared without a trace. Why had whoever it was, seemingly kidnapped hundreds of human beings. It left hundreds more mystified and bereaved by their disappearance, with no logical explanation. It was a mystery that seemed destined never to be solved.