Posted: October 21, 2011 in Fiction, Test Subject

I’m huffing and puffing after only three blocks, so I slow to a brisk walk. A sharp pain starts up in my belly and runs all the way to my collar bone. Damn, I am out of shape. I promise myself for the hundredth time that I will start working out in the morning. In the back of my head, I scoff at myself; what makes this time different? I shake my head. Being hard on myself like that never accomplishes anything. I keep walking. A car rolls by with rap music blaring. At least, I think it’s rap. The bass is so high that the car sounds like it’s rattling loose every one of its nuts and bolts. I can feel my pants vibrate as it passes. I’m not sure if that’s actually annoying or if I’m just jealous that I don’t have a car or a stereo. I decide it doesn’t matter.

I turn off the main road. It takes less than a hundred feet for the retail spaces to be replaced with faceless warehouses and garages. I’m always surprised at how suddenly the scenery can change like that. I check my crumpled paper again, then start watching numbers on buildings. As I crest the hill, I can see a line of people outside a drab grey building. The building itself has a crown of high windows and a banner hanging from it that says “Physicals Today” If I were a gambling man, I’d say that was the place. I guess I really am a gambling man, just not in the traditional sense of the word. I’ve never had money to throw away on games of chance, but I bet my well-being on my behavior all the time. I check the address when I’m close enough to see. It’s the right place, alright. I check my phone as I walk up. I’m on time, surprisingly. I’m a little sweaty from my run, which is less surprising. I get in line behind a guy who looks like he’s wearing everything he owns and smells like he’s deathly afraid of soap and water. I don’t know what other requirements this medical survey might have, but it’s probably heaven-sent for him.

The line starts to creep forward with all the speed and urgency of a glacier. I watch as the line grows behind me. A lot of the city’s dregs are here. I idly wonder how many people will be turned away at the end, and then I squash the sudden worry that I might be turned away. I’m here now, and it’s a one in two chance that I’ll get in. Either I will, or I won’t, and I’ll deal with that when it comes. I don’t talk to anyone. It’s not that I don’t like them. It’s more that I would have no idea what to say. I could ask them for survival tips, I suppose. I’m close enough to being one of them at the moment. I shake my head again. Not helping. I’m dragged out of my head again as the line’s agonizing crawl brings me to the door of the building. A slight breeze blows from inside and filters through the mass of people ahead of me. It’s like having ground up armpits stuffed in my nostrils. I gag. The guy in front of me looks back, and I try to pretend I’m yawning.


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