Posted: October 22, 2011 in Fiction, Test Subject

I’m not sure if the guy believes me. I’m not sure I really care either. His massive tangle of grey beard hides any possible frown, and his skin is so wrinkled that I could never read his eyes anyway. He turns to face forward, and I focus on breathing through my mouth. We inch our way inside the glass doors. Either the smell abates, or I grow accustomed to it. Either way, it stops bothering me. As we clear the inner door, I get a view of the proceedings. I’m in line for some sort of check-in. From there, people are being divided into groups. Everyone is being handed a packet of paper. I step up to the desk. The man sitting behind it doesn’t even look up. He thrusts a packet in my face. I step back. “Pen?”

“Uh, yes. Please.” My voice croaks. This guy is the first person I have spoken to all day. He hands me a pen.

“Fill out the first five pages, then get in one of the lines. Doesn’t matter which one.”

“Thanks.” He doesn’t reply. I take my pen and paper and I start filling out the paperwork. It’s tricky with no hard surface to write on, but I manage. Name. Address. Ha. There’s going to be a few blank address fields in this place, I suspect. Social security number. Probably something to do with the background check. I wonder what they’ll do when an unregistered immigrant comes through. They probably don’t have to do much. As soon as the unregistered get to the SSN, they’ll probably mysteriously wander away. I don’t really care. Give them the fifty bucks too. We could all use a little more money these days. I keep grinding through the paperwork. I get to a series of questions that starts looking like a Myers-Briggs test. The ad did say something about a psych evaluation. I wonder if this counts, or if there will be more later.

The next couple of pages are pretty familiar. I took the military’s aptitude test once. These look a lot like that. I breeze through them. I’m not dumb. I know my basic math and my reading and comprehension. I just do a terrible job of applying it, is all.

There are six lines, divided by black nylon bands and aluminum stanchions. I pick the one farthest from the rotten-smelling hobo I followed in. Admittedly, it’s not very far, but every inch helps. I take a second to inspect my surroundings from the top down. The ceiling is unfinished. I can see pipes and wires and structural components running the length of the warehouse. Large fluorescent lamps hang down only a few feet. Warehouse seems like a pretty accurate assessment. The only permanent walls are the four holding it up. They’re blank slabs of grey cinderblock, interrupted only by the high windows. Natural light leaks in, but the fluorescents are definitely needed. Ten-foot high cubicle walls break the place up into what I’m sure looks like a maze from a bird’s eye view. The floor is smooth concrete, with the occasional wire-guard running across it. The murmurs of the crowd all combine to fill the air with white noise. It smells of unwashed people, with the chemical tickle of ammonia and bleach. It reminds me of a bus station.

My line inches toward its gap in the cubicle walls. I try very hard to dispel the perception that I’ve picked the slowest line. They are all moving at about the same speed, but no one has ever accused me of being too patient. I sigh. I still don’t want to talk to anyone. I take out a wadded receipt and make a shopping list. I need a 2×4 and a new receiver for my door’s deadlatch. I technically need tools too, but I can borrow those from Dad. At least he’ll be happy that I’m trying to fix my own mess for a change. I scribble down a couple of food items and a roll of quarters. I need to do laundry. I’m becoming keenly aware of how little difference there is between me and the less fortunate souls around me. I don’t like to think of myself as shallow, but I also don’t want to slide that far down the social ladder. I come back out of my head; I’m next through the door.

I’m working out how to divide my messy reality from the worlds and people I imagine. I’ve come to the conclusion that my best bet is to build a second site on WordPress and write up a “Links” page for both that ties them together. I am fully aware that I’m creating more work for myself, but I know I’m capable of handling it. It’s really just a matter of actually doing it.

I’m also going to re-brand everything (as if I had a coherent brand in the first place). The personal one will be something along the lines of “Alpha – The Inner Workings of the Machine.” I’m still up in the air about what to call the creative space (that is, this one) so far. Maybe some sort of slant-rhyming nonsense like “Fever Dreams of Future Scenes.” I don’t know.

  1. Interesting…are you writing a series? (I read your note at the bottom.) I’m thinking of doing something similar to what you discribe to work on different aspets of a novel.

    • Kelsvs says:

      That’s basically what’s going on here. I had a bit of a breakdown halfway through, and now that I’m back to working on it, I have a lot of restructuring to do…

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