Posted: January 5, 2012 in Fiction, Test Subject

It’s 8:30 AM when I step off the bus. The diesel engine whistles as the machine takes off from the stop, washing me with a gust of air and a plume of black exhaust. It’s too early to be up, but I’m much better rested than I was yesterday. I spent a lot of time working on fixing my door frame last night. It still isn’t pretty, but I slept much easier after I was able to lock my door again. Hopefully, the property manager will replace my hack-job with a legitimate repair soon. I head off down a street off of the main thoroughfare. The east side of town is all industrial, and the air will not let me forget it. It reeks of burning fuel and garbage.

I fish the address out of my pocket. The card is rumpled already, and I haven’t had it for a full day. I remember why I can’t have nice things. I sigh. After a few minutes of walking, I come to a drab grey building with no exterior windows and no visible decorations. Even the building number is hardly visible. More grey on grey. After a moment, I spot a door. I wouldn’t have thought it’d be so difficult. I’m reasonably observant, but the all greys color scheme is pretty effective, I suppose.

No windows in the door. There’s a keypad beside it, but I wasn’t given a code. I pull on the brushed aluminum handle. Nothing. Hmmm. I check the worn business card. No instructions. That would have been too easy. I fish my phone out of my pocket. The clock shows 8:53 through the cracked display. My doctor didn’t really seem like the forgiving type. I don’t want to be late. Hell with it. Last time I needed to enter a number, it was my PIN at a teller machine. Do I go with all ones? Maybe one two three four. I chuckle to myself. “Press ‘0’ for operator,” I mutter, and I press the 0 key. Immediately, I hear a loud click. I snatch the door handle and pull. The door is heavy, but my attempt at haste serves as a replacement for being ready for the weight. I pull the heavy grey door open and step inside.

I’m in a dimly lit room about the size of a walk-in closet. More grey. I’m starting to notice a theme. At least the air is cleaner. There is another door in the far wall, along with another keypad. I still don’t have any code for it. No matter. If a trick works once, maybe it’ll work twice. I walk toward the door. I don’t even bother with the handle. I never understood that impulse; I can’t recall how many times I’ve been standing by a locked door when someone comes up. I tell them it’s locked, and they try it anyway. Like, maybe it’s only locked to me and they can just waltz in. I reach out to press the ‘0’ key, and the door swings open. I fail to conceal a startled jump. Doctor Allison is standing there, looking exactly the same as yesterday. And, exactly the same as yesterday, I can’t quite dismiss how attractive she is.

“Why ‘0’, Mr. Brinks?”

“Huh? Oh. Right. Dial zero for operator, I guess.” I’m suddenly embarrassed by my train of thought. “Seemed as good a guess as any.”

“Interesting,” she says. Good-interesting or bad-interesting, I wonder. She’s holding the door with her right hand, standing so that I can’t see her left. “Come in. Thank you for being on time.” I’m startled that she would thank me. She really hadn’t struck me as the type to bother. I step through the open door. She follows, then passes me as we step into a brilliant white warehouse.

“I’m not going to lie. I kind of expected more grey,” I tell her. As she passes, I catch a glimpse of her left hand. She has a gun. She moves naturally, yet she conceals it in front of her so fast I could almost be convinced that I imagined it.

“The nature of the work here necessitates a low profile.” She walks over to a nearby desk and picks up a clipboard. I don’t see what happened to the gun. I hear Dad’s voice in my head, repeating that I need to ask a lot of questions. I’m hesitant to start an interrogation, so I take in the surroundings while I marshal my courage.

I will be completely honest – this portion of my New Year’s Resolutions is not off to a great start. I eventually tapped into an old technique I used back when I was not yet a college dropout. I’ll probably talk more about it here. It was an act of desperation, but it was effective.


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