“Two, please,” Sally stated as if making a unique request.
“Lady, everyone gets two, you know that.” He sighed and handed them to her.
We were running late but managed to arrive in time to receive our daily allotted eggs, two per person. Duh, I know, but the thing is, they’re always boiled, always. But whatever, it’s ok with us because boiled eggs are convenient to eat in the car on the drive to work. Today, though, we had to make an additional stop—the gas station. Did I mention we were running late?
“Come on, Sally, we gotta go!” Sally gave me the finger, then flipped the lever up and down on the gas pump many times trying to get it to work. For a moment I thought she was going to rip the lever right out of the pump; fortunately, it turned on, and there went our last forty bucks. Sally watched the numbers flip on the pump while I sat inside the car, cleaning up egg shells, and contemplating quitting my sucky job so I could find a better one. However, if I quit, I knew she would quit too and we cannot afford to be without jobs. So things stay the same and we scrape by each week.
Sally climbed back into the car, “Day-dreaming about quitting, aren’t you?”
I laughed, “We need to rush now, buckle up.”
Long ago, Sally saved me from a bully in grade school and we became instant friends. Over the years, I softened her up while she toughened me up. And today, we are all we have in this world.
Because of fighting with the gas pump back there, we arrived at work a few minutes late and noted that everyone was already in their cubicles tapping away at their keyboards. We did not wait to be yelled at and got right to work. Sally and I do data entry at the minimum wage. So you know, mind-numbing, kill-me-now, kind of work.
Suddenly—popping sounds, lots of popping came from the room at the other end of this office and just beyond the double doors. I looked over and saw a bright light shone through every crevice around those doors. They swung open as I reached over and took Sally’s arm and pulled her rolly-office-chair next to mine, and then strangers appeared; people wearing white jumpers, with orange stripes around the knees and elbows, barged through the doors making a ruckus. Without a word, though, they lead us by our arms into that bright room they had come from. And by lead, I mean grabbed and pulled us through the double doors at the other end of the office. I heard things crashing to the floor and felt my gut tighten.
The room was completely empty—no furniture, no windows. It was bare and it was white. Rather, it was bright white and empty. I swung my head around looking for Sally but white-jumper guy shook me and pulled me forward. They lead us in and placed us in a line, a line as if we were to be shot in front of a firing squad. I could feel my legs tremble but couldn’t stop them…and yeah, I tried. Suddenly, I became aware of people, my co-workers, they were screaming, crying, and asking “What’s happening here?” But the strangers in white jumpsuits remained silent and continued man-handling us until we were all lined up. Then, one by one, they scanned our bodies, or at least I think that is what they did; and they also took a picture of each of our faces. Up close, just the face. After their version of a photo-op, they pulled their hoods up over their heads, donned gas masks with goggles, and sprayed a white mist over our bodies, from head to toe, front, and back. I held my breath for as long as possible. I looked around at the others, some were crying and the rest holding their breath too; I looked for Sally again and sighed because she was at the far end of the line; she glared at the men in white jumpers. I remember thinking, ‘defiant to the end,’ and ‘if only she had laser-beam eyes, she could take them out.’ Unfortunately, my lungs fought for air and I coughed, gasped and breathed in deep. My body spoke, I followed. And much to my surprise, I lived.
Afterward, they “escorted” us back into our assigned cubicles and handed each of us a syringe that contained a clear liquid. I looked. Then one of the white jumper people finally spoke to us.
He removed his mask and goggles first, “I know you’re confused but it’s going to be ok. You were each screened pryer to our arrival and based on the tests we just ran, we confirmed you are all in perfect health.” He took a deep breath, “This, right here and now, is a recruitment meeting with you and if you decide to join us, you’ll need to inject yourself with the syringe given to you.” He pointed to the syringes in our hands, “The amount is for your body weight and cannot be exchanged with anyone else, so don’t set them down.” He took a breath, “And second, after we leave, you have one minute to decide, that is sixty-seconds to make a decision. Finally, if you decide not to join us, you’ll wake up in an about an hour remembering none of this.”
Everyone was quiet.
“All right then, we are heading out.” He motioned to his team.
My friend stepped forward, “Wait! May we ask questions before this one-minute timer begins?”
Their leader, yeah, let’s call him their leader, nodded and motioned with his hand to go ahead and ask.
“Ok, what exactly,” she put emphasis on ‘exactly’… “are you asking us to join and why the random health check?” Nearly screaming, she added, “OH, and who the hell are you?!” Sally crossed her arms and waited for the answers.
Their leader made the gesture to calm down, “We are always looking for new recruits because our organization is growing rapidly now. And as for why you, it’s simple, we are seeking the healthiest people who have skills we need.” He glanced over at another white-jumper person who was taping his wrist with one finger. “Right, we are in a time crunch,” he nodded to his teammate, “Almost done here.” He turned his attention back to us. “As for the white room, well, it is sanitized and self-explanatory. That’s it.” He turned toward his men, “Ok, let’s move out.”
My head was racing with questions now, I blurted, “What is it you want to recruit us for, or what is the job?… And pay? …Any Healthcare? Come on, where will we go or live?”
A co-worker interjected, “Um, what the fuck is in this syringe, man?”
The leader put his hand up and gestured for us to stop, he sighed again. “Yes, I know you have many questions but there is little time and we are late.” He took a deep breath, “Ok, I will answer a couple questions and then we must leave.”
Another jumper spoke up, “We really don’t have time for this.” He fiddled with stuff in his pocket, then an egg fell to the floor and cracked open. It was a boiled egg…and I wondered, briefly, ‘why were his pockets filled with eggs?’
The leader nodded, “We’re taking the time…this is as important to them as it is to us.” He turned back to us and continued, “Simply put, we need you based on individual talents; you’ll be placed in the organization to carry out, umm, projects.” He glanced at his number two guy and continued, “Your pay will commiserate with your aptitude and skills but at the minimum, it’s five times the amount you make now.”
My Coworkers started asking more questions all at once.
“Stop.” He held up his hand again as if to motion for us to literally stop. “We truly do not have time, so here is the final thought and then you decide.” He paused briefly for that to sink in. “Ok, you’ll live in our private city and healthcare is free for all of us. You can have friends, lovers, families, whatever you want. Housing is also provided at no cost to you. You’ll have a variety of apartments to choose from when you arrive but after you finish rigorous training.” He saw nods from the people so he decided this was a good place to stop.
In a rhythm that sounded well rehearsed and monotone, he concluded, “It’s time, folks, step back into your respective work areas and once we’re gone, the clock starts. You have sixty-seconds to use the syringe… or not. Either way, I wish you great endeavors in your futures.” He turned around to his team, pointed with his index finger toward the ceiling, made a circle in the air, and then pointed toward the double doors. “Let’s move out,” he declared. And the white jumper-suit men disappeared into the white light beyond the double doors.
We all stood there, blankly staring.
A coworker finally spoke up, “Look, guys, I don’t know what this is about but I don’t trust it or them,” and tossed his syringe onto the desk and plopped into his chair.
Another coworker shrugged and sat but held onto the needle. To me, she appeared woozy, drunk-like.
“For all we know, this stuff could kill us. Why would we do this?” she paused, “This is insane, right?” A third coworker strained to get the words out while staring at the syringe.
“I might do it.” The guy next to me said and looked up at us, He looked eager but scared, “I might actually do it.” His hands clenched the syringe.
“Hey, there’s only one way to find out,” Sally said as she plunged the needle into her thigh and pushed the liquid into her veins.
“Sally!” I cried out and lunged at her but it was too late.
Almost immediately her eyes rolled back exposing only the white part, and she fell to the floor on her backside as we watched her body shrink, shrivel, and disappear into the floor within seconds. And just like that, Sally was gone.
“Oh my god!” I heard myself scream. Everyone was screaming but their voices faded into the background.
I was terrified, visibly shaking, and trying to think. The clock was ticking, it was all I could hear now; I glanced up at the clock on the wall only to realize I had no idea how much time had passed. So there it was, I held my breath and plunged the needle into my thigh…then pushed the clear liquid into my veins.
“Whoa…” I remember saying before everything went black. It was euphoric.
© 2018 Candace R.M. Bailly All Rights Reserved