Flumes Vol. 5: Issue 1, Summer 2020 - Page 62

There is no clock in the room. Twenty minutes pass, though the minutes might feel longer because of the oppressive heat. Why don’t they let us sit outside, where at least it doesn’t feel like a swamp? To pass the time I look over the paper. It’s a list of privileges you get as an Honorable. I picture a starving man, emerging from days in the desert. The list reads like the things he would ask for. The first items are, of course, unlimited food and drink. Then there are the servants, and housekeepers, and gardeners, and beauticians, and even a masseuse, if you want it. The Honorables get electricity too, which means music and TV and movies and - more important than anything else – air conditioning. It’s the air conditioning, I think, that pushes most people over the edge. I place my arms over the paper, and occupy my thoughts with Grace.

Surely she is at work, at the same grow house where we met, the same grow house where we spend all our days. Grace is small, five feet two inches, and her delicate hands are best for picking berries from their tangled vines. Yesterday, she promised me fresh blueberries at dinner tonight. I don’t know how, but she managed to coax them from her tightfisted foreman. We must celebrate, she said. And we will have reason to celebrate. Grace already made her decision, and now that I am electing not to be an Honorable, we can get married. The government forbids marriage until both parties have made their choice, but after today we will be free to start our paperwork. It’s silly, a mere formality, because it really doesn’t matter if we get married. We have no assets to speak of, nor children. Only a tiny, meticulously selected population is allowed to procreate. For two peasants like us, children are out of the question. But still, a man needs a wife.

Finally, a thin man enters the room. He is as bland as his khaki uniform, the most distinguishing thing about him a pair of black rimmed glasses perched high on his nose.

“Good morning,” he says.

“Hi,” I reply, “can we hurry this up please? I’m baking.”

A smile forms at the corner of his mouth, but the man does not otherwise acknowledge my request. He only says, “Please come with me,” and motions towards the hallway.

“What?” I ask.

“Before you make your decision, we are required to give you a demonstration. Of what life would be like as an Honorable.”

I say, “I really don’t need a demonstration,” but the man is holding the door open, and his expression is unyielding.

We walk down the long corridor, and he surprises me by opening the door at the end of the hall. I squint in the bright morning sunlight, and see a small electric vehicle parked by the door. The man gets into the driver’s seat, motions for me to climb in, and then he speeds off, the complex passing in a dusty blur. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t this. I thought I might have to sit through another boring speech, a repeat of the one they gave us at the grow house last year. We watched in amazement as The Honorables arrived in a series of luxurious electric town cars, their servants trailing them like royal attendants. We were forced to sit and listen as they recounted their experience. They said they’ve never felt so alive, that they would make the same decision a hundred times over. We were being targeted, that much was clear. They need the younger people to sign up for the program.