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. We’re the most expensive. As they were leaving, I watched as one overheated Honorable waved a servant over and accepted a glass of iced coffee.
“Here you are, Your Honor,” the servant said.
Your Honor is a formal term, and must be used when addressing an Honorable. The ice cubes clinked against the glass, and the caramel liquid was so tempting I nearly snatched the drink from the man’s hand. I was seething with jealousy, until my friend beside me snorted, and repeated in a mocking tone, “Here you are, Your Honor.”
Then, under his breath, he used the name more commonly applied to The Honorables, at least in the grow house.
“Watch out,” my friend said. “Dead man walking.”
I glance at the man beside me. He has not said a word since we left the room, but I sense there is more to him than meets the eye. We reach the other side of the complex and stop before a large, unremarkable structure. It almost looks like a field house, or a gymnasium, and I don’t understand why he’s brought me here.
“The exterior isn’t much,” the man says, as though reading my thoughts. “But we can’t have everyone trying to get inside.”
He gives me a conspiratorial wink, and ushers me in. The interior is such a steep departure from the outside of the building that I stop in my tracks, blinking away the sunlight and the confusion. We have entered a beautiful lobby, replete with vaulted ceilings and lush potted ferns. A beautiful brunette sits behind the mahogany desk. And then, it hits me in the face like a bracing wind. The air conditioning. I’m silent for too long, but I can’t summon the words for a polite greeting. I’m too focused on the cool air, and I let the sensation wash over me, goosebumps rising on my flesh.
The brunette lets me collect myself before issuing a friendly hello. The man gives her my identification number, and then ushers me through an open door. I’m reluctant to leave the air conditioning, but the hallway we enter is just as cold as the antechamber, and the next room is cooler still. This room is smaller, but just as luxurious, twin doors lining the opposite wall. Two women, both as pretty as the brunette, hurry forward. The first carries a gleaming silver coffee service and a plate of little iced cakes and scones. The second woman holds a plush white bathrobe and towels.
The man waves at the door with the gold-plated “M” and says, “I’ll be here when you’re finished. No rush.”