The Machine

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I remember the day perfectly. “Jason Trent Collins,” a man called out my name. He was a big man; tall, muscular with dark hair and even darker eyes. He was obviously not easily intimidated and not enjoying his job. I got up from the seat. The agency had everyone going through this. Every single employee, from the janitors to the top agents, was required to submit to the new policy. Before the month was out we all had sat on these benches, walked down this hall, and passed through the heavy steel door to that room. The room was remarkably similar to the hall that led to it; high, black ceiling and stone, windowless walls. A dim light illumined the tiny room ominously unveiling four walls, one chair, and a large, black box which sat in the center, waiting. Two men in suits sat me down in the chair. The guard left. The serious men looked to be very similar with a shared likeness of slick black hair and beady eyes. I hadn’t seen either of them around before, even at the agency, and I never did again. They reminded me of ravens. My mind leapt to a poem I had read once about a window. There were no windows in this room. No, it was far too deep underground for that. The men seemed to wait for me to speak. I didn’t know what to say or what they expected of me. The new policy was top secret. If the agency heard even a whisper of discussion about it you were cut off. So we didn’t talk about it. We didn’t even try. The two men stared at me.
“Are you ready?” asked the first man, the taller and broader of the two.
“Yes,” I replied.
“Good.”
The man began to question me. “Name? Date of Birth? Current place of residence?” It went on and on. Click, click, click. The second man entered my information into the machine as I talked. I watched his head as his fingers presumably typed on the other side of the box which blocked most of him from my view. The machine was simple. About ten feet cubed with a blank display on the front, similar to a digital clock. After a while the first man stopped asking questions, I stopping answering, and the second man stopped typing. We sat in silence until suddenly the display jumped to life. It read:

Name: Jason Trent Collins

Date of Death: Calculating...
They swept me out of the room. I was terrified. What had that read? Date of Death? No, it wouldn’t have been that. Perhaps my eyes had deceived me. It was poorly lit after all. Maybe I was dehydrated? I’d been thinking about that silly poem after all.
Shaking, I walked the long hall to the elevator. I denied myself the thoughts that came rushing to my head. What I had just seen? No, no, I denied it. Until now I denied what I had seen, read, and understood. But nothing matters anymore so I’ll just tell you. Now I can tell you everything.





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