For Better or Words. Chapter 2: Watch What You See

The setup was a private screening room. The kind one might find in a mansion, the likes of which I'm never in. It was cavernous. Long heavy draperies hung on the walls in deep, dark tones. The carpet was a wine coloured wool. They gave me a pair of headphones (maroon, free to keep) and popcorn, then a face appeared on the screen. It started female, then morphed into a male as it changed topics. It riffed about the meaning of the Universe and traffic jams. An old man asked me what made me mad, I told him. A young girl asked me, ‘what makes me happy?' I told her. A few of my attempts at humour were rebuffed by silence until the program received a logical response it could continue from. Yes, it was interactive, but in the simplest way possible. Not in the Gene Roddenberry, robot, hologram, real-time conversation, futuristic way I'd imagined and hoped for. 'C'est la free'. I enjoyed the popcorn. They didn't skimp on the butter, it tasted real. The experience itself wasn't awful. Lots of really neat aerial shots of beautiful places, people enjoying expensive hobbies in them, animals. Waterfalls. Wildlife; the four, not two-legged kind. It wasn't the historical snooze fest they could have opted to play for new recruits. Which is what I figured I was. Sarah and Charles appeared at the end and asked if I'd like to see my score. “My whaaaaa----T?” I said surprised, as she took the empty popcorn bag from my hand. “Yes, everyone who participates in the movie gets a free wellness score." "We can breakdown and explain it to you.” Chuck cheerily offered. My eyebrow cocked at their choice of words; 'breakdown' and the implication you were in a movie. I hadn't anticipated my responses generating math. Or the two hungry, faces who never stopped smiling working this hard. But here we were. “Show me what you got! Or what I got, I should say!” We walked from the theatre down a mirrored hallway to a bright modern room, with large spacious chairs. Sarah offered me something to drink, I declined politely. I wasn't sure what they wanted from me yet, or how they intended to get it... Sugar cookies? Spicy rice? Saltpeter? To my disappointment, they were trying to beat me into submission through endurance and exhaustion, not food additives. A wellness score was exactly what it sounded like. Except your overall wellness was comprised of several individual parts of your life, that themselves were comprised of parts until you'd spent a whole 45 minutes talking about what worked and what didn't. Guaranteed, something didn't work. That's where the center came in. Luckily, for me I was well preserved; smoked. And I'd preserved myself well, about 5 minutes before I walked through these doors, so I was in the mood for conversational gymnastics and waltzing. To everyone's surprise, (except mine) there were no parts of my score that didn't work. I wasn't surprised because I wasn't paying that much attention. Sarah and Charles were. They seemed nervous, the kind of nervous they'd been trying to keep me this whole time. “Can you excuse us for one lil' ol' itty bitty moment?” Chuck asked. “Of course” I replied. But he was already heading out the door with the “results” in his hands. Sarah made sure I still didn't need anything and hurried out behind him. The walls were baby blue, like a velour tracksuit. I got up and ran my finger down one. It felt like velvet. 'So rich.....' Across the room, another wall with large, silver, italicized cursive letters declared: THE INFORMATION IS YOURS. WE ARE HERE TO REMIND YOU. Something unsettled me about those simple, innocuous, encouraging words. But just like the purpose of this place, or what exactly they believed, I couldn't put my finger on it. Several floors above me in a room that looked like the inside of a hotel ‘a' God would stay at, Sarah and Charles stood in front of a massive white marble desk. “...The charts and graphs were the same too?” said a deep voice. “Yes, sir” answered Charles. “And you followed up with the C protocol questions?” the bass had a little tenor in it now. “Absolutely Sir” Sarah responded. It was proper procedure to hear from each employee in tandem, especially opposite-sex pairs. The inquisitive man swivelled around. Giving Sarah and Charles a chance to fully appreciate the leather quality on the chair back. He thought for a minute, stood and walked around the desk. His gold-trimmed, ebony suit a full-bodied figure against the white marble room. “Sir, permission to speak?” Sarah asked meekly, slouching slightly as she did. “Speak,” said the raven coloured suit. “Have you ever seen this before?” Charles glared at Sarah. She'd been with the organization long enough to know that questioning a superior was strictly forbidden. The man seemed to agree with Charles, till he reassuringly turned to an uneasy Sarah and said “No, my Dear, I have not. Please, bring her to me”.

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