I WAS FLYING. Academically. Monetarily. Socially. Well, maybe not socially. But here I was at the airport after a four hour departure delay, ready to sail through customs, to escape my tedious surroundings, wretched ex-girlfriends and somewhat more importantly, death.
I approached in the silent queue, shuffling and staring to either side, trying to alleviate the boredom, but the queue was snaking, so on either side was always the same people, doing exactly what I was doing. For once a bawling child was welcome stimulus. Too bad they’d never remember the family holiday as they were too young.
All of a sudden about fifteen people peeled away, led off by a uniform – who didn’t seem to have faces. That left me at the front, the leader of the pack, the temporary head of the snake. A beautiful moment. A beam of sunlight piercing clouds.
Ahead of me lay the security checkpoint. Two uniforms, and a motionless man standing to the side, hands behind back, observing. Perhaps a leap forward in tech, some sort of cyborg that looked like a person, but who scanned all travelers from behind a thin hybrid skin. I’d just watched Blade Runner in the lounge, my hasty conclusion was somewhat skewed.
Both uniforms did what I thought no uniforms were capable of – they almost smiled as I approached. One swept me with a paddle, another patted me down, and seemed to take an uncanny joy from his job. I thought of my final destination as they finished. They even spoke. “You’re ok to go.” It melted my heart.
I was about to grab my carry-on bag when Hands Behind Back/ possibly a cyborg left the wall he occupied and walked over. With a surprisingly awkward gait. There’s a kink for the engineers to iron out.
He whispered near my ear, “Can you come with me please?”
The uniforms expressed more emotion – nervousness. The queue had been held back. This was my time. All bored eyes were on me, imaginations ripping through cogs and gears. Prejudices made. I was a book and my cover was being read.
I was led to a side door away from the bag scanner. A multi digit code and fob was used to enter into a corridor. I was made to walk ahead despite me not knowing the locale, surely cyborg should have led. I was guided through a rats maze of fluorescent tubes and indistinct white and blue hallways. I wondered what the prize was for finding my way back.
Eventually I heard a word. “Stop.”
We entered a room, the door seemingly invisible, had opened. Two chairs and a table. In one chair was a man who’s face I could not see, or he didn’t have a face. I sat down and cyborg left silently. It felt like I’d entered a vacuum – airless, still, like time had had enough.
I sat down, not by being told but taking the obvious social cue of a spare chair. It was hard, metallic and screwed to the floor, for my comfort only. I tried to pick out some salient features on the thing across from me but the pale green exit sign spat out an unhelpful amount of light.
He looked directly at me, at least I assumed so. He spoke to me with a voice that could have been from a hypnosis CD, entirely calm, yet out of sync with the situation adding an eerie element. It was like an executioner whispering a sweet poem before lopping your head off.
“Do you know how many people I see everyday?” Every word was melodic, he even had soft ‘D’s’.
I took a second to absorb the words, to let it whistle through my head.”15?”
“In an airport this size?” He smoothly shot back.
What does one say in this situation? Was I somehow that special? Some sort of anomaly in this mans working life? I had always thought I was quite gifted..
But no. He continued, “I am blind. But that doesn’t mean I can’t see with my ears, my nose, touch. I need to know if you understand why you are here?”
This sounded like the prologue to a super hero’s story. In real life it didn’t sound half so good.
A hesitant ‘No?’ was my reply.
“Oh, so nobody told you? Well, that is typical. You hire men and you get monkeys. Anyway, you are here on suspicion of having something, let’s say ‘undesirable’ on your person.”
In less stressful situations, in more pleasant company I would have had a witty retort to this such as, ‘My personality?’. But really I couldn’t think. Had they got me confused with some Mexican cartel member? I was caucasian but did have a tinge about me. My carry on contained precisely one tablet, entirely legal and electric, and a notepad. No drugs or illegal substances.
“You haven’t figured it out have you? – where it is.”
After awhile I heard a light tapping sound that grew louder. I eventually saw the source of it. My inquisitor was tapping a finger against his head harder and harder until I thought it might go right through the skull. Then he stopped.
“It’s in my..”
“..head. Yes, precisely. And you can understand it’s a real danger. Can’t you? It still hasn’t hit you yet has it. Your thoughts are a danger to others. Ideas are beyond what a man like you should have. Too big, too bold.
“But how can you tell?”