Authors: Ryann Kerekes
Copyright © 2013 Ryann Kerekes
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without written permission of the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes only.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, or any events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously.
Photo used under license from istockphoto.com
There is no need to fear the mindscan procedure. In a few painless seconds, the data terminal will read your intentions and impulses and diagnose your future.
What to Expect During Your Mindscan Pamphlet: Page One
All my life I’ve waited to walk under the arches leading to this compound. Today I walk toward my future with my mother at my side. We advance up the steps, and are drawn forward toward the concrete buildings at the center of the compound. A unit of guards jogs in formation along the perimeter of the towering fence.
When we get close, the metal doors click open as if on cue. We step inside, our shoes clatter
ing against the too shiny tile floor. Television screens are mounted every few feet, and as we walk, I catch video clips about the mindscan. First there are sweeping scenes of the green countryside with low rolling hills, and white spray erupting from the ocean as it crashes against the shoreline. Next is a panoramic view of our city, with its glittering high rises. The camera angle draws in on the compound with its domed gray buildings, but all I can see are the fences, which depending on how your mindscan goes, offer either protection or imprisonment. I blink the thought away; there’s nothing to worry about today.
My mother and I progress down the hall while the screens show images of smiling faces – a father pushing a toddler on a swing. A woman’s soft voice narrates the video. “
In the place that brings us all together … we welcome you
.” Her voice is sweet. Too sweet. Syrup sweet.
“People should have a choice,” my mother whispers in a clipped tone.
I find her hand, weave my fingers through hers, and give a light squeeze. I know the mandated mindscans are for our own protection. There have only been a handful of crimes in the forty years since the Medical Revolution. But explaining this to my mother is pointless. She doesn’t like any government intervention. She’s even convinced the postman reads our mail before delivering it.
We turn the corner and face another set of doors.
Though I wasn’t nervous before, my chest tightens. I swallow down my nerves and pull open the door. Rather than head inside, my mother hesitates. I shoot her a look, begging her to act normal today. She flinches at the open door and then steps through.
We follow the signs and check in at a counter. They’re expecting us. There’s no need to make an appointment since they know – based on the birth records – who will be here today. In the waiting room, there is another girl seated with her parents. We must share a sixteenth birthday. She seems nervous too, which makes me feel normal. A moment later
a nurse calls her name.
. Her parents watch her walk out of the room, then return to flipping through magazines.
I sit down next to my mother, who’s stiff and on the edge of her seat. Her hands grip the arm rests, and she’s humming like she does when she’s nervous. I look for something for her to read, but the only thing on the table is a pamphlet –
What to Expect During Your Mindscan –
and I know she won’t want that.
I steal glances at
Lilah’s parents. They’re dressed in muted tones, gray and khaki. Their hair is neatly combed. My mom is wearing an orange top with green slacks, and her dark hair flows loose over her shoulders. Her cheeks are flushed pink. She’s always embraced these differences, when all I’ve ever wanted was for us both to blend in. After today, I’ll be a step closer.
We wait for another fifteen minutes, and my stomach churns with each minute I watch tick past. Then I see
Lilah reemerge. A carefree, relaxed look has overtaken her face, and there’s an easy slump to her shoulders. She greets her parents coolly, and they walk out together, studying the folder they’ve given her. It must show her stats. Though it isn’t common to be rejected following the mindscan, there must be a reassurance that comes with seeing your results. She seems pleased. They all do. I want that. I crave something normal. I breathe a little easier at seeing Lilah come out okay, anxious to get this over with – to show my mom there’s nothing to be afraid of.
“Eve.” The nurse who dropped
Lilah off waits for me.
My mother stands and squeezes my hands, tears welling in her eyes.
“It’s okay.” I kiss her cheek, then turn to follow the nurse.
The nurse stops and points ahead into a small changing room.
“Remove everything but your underpants, and put this on.” She hands me a blue paper robe. “Leave your clothes in the locker.”
I do as I’m told, and after changing, I peek out the door, trying to preserve some modesty in the thin gown. The nurse is there, waiting again.
“This way.” She heads down the hall, but stops abruptly where the carpet ends and concrete floor begins, as if she doesn’t want to take another step. She points ahead. “Down the hall. Room seven.”
I walk down the long corridor, my bare feet slapping against the cold concrete. The hallway is lit by fluorescent bulbs, which cast wide circles of light every few feet, leaving the spaces in between dim. The effect is disorienting.
I stop at the end of the hall, finally reaching room seven. The door is cracked open, and I hesitate in front of it. For the briefest of moments, I consider fleeing. Visions of running through the fields surrounding the compound, my thin paper robe flowing behind me, flash through my mind, but when I glance up and see the camera trained on me, I push the thought away. There’s no reason to be nervous. It’s just a mindscan. It will only take a few minutes, and then I’ll be certain of my future.
I’m reminded of my mom’s ramblings last night, the wild look in her eyes, and I hear her words repeated in my head.
They can only take what you give them. Guard your mind.
I knock once and push the door open in front of me. The room’s larger than I expected. At its center, a metal table sits under a glowing yellow light. A woman in a white lab coat stands beside the table. Her head lifts at my knock, and she lowers the file she’s been reading.
My file. “Eve Sterling.”
“Yes,” I answer, though it’s not a question.
“Come.” She motions me forward toward the table. Her mouth tugs up as she attempts a smile, and the shadows accentuate her sunken cheeks. It’s a gesture meant to calm me, but under the strange light, the effect is more frightening than reassuring. “You’ll lie here.” She places her palm on the table. “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” she says at my hesitation.
I move toward the table, and she sits at a stool in front of a data terminal. The side of the machine reads
The mindscan is in its sixth generation. The early attempts at scanning people’s brains for abnormalities ended in mental incapacitation. We learned in History of the Medical Revolution that it fried their brains, turning them into slack-jawed zombies. But those early attempts were only seen as an unfortunate side effect, a small price to pay to keep society safe.
I remember my teacher asking the class, “What’s the cost of one life?”
If it’s yours – a lot.
One life to cure all society of brutal crimes, mental disorders and disease – the cost does not seem so high.
During the revolution, all citizens over the age of eighteen were given a mindscan. But crime wasn’t reduced as much as they wanted, so they lowered the age to sixteen, unable to go any lower since the mindscan needs a fully-formed brain to work. The small percentage found to be Rejects are locked away, ensuring the safety of everyone. And though sometimes those
under sixteen commit crimes, they are dealt with swiftly.
I climb onto the table. It’s cold through the thin gown, and goose bumps break out across my back and legs. I lie flat on the table and stare up at the ceiling, trying to focus and keep calm. I squint ahead at the light. I know the mindscan screens for aggression, murderous instincts and anti-social disorders, but I realize I don’t know much about the procedure itself. “So, how does this work?”
My voice is met with silence in the large room. I hear typing at the data terminal. Maybe my evaluation’s already started. Maybe I’m supposed to stay quiet unless spoken to, and that was a mark against me. I swallow down a lump that’s formed in my throat. My fingers press into the table. The coolness suddenly feels good against my palms. I focus on my breathing and hear my mom’s words again.
They can only take what you give them.
The woman attaches electrodes to each of my temples, then opens my gown in the front, and attaches another over my heart. The cool air nips at me, and I fight a shiver as goose bumps rise across my chest and stomach. She places the last electrode on the end of my index finger. This one is more like a clamp, but it doesn’t hurt.
“Just try and relax. Clear your mind.”
Guard your mind.
My mother’s voice shouts inside my head. I shake the thought away.
She walks back to the data terminal, and I turn my head to watch as she flips a switch and twists a dial on the side of the machine where the electrode wires are attached. It hums to life, but I don’t feel anything yet.
She begins with simple questions: My name, my favorite color and the subjects I enjoy most in school. This is just to see the normal patterns in my brain, or so she says. It will capture my baseline.
She twists the dial higher, and a jolt of electricity begins to buzz, working its way inside me, beginning in my head, then coursing and pulsing through my veins, like my entire body is alive with an energy I can’t control. My mind jumps around erratically. I close my eyes and try to relax. My mind goes fuzzy, and awareness of the room around me fades.
I lie still on the table and wait for something to happen. Now that I’ve grown used to it, I’m only faintly aware of the humming buzz vibrating inside my head. My neck is tense, but aside from feeling mild annoyance, I’m not sure what’s happening.
Has she started yet?