tawdry as it sounds, they found me in the break room playing cards. bruce, jeffries, and their mates from the lab had a weekly game. when they heard i wasn’t free to leave the complex, but wasn’t at the moment occupied, and was in fact extremely bored waiting my turn to do my bit, they offered to bring the game round as a diversion. apparently, bruce had talked me up as quite a card shark. ha.
we’d been playing more than a few hours when in they came as if we should’ve heard the trumpets announce them. three men, all very serious.
as a reflex, i was about to make a wisecrack when the small, reptilian part of my brain broke through with a message: “fear, look, listen, don’t move.”
“they need to talk to her.” one of them said.
“Who?” protested jeffries. “She’s already talked to everyone, haven’t you dear?” he turned my way but kept his eye on mr. killjoy.
“The Americans” he said flatly, then added sarcastically, “The G-men.”
“Yes, quite, she spoke at length with the US Government gentlemen this afternoon,” jefferies countered. “Now, if you please this is a hand we’re all rather interested in playing out, as you can see.” he nodded to the table.
“These are a different lot,” mr. killjoy returned flatly. i couldn’t tell if he looked at the table first, but he took a beat and seemed to scan the room on his inhale, as though he were sampling the energy field around each of us. sniffing for bombs.
when he got to me i punked out even though i had a decent hand. i stood up, got my cardigan off the chair back, put it on, pulled my hair out from under it, and placed my cards face down on the table.
“might as well quit while i’m ahead, kids.” i scooped my chips up and handed them to bruce. “take care of these for me, will you cousin,” i hear myself saying in a far away voice as the room does a deep spin and tilt maneuver. i have not fainted, but i can not feel my feet as we move for what seems like hours through halls and corridors, alternately underlit and over-lit. up and down stairs and elevators and into yet another windowless room.
maybe they’re going to show an in-flight movie i joke (to myself or out loud, i’m not sure), as someone nudges me into a plush chair in a darkened, over-airconditioned space. the air is frigid and coffee-scented. together with the hum of central cooling it puts me in mind of a long, jet flight. after the meal and coffee, but before the movie, i think, dozing off in what really was an extremely comfortable chair.