An envelope rests on the table, its paper contents splayed beside it. For several days my eyes slip over it easily, greedily even. The big green block letters-that-are-numbers vainly try to catch them, but always they slip and slide away.

But one day they snare me again as they did the day it opened to me.

Ninety-Eight Percent: The probability I would be selected for the trial.

Grabbing the paper is easy, and scanning the code easier still, but the sense of obligation washes over and weighs me down until only the hard way through is clear.

I sleep lightly tonight, and for the next several, because the knowledge of having to leave my space makes me uncomfortable in it. My space with my clean table and my food-store and my tablets, now only a capricious, capacious phantom.




The cold lights above fade in as my head lolls back into place and eyelids fracture. Memory comes one frame at a time and I begrudgingly accept I am not at home or in bed.

“Enoche Rydall,” calls a man in white.

I stand and approach him.

“You are a ninety-eight percent match for the NAME hearing. I expect you have read the brief?”

“Ninety-eight percent of it.”

The side of the man’s mouth curls slightly before giving way to, “Please proceed to room 365 on the 4th floor for selection.”

Walking through these halls once before, a few years past, the old photographs lining them seemed fun and frivolous; the number-letter was a meager single digit then and I was a visitor, a guest with no inclination toward dalliance. The smiles hanging on the walls truly did not seem forced.




A tall women with a sheen on her skin stands in the center of lopsided room 365, addressing a few dozen mostly full chairs on one side of the room while the other half of the room catches only echoes. I slide into one chair as she finishes her speech.

“…but you may refer to me as Miss A.J.A. from now on. At the end of selection you will either walk through the door behind me, meaning at least one of the items I list applies to you, or the square one you entered.”

At the mention of the other door a circular orifice manifests in the otherwise void white wall behind her. She gestures toward it and my eyes follow and fall into abyssal black and then dart away abruptly and each time I try to force them in they can only fall so long before..

“YOU HAVE WITNESSED SEXUAL MISCONDUCT.”

The voice seems to come from everywhere at first, but then with time it seems to flow out of the hole in the back of the room. A handful of people get up and leave. One of them lets out a soft sob as they walk through the square door.

“YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW HAS A LOVED ONE WHO HAS DIED FROM CAUSES OTHER THAN SENESCENCE.”

More leave, there are only 13 of us left now.

“YOU HAVE WITNESSED THE DEATH OF AN ANIMAL.”

No one moves for a moment, and then the man seated next to me rises slowly and departs.

“We have selection.”




More coming soon. -Joe