The Department

That funny little thing happened to me in the era when international corporations decided it would pay to do away with the future, selling instead a stable absence thereof to people by beguiling them with apocalypse scenarios and forming strong characters in them, thus probably preparing them for the way of life they abandoned centuries ago. But the era is of no importance whatsoever, when I am summoned to the Department.

I always leave the Department with no memory of my visit. Or, rather, I never take the trouble to remember anything. However, this very time, I did. Not in detail, but I did.
At first, they tired to shove me down a pipe, feet first. It seemed like they meant to make me scared. It would have been much worse, if they had shoved me down headfirst.

That square section steel pipe looked much like an air duct. Some three meters up ahead, it bent downwards abruptly. I was discouraged at the prospect of taking the plunge and meeting my doom down there. I understood that I would be instantly recycled. Or worse, my recycling would take too long. I was estimating whether the pipe was not too slippery and considering a possibility of climbing out by pressing shoe soles and sweaty hands to the walls, when suddenly my invisible tormentors got tired of playing practical jokes on me. So they dragged me out of the pipe and said:

“Ok, let’s go to the Department. They are so eager to see you!”

The Department was upstairs. I did not know what was beyond that ugly-looking chipboard door until I went through it.

Inside, the Department looked like a small classroom, with students’ desks arranged in three rows, the assessors’ (not sure if I am right in referring to Them as “assessors”!) desk, a whiteboard on the wall, light bulbs shining brightly, and no windows.

Seated behind the desk were They, and Their faces escaped my glance.

“What’s the good news?” They asked.

I dived into my pocket and took out what I found there – a shabby shred looking like a scrap of a banknote.

“That’s not enough!” They said reproachfully. “Others have more.”

I realized that They and I were not alone in the classroom: seated behind their desks were those others, and in front of each of them was lying something similar to a Soviet one-rouble note as big as a good towel. What I submitted for Their approval was merely a narrow strip, a miserable scrap of such a note.

“You are not being diligent enough,” They insisted.

“I agree,” I said, as there was no point in arguing.

“How soon will you bring us one like this?” one of Them asked, pointing at a wholesome note.

Suddenly it dawned on me that the others were present in the Department for good reason!
“When I am unable to live further,” I replied.

“That’s a good boy!” They spoke interrupting each other. “And a clever one! You were not that perky the previous time!”

And I did not remember what I had been like when I had been there the previous time.

“Ok, you’re free to go,” They said to me. “And remember to take your savings with you.”

I was about to leave, when one of Them hailed me: “Hold it!”

I stopped in my tracks.

“Share this story,” They asked me in unison.

“Ok, it’s a deal,” I replied.

Now, I am in a hurry to share, as They requested.