The Invigilator

(The Invigilator was published in April 2007 in Ethereal Gazette.  Please enjoy this excerpt.)

Monday, 7:00 a.m.

The invigilator sat directly across from Alan.  Her name was Janis Oliver.  She was a beautiful woman.  Long black hair.  Stunning blue eyes.  She smiled at him and spoke with gentle politeness, but there was a coldness to her aspect that let Alan know she was all business.

“The interview will consist of three parts and will run for approximately seventy-two hours.  Were you aware of this?”

“Seventy-two hours?”  Alan had never heard of such a thing.  What kind of interview takes three days to complete?

“Yes.  Do you need to make arrangements?”

Alan thought for a moment.  “No.”

“Do you wish to continue with the process?”  Janis had Alan’s digital application form up on her laptop screen. He’d submitted it over two years ago, complete with half a dozen high profile reference letters and government, corporate and faculty endorsements.  He’d been on the short list for the last six months.

What if he said no?  What if he said, ‘This is a big decision, and I’m afraid I need more time to think about it’?  Would she delete those oh-so-valuable files right there before his eyes?  Sometimes the sum of a person’s life came down to a few megabytes of information, one big decision, and a fleeting moment of time.  This was Alan’s moment.

“Yes.  I am ready to continue.”

Janis smiled coldly and opened another window on her laptop.  “Please read this and sign here.”  She handed Alan her laptop pointer and sat back in her chair.

The form was extensive, covering everything from paper cuts to accidental coronaries.  It didn’t do much to ease Alan’s apprehension.  Janis waited patiently as Alan skimmed through the five scrolling pages and eventually signed at the bottom.

“Good.”  She took back the pointer and closed the file efficiently, turned the needle-thin laptop screen to face her and settled back into her tilting leather chair.

“I see you attended Harvard.”

“Yes.  Graduated fifth in my class.  Pyro-Ballistics with a minor in Modern Ethics and Terrorism.”  This wasn’t so bad.  He might have to take the fifth on a few questions about the Company, but he looked forward to revealing his very successful corporate record.  Alan began to relax.

“Ah.”  The invigilator put the laptop pointer to her lips.  “Had several romantic liaisons,” she said wryly. “Ended badly.”

“Um.”  Odd question.  Did she want him to explain?

“Flirted briefly with thoughts of communism, larceny, homosexuality.”

“What?”  Alan stood up, suddenly angry.  “Look.  I don’t know who you’ve been talking to?”

The invigilator continued to stare at the laptop screen as if nothing had happened.  “Can hold your breath for three minutes and twenty-three seconds.  Very impressive.  We’ll have to test that.”  She slapped the laptop closed and looked straight into Alan’s eyes.  “What’s your favorite color?”

“I . . .”  Alan shook his head and sat down slowly. “Blue.”

“Your favorite animal?”

“I had a dog when I was a kid.”

Janis reached into her vest pocket and grabbed a handful of something.  “Put the following objects in order of preference.”  She tossed the objects onto the glass table in front of Alan.  “Favorite closest to you and least favorite furthest away from you.”

There was a cracked and slightly dented marble, a blue, four-sided, pyramid die, the racing car game piece from Monopoly, a white plastic cross with ‘Jesus Saves’ written on it and a tarnished, double-headed quarter.  Alan was no stranger to psychological testing – he’d had plenty of that at Harvard and even more in Special Ops – but this was just stupid.  He’d play along.  He had to.

Alan arranged the objects in no particular order and sat back.  Janis looked at the arrangement thoughtfully.

“You chose the coin first.  Why is that?  Do you like games of chance?”

“When you can’t lose,” Alan said impulsively.

“Very interesting.  We’ll start there.”

***

Publishers:  If you have enjoyed this excerpt and would like to see the complete story, please email me at the address below.

wright812@hotmail.com

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