"PAPERS PLEASE!" was the shout that frightened Fischer the most. The buzz of electric radios and the passive murmuring that surrounded him lulled Fischer back to the house he shared with Freya. The concrete floor opened up and he fell into his father’s armchair. Fischer trailed his fingers over the contents of his bookshelves that reached from the floor to the ceiling and from wall to wall. He marched up and down their ranks, stopping to remove a misplaced book here and there and order it correctly. Fischer looked out of the open rear window upon rolling hills and thick forest that stretched endlessly into the horizon. He could hear the rustle of the leaves as the trees swayed in the wind. Children fell about over the hills, spiralling forwards in exploration. The soft tinkling of piano keys turned Fischer’s head to see his wife hiding her smile behind the arm that slumped across black and white. Walking across to Freya, floorboards groaned in happiness and the ticking clock slowed and resounded across the hills. Freya parted her lips and music played.
A bolt of lightning struck Fischer’s back. Freya screamed and the children turned their heads to the direction of the burning house. Screams filled the sky and travelled along a breeze through the open window and were swallowed by black smoke and flame. Fischer was panting frantically and as his empty breath hit a concrete floor, he quickly became aware he was not in his old home. Men in blue overalls and yellow hardhats stood around him, their grim and determined faces seemed to force the tears to fall down Fischer’s face against his will. A man with a childish face rushed forward, speaking in a foreign language he began pulling at Fischer’s arm and urging him to stand. He spoke fast and his voice cracked. Fischer watched a drop of sweat fall from the stranger’s brow, to his chin and then onto the pool of grey concrete where it disappeared. As he was pulled to his feet, Fischer wondered how he could have drifted so far from reality. The men quickly reformed the queue, the foreign man filed in before Fischer. Fischer began walking within the narrow yellow guidelines that dictated his path. The man behind was murmuring incoherently, his arms swinging side to side and his feet wandering either side of the yellow lines. Fischer suspected this man provided the blow responsible for his fall and the throbbing pain that flared in his side.
As the line stumbled forwards, Fischer admired the electronic scenery. Rows and rows of desks occupied every inch of the room and on top of each desk sat a computer which Fischer recognised as a 1977 Commodore PET. The keys clicked and clacked in chorus like thousands of insects flexing their mandibles. A drone operated each computer, receiving and vetting data; age, weight, height, ethnicity, blood type, hair colour, eye colour, shoe size, mother’s maiden name, childhood hero, name of first pet. The ceiling of the room was just a foot above Fischer’s head but the room seemed to stretch on endlessly. Looking down the line behind him, Fischer was startled by the sight of his own reflection peering back at himself in the distance. Looking to the right and the left, again Fischer could see his own diminished figure. A siren screeched and resounded off the mirrored walls. Fischer’s hands were forced to his ears but he strained to make out the shouts hailing from further up the line. Those around him became panicked at the words, “contamination”, “quarantine” and “processing”. The line became abuzz with activity as fear overtook submission. The line surged forward and the man behind pushed hard into the back of Fischer, who was pressed into the trembling foreign man ahead. Now moving forward at an alarming rate, men stood at Fischer’s side forming a crowd, the workmen’s boots hit the floor in rhythm and in their ears the chorus of keyboard clicks echoed like war drums. Fischer’s body felt submerged in a pool of electric energy and letters tumbled around the cloud of his mind forming the word ‘PURPOSE’. They were running now. A streak of blue with tremendous momentum crashed against officials, guards and wardens; funnelled through metal detectors and finally broke against two hangar doors that reached the ceiling. Inside the left hangar door was a smaller, regular size door. Fischer stepped out in front of the crowd that stood opposite the door. Each man looked into Fischer’s eyes and saw himself reflected back. Fischer pressed his ear against the door and heard the wind whisper to him again. The door handle was rusted and pieces of orange metal flaked off against his hand. With a creak it turned, sunlight flooded in and warmed his skin as Fischer threw the door open.