The Inspection

Asya Marie Wilson

“Hold out your arms,” the man said to my sister. She held out her long, thin arms perpendicular to her body. The man pulled out the scanning machine from a holster on his black belt.

*     *    *

 

About a decade ago, an organization found a way to calculate a person’s privileges and disadvantages they’d experience in life using the scanning device; it only needed to scan the skin for a few seconds to calculate it all. While many people have criticized the device, those with power called the calculation predestined and thought that it would make the world more efficient, putting everything in its rightful place without anything or anyone straying off course. The device made it possible to give each person their own unique set of privileges and disadvantages in an encrypted card that they’d have to take around with them wherever they went, leaving each person sure of what life would give them, sure they’d received nothing more, nothing less.

 

Two years after the discovery, it became law: every person had to be measured by the age of 18. Those that tried to cheat or evade the system were caught, given a calculation worse than what they would have had naturally. While some people waited until the last minute to have their children measured, others did it right away. Those that were above the age of 18 at the time the law was enacted were given half a year to be measured.

 

The man hovered the scanner above my sister’s arms. A thin red line of light brushed over her skin. “Beep!” The man turned to the side and grabbed his clipboard. He shook his head slightly as he wrote. “Okay, next.”

 

I held out my arms as I looked over at my sister. I had waited until the last minute to be measured, but she was only eight.

 

“You two are sisters?” the man asked, raising his eyebrows a little. 

 

“Yes,” I said.

 

The man scanned my skin. “Beep!”

 

My sister was clenching her fist onto the hem of my shirt. She stood straight, looking forward toward the man, just like I had told her to the night before.

“Stand up straight, keep your eyes forward, don’t be nervous," I said. "I’ll be with you.”

 

But even I had broken my own instructions. I fidgeted in place, tapping my heels. My palms were sweaty. I couldn’t stop my eyes from darting around the inspection room, watching people one by one receive their fate. Some cried as they received their card, some smiled and jumped in joy, some, expressionless. My legs felt brittle, like one touch would make them crumble to ash. My stomach was twisted.

 

“Okay, we’re done here. Go wait in line to receive your cards,” said the man.

 

I took my sister’s hand off my shirt and held it tight. I studied our pushed together palms as we entered the line of people receiving their cards. For the first time, I found myself measuring the difference between us.

 

Someone had started whimpering and moaning at the front of the line. My sister looked up at me. Her deep brown eyes glistened. She must have been holding back tears. I tried to read her expression.

 

I wondered if she knew what I knew all along, and I hoped that she didn’t. What I knew way before entering the inspection room with her. What I knew about the world outside our home and how that world saw us differently. Maybe she knew that despite being sisters, by mere chance, we were outwardly different, a difference that equated to something tangible. Maybe she also knew it meant she’d be destined to a card with the disadvantages that my card wouldn’t have. And that it meant her existence would now be defined by those disadvantages. No one would stop this from happening, and no one could save her, because the scan said it’s what she was destined to deserve, and we were taught the scan is never wrong.

 

Maybe those glistening eyes meant she too was confused about it all. Confused about how a brief scan of our skin could determine our fates. How it could somehow create a distance between us that we didn’t feel but others told us was there, a distance we could never make any less far because they won’t let us.

 

“It’s alright. You’re safe with me,” I meant to say to her, but what came out was, “I’m sorry.”

Asya Wilson holds a B.A. in Professional and Creative Writing from Central Washington University. Her fiction and poetry have been published in Central Washington University’s student literary magazine, Manastash. For Asya, creative writing is an enjoyable hobby, a therapeutic process, and a form of confession.

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