The Judgement Room
I sat back in my chair, dressed in my usual black suit. My fingers interlocked with each other, propping up my chin and the deceivingly kind look I usually wore on my face. I was peering down over my round rimmed glasses at the mess on the other side of the thick impenetrable glass. The stainless-steel chair that was bolted to the floor was covered in red and wet as it so often was. The interview, sadly, didn’t go the way I had hoped. He did look promising on paper, but had turned out to be subpar like so many others. Bob something or other. What a waste… of my time. The killing didn’t bother me, it circulated somewhere in my mind between boredom and gratification, it was the let-down. Another disappointment, but that was my burden to carry. Thankfully, nothing could bother me much or for too long during those moments spent keeping our country a productive place.
I had the best job in the world after all and I had just made America a slightly more efficient machine. I had expertly kept it remiss of an unnecessary piece that never would have fit in with the rest. Bob something or other and because I was in charge of who got in, mainly who didn’t, America was a clean and safe Eden in a world of burning trash. Shut off from the rest of the wickedness and chaos, it blossomed in a crime free and completely advanced utopia of wealth, health, and happiness.
I breathed out a complete and satisfyingly deep lung full of air after one more moment of taking in the scene, knowing resolutely that I was doing the right thing and as always in this room, I had the final word on what exactly that was. When my eyes had soaked up all the blood they wanted, the way Bob’s, or whatever his name was, face was twisted in agony, I pressed the large red button on the right edge of my desk. It was worn, scuffed, slightly dull and grey in the center from my finger pressing it countless times. The blue button next to it, the one I pushed if I deem the participants worthy of entry, gleamed with vibrant color. It had remarkably less wear.
There was a familiar beeping sound and a secret door opened on the side of the white cube shaped room. The opening was inlaid with the panels on the wall in a clever way so no one could tell it was there. But one way or another, anyone who was sat in the chair bolted to the ground left through it. Walking, dead and dragged, or their ashes swept into a paper cup, they left. How, depended on the answers they gave to my questions and the questions I asked, depended on my instincts, my training, and my whims. More times than not, they entered the secret door a corpse, their living eyes never even knowing it was there.
A man in an orange plastic suit poked his head out of the opening to assess the body on the floor and the amount of cleanup the room would require before the next person could be led in. He gambled a quick look in my direction before retreating back to get his cleaning supplies. I immediately forgave him without him even asking. Against my policy, but it’s natural to admire greatness. This one on the floor, Bob… or Robert Johnson, I read as I eyed the papers in front of me, had been quite messy. I tried to lead him in the right direction with my interrogations. I truly did, but in the end, he just didn’t have what it takes I supposed. The squeaking wheels of the mopping bucket always made me cringe and there was the man in orange suit again, pushing his bucket of dirty dark soapy slop to clean the warm thick blood away from my white tiled floor.
Watching him, a lesser man clean up my mess, it didn’t help me get back in the proper mood for the next candidate. I shouldn’t look too happy when they brought in the next person. I should look slightly worried, conflicted even. Otherwise, it might give them the wrong idea. But what can I say? Sometimes I didn’t bother to hide my smirk. I love my job.
After watching the janitor smear the gore around until the floor was presentable again, he, the man in the orange suit and his cleaning supplies disappeared behind the secret door. Bob trailed behind them on a cart, jiggling as the wheels bounced on the tile’s grout lines. His arms and legs hung limply over the sides. He would be cleaned and catalogued until his corpse was composted to grow food for true Americans. It was the only productive thing Bob would do in his life as it was the only thing he would ever do inside the walls. When the door closed, I lifted the lid of my control panel and pushed the button for “clean”. Sprinklers came down from hidden compartments in the ceiling and sprayed the room in hot high-pressured blasts. The water crawled up and down my glass in cleansing waves and then thin robotic arms with squeegees popped in and out of hidden cracks to wipe the room dry.
Any remnant of blood was gone and I made sure the video feed played in the waiting room of the man in the orange suit. I didn’t want him feeling as if I really needed him. I didn’t. I could have just as easily pressed the button for incinerate to dispose of Bob’s body and then had the room cleaned from my panel, from my chair, but I liked the orange men to contribute. Hard work is a requirement this side of the wall. I didn’t want Bob clogging the drain either.
My panels top right flashed green, signaling the next contestant was prepped and awaiting my call, so I pressed the button and the main door opened. I could see through the thick protective glass in front of me the line of weary people waiting in the hall. It was very long and winding and walled in reflective glass. It made viewing them easy, from cameras behind the one-way glass, as well as giving off the impression that the hall never ended. I wasn’t much for dramatics, but I had to admit, it was a very unnerving place to wait to meet me. Some ,I had been told, had been coming back every day for months, each day updating their resumes with equally inexcusable errors, ensuring they would never have a chance to enter my room at all. For behind my secret walls, was a path to the land of the free and plenty. There was only one key and it was the press of my blue button. Many came, seeking it out, but few had earned the blessing of my fingers caress against the bright blue plastic. Less than one percent in fact. Now there was one more, in an endless line of one mores, ready to chat with me. Another one with the same great dream of America that would… leave through my secret door, one way or another.
He walked in. Travis, the fresh paperwork emerging from a slit in my desk said. Travis Beamer. He eyed the seemingly innocuous walls to his left and his right and shuddered when I pressed a button to slam the door behind him shut. He was well aware of the potential and consequences of being here, maybe even aware of some of the tools hidden in the walls and the chair. Binding straps, shearing blades, burning electricity and some, that I kept for special occasions.
“Mr. Beamer.” I said. “Please, have a seat.” He obediently sat and my finger hovered over the button that would wrap snug leather straps around his hands and feet. Duress did have a way of producing answers that rang with truth. I might not even have to use the lie detector on this one, judging by his big doe eyes. I cleared my throat before I spoke. “Question one,” I began.