The immigration officer (a young guy with red hair and eyes Daniel swore were yellow) invited him inside and asked him to take a seat.
As he sat on the flimsy chair, Daniel noticed the computer monitor – so old its paint was flaking away.
They didn’t have money to buy this guy a new computer, thought Daniel, they must be paying him really badly, which means he is a sob and will make my life miserable.
“There will be a camera, and we’ll record the session,” the officer said, pointing toward a tiny square yellow box.
Daniel examined the stupid yellow box, and, getting closer, noticed its small screen where someone who looked exactly like himself (and whose head was getting bigger or smaller depending on how Daniel was moving his head) was watching him closely. The apparition troubled Daniel terribly. He did not know who that other person was, and, as if it wasn’t hard enough for him to deal with the red-haired officer, he now had to watch for the moods and swings of this other person whose head was increasing or decreasing without any logic. Worse, the officer did not trouble to explain who the person with variable head was. Instead, the yellow-eyed guy started asking him questions.
“Name?” whispered the officer.
“Daniel,” he answered, in a voice as low as he could muster.
Planet? What does that mean, thought Daniel to himself, is this guy crazy?
“Pardon me, sir. If I may ask, what exactly is the meaning of your question?”
“Does not understand the question,” the officer mumbled. And he typed something in the computer.
“If you don’t mind, sir, may I ask you what is it you just typed? I just want to express my surprise that you asked me about the planet, as if I could be from some other solar system.”
“Very good, reasoning shining through” the officer said, and continued to type in his computer. “Expresses surprise,” he heard the officer mumbling.
“Pfew! What an interview! Better be careful!” Daniel muttered to himself, sneaking a quick look toward the variable head guy in the yellow box. All he got back was a worried look.
“Earth,” mumbled Daniel, looking cautiously toward the officer. “Milky Way.”
“Aha, very, very good. We are now getting somewhere,” said the officer, on a friendly tone. “Next question, tell me about something unpleasant that upset you recently.”
Unpleasant? Hmm, thought Daniel. Which of them, boy, there were quite a bunch of them lately.
“My wife, Marissa,” Daniel said, “used to snore so loudly that sometimes I felt like killing her.”
“This,” the officer agreed, with a little sigh, “is a very unpleasant thing indeed. My wife snores as well. Every night. Makes my life miserable. Very unpleasant indeed.”
The officer kept typing for a few more minutes, then abruptly stopped, stared at the computer for a few seconds, and said, “I am very pleased to let you know that the computer has updated your profile in our databases and recommends we grant you a visa immediately.”
The officer looked quite excited. He stood up and shook Daniel’s hands:
“Daniel, congrats for starting a new life! Oh, one more thing. You must take these pills so we can fully integrate your profile into all our databases.”
The officer produced two green pills.
Pills? At an interview? Who has ever heard of anything like this? What are they going to come up with next? But he didn’t ask anything and didn’t express any objection; instead, he swallowed them when the officer generously offered him a glass of water.
He glimpsed quickly toward the guy in the yellow box, who looked back but did not change the size of his head anymore.
Maybe because the size of his head only changes while the interview is active, reasoned Daniel. He thanked the officer and made his way toward the door.
“Not so quickly, no so quickly! We need your fingerprints.”
Out of a drawer in the file cabinet, the officer produced a plastic box, opened it and placed it between the two of them. He reached in one of his pockets for some paper towels.
“Ok, let’s see now. Let’s start with your left hand.”
The officer took Daniel’s thumb, and guided it gently toward the inkpad inside the box. Just before the finger touched the pad, a bright red, reptilian tongue emerged out of officer’s mouth, circled around the upper lip, closed the loop around the inner lip and stopped in the corner of the mouth before disappearing. Daniel froze in horror. The distance between the two of them was so small that Daniel could feel that reptilian breath.
He did not dare look into officer’s yellow eyes, just watched hypnotically his own fingers, waiting to be zipped into nothingness with a blink of an eye. But that didn’t happened. The officer closed the lid, shook Daniel’s hands again and gently patted him on the shoulder. Daniel thanked, scratched his head and with some effort found his way into the city. A new life! Everything around him – buildings, streets, houses, gardens – was different. But what puzzled him was that everyone had a tattoo on their forehead, on which was written, in Segoe script fonts,
remember the dream
Some people had let their hair grow, trying to cover it, but of course, as Daniel was to discover later, that was perceived as childish and irresponsible.
Gabriela Popa is the author of Kafka’s House, a novel published in the USA and Romania, as well as a volume of short fiction entitled Dragonfly. Her fiction and digital art have appeared in many publications, including Del Sol Review and New England Review. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, where she works in biotechnology. Her author site on Amazon is here and her Twitter address is here.