In my opinion, the whirlwind of rumours and false reports surrounding the role of D-Class in this institution has created an increasingly poisonous, and frankly unprofessional, atmosphere over the past few years. For any staff members who may not be aware: D-Class are not to be requisitioned for the exploration, testing, or feeding of dangerous anomalies. Barring exceptional circumstances, in the course of their regular duties D-Class should not be permitted to come in contact with anomalies of any kind. They are not soldiers, and they certainly are not human pawns. Interruption of the D-Class’s duties interferes with vital Foundation contingency efforts and will not be tolerated.
Any researcher requiring an expendable research unit for testing of anomalies should request the use of a Simurgh-class autonomous mobile drone from their local Requisitions Department. Anyone who attempts to use D-Class in testing at my site will be subject to immediate disciplinary action.
Site Director Marie, open letter to all employees concerning D-Class
John James opened his eyes and got out of bed and put on his orange uniform with the white letters on it.
The white letters were on the back and the top of the right-hand sleeve and on the left breast, right where a shirt pocket would go, and they all said D-23984. That was what the guards called him, and what the speaker said when it told him which room to go to, but inside the testing room the doctors all called him John James.
Up above him on the second bed, a big bald man with a little bit of beard climbed down the ladder to the floor and put his own uniform on. That was Stephen Reyes, his bunkmate. The white letters on his uniform said D-23886 instead of D-23984, so John James guessed that Stephen had been here longer than he had. He’d asked him about it once, and thought it was kind of funny that Stephen didn’t know.
“I had a dream about my family,” said Stephen, his eyes glistening a little in his big bald face. “Their names are Betty, Mary, Annie, and Sam. They all smelled like strawberry jam.”
John James nodded. “My family lives in a house just outside of Simbsury,” he said. “The house has a real white picket fence.”
“I hope I’ll see them again soon,” Stephen said, and for a moment John James felt a twinge of annoyance, because he’d just been about to tell Stephen all about his own family and the house they lived in and how the white picket fence had actually been built by his great-grandfather, who also lived in the same house, but just then the speaker asked for D-23886 to please report to room 21 and Stephen got up and went out of the room.
So John James took a pencil and a sheet of paper from the dresser against the wall and drew a floor plan of his house just outside of Simsbury, with the round window in the right top corner and the little three-sided porch. It was a very detailed floor plan, and almost all of the lines were straight. John James was very proud of it, and he left it on top of the dresser at a favourable angle so that Stephen would see it when he walked in the door.
“A round window, you say?” asked Dr. Carter, smiling. The speaker had called his number and told him to go down to room 18 where Dr. Carter was, and she had seemed very happy when he’d told her all about the drawing of his house. “But John, your house doesn’t have any round windows. Try and remember that.”
John frowned, and in his mind’s eye the round window in the right top corner shimmered and changed into a regular square one. Maybe he had been thinking of his neighbour’s house. “But it does still have a real white picket fence,” he said, with a sinking feeling in his gut. “Right?”
“Of course you have a white picket fence,” said Dr. Carter, and she picked up a stack of papers. “Now, John, let’s talk about your grandparents. On your mother’s side – what were their names?”
John James frowned and tried to concentrate. Their faces were a hazy blur, their names right on the tip of his tongue. “E…El…Eleanor,” he finally said. Yes, that sounded right. “And Jacob.”
Dr. Carter wrote something down. “And how long did they live?” she asked.
John James was silent for a long while. “I knew my grandma – Eleanor,” he said at last, and as the words left his mouth he knew that they were true. In fact he could remember her now, a little shrivelled figure in a big brown bed. He must have been very young at the time, or else he wouldn’t have forgotten it so easily. “My grandpa died before I was born,” he said, and this he also knew to be true. “Grandma never talked very much about him.”
“And on your father’s side?”
John James frowned again. “My grandpa’s name was Bill, and my grandma’s name was Mary, like Stephen’s daughter,” he announced. “They lived in Simsbury, and we visited them every Wednesday.”
Dr. Carter smiled and wrote some more. “Very good, John. That’s all the questions I have for you. Do you know what day it is?”
John James did not have a watch, though he thought he’d probably owned one at some point. “No,” he said.
“Today’s the thirtieth, John. Your month is up. Tomorrow you’ll go home.”
John James smiled. Then he frowned and smiled again and blinked and rubbed his eyes. “For real?” he asked. “For true?”
“For true,” said Dr. Carter.
“My family,” said John James. “Have they… missed me?”
“Very much,” said Dr. Carter.
John James was so preoccupied that he hardly noticed when they sent him back to his room, or how he got there. Late at night, as he stared at the scratchy metal belly of the cot above him, he realized that Stephen had never come back. Eventually he decided that the doctors had sent Stephen back home to his family too, and was a little upset that he had never gotten to show Stephen his drawing of his house.
He dreamed that he had done something very bad and was looking for somewhere to hide. The police were closing in, but just before they got to him some men in black suits drove up in a car and took him away. The man he had been in the dream had looked like him, but his name wasn’t John James and anyways he was much younger than John James was.
On the first of the month, the speaker came on and told John James to walk to the very end of the hallway and go into a room that he had never seen before. The room was full of other people in orange uniforms with white letters, and some people in bulky black uniforms with scowls on their faces. There were letters on the wall that read “RECONDITIONING,” and every few minutes the speaker would call out a number and a scowling man in black would walk one of the men in orange away down a hallway. John James tried to look for Stephen in the crowd, but before he could find him the speaker said for D-23984 to report to reconditioning room 3, and one of the men in black marched him off to a new room and shut the door behind him.
Dr. Carter was in the room with some men in glasses and button-down shirts, and behind them was a big metal chair with complicated-looking machinery coming down out of the ceiling above it and lots of computer screens on a little stand.
“This is your last test, John,” Dr. Carter said with her usual smile. “Then you’ll get to go home. Sit in the chair, okay?”
“Okay,” said John James, a little uncertainly. There were straps on the chair for your legs and your arms, and when he sat down in it the scowling man in the bulky black uniform snapped them shut so he couldn’t get up again. One of the men in glasses came over and fastened the machines coming out of the ceiling to different parts of his head, and when Dr. Carter began to press buttons on the computer screens John could feel them buzz a little.
“I want you to concentrate on your family now, John,” he heard Dr. Carter say. “Your family, and your house with the white picket fence. Can you do that, John?”
“Okay,” he said.
“Mental snapshot in three, two, one,” Dr. Carter said to the men in glasses, and then the machines did something funny that John James could taste in his mouth. Lots of little pictures and lights started blinking up on the computer screen.
“Perfect transfer. Everything’s here,” said Dr. Carter, with a hurried thumbs-up to John James who was giving her a questioning look.
“Good, wipe him clean,” said one of the men in glasses, and before he lost consciousness John James could only visualize a flash of white light and the memory of himself screaming.
Martin Kendall opened his eyes and got out of bed and put on his orange uniform with the white letters on it.
The white letters said D-23985, but his bunkmate’s said D-23887. His bunkmate’s name was Billy Smith, and he was a big bald man with a little bit of beard on the bottom of his face. Martin thought that maybe he’d met him somewhere before.
Martin had had a meeting with Dr. Carter the day before, and he was telling Billy about how he used to have a family, but they had died in a tragic car accident and now he lived on his own in a little three-room flat.
“I miss the place,” he said. “I hope I’ll see it again soon.”
Billy Smith didn’t say anything to that, so Martin asked him whether he had a family too and if they had died in a tragic car accident.
Billy thought about that for a long while. “Maybe,” he said at last. “I don’t know.”
The man without a name had been grown in a tank, and had never seen the outside world.
Even now, the task force that was transporting him kept him in a long metal tank, asleep in the dark. His tank and many others were loaded together on the back of a big truck, and the only way to tell them apart were the numbers printed on their sides. The numbers on the tank of the man without a name were D-23984.
Off in the distance the members of the task force could see the enormous corpse of whatever it was that had destroyed America, the sun rising through the spines on its back.
“Jee-sus,” said one of the men in black.
“They’re bombing it soon,” said another. “Just watch.” He was staring at his wristwatch, a fancy metal plate with an extra panel that showed the day and the month and the year, all back-to-back. Right now the panel read 21/0/0.
The two men stopped the truck and waited until they saw a mushroom cloud rising off the thing’s back through the dirty window, and the sun gleaming through a new hole in its ribs.
The man in black started the truck, and they drove off with the man without a name and the others like him. Over the next few weeks, the bombs steadily turned the thing into little piles of meat that turned into dirt soon after. Crews with construction cranes set up and dropped the thing’s bones into trucks filled with vats of chemicals that melted them right away. The men in the truck drove around the countryside, taking the nameless men out of their tank and propping them up here and there, and through their little dashboard radio staticky voices squawked from around the world that men with trucks and cranes there were doing just what the men in America were doing. They estimated that cleanup efforts would be over by the first of the month, and they were right.
On the first of the month, John James woke up in his car.
He yawned and stretched himself. He was in his driveway, and up on the little three-sided porch of the house with the little square window in the right top corner his family was sitting, waiting for him to step outside. They looked a little different than how he had remembered them, but John James thought that was only because he had been gone for such a very long time.
He got out of the car and walked past the real white picket fence that his great-grandfather had built, smiling all the way. It was good to be home.