Author: David Henson
I go to the woman at the check-in of the Identity Bureau and touch the space where my right eye used to be. “I’m Roger Sanders and —”
“Look at the scanner to verify.”
I clear my throat and swirl my finger around in my empty eye socket.
The woman frowns. “Oh, dear. Take a number, please.”
After several minutes, a small, drab-looking man calls my number, and I go to his station.
“I’m Mr. Rire,” he says. “How can I help you?”
“Somebody stole my identity eye.”
He looks at me closely and makes a face. “Get away from me, kid, you bother me.”
I turn to leave.
“Don’t go. Sorry. It’s Open Mic Night at the Anti-Gravity Club. The classics are trending.”
“That was WC Fields. I hear a big-time talent scout’s going to be there tonight.”
“Yeah, sure. How about this hole in my head?”
“Oh… certainly. Your retinal pattern should be on file. You need to get it imprinted on an artificial implant.”
“How? I can’t prove to my insurance company who I am or access my bank account. I can’t even get through security at the plant where I work.”
He stares at my eye socket. “Did it hurt?”
“A guy lurched at me in broad daylight and shlupped it out with a vacuum-thingy and cauterized it all at once. Felt only a pinch.”
“They’re getting more brazen and sophisticated. You’re my second today.” Mr. Rire nods at a woman seated in the back of the room. She has her head turned slightly to the right and is tapping a pad. He hands one to me. “Complete this identity questionnaire. We’ll use it to confirm you are who you claim.”
I scroll through the form. “You’re kidding. All this?”
Mr. Rire smiles. “Lucy, you’ve got some splainin’ to do.”
I shrug and glance back at the pad. “How am I supposed to know the name of my great grandmother’s favorite pet?”
“All that information’s been previously uploaded. So normally you confirm your identity, and the form auto-completes.”
I turn my head to the left and lean close to his face.
“I know. Kind of a catch 22 for people like you, isn’t it? Fill in what you can. I’ll see what I can do.” Mr. Rire waggles his eyebrows. “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them, I have others.” He looks at me expectantly.
I shake my head.
“Julius Henry Marx.”
“The Communism fellow?”
Mr. Rire sighs. I take a seat next to the one-eyed woman and spend the next two hours working on the form.
Mr. Rire turns out to be a good guy. He gets the one-eyed woman and me temporary ID codes synced to our left retinas. He also gets us jobs waiting tables at the Anti-Gravity Club. Neither of us makes much, and I’m becoming way too familiar with old, corny humor. But at least we’re paying our rents and not starving. Ethel and I should both have implants with our real IDs in a few months.
Ethel talks constantly about returning to her holo surgery practice when she gets her validated identity back. I go on about how much I miss my work as a geologist on an interplanetary explorer. I don’t know why I lie. I guess the good thing about being nobody is it gives you a chance to be somebody.
Oh, that’s tidy. Liked it a lot.
Very well done. Fresh take on the age-old problem of not being able to prove you are who you say you are, and the bizarre freedom that comes from having no past.
Thanks for commenting!
Very clever, multi-layered writing David. Loved how you slotted in the classic comedy quotes. But, it was the “I clear my throat and swirl my finger around in my empty eye socket” line that hit me. Cringe worthy goodness right there.
Thanks, Hari. I wondered if the comedy bits were maybe too long past. Glad they worked for you. In hindsight I should’ve named the MC Fred instead of Roger. Fred and Ethel make a good couple.
I think this standard of comedy is timeless. “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana” 🙂 Besides he didn’t really need to know what or who was distracting Mr. Rire, only that they were on different wavelengths IMO. Plus, I did not know that Groucho was really a Julius…. hasn’t got the same ring to it 🙂
Nice flash and clever integration of indenture, identity and other first-world problems