Greg Cardoon sat in the waiting room of the government assessment office. His legs bounced up and down as he tried to control the nervous anxiety welling up inside of him. This particular week had not been the best for him for a lot of reasons. One of the bigger ones being that his cat, Gregory III of Canterbury, had recently gone missing. Greg had let him out three nights ago and hadn’t heard from him since. It wasn’t in his cat’s nature to stay out past curfew.
Greg fumbled in this pocket as he tried to pull out the picture of his cat. He held up the magnificent portrait and smiled on the inside; these were good times. They both had, on a whim one Saturday morning, agreed to go down to Rico’s and take some glamor shots. Gregory III had been in a most pleasant mood that day. Greg knew he had been in a good mood primarily because he hadn’t complained when taking his eye medicine. They had even wore matching argyle sweaters he had ordered off the internet.
“Who’s that?” asked a little red headed girl in the waiting room.
Greg jumped a little at the question. He hadn’t known he was being watched by a third party. He turned to the girl and tried to control himself. “This,” said Greg firmly as he pointed to the picture of his fabulous feline. “Is my best friend in the whole world.”
“But it’s a cat?” Said the little red headed girl. Her thin lips parted as she blew a small pink bubble out of her mouth. She sucked the gum back in and popped it before continuing. “Animals can’t be friends. My mama says that people that treat their animals like people need psychological help.”
Greg was deeply disgusted by this child’s willingness to share her thoughts. The stupid little brat had obviously been brain washed by her redneck parents; most likely the results of inbreeding. Whether you like it or not, environment played a key part in the development of a child. He tried to calm the anger growing inside of him. These were the situations that his alcoholics anonymous meetings had talk to him about. Greg wasn’t an alcoholic, he just had an anger problem. The words of his group councilor were echoing in his mind: “You can’t control what others do; just what you can do”.
Greg swallowed his frustration and tried to explain as best he could, “He is not just a cat. He’s been my companion through thick and thin. I found him in a box on the side of the road a few years back. He looked into my eyes and I looked into his eyes and we both made a connection. It was powerful and beautiful. He has been a conduit for my emotional frustration with life.”
The red headed girl looked unamused by this explanation. Another pink bubble emerged from her lips and popped. She didn’t bother cleaning it off her cheek as she continued, “My dad hit a big black cat yesterday in the middle of the road. He tells me he doesn’t stop for nothing because it could endanger the family if he slammed on breaks. He threw our bright red truck into 3rd gear and kept on driving. My whole family cheered at the thud from the wheels! ”
Greg felt sick to his stomach at the insensitive comment. He couldn’t help but think that the poor creature might have been Gregory III of Canterbury. He stood up quickly and gripped his chest trying to control his breathing. His knuckles popped as the rage monster deep down inside of him came to life. It felt like the flames of a gas stove. He was going to say something to the repulsive little girl when the parents of the child spoke up from the other side of the waiting room.
“Cindy Lockhart Jr. you had better get your butt over here and stop bothering that man.”
“Sorry mama,” said Cindy as she retreated backwards away from the standing stranger. The volume on her voice was untamed and harsh. It vibrated the walls as she found her seat and sat down again, “I just wanted to ask the pencil neck why he dresses so funny. You think he might be one of those speckled bleachers we keep hearing about from Big Daddy J?”
“Hell if I know,” said the large woman seated next to the child. She was eyeballing Greg suspiciously now and holding her purse tightly to her chest. “The government says they got to cloak themselves for the time being; it’s the law. Any speckled bleacher found not cloaking themselves will be put in jail.”
“More like the dog pound,” said Cindy with a snort. “They so ugly!”
“That’s why the government is taking these precautions Cindy Lockhart Jr… Because they care about our safety,” said the hefty woman as she reached into her purse and pulled out a candy bar. She opened it and took a big bit. Her eyes had not stopped staring at Greg and his peculiar appearance, “They want to register all the speckled bleachers before the end of the week.”
“I am not a bloody bleacher,” said Greg at the top of him lungs. Everyone in the waiting room stopped what they were doing and looked at him. Apparently it was ‘okay’ for a kid to yell in a confined space, but not a full grown man. Greg didn’t care. He sat back down and put the picture of his cat back into his pocket and crossed his arms over his chest. He spoke to himself more quietly now, “I am not a monster like them… Stupid Bleachers.”
Greg was almost certain that one of the filthy bleachers in his neighborhood had been the one that had captured Gregory III of Canterbury. He shuddered inside at the thought of his best friend being eaten by one of those demented creatures. He had watched a documentary on them a few months back and knew what they were capable of. The government was trying to lie to them all about the conspiracy with Prewitt Labs in Southern California. They had been the ones to introduce these things into our world not knowing the ramifications. Now they wanted to give them citizenship after all the damage they caused. The government was making up stories about how they disserve a chance to prove themselves in our society. “To be like us!”
What about all the dead? Thought Greg
“Foolishness,” whispered Greg to himself. Images of his own family danced around in his mind; none of them could really be trusted. He pushed each and every thought out of his skull. There was no use reminiscing on the past because the past couldn’t be trusted anymore. Greg had made a promise to himself years ago. He promised that he wouldn’t associate with any of his family members until he was almost certain that they were his own kin. The “Dead Man Act” of 2025 would go into effect this weekend. The government had issued all American Citizens to gather together and undergo an evaluation. Everyone would have to identify as a bleacher or a human being. Greg planned to pass this evaluation with flying colors.
“Greg Car…Cardoon,” said the receptionist uneasily. She was an older lady that apparently didn’t like conflict. She had been treating everyone in the assessment office as if they were one of these creatures in disguise. Every time she announced someone for evaluation it felt like she was negotiating a hostage situation. Her voice would crack and quiver. Greg was certain that there couldn’t have been very many of the bleachers that got through. The documentary was very clear that only a few hundred could have got through and that they couldn’t really reproduce with themselves or the local population.
Greg stood up and raised his hand, “Present!”
The receptionist’s eyes got bigger as they landed on Greg and his unusual appearance. Her voice fluctuated and faltered as she spoke, “D-D-Doctor Banes will see you now.”
“Good,” said Greg as he brushed off his argyle sweater and crossed the room. He made it a point not to make eye contact with anyone else seated in the waiting area. He didn’t need to explain the shade of his skin color to anyone present. It was none of their damn business how pale he was in comparison to society at large. It wasn’t a sin to be an albino human living in America; at least not yet. Things might change, however, with all the bleachers.
The receptionist’s hands shook uneasily as she printed off an evaluation form and attached it to a clipboard. On the top of the older woman’s desk sat a small book that Greg was all to familiar with. It was Bob Orton’s “Guide to Knowing If Your Friends and Family Are a Bunch of Night Shades in Disguise.” Bob Orton had been an evangelical preacher during the night of assertion 10 years back when the 5th dimension had been opened. He had claimed to have help Sam Harris end the attack on our world and stop Prewitt Labs from sending anymore of these creatures through.
The receptionist couldn’t stop staring at Greg’s skin color. She almost dropped the clipboard as she handed it over to him. Her voice sounded scared, “Here…Here…you go.”
“I am not a Speckled Bleacher, Ruth,” said Greg as he took the Clipboard from her and looked over the evaluation questions. He had read the woman’s name from the name tag on her vest. “You’ll see, I am just a normal human being… who just so happens to share the same skin color as the creatures in our society.”
The receptionist shook her head uneasily and swallowed the lump in her throat. “W-W-Whatever you say Mr. Cardoon.”
Greg could tell there was no way in hell she believed anything coming out of his mouth. It felt aggravating to be treated like a criminal based solely on his skin color. She was in the process of retrieving a pin from one of her drawers when a loud buzzing sound took effect around the room. Greg’s heart fluttered as he watched the roof vibrate harmoniously. After a few seconds it stopped and a portal appeared in between the aperture mounted into the wall next to the receptionist desk. An electrostatic field flooded the room and caused Greg’s translucent arm hairs to stand up on end. Prismatic rainbows danced in circles at the edge of the portal; it was the most bizarre thing Greg had ever looked at in his entire 29 years of life.
The receptionist pulled out a pin from the drawer and handed it to Greg.
Greg wasn’t looking at her anymore. “Is this thing safe?”
“The g-g-government thinks so,” said the receptionist who had picked up her novel by Bob Orton again and was now turning through the pages rapidly. She stopped in the middle and compared Greg’s unusual appearance to the charts listed in the glossary.
“And I am just to walk through it?” asked Greg
The receptionist looked up again from the book and gave Greg a forced smile. She tried to nod her head as best she should. “Yes, Mr. Cardoon.”
Greg looked at the wooden door situated to the left of the giant portal machine. All of today’s applicants had been entering and leaving this door. He had watched them come and go all morning. Greg didn’t even know what this bloody thing was until a few moments ago. Why was he the one being sent through the portal like a guinea pig and not the rest of them? Heck, they should send that demon child Cindy Lockhart Jr. through first, that way if they wound up frying the girl, humanity would have come out on top.
“I would like to use the door to the left of the portal,” said Greg firmly as he pointed to it with the clipboard in his hands.
“S-S-Sorry, Mr. Cardoon but only female applicants can enter that door,” said the receptionist. She had retrieved a yellow crystal from her desk and was holding it up to Greg’s pale white skin. She was hoping to see a response. “Does your species have a female gender?”
Greg swatted the stone away. “Stop!”
The receptionist recoiled in fear; her glasses almost fell off her face.
“I am an adult human male,” said Greg firmly to the scared old lady. He was growing more annoyed at the situation developing in front of him. The receptionist had been right, only females had been entering and exiting the wooden door to the left all morning. Greg hadn’t really considered it until this moment…But why the segregation?
“A-A-All males must enter the portal,” said the receptionist.
Greg was going to protest when a child like voice spoke up from behind. The whole waiting room was now gathered together to watch Greg enter the giant portal. It was madness!
“See mama,” said Cindy Lockhart Jr as loud as she could. “I told you there was something suspicious about that pencil neck librarian. He doesn’t want to take the speckled bleacher evaluation. He’s not an American… he’s one of those spineless bleachers.” She pointed sharply at Greg. “We are on to you ugly bleacher!”
Greg sighed in defeat. The anger drained from him. He was dead sure that nothing he said would convince the gathering mob of his innocence. He held the clipboard tightly to his chest and walked through the portal.