Only Erratics Recognize
Good afternoon…..Dorothy Lynn Silver. Identification number 9066810492. Very good. Processing can be a bit overwhelming if you’ve never traveled between colonies before, but focus on the sound of my voice and proceed through the open doors in front of you. Yes, that’s it. I’ll guide you through the steps which follow and before you know it, you’ll be inside Colony 1,184, or “The Dolphin”.
What? No, nothing to do with water. Well, there actually is a simulated waterfront within the dome but the name is more to give it an identity for colonists to rally around and to give direction to the internal decor. May I have you blow into the tube in the far wall? Yes, like that. Thank you. The doors to the next chamber should be open now, please proceed.
There’s not much to set us apart from the other colonies except that we’ve produced an unusually high percentage of the Erratics crucial to my line of work. You’re not familiar? Surely you’re joking, their mothers are all over TV these days because of the lawsuits, you’ve really never seen-...You’re serious? Well, there’s a ways to go yet before you’re cleared for entry, I may as well fill you in.
Erratics are savants, essentially. Of two specific types vital to colony security. The first, “type 1”, specialize in detecting what’s out of place. You know those tiresome picture puzzles on the brochures you find in the train? “Spot ten differences between these two pictures”? They’d solve it instantly.
But they further specialize in applying this skill to human beings. What? Yes I know, the decor in here is so drab. Grey walls, grey furniture, grey console. Well, you can’t see it but it’s the same as the rest. That’s government architecture for you. It wouldn’t weigh me down except our uniforms are all the same drab grey. They tell us it’s so nothing distracts the Erratics from their work.
Oh yes, the Erratics! Type 1 specializes in...what’s the term…”uncanny valley”? When something is very close to human but not quite. Except so slightly that no normal person could detect it. Alright now I’m going to ask you to please undress and agree to be photographed. These pictures will be deleted after processing and not shared outside of this building.
Very good. I do apologize but you must understand what’s at stake. So much was sacrificed to establish these precious pockets of immunity and only one must get by our defenses to….What do you mean, “one what”? Now you’re pulling my leg, I’m sure of it. Here, have a look at this.
A video plays on the monitor of the recent processing of an elderly man. When he undresses, he is judiciously blurred to preserve modesty. Photographs are taken, then a few seconds later, alarms sound. He runs for one of the doors but a steel shutter falls into place. Likewise with the other door. He writhes, shrieks, and cockroaches begin to pour from his mouth. His now jet black eyes widen, his jaw dislocates, then hangs open so the flow of roaches can accelerate. Whisper thin black tendrils emerge from his mouth and eyes, probing the limits of the room. His arms split apart, and multiple long boneless appendages resembling greasy pulsating tongues emerge from both stumps. Each one causes a spreading web of black sticky fibers on the wall wherever it touches, however briefly. A moment later the room is engulfed in flames.
That one was unusually easy. We almost never get them with the type 1s anymore. They’re really just the initial filter to pick out the sloppy ones. Type 2s do the real heavy lifting. Hardcore pattern recognition savants. We print out sheets of figures for them to scrutinize. Page after page of fine measurements of every biometric for each visitor. Height, weight, age, hair color, eye color, average hair length, skin pigmentation, frequency of moles, individual fingernail lengths, distribution of fine hair on the skin, everything conceivable. They spot patterns in the figures common only to the things we’re trying to exclude. Try as they might, it seems like they can’t help but build ‘em that way, and the type 2s always catch ‘em. Well, almost always. Never forget Colony 813.
There’s no shortage of controversy. Is it right to use children this way? Subjecting their developing brains to several years of zero error margin condensed pattern recognition undoubtedly burns them out. But they’re well taken care of after that, and decorated as heroes of humanity. Real humanity. Which was almost lost forever until the Erratics were discovered, permitting us to build a future for our kind atop the smoldering bones of our imitators.
“Even the children?” It’s the classic rookie question. Even I asked it back when I started. That’s when this department was mostly concerned with disposing of the things from Colony 813. All near-perfect replicas of the former colonists and a testament to why we are so intensely vigilant. It’s useless to tell the recruits “Don’t be fooled, those aren’t real children”. Unless they’re an Erratic, they can’t tell. Those damned things really know how to tug at our heartstrings. They’ll do anything to get inside.
But look at me now! Haha, not to toot my own horn but I’d say I’ve gotten the hang of it. Mr. Peterson assigned me to personally toggle the switch all day every day for a week, incinerating chamber after chamber of them. “Oh please, let us out of here! I have family inside who will vouch for me bawwww” I don’t want to hear it, into the fire with you! It’s that easy.
No thought is the key. Just don’t think about it. Hesitation is the seed of dereliction. Don’t plant that seed and nothing will grow. Look the other way when you incinerate them if you must, I was told. By the third day, I enjoyed watching. I’m sure there’s a false positive here and there, but it’s a small price to pay. Better too careful than too lax. If you’ve ever seen pictures of the surface outside the colonies you already know why we cannot afford to let even one inside.
Which brings us to the culmination of your processing. You passed type 1 evaluation! Congratulations! However, you failed type 2. Additionally it seems we already have a Mrs. Dorothy Lynn Silver with your identification number. Goodbye!