Eye Exam, 2208
When I got assigned to the Ministry for Disability Services, I was overjoyed. I’d pulled 10 years of Janitorial and I‘d gotten so the sight of the vats of disinfectant and anti-viral serum made me sick.
I tried to put a brave face on it, but you can’t fool the machines. My morale readings kept dipping a little at every review, and when my new assignment came through I was three points shy of mandatory mercy killing.
I know there’s a stigma attached to Disability Services. It doesn’t have the prestige of Janitorial, but the job meant more money and clearance for interstate travel. I’ve always wanted to visit somewhere else.
You get used to the work fast. I was assigned to vision screening, and unlike in the mental acuity or patriotism departments, the testing is straightforward.
Hacking was an issue with computer test, so we use an antique eye exam. If you pass, you go home. If you fail, the euthanizing is done in the most orderly, respectful fashion. It’s touching, honestly, and most patients are grateful to us.
I’d been on the job six months when she came in. Most of the patients are referred by their families and most of them fail. Of course, we get healthy people flagged out of spite by x-husbands or disgruntled neighbors. Less often, a patient will just barely pass and we’ll issue a provisional certificate which has to be renewed every two years. We don’t issue many renewals.
This particular day, I glanced at the next file on my desk and saw the patient has had her certificate renewed five times. That’s unheard of. I called her into my office.
She was beautiful. I can’t begin to describe it. She stood there in my dingy office and she almost seemed to glow with it, this perfect, useless beauty. And I knew at once that she was blind.
I’d never seen a blind person, (they say there are a few in the rebel zones) but the way she turned her whole head toward my voice while her lovely brown eyes flitted randomly betrayed it. She must have been using a sensor chip because she made her way to the exam chair without trouble.
She covered one eye and read the exam chart from top to bottom. Then she covered the other eye and did the same.
“You memorized it,” I said.
She laughed. “That’s impossible.”
She was right. The chart is highly classified and nobody without political clearance could get a hold of one, much less somebody with a provisional eye cert. Not unless…
I won’t tell you the crazy ideas I started to entertain. Corruption was stamped out in the purges; everybody knows it was. Nobody would run the risk, not even for beauty like that. Would they?
So I did the only thing I could think of. I issued her a permanent certification of visual fitness. But I tell you, my hand shook as I wrote it.