Defect - By Ryann Kerekes

Chapter 1

There is no need to fear the mindscan procedure. In a few painless seconds, the data terminal will read your intentions and impulses and diagnose your future.

- What to Expect During Your Mindscan Pamphlet: Page One

All my life I’ve waited to walk under the arches leading to this compound. Today I walk toward my future with my mother at my side. We advance up the steps, and are drawn forward toward the concrete buildings at the center of the compound. A unit of guards jogs in formation along the perimeter of the towering fence.

When we get close, the metal doors click open as if on cue. We step inside, our shoes clattering against the too shiny tile floor. Television screens are mounted every few feet, and as we walk, I catch video clips about the mindscan. First there are sweeping scenes of the green countryside with low rolling hills, and white spray erupting from the ocean as it crashes against the shoreline. Next is a panoramic view of our city, with its glittering high rises. The camera angle draws in on the compound with its domed gray buildings, but all I can see are the fences, which depending on how your mindscan goes, offer either protection or imprisonment. I blink the thought away; there’s nothing to worry about today.

My mother and I progress down the hall while the screens show images of smiling faces – a father pushing a toddler on a swing. A woman’s soft voice narrates the video. “In the place that brings us all together … we welcome you.” Her voice is sweet. Too sweet. Syrup sweet.

“People should have a choice,” my mother whispers in a clipped tone.

I find her hand, weave my fingers through hers, and give a light squeeze. I know the mandated mindscans are for our own protection. There have only been a handful of crimes in the forty years since the Medical Revolution. But explaining this to my mother is pointless. She doesn’t like any government intervention. She’s even convinced the postman reads our mail before delivering it.

We turn the corner and face another set of doors. Though I wasn’t nervous before, my chest tightens. I swallow down my nerves and pull open the door. Rather than head inside, my mother hesitates. I shoot her a look, begging her to act normal today. She flinches at the open door and then steps through.

We follow the signs and check in at a counter. They’re expecting us. There’s no need to make an appointment since they know – based on the birth records – who will be here today. In the waiting room, there is another girl seated with her parents. We must share a sixteenth birthday. She seems nervous too, which makes me feel normal. A moment later a nurse calls her name. Lilah. Her parents watch her walk out of the room, then return to flipping through magazines.

I sit down next to my mother, who’s stiff and on the edge of her seat. Her hands grip the arm rests, and she’s humming like she does when she’s nervous. I look for something for her to read, but the only thing on the table is a pamphlet – What to Expect During Your Mindscan – and I know she won’t want that.

I steal glances at Lilah’s parents. They’re dressed in muted tones, gray and khaki. Their hair is neatly combed. My mom is wearing an orange top with green slacks, and her dark hair flows loose over her shoulders. Her cheeks are flushed pink. She’s always embraced these differences, when all I’ve ever wanted was for us both to blend in. After today, I’ll be a step closer.

We wait for another fifteen minutes, and my stomach churns with each minute I watch tick past. Then I see Lilah reemerge. A carefree, relaxed look has overtaken her face, and there’s an easy slump to her shoulders. She greets her parents coolly, and they walk out together, studying the folder they’ve given her. It must show her stats. Though it isn’t common to be rejected following the mindscan, there must be a reassurance that comes with seeing your results. She seems pleased. They all do. I want that. I crave something normal. I breathe a little easier at seeing Lilah come out okay, anxious to get this over with – to show my mom there’s nothing to be afraid of.

“Eve.” The nurse who dropped Lilah off waits for me.

My mother stands and squeezes my hands, tears