All he had to do was point at someone in the group.
Nobody would ever see them again.
It was anyone’s guess as to what happened to those people once Mitchell Larson got his hands on them. Being here in this place was bad enough. The sun was a distant memory. I could scarcely recall the feel of wind upon my face.
They picked one of us each day. We all stood in a line, wearing our ragged clothing with our hands held above our heads. Two men dressed in perfect suits wielding automatic weapons went down the ranks, patting us down in case anyone had the bright idea of concealing a weapon or any other kind of contraband from the Watcher. The monolithic observation station towered above all in the middle of the cavernous antechamber, its red camera lens consuming everything in sight.
Their frisk searches turned up nothing. Larson stepped forward and walked down the row, inspecting each of us. For what exactly, nobody knew. Whatever it was, he would always find it, sooner or later.
Some of us stood still, staring dead ahead, doing our best to maintain composure and not stand out in any way. Sometimes it worked, other times it didn’t. Today it seemed to do the job.
Others, however, couldn’t hope to contain the fear of being chosen. They trembled, drenched in their own sweat, nervously glancing in all directions like frightened deer.
Larson reached the end of the line-up and turned around, deep in thought, stroking his neatly trimmed beard and removed a fleck of dust off his pristine suit. He went back down the line for a second pass, to the dismay of many.
He made it a quarter of the way back up before he stopped, right before me. No. The man next to me, who seemed neither nervous nor confident, staring right into Larson’s eyes as he looked deep into his. To compare them was almost comical. Larson’s hair was cut short, with not a single thing out of place, while the man looked wild, as if he had been living rough for many years, his hair long, filthy and unkempt, like many of the other men here.
In almost slow motion, Larson took a step back and raised his finger, pointing at the man next to me.
“Him,” he said. “Welcome aboard.” His two armed escorts each took an arm and gently, but forcibly guided the man away, leading him towards the door leading into the Watcher. Nobody who entered the structure returned. Only Larson and other guards ever emerged from within.
“The rest of you, get back to work,” he said, disappearing within the Watcher almost as soon as he had appeared.
The following day, it was the same story. Larson did his rounds while his two guards stood watch over us, the closest looking me right in the eye before averting his gaze.
I searched his face for another hint of recognition. Something. Anything.
I found none.