Marco. Let’s start with a name. Since there were few Drapers, he/she/it can stand for the others. They are all in a pile now in Kansas.

Marco was born regular, a Resultant from a female Lookerupper and a male Counterperson. He went to a normal Relocation Center, was tested and qualified as a future Drone Repairtype at seven days, and for all Anybody could tell was headed for the usual 29 years before death contributing to the Big Sphere. Then he walked under a gamma ray burst, a small one thankfully.  Then he started Draping. Just like that. One day into Pre-Work School.

“I like cloth,” Marco said.

In fact, that morning, Marco talked constantly about how much he loved drones and about how wonderful the Big Sphere cee and coo were, about how their desks were worshipped and how he got down on his knees every morning when he woke up in his huge bunkbed hall and asked the desk to give him a good day. Then he walked outside to a parade, Happy Universe Day, and the gamma rays fried his little brain. It also fried the brains of four other Types standing around him.

“Cloth is God,” he said.

He said these things when I interviewed him pre-death. I, reader, am an Exit Evaluator. I say live or die. Almost always, I say die.

“What do you think about the future of the Sphere?” I asked the first question on the List.

“In the future, everything will be cloth,” he said. He stood in front of my desk. They all stood in front of my desk.

His eyes glowed, literally. His ugly round face broke into an unnaturally huge smile revealing pre-normalized jagged teeth. His black hair—lower grades all had black hair—almost covered his eyes and shoulders. In everything he was on the verge of Right Living for Awhile.

“What is your favorite color?” I continued.

“Cobalt blue cloth,” he said.

His voice was gurgly since he wasn’t going to be a Public Unit. My voice was musical and clear due to the training for an Exit Evaluator. I still had four years to go before Death. My head was shaved. All our Officed heads were shaved for convenience. I wore the white jumpsuit. He wore green pants red shirt. We were different animals.

“Last question. Are you afraid to die?” I said, ticking off another in the Death Box.

“Cloth never dies,” he said. That ugly smile again.

I marked Death, signed it with my circle.

“That’s it. Enjoy Death,” I said, standing.

“Your cloth is white, like the sun when it glares,” he said, standing. “I was a poet.”

“Was,” I said.

He was about four feet tall, about. For the report, I estimated 38 Growthums.  He left my counter. Mumble mumble, I heard in the vast hall filled with row after row of other counters. One hundred Exit Evaluators.

A Muscler Third Grade grabbed Marco’s arm and led him toward the Eternal Exit. A Death Truck waited outside. He would enter, gladly, the back door and when there was a full load, the Yellow Gas would fill the interior. Ten seconds of agony and maybe 50 Failures would die. They would be taken to the Airport of the Big Sphere, loaded on a plane, and dumped onto the fields of Kansas on top of dead people mounds.

“NEXT!” I said.

Jane. She was beautiful. The most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I stared.

“I am affectionate. I need to help people,” she began. “People are good.”

Her eyes were the most beautiful black I had ever seen, like the world with my eyes closed. Her hair was golden, like the clothes of the Best. She stood in a delicate way like no worker ever stood. Even the green pants red shirt couldn’t hide her curving shape. I stared.

“I want to comfort the sick, the sad, the afraid, the confused,” she said passionately.

Her voice was like the musical bells the air became on Beginnings Day. Her lips were red velvet, like the red velvet on official proclamations. Her smile was teeth in two walls of purity. I stared.

“I want to make the Sphere a better place,” she said. “I don’t want to die.”

Her black eyes were wet. Water came from them. I had never seen water dripping in a line down anyone’s cheeks before. I was fascinated. My heart felt like it was moving toward her. I smiled. I never smiled.

Silence. And her black eyes. She stared at me.

“What do you think about the future of the Sphere?” I mumbled the first question.

“People are good,” she repeated. Music.

“What is your favorite color?” Next question. I looked down at the desk. I couldn’t stand what I was doing to her.

“Color is good,” she said.

“Are you afraid to die?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “I am very afraid.” I couldn’t look at Jane. “Save me.”

“You are not what is required,” I said, sadly, looking down at the desk. She had to be eliminated.  She was a danger. How did this anomaly drop, be trained, work, and still not be Unified? Some Trainer responsible had to die too. I hurt inside. Water began flowing from my eyes. A terrible thing. I couldn’t stop the water.

“I could make life better for the needy,” she said. “Let me live.”

I felt love, which I had learned to detect in the training videos, and I hated it. I was afraid.

I checked “Death”, and officiated it with my circle, a dark smudge this time.  I was Off Schedule.  Jane was evil. I stared at my desk.

“You will die,” I said, and regretted I had told her. I had disobeyed Procedure. She screamed. I pushed a button. Musclers came running, ten of them in rainbow jumpsuits, as per the rules. They pushed Jane toward the Eternal Exit. She kicked and punched and screamed. The whole Relocation Center stopped to look. That was terrible. For me.

For the first time in my Interval, I sat out of Control. Smoothness had died. The female was the worst case I ever had. So far from Specifications. She should have been routed into Bread Inspector, Office Speed Monitor, Hologram Samer, anything. And how she made me feel for a few seconds, loving and warm and connected, was just horrible. I wiped the water from my face with a sanitizing sheet.

I was so much out of the Flow that I didn’t notice a Gym Enhanced Muscler First Class walking rapidly to my desk. His rainbow steel glove grabbed my shoulder from behind.

“You know,” he said.

I sighed. The They were right. Those few seconds of love had been noticed on Mind Screens. I was inferior. One river of fear ran through me.

“I am dead,” I said. I stood and, my arm in the grasp of the Muscler First Class, I strutted to the Eternal Exit. I was proud. I was Normal again. I was helping the Sphere.