He led me out the door and down a sandy path to a small, squat white building with a tan tiled roof. I would never have guessed that this would be a laboratory. The waves of the ocean crashed only fifty feet or so away from the lab, and the sea scent made the weight of my diary entry dissolve and let my heart breathe.
He opened the door for me and gestured that I sit in the bare chair in the middle of the room. I did as I was told, and he took small suction cups with wires on the end and stuck them to my head. “What are you doing?” I asked, feeling the cups pull on my skin as I squirmed to find comfort in the wooden chair.
“Don’t worry; these just help me get reads on your brain waves.” I nodded, not exactly sure what else to do besides sit there. “All right, I’m going to ask you a few questions, Jessie, and you’ll answer them as best you can, okay?” I nodded again, feeling oddly petrified in the chair. Not afraid, but simply stuck, like someone had wedged something sticky to the seat.
He tapped a sharp yellow pencil against a clipboard with his fingers, searching a paper for something. “Here we go. What is your name?”
I hadn’t even thought about it until now. What was my name? Why didn’t I know this? He nodded, scribbling something down on the paper. “Jessie Connors, but I didn’t expect you to know that. All right, what is eleven to the twelfth power simplified to?”
I thought for a second, running through the squares like some sort of track sprint. I didn’t understand why he was asking me these questions, he would have already known the answer. What was the point in asking about something you already knew? I finally answered proudly, “Three trillion, one hundred thirty-eight billion, four hundred twenty-eight million, three hundred seventy-six thousand, seven hundred twenty-one.” Something beeped near Dr. Wiley, who smiled to himself and wrote something else down on his clipboard. He hurried over to me from behind the machine my head was hooked up to and pulled the metal prongs up on a manila folder, pulling out a large piece of photo paper.
“What picture do you see here?” He held up a glossy picture with two men in business suits talking. One man was clearly trying to deceive the other with his false smile, offered handshake, and expensive-looking suit. I could tell, though, that he was very near broke. He seemed to be trying to make a business deal with the second man. I related this to Dr. Wiley. He looked at me with wonder in his blue eyes, which seemed as natural a fixture there as sand on a beach. “How do you know that?”
“It’s in the picture, see? The stitching on the first man’s suit is crooked and doesn’t match the rest of his suit, and you can tell by the tightness of the muscles in his face that he’s forcing the smile, and his hand is too firm when he offers it.”
He looked at his charts, his mouth gaping open, and scribbled some more things down. “All right, time for some more menial questions.” Something in his tone telling me I would not enjoy this.
After about two hours of questioning, based on the sun’s fall through the sky, Dr. Wiley simply stared at me from behind his clipboard. “Did I pass the test?” I asked, rubbing my temples where the suction cups had gripped them.
“That wasn’t really a pass-fail test so much as a ‘how much are you capable of?’ test.”
I glanced at him thoughtfully, wondering exactly what he meant. “So what am I capable of?”
“A lot. Much more than the rest of us are.”
“What’s that mean?”
He sighed and looked over his scribbles. “Well, your eyesight is probably 20/10, which is to say more than acute. You can simplify and solve many higher math problems in your head, and you have some way to tell if people are lying. You’re a success, Jessie.”
I felt confusion flare up in my mind, searching for knowledge to extinguish it. “What was I supposed to do that I succeeded at?”
Dr. Wiley put down his notes and motioned for me to join him behind the machine. I stepped carefully around the wires lying on the floor and went to stand next to him. There were a bunch of snapshots of a brain’s silhouette, splattered with bright colors in areas. He touched one on the screen, and a pair sprung up. “This is from when I first asked you your name,” he pointed to the one on the left, “see all the colors? Your temporal lobe is going insane, trying to figure out your name.”