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mardi 29 avril 2014

Papers Please

The room is dimly lit, the dirty-white walls sucking up the cold neon-light. The floor is made of grey linoleum. There are no windows. There is a counter in front of one of the walls. To either side is a door.

The man behind the counter has a slightly arrogant look on his face, even though there is no one there to see him. Hidden behind a glass wall, he shuffles around some papers absent-mindedly, then puts them on top of a pile on his left. He pushes a button on the left side of his desk. The door opens a few seconds later, and another man enters the room.

He is dressed in old but well-cared for clothing, slouching slightly. He shuffles slowly towards the counter, as if unsure if he should be there. Then he glances fearfully at the man behind the counter, and hands him some documents through a slit. The man behind the counter starts organizing them without sparing so much as a glance for the other.

“What are your reason for coming to our country ?” the man behind the counter asks. His eyes have not left the documents on his desk.

“I come to join my wife who moved here,” says the other. The man behind the counter looks up from the passport in his hands, meeting the eyes of the other for the first time. Then he turns his attention towards the other documents in front of him.  The other seems to have regained a bit of his confidence. “We have always wanted to live in –“

“And your name is ?”

The other is startled by the sudden interruption, but obliges nonetheless. “Gregor Claymann.”

“Date of birth ?”

“Eighteenth of November, 1948.”

“Where is your birth certificate, mister Claymann ?” the man behind the counter asks. Even though he has been curt before, now his voice is cold as ice.

“Ah! I’m sorry! I have it right here!” The other fumbles in his pockets for a few seconds before producing the certificate.

The man behind the counter glances through it. Then he looks at the other. “This picture doesn’t look like you,” he says, pointing at the picture in the passport.

“It’s an old picture. But the passport is still valid!”

“I will need you to press the fingers of your right hand on the scanner to your right, please.”

Again, the other seems taken aback. Again, he obliges.

When he is done, the man behind the counter glances at a screen to his right. His eyes flicker between the screen and the passport for a few seconds. Then he picks up one of the documents in front of him. “It says here that during your physical examination last week, you weighted sixty-eight kilograms. The balance underneath you indicates that you now weight seventy. Why is that ?”

“I must have gained some weight, or maybe it’s my clothes. I don’t know-“

“Could you please step into the scanner to your left ?”

“What ? But it’s only two kilograms! I was naked when I was weighed at the check-up, of course it’ll –“

“Sir, please.”

The other gives the man behind the counter a resentful look, but ends up obliging.

Once he has closed the doors of the body-scanner behind him, the man behind the counter pushes an icon on his screen. The machine starts to produce a low humming.

After a minute or so, it stops, and the other exits the machine. “You see ? I’m sure there’s –“

“Sir, if you keep interrupting me, I will have to call security.”

“What ? But –“


Even though he can’t stop the outrage from showing on his face, the other remains silent.

The man behind the counter looks at the screen again. He manipulates the angle of the picture with a few well-practiced flicks of his fingers. Then he takes out a tray with two rubber stamps on it. He picks up the one to the right with his left hand, and the passport with his right. Just before the stamp touches the paper, he stops. “You said that you are coming to live with your wife, correct ?”

“Yes, we always wanted –“

“Your passport says that you are not married.”

“Well, it was only a religious ceremony, we did not have the money to buy a license and –“

“Please wait here, sir.”

“What ? But I –“

The man behind the counter pushes a button to his right. The door opens, and two soldiers enter the room. They grab the other, and start to drag him towards the door. The man behind the counter shuffles his papers together and clears his desk without looking up.

The other protests. His voice is full of resentment and fear. And resignation.

 Inspired by the game.

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