It started with a simple request — “Sir, could you please stand over there.” — and ended in a gunshot.

Happy to oblige the uniformed man, Lenny and his family fell in line and felt the rubbery rub of gloves against their sacred bodies as official, inspecting, fingers penetrated the folds of his clothing and poked the private parts of his wife and children.

“Next!”

Lenny and his family moved forward and were met by another man in uniform holding a box of matches.

“Now we test your loyalty,” — the official struck a match and held it under Lenny’s outstretched palm — “the longer you can hold your hand against the flame, the more sacred your dedication.”

Lenny struggled to withstand the crisping of his blackening skin as smoke swirled between his fingers as the match finally glowed into blue, and then amber, embers.

“Next!”

Lenny clenched his aching hand and placed it in his armpit for protection as another man, dressed entirely in black, approached his family.

“You have been especially selected for further enhancement,” said the man with eyes that matched the color of his suit — “please kneel before me for the extended memory examination.”

Lenny looked at the man’s unflinching face, and then saw his teary-eyed wife urging him on while his children stood, trembling, by her side, refusing to meet his eye; so Lenny kneeled before the man as the snout of a silvery gun was placed between his eyes:  “Think of sheep,” the man said in a rapid-fire staccato that matched the retort of the pistol, and the last thing Lenny remembered as he fell into amber, was wondering if he passed the memory test or not.

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