“50 years?” Wilbur shook his head with a gentle chuckle as he organized his paperwork. “That’s kind of incredible,” he added. Violet sat quietly in front of his desk as the middle-aged man mostly mumbled to himself. She knew he wasn’t talking about her specifically as much as the whole group. The others were either sitting in the waiting room or being interviewed by other caseworkers. One thing Violet learned in the bunker was to remain quiet while adults were talking. That included when they were talking to themselves.
Violet’s gaze wandered around the small office while Wilbur seemed preoccupied with putting his forms in the right order. The office was extremely plain with solid white, empty walls. The two seats in the room, Violet’s and Wilbur’s, were both black leather rolling chairs; though, the back of Wilbur’s was taller. Small wire baskets covered the wooden desk between them. Wilbur pulled a sheet from each of the different baskets, read it over, then either returned it to the basket or added it to the pile he collected.
Violet focused on him since the office was so plain. He stopped reaching into the baskets and read the ones he chose more carefully, occasionally re-shuffling their order.
“Alright, Sorry,” Wilbur finally said after stapling his packet together. “Your group is kind of a new situation, we don’t have a standardized packet yet. So, welcome to the real world! ” he added with a broad, warm grin. It was the first time he gave her his full attention, and his smile put Violet at ease.
“Let’s start with the easy ones,” he said. “What’s your full name?”
“Violet Victoria,” she replied quietly.
“That’s a beautiful name. How old are you, Violet?”
“Okay. What kind of education did you get down there?” Violet tilted her head at the question.
“What kind of what?” she asked.
“Uh..,” Wilbur didn’t expect the question. “Can you read?”
“Yes, Mr. Johnson,” she said and nodded at his nametag.
“How about numbers? Addition, subtraction, multiplication, .. any of that sound familiar?” Violet giggled.
“I know what math is,” she said.
“Great, where did you learn that?”
“My mom taught me,” she replied.
“Did she teach others?” Violet shook her head.
“No, their parents taught them.”
“You’re a bit older than I thought. Let’s see if we can’t get you straight into a high school,” Wilbur reached into one of the baskets. He pulled out a form, then added it to the back of his stack with a second staple.
“What’s high school?” she asked.
“It’s a place to learn about all kinds of things with other kids there your own age. A lot of other kids,” Wilbur explained. Violet nodded eagerly as she listened..
“Yes please! That sounds fun!”
“It’ll mostly depend on what you’ve already learned, but you seem like a bright girl. You’re in here alone..,” Wilbur said with a softer tone. “…does that mean your parents passed away?”
“No,” Violet giggled. “They’re in a different interview right now. At 15, I’m an adult,” she said. “At least, that’s how it worked down there,” she added when she noticed his surprise.
“Well, unfortunately, that’s not how things work up here. Before you sign any of these, we’ll need your parent’s permission,” he replied. Wilbur dropped the packet on the desk then leaned back in his chair to reach into his pocket. He pulled out something Violet had never seen before.
It was glass, but only the size of a playing card. As she wondered what it was, Wilbur tapped and swiped at it with his fingers. Violet thought she saw lights flashing on it, but couldn’t make out anything.
“I sent a message to let your parents know to come in here after they’re done,” he explained.
“What’s that?” Violet asked. Wilbur grinned.
“It’s called a node, it’s like a cellphone, but better,” he said. He noticed a slight glimmer in her eyes. “You don’t know what a cellphone is either, do you?” he asked. Violet shook her head.
“Well, it’s not important, because this is better,” he leaned forward on the desk and encouraged her to come closer too.
“You used it to talk to someone in another room?” she asked.
“Nodes can be used to talk to people in other universes,” he said.
“There are other universes!?” she looked up from the node in surprise. Wilbur nodded.
“Actually, that reminds me. It’s in there some where,” he gestured at the dropped packet of papers. ” But, what’s your favorite number?”
“33.” Violet said. “Why?”
“Because you’re special, and that answer alone got you into high school,” Wilbur said.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Violet said. “Is everything so weird up here?”
“It’ll make sense eventually, I’m not the one to explain it to you,” he said. But, how do you feel about spiders?”
“Is that food?” she asked.
“No,” Wilbur said. He focused on the node in his hand and tapped it several times, then he turned it around to show her a picture of a black widow spider.
“That’s so beautiful!” Violet said. “Wow… I can’t wait to see one in real life!”
“Awww hell,” Wilbur grumbled himself in the same tone he’d use if he left the oven on at home. Not urgent, but concerning none-the-less. Violet didn’t notice because she felt a tickling sensation. She looked down and noticed three small black widow spiders sitting on the back of her hand.
“Wow! Did they come from the node!? They’re so cute! How many more can it make!???”
“No! Wait!” Wilbur tried to interrupt her questions several times, but she kept speaking over him in her excitement.
After a few minutes, Violet’s parents opened the door to Wilbur’s office. Wilbur sat as far back against the wall as he could with his head in his hands. Between him and Violet’s parents sat a swarm of black and red spiders crawling all over their daughter while she giggled.
“Hi mom! Hi dad!” Violet said when she saw them. “Did you guys know about spiders?” she asked. Her mother answered by fainting.