She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door.
The men sat around the conference table. The knots of neckties clung to their double chins. Allison shut the door gently, so that the door made a little click.
“What is the assessment?” the man at the end of the table intoned.
“The assessment of the volume that was submitted for assessment is as follows,” said Allison.
A woman with a laptop began typing a transcript.
“It is difficult to ascertain whether the tome aligns with the committee’s rubrics.”
“Are you testifying,” said the man, “that the rubrics, approved by this committee, weren’t clear?”
“It is my testimony, in regard to the volume, that the approved rubrics were, in fact, clear.”
“What, then, is the assessment?”
“It is my testimony, in regard to the volume that was to be assessed by the committee’s clear rubrics—that the book resisted assessment.”
“I don’t understand,” the man said, “did the book try to run away?”
“Was the print illegible?”
“I wish the answer were that simple, sir.”
“Try to explain.”
“It is my testimony that, in regard to the volume, I was unable to ascertain if the volume aligns with our rubrics because—”
“—in my case it was impossible, to keep the assessment parameters and the volume in my mind simultaneously.”
“Are you stupid?” asked the man.
“I was tested, by the Bureau of Operative Assessment, and my I.Q. found to be adequate, sir.”
The man looked to his left. Another man looked into his file, and nodded.
“You have assessed volumes before?”
“Do you have any theories why you were—” and here the man glanced down at the laptop, “unable to keep the assessment parameters and the volume in your mind simultaneously?”
“While the text seemed to comply with the rubrics, some extraneous textual elements cast certain doubts upon the veracity of its compliance with the rubrics, and stylistic anomalies made the ascertainment of such doubts even more difficult to ascertain.”
“What do you mean by certain doubts?” asked the man.
“I don’t know, sir. If I could look at the volume that was presented for assessment, sir, I could probably elaborate with more clarity.”
“That,” said the man, “is forbidden.”
Allison looked down at her glossy, black shoes.
“Is it your testimony that you cannot assess the text?” he asked.
“Is a case in which the text resists assessment, sir, also one in which the text might be assessed negatively by our rubrics, by default of not being assessed in the positive?” Allison asked, blinking.
The man sighed, pressed a buzzer. A team of orderlies stormed into the room, and injected Allison in the neck. She would be in the morgue by nightfall.
The secretary closed the laptop, and exited the room. The man with the file made a mark. The men looked upon the man in charge at the end of the table. They sat there breathing, their double chins inflating in, and out. As one, they arose, and left the chamber, leaving the man in charge by himself.
The secretary brought in a book, and set it before him, along with a glass of water. The three hundred and seventeen pages of the volume were thickly bound with a black, spiraling coil. The secretary left, her heels clacking, and then shut the door gently, so that the door made a little click. The man sighed, breathed in, the knot in his tie rising like an idea. He opened the page, and then, finally, he started to read.