It will make your life easier, they say. It will hook you in. It will become your identity. But what if you say, "no"? For Kayla there is no option but to run
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Across the metal desk, the guidance counselor talked. Talked and talked. The light in his office was way too bright. Time for you to shut up now, she thought.
But he kept on talking. He shook his head, full of sympathy manufactured for the moment. He barely knew her. How bad could he really feel? Kerr tugged on his sleeve and her eyes locked onto the inch-long rectangular patch of straight black lines on the underside of his left wrist.
A bar code tattoo. This year all the kids in her grade turned seventeen, the age when a person qualified for a bar code. As soon as their birthdays came, the first thing they did was run out and get tattooed. Everyone — even adults — was getting one. Even though she saw tattoos everywhere, they continued to fascinate her.
How bizarre to be branded like a box of cereal. There had to be more to a person than that. Outside, the rain kept pounding. She twisted in her chair to see it better. Rivers of water raced across the glass. And then Kayla … A jet streaks by.
Tall white buildings spire to the sky. A thick shining wall surrounds the city, about fifteen feet high. Someone else is with her. Near the wall, people walk toward the city. Many people. Her heartbeat quickens. A low rumble, like many voices speaking at once, fills her mind. She smiles. She blinked hard. Kerr was no longer talking. The only sound was rain. The guidance counselor stared at her from across his desk.
What was that about? She nodded. Although she was only half listening, she understood. The explanation went more or less like this: Only a few of the most experienced artists were required to input drawings into computer art data banks. These computer-generated images were used to create all other artwork. No art school would award a scholarship to a student weak in data imaging — a student like her.
A direct hit! Kayla Reed — blown to smithereens. Game Over! It deserved at least a fight on her part. Here goes, what the hell. Leaning forward, she reached across his desk and tapped on the computer screen that displayed her grades. Holographic Web Design — AP. I even took an extra credit in Acid Full Loop Advanced on my own time so I could add my own soundtracks to my art. Computer Methods — IMA. Data Collecting — IMA. In fact, if you get one more IMA, you might not even graduate next year.
I suppose I should have attended more regularly. I would go outside and draw during computer class. No one cares if you can draw, I know. But still … it has more to do with art than computers do. She stood. She needed a place to scream, cry, and maybe kick something. He rose, too. Is that a possibility for you?
Warnings flashed in her mind. Change the subject. Talking about the situation at home was too upsetting. Besides, it was none of his business. He extended his arms in a gesture meant to be helpful, embracing. It hiked up his sleeve and Kayla glanced again at the row of straight lines tattooed on the underside of his wrist. Then his face relaxed into a smile.
All my banking and identification numbers are encoded right here. If I were rushed to the hospital, billing and medical information would be right at hand. These days eye scans did everything. They unlocked doors, identified you to your computer, and even proved your identity at airports. Kerr pointed out. Sure, the tattoo was impersonal and, she thought, demeaning. What had happened afterward? What had left him so freaked? Kerr asked. Thank you. No art school. There it was — the simple reality.
She had a box full of ribbons, certificates, and other prizes for her art. But they only took students from the top twenty art schools. What was she supposed to do now? The hallway was empty. In a few minutes, though, class change tones would sound, releasing a flood of students into the halls. This meeting with Mr. Instead, she walked to the nearest stairwell, a quiet place to hide from everything.
She sat and the stairs felt cold through her neon-blue pants. Her straight brown, cobalt-blue-streaked hair swung forward as she rested her chin on her hands. Sitting there, with the rain still pounding on the windows, she fell into a world of private pictures. They floated before her in no particular order. Snaps of conversation. Images of figures against sunlight. Individual movie screens hurtling through the inner space of her mind.
That was how she usually thought things through — in pictures, not words. She saw her father staring at the bar code on his wrist. His dark eyes staring emptily. A tall, slim guy carried a stack of books down the stairs above her. He had black, close-cut hair and brown skin. The top book tumbled and bounced down the stairs. She jumped out of its way. You okay? She knew who he was — everyone at Winfrey High did.
Across the metal desk, the guidance counselor talked. Talked and talked. The light in his office was way too bright. Time for you to shut up now, she thought. But he kept on talking. He shook his head, full of sympathy manufactured for the moment. He barely knew her.
[PDF] The Bar Code Tattoo Book by Suzanne Weyn Free Download (256 pages)
The Bar Code Tattoo