John appeared right at breakfast. No one is ever looking directly at them when they appear. Whether they are new people or someone returning to us, it’s like you just turn your head and there they are. It can’t take more than half a second.
He had a kind of glazed look in his eye, as he sat there a couple of seats to my left.
“Hi! I’m Peter. What’s your name?”
His head swung in my direction and his eyes swam into focus. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Some people remember a name, or associate with a name, others among us have simply chosen a name after consultation and discussion. They usually pick a name by gut feel.
“John.” He looked around in dull wonder.
The walls are beige. The floor is white, a stone-like material, although it probably isn’t stone. The ceiling is white, with silver-hooded lights hanging from it. The bulbs, which glow with just a faint suggestion of greenish-blue in them, never seem to burn out. The tables are plastic, and the framework is an alloy. We’ve worked out that much.
“Hey! It’s a new guy.” Someone, Mary, said it from the far table.
We have four long tables, each holding up to twenty-five people, with twelve on each side, and one on the end. The tables are bolted to the floor and the stools are bolted down. There are fifty rooms, each with two beds, so we know the capacity of this place is exactly one hundred. Today there are twenty-three of us. With John, that’s twenty-four. I was aware of the line of faces turned in our direction. John wasn’t.