Leon Kowalski knows his politics

An alternate take on the Voight-Kampff test at the beginning of Blade Runner.

Published . 476 words.

The PA system crackled to life. “Subject, Kowalski, Leon. Engineer, waste disposal. Five section, new employee, six days.”

Deckard sipped from his coffee mug. It hadn’t gotten any less bitter in the 15 minutes since he last tasted it. Maybe there was some sugar in the break room down the hall? The next interview subject knocked at the door of the cubicle. “Come in.”

Leon Kowalski was clad in the same paper jumpsuit as the last interviewee, and walked like a man afraid of the System that had focused its investigatory powers upon him.

Deckard sat down at the cubicle’s lone table, at the controls of the Voight-Kampff machine. Detecting his presence, it awoke, and began to unfold. Kowalski eyed the machine; the machine’s eyestalks extended and began to look at Kowalski.

Deckard sighed. “Sit down, it doesn’t bite.” The machine emitted a drawn-out somewhere between a beep and a boop. Kowalski sat in the only other chair in the cubicle, at the end of the table opposite Deckard and the machine. Deckard fiddled with the machine’s controls.

“Care if I talk?” asked Kowalski. “’M kinda nervous when I take tests.” He looked around the room.

“Please don’t move.” The machine’s bellows expanded and contracted, sniffing the air.

“’M sorry.”

The machine continued to make inscrutable noises. The light from its screens flickered across Deckard’s face unsettlingly.

Deckard was saying nothing, only looking at the machine, so Kowalski kept talking. “I already had an IQ test this year. I don’t think I’ve ever had one of—”

“Reaction time is a factor in this so please pay attention,” said Deckard, for the twenty-sixth time today. “Answer as quickly as you can.”

“… Sure.”

Deckard muttered, “One one eight seven Huntervosser.”

“That’s the hotel,” said Kowalski.

“What?” Deckard hadn’t asked a question.

“Where I live.”

“Nice place?”

“Yeah, sure. I guess. Is that part of the test?”

“No.” Deckard recognized Kowalski’s unease. “Just warming you up, that’s all.”

“Mm. It’s not fancy or anything,” continued Kowalski.

Deckard glared the shut-up glare. “You’re in a desert, walking along in the sand when all of a sudden you—”

“Is this the test, now?”

“Yes,” explained Deckard. “You’re in a desert, walking along in the sand when all of a sudden you see a turtle, Leon. It’s crawling towards you. You reach down and flip it over. The turtle lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs, trying to turn itself over, but it can’t. Not without your help. But you’re not helping. Why is that, Leon?”

“Well, because the turtle is a metaphor for Mitch McConnell, iddint ‘e?”