Amory’s routine of auditing sessions began long ago, when she was still at The Church’s day care where she lived with the other children and nannies. Her first experience would never leave her memory. She was five years old, and it was a day like any other. After she helped prepare the morning bottles for the younger children, Amory went through the usual routine of playtime, Church studies, nap time, and more coursework. At the end of evening playtime, one of the nannies pulled Amory aside and told her, “You’re gonna go in for auditing now, honey.” Amory followed obediently.
The older woman took Amory’s hand and led her through the maze of halls to the training room at the back of the day care. An auditor’s preparation involved practicing skills on the children before they were permitted to serve paying customers. Amory had never been in this room before, but she had seen adults and other kids go inside. She always wondered what happened down the mysterious corridor where her friends would disappear with strange, yet somehow familiar, adults.
The room itself was unimpressive, with no decorations on the walls other than the obligatory L. Ron Hubbard portrait, sparse furniture, and no exterior windows. It was a large, open space with twenty tables in the middle arranged with two chairs, one on each side, facing each other. What caught Amory’s attention were the peculiar machines sitting in the middle of the tables, shoe box sized metal boxes with intricate gears and bolts. Two cans, which looked like soup cans without the labels, were connected to each instrument by wires. To her young mind, they looked like futuristic creatures that would spring to life with the press of a button. She paused in the doorway, not wanting to make any noises that might awaken the slumbering objects.
The nanny pulled Amory to one of the tables and sat her down. An unusual man waited for her and sat tinkering with the knobs of the machine. When he was satisfied with the settings, he looked up at her with the curiosity of one who inspects a research specimen. The nanny introduced the man as Wyatt, and left Amory alone with the stranger.
Wyatt reached across the table to pick up the cans. As he grabbed them, Amory noticed that the tips of his index, middle, and ring fingers were missing—he did not have any fingernails, just skin growing over his knuckles, making them little stubs. Amory stared at his disfigured hands and grew fearful of this man.
He instructed her, “What I want you to do is hold these cans here.” When she did not respond to his signal, he continued, “One in each hand, just like this.”
Amory could not remove her eyes from his fingers. She was scared to take the alien creatures that sat cradled in his skin.
He repeated his order. “All you have to do is hold the cans. Today, I’m just going to show you how the e-meter works.” Amory sat staring at him. She knew she had to do this, whatever it was, or she would be in big trouble. Reluctantly, she took the cans, being careful not to touch him in the process.
He smiled as she obeyed. “Good,” he continued. “What you’re going to do is hold these cans … yeah, like that. One in each hand. The meter in front of you will show me your energy. Put your palms up … Good.”
She held the cans as lightly as she could, her skin retreating from the metal warmed by his touch. He reached across the table to adjust her hold. When his fingers touched hers, Amory jumped out of her chair. The cans slipped from her fingers and fell toward the table. Wyatt sprung from his seat, trying to grab them before the crashed on the wood. But he was too late. His hands fumbled in the confusion. He corralled his arms around the bouncing objects and finally succeeded in containing their energy. The sound of crashing metal echoed in the room. With fear written across his face, Wyatt instinctual looked at the camera mounted in the ceiling that pointed down at them and recorded their every move.
Amory sat motionless, watching the scene in bafflement.
“Don’t ever drop them again!” he yelled at her across the table.
Amory’s back shot straight up as she contained the tears forming in her eyes, her hands planted firmly in her lap.
Wyatt handed her the cans once again. “You don’t have to hold them too hard,” he said in a consciously calm tone, “Just enough so you don’t drop them.”
Amory wrapped her tiny fingers around the metal. She sat absolutely still, focusing all of her attention on the cylinders her palms could hardly control.
He practiced the instructions he would later give to clients: “How this works is that this machine here reads the energy in your body. You don’t have to say a word. I’m just going to ask you questions, and the meter tells me your response. All you have to do is sit still and think about what I’m asking you.” The little girl had no idea what his words meant, but they felt familiar, like they echoed the religious lessons she heard every day. The cadence of his voice and reassuring diction began to relax her body and made her feel at home. The cans must be magic, she thought, if they could answer her questions.
Amory’s peace was broken by his stubby fingers reaching across the table and pinching her, hard, on her forearm. She screamed in pain and shock. Instantly, tears welled up in her eyes, as she stared at the burning red mark on her arm. “That hurts!” she cried out, not daring to release the cans and soothe her pain.
This is where the true lesson began. He sat back comfortably in his seat and began reciting the required questions with the confidence on one who has recently mastered a new skill. He asked her, “Recall the moment of the pinch … okay … how do you feel now? …”
At the mention of his brutal act, tears streamed from her eyes, and the burn where he pinched her pulsed with blood.
“Again, recall the moment of the pinch … okay … how do you feel now? …”
“It hurts!” she cried. But her hands remained frozen in place and could not wipe the tears that dropped to the table.
Wyatt was undeterred by the frightened child before him. He asked again, “Okay, again, recall the moment of the pinch … okay … how do you feel now? …”
Amory whaled at the mention of the pinch. She looked in horror at the mark on her arm which seemed to grow a deeper crimson with each passing second.
“Recall the moment of the pinch … okay … how do you feel now? …”
Tears flowed down her face. She could not understand what was happening and why he kept asking her to think about the pinch. Focusing on it just made it hurt more.
Wyatt grew frustrated as the needle jumped violently across the screen. This was not how auditing was supposed to work. He was new and had never worked with a child this young before, but her reaction went against everything he had been taught. The experience was supposed to get better as she relived it, but the e-meter indicated that her negative reaction was increasing. He tried again, “Recall the moment of the pinch … okay … how do you feel now? …”
Amory’s body crumpled in the adult-sized chair. She looked up at him, her terrified eyes pleading for mercy. It took all of her strength to keep her fingers wrapped around the cans.
The reaction displayed on the e-meter was far from calm, so Wyatt could not stop asking questions. He knew that it was sacrilegious to end an auditing session without a floating needle. He repeated his mantra, “Recall the moment of the pinch … okay … how do you feel now? …”
The corrections officer watched Wyatt and Amory through the ceiling-mounted camera and saw that the inexperienced auditor had no chance of recovery. He sent word down to the nanny to retrieve Amory and end the session.
The woman entered the room and ordered Wyatt to end his questions. He resisted, mortified that he had not gotten a floating needle with Amory. This had never happened to him, and he could not understand what went wrong. He went through the entire experience again in his mind. He set the meter properly, he checked the wires on the cans, he asked her the right questions. He could not think of one thing he had done wrong. He looked at Amory and instructed, “You can put the cans down now.”
Amory let the metal objects fall from her fingers. She took the nanny’s hand and left the room without a backward glance.
Even though it was dinnertime, Amory was not hungry, and the nanny didn’t mention food. She told Amory, “We’ll come back for you tomorrow so you can see the corrections officer.”
Amory crawled onto her cot and cried herself to sleep.
* * *
The next day, the nanny found Amory and led her back to the auditing room. Except this time, she did not sit at the tables with the other children being audited. They put her in a private side room with glass windows facing the interior hallway—one of the rooms for the corrections officers she would frequent for many years to come. It was small, just large enough for one desk and two chairs. But the e-meter was the same.
As Amory sat down, the corrections officer finished adjusting the meter.
“Place the cans in your hands,” he commanded. “Remember, you can’t say anything. Just think about what I’m asking you”
She did as she was told.
“Was there a break in affinity? …” Amory sat quietly. “Was there a break in reality? …” Amory sat quietly. “Was there a break in communication? …” Amory sat quietly. “Have you committed an overt against Wyatt? …” Amory sat quietly. “Do you have any withholds? …” She had no idea what his words meant, but it did not matter since she was instructed not to respond. She masqued her confusion with a blank stare in his direction.
The corrections officer was asking her if she had ever done anything bad to Wyatt, if she had any overts against him. That, somehow, it was her fault that the session didn’t go well. But Amory didn’t know that. She also didn’t know that he was asking her about the ARC triangle—affinity, reality, and communication—the same shape depicted in the double-triangle insignia of The Church and their hallmark method for developing strong relationships. There must be affinity, or affection, and reality, an agreed upon truth, in order to have effective communication. But those words were just meaningless sounds to the confused little girl. She sat alone, uncomfortable in the hard chair and focused on cradling the cans in her hands.
The needle gently floated on the screen. The corrections officer told her, “Okay, you have a floating needle. Please put down the cans.”
Amory placed them on the table, and the nanny came in the room to get her. As they left the room, they saw Wyatt in the hallway. He crouched down beside her and said, “I’m sorry I couldn’t be your auditor.”
Amory just stared at him. She still recalled the moment of the pinch—his strange fingers cramping down on her skin. The mark began to burn again with a fierce memory that imprinted itself deep in her body. The nanny pulled Amory away and walked her back to the kitchen for her chores.