Two senior officials, Godfrey and Claude, are conducting an interview with the aim of recruiting spies for the UK’s security services. A knock at the door preceded their encounter with an applicant named Snowden. It went as follows:
Godfrey: Come in. (The door opens and closes but nobody appears.)
Godfrey: That’s odd. Come in!
Snowden: I am in.
Claude: What nonsense is this? We are expecting Mr Snowden, not a ghost. Kindly explain yourself.
Snowden: It’s simple enough. I’m not a ghost. You can’t see me because I’m invisible.
Godfrey: Hah, a likely story. Since we can hear you close by, I take it that you are a ventriloquist, playing a joke on us. If so, it isn’t very funny.
Snowden: I’m not a ventriloquist and this isn’t a joke. Just put out your hand and I’ll shake it. (The handshake takes place.)
Godfrey: This is amazing. You certainly seem to be present, so I suppose we shall have to believe you.
Snowden: Good. We’re making progress. May I take a seat?
Claude: Please do. (A chair facing the interviewers creaks.)
Snowden: Thank you. Now, what do you want me to tell you?
Godfrey: We know where you come from. Perhaps you would fill us in a little with regard to your background. Where were you educated?
Snowden: At my local comprehensive school.
Godfrey: I see. How about tertiary?
Snowden: What do you mean?
Claude: Your higher education. University.
Snowden: I didn’t go to one. I left school at sixteen and started work with a chemical firm near my home. I was employed there for eight years and left a few days ago.
Claude: No university! That’s very unusual for anyone seeking work with us. I believe you’re the first non-graduate we’ve had here for some time. Why did you leave your company?
Snowden: Well, it struck me that this invisibility thing should be useful to anyone in your line of business, so I just walked out of my laboratory and applied to you. Nobody at the firm knows about my transformation and I thought it might be a good idea to leave it that way.
Godfrey: When and how did you become invisible?
Snowden: Shortly before I left the firm, after messing about with some compounds when carrying out an experiment, I drank something from a glass by the side of my workbench.
Godfrey: Wasn’t that rather careless?
Snowden: It was an accident. I reached out for some fruit juice and picked up the wrong liquid.
Claude: Very odd. Is your condition reversible?
Snowden: I don’t know. I was working with a few different substances in various proportions. There’s no way I could repeat what I was doing, but even if I could, I don’t think I’d want to.
Claude: Extraordinary. How many people are aware what has happened to you?
Snowden: Nobody but the three of us. I live alone and as far as I know, the firm thinks I’ve simply left without telling anybody.
Godfrey: This gets stranger by the minute. As you’re no longer in employment, how do you manage to live?
Snowden: No problem. I can pick up all I need to keep body and soul together without anyone but me noticing. I haven’t had to pay for anything since the incident. Just have to be careful how it take things so nobody sees it.
Godfrey: How fortunate for you. Now, have you any other attributes you feel may be beneficial to the work we have in mind?
Snowden: I don’t think so. The invisibility is about all I have to offer. Still, I imagine you train people.
Claude: Sometimes, but our service has a long tradition of depending on talented amateurs. You might say that we keep instruction to a minimum. Versatility and initiative are the qualities we rely on. How do you score there?
Snowden: I’ve never been put to the test, so I can’t tell.
Godfrey: That’s understandable. Now, I think you’ve told us everything that’s of any consequence, so perhaps you would leave us for a few minutes and wait outside. We’ll call you shortly.
Snowden: All right. (The chair creaks again and the door opens and closes.)
Claude: Well, what do you think, Godfrey?
Godfrey: I’m afraid he won’t do. Not the right sort of chap.
Claude: My view precisely. He just isn’t one of us. He wouldn’t fit in. Rather short in the upbringing department. I shudder to think of his likely manners in our kind of society. And what about his schooling? I think we can discount any knowledge of Greek and Latin there.
Godfrey: Right! I doubt he would ever hold his own among the class of people he’d meet. Let’s haul him back in and impart the bad news.
Snowden: No need. I never went out.
Claude: I say, that’s rather bad form.
Godfrey: Very underhanded. We distinctly heard you move out of that chair and saw the door open and close.
Snowden: So you did, but I’ve been here all the time. I gather you don’t want me, so maybe you could point me towards someone who might.
Godfrey: Try the Russian embassy. The people there are always on the lookout for agents. Goodbye and good luck.
* * *