Margaux’s dad opened
the ponderous, creaking door and said, “and this is the final packaging line,
Sweetie. Everything we ship gets wrapped and boxed and labelled right here.”
Margaux gazed down
the still, silent conveyor line and at the workers, also still and silent, on
both sides of the wide black belt. Each worker poised on a semi-comfortable
looking stool. They were human-like, and naked, but also sexless, so nudity
didn’t matter, she supposed.
“Are they machines
that just look human, Daddy?”
“Well, Sweetie, they
are machines, but they’re engineered from human stock, so they are actually
alive. Right now, they’re asleep of course. It’s their rest period. A crew will
come through later tonight and clean them and check them over for
Margaux gazed at the
workers and at the feeding tubes and the waste-removal tubes. There was a
smell, not very pleasant, but not overpowering, either.
“Aren’t they bored?
Seems like this would be really boring work…”
“Well, Honey, their
brains aren’t the same as ours. They’re programmed for their work and that’s
really all they understand…”
Margaux looked at
closed eyes, hairless heads, elongated arms and fingers. They had no legs.
“Why don’t they have
“They don’t need
legs, Sweetie, so the engineers didn’t provide them. Besides, where would they
go? This is their life, right here. They are machines, almost the same as
As they passed on
down the line, Margaux noticed a patch of flaking skin on the shoulder of one
of the workers. From her little-girl purse, she took a small bottle of lotion.
She squeezed some onto her fingers and applied it to the worker’s dry, flaking
skin. “But…do they have souls, Daddy?”
Her father took her
by the arm and gently pulled her away. “Mustn’t touch, Honey. The cleanup crew
will take care of that later.” He avoided, or ignored the soul question.
Margaux and her dad
continued on down the line. In her peripheral vision, Worker 2891 watched the
child. The beautiful child. The precious child, such as she would never have.
Never hold. Never experience. If she’d had a mouth, she would have screamed…
the left eye of
worker 2891, a single tear rolled, down a still, expressionless cheek. The tear
dropped straight down, almost in slow motion and made a tiny splash as it
landed on the conveyor belt.
Kenneth James Crist is Editor Emeritus of Black Petals Magazine and is on staff at Yellow Mama ezine. He has
been a published writer since 1998, having had almost two hundred short stories
and poems in venues ranging from Skin and Bones and The Edge-Tales of Suspense
to Kudzu Monthly. He is particularly fond of supernatural biker stories. He
reads everything he can get his hands on, not just in horror or sci-fi, but in
mystery, hardboiled, biographies, westerns and adventure tales. He retired from
the Wichita, Kansas police department in 1992 and from the security department
at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita in 2016. Now 75, he is an avid motorcyclist
and handgun shooter. He is active in the American Legion Riders and the Patriot
Guard, helping to honor and look after our military. He is also a volunteer
driver for the American Red Cross, Midway Kansas Chapter. He is the owner of
Fossil Publications, a desktop publishing venture that seems incapable of
making any money at all. His zombie book, Groaning for Burial, has been
released by Hekate Publishing in Kindle format and paperback late last year. He has also published his first children's book,
Jariah and the Big Green Booger, available in Kindle format on Amazon and soon to be out in print, also from Hekate