The Packing Bay
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,
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,
“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 any—problems.”
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.
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 legs, Daddy?”
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 robots.”
As they passed on down the
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
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…
From 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 76, 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. On June the ninth, 2018, he did his first (and last) parachute
jump and crossed that shit off his bucket list.