Black Petals Issue #90 Winter, 2020

The Packing Bay

Mars-News, Views and Commentary
BP Artists and Illustrators
1957-Fiction by Michael J. Moore
Black Dog-Fiction by C. P. Webster
Curse of the Candles-Fiction by Jerry Payne
Death Rattle-Fiction by Jan Cronos
Estranged-Fiction by Alan Trezza
The Return of the Ferryman-Serialized Fiction by Roy Dorman
The Scarlet Bedroom-Fiction by Daniel K. Merwin
The Soul Destroyer-Fiction by James Flynn
The Packing Bay-Flash Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Jizo-A four-poem Japanes Theme Set by Dee Allen
Blood-Red Drops-Poem by Chris Collins
The Great Universe-Poem by Hicham El Qendouci
Female Mischief-Poem by Hillary Lyon
Worm-Poem by Hillary Lyon
The Lycanthrope's Lament-Poem by Hillary Lyon
The Sea-Poem by Jason Rice

The Packing Bay


Kenneth James Crist


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 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.

“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 legs, Daddy?”

“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 robots.”


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…

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 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 Publishing.

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