Feeding The Machine
by Hunter James Martin
The moment I laid eyes on the new start I knew he wasn’t going to last. Half of it was the look on his eyes, the other half was the look on everyone else’s eyes when they watched him. A lot of people don’t make it in this line of work. Not many minds can cope with being planted deep into the ground for so long. The average new start does five days a week, while the average worker does seven. I have been doing entire weeks for longer than I remember, devoid of fresh air and sunlight. It has been a long time since I have seen my reflection, but I imagine I am not a pretty sight.
The atmosphere doesn’t help things either, the horrid gloom we work within. Even in my apathy I can taste it: the darkness that nestles within the oily depths of the shadows, the dull throb that resonates through the caverns, and the dreadful machine, always rumbling like an empty stomach. The heat too, emitted from its insides, made worse after twelve hours of working in the same suit collecting sweat and oil and dirt and sometimes piss. Then wearing it again the next day. Then for another year.
My suit smells terrible. Everyone’s does. The tough leather is falling apart and there is a tear behind my left shoulder. But we are used to it. Used to recycled uniforms and moribund tools. Used to safety equipment that is a hazard in itself. Used to the smell of ancient piss and shit. Hardly even notice it really. Only made aware of it when a new start comes down the cargo elevator twitching his nose and pretending the reek doesn’t bother them. They all do that, then they either get used to it or lose their job. Back up the cargo elevator, or worse.’