At the Bottom of Pandora’s Box
By Charley Daveler

Bring, leave, bring.

“Bring bring,” Number 151 said.

No one got it.

Bring, leave, bring.

He thought it was funny.

“You know, like a telephone?”

The woman next to him, short hair tied back into a clean pony tail, gave him a look as if to say, “That’s very nice. Now shut up.”

He turned his head with a flourish, then brought, left, brought.

The thousands of workers kept at their duties, their silvery white suits in a wave of motion as each brought, left, brought. They carried the heavy squares to the conveyer belt where the bricks would be shot off to Foreman Knows Where and then have hammers brought, lifted, brought right down on their brownish faces.

A newer number, 389, was staring at 151 from across the belt, watching him as the novice pretended to set the brick down just right.

Number 151 smiled at him.

“I don’t understand,” 389 said.

“Don’t understand what?” 151 asked as he brought, left, brought. “Why we work for nine hours just bringing, leaving, and bringing?”

“Why you’re a telephone.”

“Oh. Because all I do is bring and bring. Bring, bring.”

The man across the belt slowly closed his eyes, not expecting this. He shook his head and smiled, going back to bringing, leaving, and bringing.

“So you’re new here?” 151 wondered.

The newcomer turned around, surprised, before saying, “Yes, just got here a week ago.” He looked at their faces. “It’s nice that the position opened up. I’ve been assigned to work into factories since I was fourteen, but this was really an unexpected dream.”

“The suicide rates here are pretty high still,” the woman next to them muttered.

“Suicide is a thing we can’t avoid if we want to make a well-oiled society,” a man down the assembly line said.

All three gave him a look.

“It is the way I got this job,” 389 said politely. “Otherwise, we’d just have to wait for someone to get to the age they can’t work anymore, and that takes years.

“Let’s not talk about that,” 151 asked, bringing, leaving, and bringing.

Everyone continued with their work.

“I admire…” 389 thought suddenly, “How friendly you are. How you don’t focus entirely on your work.”

“There’s not a point to focus entirely on your work,” the woman said. “No matter how good of a job you do here, you can’t move up.”

“That’s not entirely true,” the newbie argued. “I mean, I moved up. I’ve been changing locations for many years now.”

The people looked at him.

“Why?” they all said.

“Well, some jobs are easier. Some jobs are more exciting.”

They stared at him. He shrugged. “Sometimes you just need a change.”

The workers frowned, each went on bringing, leaving, and bringing.

“Sometimes, I give myself challenges,” he said. “And if I beat enough of them, I allow myself to start trying to transfer from a job I hate.”

“It’s not easy to switch, I thought,” 151 replied.

“It isn’t. But that doesn’t mean it’s not impossible.”

“Isn’t it hard work?” the girl asked.

“Yes. Kind of. Usually.”

“So why would you bother?”

“It makes it more interesting. And one day I’ll find a job that I like doing long term.”

“Jobs are just meant to make society run,” she said. “It’s our service to them.”

Number 389 stared at her. “Well, then I guess your friend is right about the suicide thing.”

“He is not!” 151 insisted.

The newcomer looked down. “Sometimes,” he said, “Even with all of the horrors of the world around you, the pain and suffering, the boredom and apathy… sometimes it’s all people can take. It’s those of us who manage to have hope for a better future that can keep going. The people who can’t go on any longer are the ones who won’t see the misery ending. They only see bringing, leaving, and bringing. There becomes no point. But I see possibilities. I see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

“That’s called death, honey,” the woman said.

The new man frowned, staring at the brick he was carrying. He dropped it on the belt and turned to bring the next one.

“That’s the opinion,” he said.

Then he brought, left, and brought.

- - -
Charley Daveler is an American author and playwright. She is a fan of the good and the bad in literature, but could do with a little more bad.

Help keep Smashed Cat alive! Visit our sponsors! :)

- - -

Older Weirdness