Even at the factory, I remember there was this buzz in the air – as they moved past us. In that gray mass of people Something was different, something had changed. Maybe if I'd chanced to glance in their eyes – but the shadows are talking again. I put it down to the buzzing in my head I think, put it down, put it off.
"Is this it?" The space cadet asked.
"Yup. The damn factory."
He looked disappointed, the fool.
"What'sa matter Sunshine?" I put my arm around him. "This ain't what you expected to see?"
He just shook it off. Stood away and stared at it gloomily.
"I just – "
Thought there'd be more to it, I know. Dreams of fame, fortune and glory: that's how they get 'em to sign up these days. Or make them content with their lot. But honestly?
"It's all over now, kid. All the real ones are dead."
"Why do you keep saying that?" he frowned. "It's clearly not."
"Why do you keep saying that? You clearly don't get it at all."
'sides, they sent you to this city instead of the front(ier). What does that mean they think of you? What they must think of you.
"Look, these ones that are left," I gestured at the workers moving past us, "they're just mice." Wouldn't even grace us with their glance. "Scarecrows would do a better job."
"Then why are we here?"
A deep question indeed.
"To put on a Show." I gestured widely. "To show off the Empire's power."
I never was one for philosophy.
He glared at me. "Don't joke like that."
What joke? Whose joke is it anyway?
I dropped my hands. "We're here to make sure they don't blow up the damn factory."
"Really?" They're always fascinated, these kids. In the archetypical, the ideal (hiding around the corner) enemies.
"Well – at least they used to do stuff like that."
But they don't do much now, now that they're all dead.
He blinked at me curiously. "You've been here though. I know you can give me a real answer."
I ignored him.
I was watching the Workers again. Those lost souls, moving past us uniformly. As we guided them, held open the pearly (iron) gates for them.
Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here.
Guarding dying people, what a hotshot you are. Not even daring to glance up above. I thought they were all the same, would always be the same, a constant at least in times like these.
"It's a weapons factory. What more do you need?"
"Yeah. I know."
He wanted to hear the real stories.
"What do you think?"
Liked to imagine it though, blowing up sky high. In our faces. What geniuses we were, letting them handle it (probably didn't even know what it was though, everyone with a separate piece). Used to daydream there all the time though. It would look like a pretty flower, I believe.
"We're just here to keep the slaves in line."
He turned to me.
"Why call things what they aren't?"
He studied me silently.
A brave new world. That we're moving toward. Order.
"Are you one of those?" he finally said.
Work 'em to the soul, make them give up the ghost. That's the Plan. Everyone knows it.
I listened to their steps; they'd almost all disappeared into the damn factory by now. The last few stragglers – how the hell can you even be late to things like this, I want to know. Your very own work. Your very own death.
The door was open, I knew. The door was open, but it was open only for you.
"Only a man."
The whistle blew and we closed it.