PLASTIC WONDERLAND

TIM TUCKER

It's not everyday that a fresh aug walks into Saint Benedict's orphanage like they owned the place, but from the moment the new kid Chio stepped into these hallowed halls it became only a matter of time before he in fact did own not only the orphanage but also the unwavering respect of the other augmented children just like us.

I've lived at Saint Benedict's for five years now, half my life. My mom had sent me here after my dad died. She'd sold me into servitude to the automatron for a thousand measly credits and somehow I managed to survive in this plastic wonderland. I hadn't cried, not even once, not when Mr. Gep beat me for playing hide and seek with the other boys when I was supposed to be polishing a set of gears. I didn't cry when I lost my left hand, nor when the surgeon cauterized my stump and fitted me with a prosthetic one.

All manner of boys and girls came through these walls. They were all wounded little creatures – missing arms and legs, glass eyes and cranial scars. Some drowned in their own meekness while others swaggered with a sense of bravado, but in the end we were all the same to Mr. Gep. After all the first thing you do with a batch of fresh meat is tenderize it just right.

Most of the children were disciplined by Mr. Gep's cattle prod and whether the abuse was justified or not the old sadist always seemed to derive pleasure from the scent of singed flesh and the screams of his victims. I was unlucky enough to have endured Mr. Gep's other preferred method of torture; a week inside the hole with no light and nothing for company except the stench of your own piss and shit. And the rats. Big, bloated things that gnawed on anything they could get their stubby little teeth around.

So there I was, fresh from a week inside the hole and as emaciated as a ghost when Chio bounced into the orphanage. He was around my age, twin glass shards for eyes that rested in a pale face and a hint of a smile on his pale lips, but his most prominent feature was his elongated prosthetic nose, no doubt a souvenir from when his olfactory glands were destroyed after inhaling too many toxic chemicals. Mr. Gep led him by the scruff of his neck like a dog and when they passed the entrance of the hole Chio did the most bizzare thing: he flashed me the most smarmiest, shit eating grin imaginable. And winked.

Even now I'm still ashamed to say that I didn't smile back and avoided his eyes altogether. Mr. Gep had already broke me in nice and good. Chio must've said something that earned Mr. Gep's wrath because at once the sound of the cattle prod surged throughout the tunnel, but instead of the usual screams of agony there was howls of pleasure, even laughter!

"Is that all you got lard ass? I've had mosquito bites worse than that!"

"I've got an inch right on me bum, maybe you can- ohhhh yes! Just right there! More! MORE!"

"Hurt me more daddy, I've been a very bad boy! YES! YES!"

The way he carried on you would've thought Chio was enjoying the shocks but when Mr. Gep half dragged him back through the tunnel he looked like a boy near death. His face was a bloody mess and his right eye was nearly swollen shut, but despite his injuries he still managed to flash me another toothy grin before Mr. Gep tossed him into the hole. That would've been it for the day, but then the singing started, loud and defiant and exhuberant as ever. "Old Mr. Gep has given me quite the shock, now it's time you fat bastard, come suck my cock!"

Despite my absolute weariness, despite the heavy blanket of anxiety and naseousness that draped across my entire body my lips broke into a smile for the first time in I don't know how long.

Chio was an abberration amongst the grinding gears of Saint Benedict's, a glitch in the impeccable programming they had maintained for decades now, and it wasn't long before his acts of dissention began to spread to the other children. The stench of burnt flesh from the cattle prod lingered in the air more perversely than ever before, and the whimperings of big boys and rough girls who had been cast into the hole wafted through the halls every night like lullabies from a nightmare. Still the presence of Chio remained like a shadow over the orphanage, and it wasn't long before he hatched his own plan against the maniacal Mr. Gep.

It was after breakfast and all the children were on the assembly line. I sat at the end of one of the aisles of crippled orphans where we fitted and refitted various cybernetic parts together before running them through a giant mechanical sorter. Mr. Gep paced up and down the aisles of industrious children, cattle prod in hand, his keen eyes making sure the gears of Saint Benedict's grinded without a hitch. Chio sat at the end of my table near the sorting machine, the same mischiveous glint in his eyes he had when he first arrived. Our eyes met for a brief moment, and I could almost see the clockwork gears of his mind churrning into some diabolical scheme.

I averted my gaze back to my task, which was recontouring the digits of a prosthetic hand, when the sorter machine began to sputter and choke, and acrid smoke bellowing from its mechanical bearings.

At once the assembly line ground to a halt. All eyes turned to the sorter machine, none more surprised than Mr. Gep.

"What's the meaning of this!?" he snapped, storming toward the machine. Chio sank back in his chair, his face clouded with confusion.

"I don't know what the problem is Mr. G, honest! I was just -"

"SILENCE!" the sound of the smack seemed to reverberate louder than the malfunctioning machine. Chio rubbed at his stinging cheek, but there was something in his eyes, something that told me everything was going exactly as he planned. Mr. Gep leaned over the opening of the sorter and reached into the mechanical maw.

"There's something cautght in here!" he gasped. "Which one of you little shits -"

He never got the chance to finish as Chio leaped cat like from his stool and flipped a switch on the sorters side.

Mr. Gep began to scream.

It was a high pitched, wailing, blood curdling scream that sent chills down my spine and to this day I've yet to hear a sound so horrific. The other children gathered around the grisly scene, the deaf ones seeing a man flailing about as if he were caught up in one of those exorcisms you read about in holy books, the blind ones hearing the manic screams of a man who sounded as if he were being burned alive, and the whole while we could do nothing but watch as Mr. Gep drew in a great, whooping gulp of air and scream, "oh God Almighty I'm stuck, HELP ME!"

The sorter gnashed and hissed at the obstruction in its maw. Mr. Gep made a wet, guttural noise in his throat as the skin of his arm grew taut and bulged grotesquely under the immense pressure. There was a snap as his elbow broke.

"What'sa matter lard ass? I've had Indian burns worse than that!" Chio mocked. Mr. Gep struggled with all his might, his screams reduced to a pitiful, bubbly moan. His arm was gone almost to the shoulder now, the safety bar precariously close to his strained neck. Despite all the pain and humiliation he had afflicted on me and the other kids I couldn't bear to watch Mr. Gep in his final moments.

I felt as much as heard the snapping of his neck and the final, meaty crunch of his skull being pulverized under the steel teeth. The children of Saint Benedict's orphanage erupted with joy as their oppressor lay headless on the assembly line. Chio jumped from the sorter and regarded us with an air of triumph. He was covered in gore, a crooked grin and wide, almost frenzied eyes behind a crimson mask. "Brothers and sisters rejoice! I'm the new warden of this orphanage and I promise you things are gonna get a helluva lot better!"

There were more cheers from the children, an affluvea of emotion, applauses, laughter, crying, and as I stared into Chio's bloodied and grinning face I couldn't help but notice a tell tale twitch of his prosthetic nose.

THE END