I dreamed that I was someone special, someone important, and people who loved me threw a party just for me and let me sing in front of a crowd.
The lights wake me up as they do every day at the same time. I put on the gray uniform in two minutes and am ready standing by the door when it opens. I take two steps through the doorway, as does everyone down my row and down every other row in the building. At a muffled shout over the loudspeakers everyone turns left. Another shout and we start walking. I stay two paces behind 83418 and I trust that 83420 stays two paces behind me.
We walk to the dining hall and are each handed our plate of mash. We file to tables and eat in silence. Talking might mean not getting a chance to finish breakfast. Five minutes until there is another instruction from the loudspeaker and we all stand, plate and spoon in hand, and file out again, leaving the dish and spoon in the appropriate places.
In the hall I feel cold wind from the doors that are open. Only twice a day are the doors to the dormitory and factory unlocked and opened. They told us this was for our protection, that men might be tempted to come to a place with so many young ladies and do bad things. They reminded us that our fathers had entrusted our safety to them and they would guard our virtue as our fathers did.
The chill bites through the fabric of our uniforms, but we do not break step as we file from the dormitory to the factory. The two are set far apart enough that if one building were to catch fire the other might not burn. We go to our places in front of the conveyor belts, turn and wait. The last piece I finished yesterday sits where I left it, but I do not touch it, my hands remain by my sides. As I wait my eyes stray to the words painted on the wall: ‘Each Citizen Must Do Their Part.’ Slowly the conveyor belts start to move. As the next piece comes I grab it off the conveyor belt and slot the three gears into place before returning it to the belt. I never touch the belt itself. When we first came here they cut our hair short so it wouldn’t get caught in machinery and cut it again a month later. We still have to watch our fingers.
The next piece comes and I pick it up. First gear second gear third gear. Put it back. Pick it up. First gear second gear third gear. Put it back. Pick it up. First gear second gear third gear. Put it back. Pick it up. First gear…
My eyes stray to 83502 working in the next row as she turns her head and I can see the shape of her nose and chin and those full pink lips. There is a rip in the shoulder of her uniform and I can see her bare skin. For a moment I can think of nothing but touching that soft skin, feeling the bone structure beneath, kissing her shoulder and neck and seeing the rest of her bare.
I snap back to reality and rush to regain the few seconds I lost. Secondgearthirdgearputitback! Pick it up first gear second gear third gear. Put it back. Pick it up. First gear second gear third gear put it back. I have to pay more attention. I wouldn’t want to be thought slacking, or worse, the overseers might realize my sickness. Put it back.
Pick it up. First gear second gear third gear. Put it back. Pick it up. First gear second gear third gear. Put it back. Pick it up. If only I could talk to her, but there is no chance for talking, certainly no talking in private. And even if I could, what would I say to her? Admit my sickness in the hopes that she shared it? I should be hoping the opposite for her sake. That she is a normal girl with normal desires. …third gear. Put it back.
Pick it up. First gear second gear third gear. Put it back. Even if she did share my sickness there is no privacy here. We could not act on our deviant desires. Perhaps that’s for the best. First gear second gear third gear. Put it back.