Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.
Chapter 7: Bill Brown #9645990
Bill Brown, now known as 9645990, got up on command, went to the tray window and slid his empty breakfast tray and rice paper spoon inside then lined up along the cafeteria wall with the others in his cohort. It was time to go to work.
He’d been surprised when two weeks into this nightmare he’d been transferred from the facility he’d first been taken to and sent here.
At a command, they all began to march, single file, out of the cafeteria.
He thought he was going to be shipped to Africa or something but no. He was here, in a huge factory, where he’d been assigned to an engineering drafting shop. It made sense, he thought as they marched along. Why waste perfectly good brain power? The work wasn’t easy, but it was boring, though fairly matching what he’d been doing his whole adult life. Drafting had never been his favorite thing to do.
At his office the cohort stopped on command. The guard shouted out his number. He stepped out of line and saluted. A modified Nazi salute he had been horrified to learn the second day he’d been at the receiving facility. That first two weeks was an intensive course in learning that he was no longer a free man. The bruises had only faded a week ago. The cohort moved on and he went into his office. There were three other men in there, already at their drafting tables. No one looked up.
He sat down and picked up his Computer Aided Design pen without addressing the others. The cameras in the four corners of the ceiling made sure that they understood that while there was no guard in the room, they were being watched.
The first week was difficult. He’d never worked on 3-D CAD software, but much was the same as with the software he had used before so the learning curve wasn’t too big. After that, the work was dull. This week, according to specification, draw a gear. Actually, a different gear every day. No one told them what the purpose was of any of the drawings they completed. But he did know that everyone in the room was working on mechanical parts. No telling though, if they belonged to the same project.
That was just one of the things that nagged at him. Taking pride in his work before always entailed knowing what the big picture was. What the smaller parts fit into. Now, it was just this. A single drawing. He was already bored.
A chime rang. Everyone stopped what they were doing and lined up at the door. A guard came and escorted them to an exercise yard. Bill had been surprised, the first day, when he realized they were being allowed outside. “Half an hour,” the guard had said. Some headed for a quarter-mile track where they began walking. Others for a weight area where they began lifting. There was some talk, but only about the weights or the weather. No other conversation.
One guy, number 9062579, introduced himself in a low voice. “Come with me. We’ll walk.”
Bill nodded and they headed to the track. “I’m Bill.”
“George. But never call me that. That’s a punishable offence.”
Bill nodded. “We get to do this every day?”
“Rain or shine.” George began swinging his arms around. “This helps with keeping limber after leaning over the desk all day.”
Bill did the same. “I was surprised how good breakfast was.”
“Sure. We do work, they feed us well. Gotta keep the farm animals in tip top shape.”
“What?” Bill stared at George.
George snorted. “That’s what we are now, you know. Animals. We earn our keep, we get treated well. If we don’t, well, I’ve seen many a man leave on a stretcher and not return.”
Bill didn’t know what to think about that. “Why?”
“Because good food, exercise, plenty of rest keeps us in good shape. I’ve lost forty pounds since I’ve been here. No booze, very little sugar—it’s the diet my doctor had been trying to get me to use for years.” He snorted again. “He was right. I feel better than I did when I graduated from college.”
“How long have you been here?”
“About six months.”
That’s when a whistle blew. A guard, back near the building pointed at them. George waved. “We gotta split up. They don’t like it when we talk together.”
With that he sped up, leaving Bill to trail behind. Since he was getting out of breath, he let George go and slowed down a bit. He thought about what he’d heard. He didn’t like the idea that they were considered farm animals. But everything to this point had surprised him.
Now, two week later, he pondered everything he knew so far. He knew he was in a Wagnall Aerospace Industries factory. Their logo was on everything. That he and the other men were slave labor was obvious. Cheaper, he realized, to keep the men healthy with good food and exercise, than to feed them poorly and have them get sick. Sick men didn’t produce well. He swung his arms around first in sync then as a windmill, then back the other way. George had been right. It helped with the back strain. And he could tell he was losing weight, even after two weeks.
But, was this going to be his life forever? Slave labor? Even if he did get good food and exercise, this isn’t all he wanted. He was only thirty-six years old. He missed Mara, and the kids. Maybe he could write them? This was really the first time he’d had time to think about more than surviving these new circumstances. Who could he ask? He’d try his cohort guard. That’s who they were supposed to go to with issues.
He took a breath and at the chime, started back to the building. Yes. He’d ask Officer Fernald. He already felt better.
Thank you for reading.