Wasteland Boy – Chapter 12
Clyde asked for some privacy to dress himself and received a rough shove into a bathroom stall. Carefully, to avoid any extra noise, he pulled his golden watch out. The chain made a few quiet clinks, but the thug guarding the stall didn’t pay attention. Holding his breath, Clyde slipped the watch into the pocket of his uniform and smiled. It was the only memory he had now. The bag was carelessly left on the ship, since Clyde considered coming back. He didn’t regret the loss as much, since it was as ragged as Clyde’s old clothes. Gladly, he put on the uniform and sensing the familiar ticking in his pocket, came out of the stall. The uniform was a few sizes too big, but he wasn’t in the position to complain. The guard lead him towards the exit, where Lucinda was waiting with the second thug. Her lip was busted, as if someone punched her in the face. She was wiping fresh blood off with her uniform’s sleeve, staring angrily at her guard.
“She bit me! That brat.” The guard raised his sleeve, exposing a row of bitemarks. His partner chuckled, telling him to keep his arms away from angry animals. As the kids followed the guards down a staircase, Lucinda leaned over and whispered.
“How can you be so calm? This is like prison!”
Clyde simply shrug her off. He wasn’t scared. Rather, he was somewhat excited to see other kids, other people, to ask them about the city. Everything was happening too quickly for him to comprehend and therefore feel anything specific. As the four proceeded closer to the bottom of the stairs, Clyde felt the atmosphere change. He expected it to drop like it did in the bunkers he lived in, but it began to rise. The air felt moist, almost thick. It smelled of smoke, sweat and something else just as gross. Clyde heard loud noises, as if a giant metal animal was awaiting for him downstairs. It was moving around, breathing rhythmically, like some mechanical dragon. Clyde recalled hearing similar sounds in the airship, though they were way more toned down. As the staircase ended, Clyde’s eyes were introduced to another bizarre scene. He saw many kids, of different ages and sizes, walking around with tools in their hands. They walked among strange, giant machines that all seemed to be synchronized, producing the noise that Clyde had mistaken for breathing. He gave Lucinda a questioning glance, hoping for some useful piece of information, but it seemed even Lucinda was incapable of explaining the situation.
One of the thugs pulled down some sort of a microphone and asked the administrator to come down. Soon, pushing through the kids, in came a disgusting, fat man. Up until now, Clyde haven’t seen someone so fat. He instantly wondered how much the man eats on a daily basis and how much he would have to scavenge to feed himself. The man was sweating heavily and constantly wiped his forehead with the already soaked handkerchief.
“Ah, two more. The tall one can carry bags, the little one to the machines.”
He had a strange manner of speaking. Every word spoken made him sound like he just ran a few marathons and now someone was trying to choke him, jealous of the administrators’ victory. Clyde didn’t have time to investigate that, however, because he got grabbed by the collar and pulled roughly towards one of the biggest machines. Clyde got shoved towards some kid and left to make decisions on his own.
“Um… I was told to work here. Do you-” He got cut off by the kid.
“Ye climb under thee machines and swipe out the metal shavings. They fall through thee gaps. Also, check for any loose bolts and screws. Find any, tighten ‘em”
Clyde got a screwdriver tossed at him and left to figure out the rest again. He knelt down and peeked under the nearest machine. He saw the metal shavings, as well as some moving parts on the bottom. Gears were turning, smoke was everywhere, making it hard to breathe, let alone move around under there. He tried reaching for some of the shavings with his arm, but it wasn’t long enough to reach most of them. Clyde took a gasp of relatively fresh air and began crawling underneath the machine. Scared to go too far, he tried to limit himself to going halfway in, but it also limited the amount of shavings scooped out. After twenty minutes, he had a few bleeding scratches and a pretty large pile of metal shavings with nowhere to put them. He looked around in search of someone who could help him and landed his eyes on someone with the same job as him. He walked up to the little boy and tapped his shoulder.
“Excuse me sir… where do you put the shavings?” The kid turned around and gave him a tired smile.
“I’m a girl, sir. The stuff goes into a bucket and then into the giant oven.”
“Giant oven, huh? And where did you get the bucket.”
“You have to ask Joey for it. It’s the round man in the booth.”
Clyde figured it was the administrator. He also figured that he couldn’t tell anyone’s gender here, for they were all kids in the same uniforms with the same buzz-cuts. He looked around searching for whatever the girl referred to as “The booth” and finally spotted a window that was lit up somewhere close to the tall ceiling. By all logic, that would be the lookout point to watch over everything. He walked over there, trying to avoid bumping into people. It seemed they weren’t easily bothered. They didn’t care if you bumped into them at all. They were emotionless and speechless, like the machines in the room. It seemed like they were part of this mechanical madness, they were moving in the same organised, monotone manner as the cogs in the machines. Looking around way too much, he bumped into someone, almost knocking them to the ground. He quickly apologized, but got no response. The person glanced down at him and Clyde saw that his eyes were dead. They weren’t blind, but they didn’t belong to someone who is alive and happy. They looked dead, dead like all emotion in those mechanized souls.
As always, dear readers, feel free to comment or PM any suggestions for the rest of the story. There is always room for your characters and plot developments!
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