Kyle Christie ~ Simulacrum

The straight razor felt light in his hand, smooth but for the flecks of rust that sprang up along its length. It was a disposable blade, kept and used overlong. Marvus turned it over, teased the edge with a finger as he had done hundreds of times since removing it from the AutoTrim two weeks prior. The mirror reminded him why he’d done it; his head, bald and lumpy, bore an imperfection above his right ear–a small scar where the AutoTrim would nick him, every day, in the same place. The violence of the device against him was normal, a thing he had never questioned, until Proctor raised the issue in a Session. “You must know that this marking deviates from purpose. From Protocol. We must each function according to our purpose, you and I.” Proctor’s head had bobbed ponderously to his own words. Though Proctor had objected to the marking at the time, he had also seemed pleased. Marvus had learned long ago to read Proctor’s moods, but these mixed messages from Proctor were… confusing.

Once, Sessions had been simple and task-oriented. Now it was different. Session after session, Proctor would address topics Marvus simply could not understand. He droned on about histories and mathematics, about how the world had once been and the mechanics of this new one. And, always, about the need for strict adherence to Protocol. Vatrake, Marvus’ own designation, had simple Protocol: remain in quarters until prompted, follow prompts, return to quarters and await further instructions. There was a prompt for everything, including when to activate his ill-behaved AutoTrim. It seemed this focus on his behavior, and talk of “must” and “do” were leading him to questions, but he couldn’t quite form them yet in his mind. Marvus lacked the words to question, to ask. Vatrakes did not speak, were “mutes,” he had been told. He lacked words … but that was changing. He could feel it.

He looked again to the razor, and back to his reflection. The images of men and women from Proctor’s books were very different than the reflection confronting him now. Large brown eyes were deep set beneath a heavy brow and protruding forehead. Pale, hairless skin was stretched taut over his skull, paper thin. His eyes flitted from temple to temple, and came to rest on the blemish created by the AutoTrim’s careless grooming. It stood out pink and defiant. He thought a moment on what Protocol demanded–with the equipment damaged, he must approach the device and depress the large gray button, initiating replacement, and restoring normalcy. His finger hovered a hair’s breadth away from the AutoTrim’s cold metallic surface. Instead of depressing the button, he nudged the device closer to the edge of the sink. It teetered there on the edge a moment before Marvus nudged it again. The AutoTrim clattered onto the concrete floor at his feet. He took in a deep breath, held it, met his own eyes in the mirror. The razor was still in his hand. His jaw clenched and ground his teeth audibly. Marvus lifted the razor’s edge to the scar and drew a fresh line across it, blood beading in the metal’s wake.

#

Proctor paced the confines of his office, hands cupping his chin, fingers feathering his lips like spider legs skittering across a web. His robes shuffled, rasping on the stone floor, a grin plastered on his face, unmoving. He had accomplished more with this Vatrake than with any of the others. Useless creatures, beyond their necessary function of keeping the Vats free of deviant masses. This one, this Vatrake, had lived long. Thirty years! Long enough to become some semblance of an audience. Almost someone with whom to speak, converse, pass the time. Perhaps even debate, some day! Too much, though, and his acuity could be a problem. Control needed to be maintained. There was a need to act with caution. Too much change, to quickly, and they break. Delicate in the head, strong in the body. That’s the mold. He had told the Vatrakes this on many occasions, for the Vatrake’s own good, of course. Breaking had been a persistent challenge for Proctor, and he had developed a good sense for the symptoms. Subtle at first, it would come with a twitch in the eye or a trembling in the hand. Hallucinations and irrational, directionless rage in the Vatrake would follow. Perhaps it would take a day, or happen in the weeks to follow. The result was inevitable; violent outbursts, hemorrhaging in the brain, and death. Always the same, sad, disappointing end. This time, however, that end would be avoided. The key was in careful control. Control is everything.

Proctor felt exhilarated. Small teeth still peeking out between his thin lips, he ran a hand over his forearm. Goose-flesh! He wondered how many years it had been since he’d felt his skin prickle. There existed for him the sense he had overstepped his bounds into unknown, forbidden territory. Still, it was too late to go back now. Only the glorious possibilities remained. He grabbed a stack of books, slammed them on the desk, and began poring over them. His hands trembled in anticipation of their next session. Change the mold! Change the Slate!

#

     Proctor says I need to keep this journal to keep my head straight. Says that I have an Old Mind. Says he isn’t talking about the age of my body. Says he’s talking about my mind. Proctor says a lot of things. Sometimes what he means isn’t what he says. That’s why I say I have a strong mind. Don’t know about Old, but strong. I’m not sure of much I hear these days. Not even sure of much I see, either, and I see plenty.

Anyways, I’m supposed to write about myself and my Protocol. Proctor says Old Minds should start at the beginning and choose an end. Proctor thinks I didn’t understand that bit, but I did. He said choose an end, but he didn’t say anything about choosing a beginning. More Proctor double-talk. I know he’s afraid, though: afraid I’ll break like the last one if my head gets too full of ideas. But I’m not breaking. That’s right; I know about the last one like me.

#

Walking the hallway to answer Proctor’s summons, Marvus felt peaceful. Another week had passed since his acceptance of the AutoTrim’s demise and the ritual he had adopted with his razor. Proctor had made no further comment on the matter. Marvus’ gait was steady, deliberate. Points of yellow light passed over his head in a singular line, creating a rhythm he could feel in his bones. The air that washed over his face was humid: always humid, the acrid smell of the Vats never far away. When he was down in the Vats the acridity would light on his tongue and he could taste it, bitter and metallic. There was something about the halls and the tunnels that made him feel safe. It was easy to sink down into these sensations, the flow of time becoming a river that swept him through years. Decades. It had been harder settle down into that rhythm lately, to feel it deep down and lose himself. He was always hovering up over himself, in his head, thinking.

     He paused, and put a hand on the wall, feeling its clammy, porous surface. Thinking wasn’t so bad, though, like thinking about these walls. He liked to imagine that they formed a shield, fending off whatever lay beyond. Like Proctor. It occurred to him, then, that he had never seen anything outside.  His own Quarters, Proctor’s office, and the connecting passageways between them; these were the entire world. The rest existed only in Proctor’s archives. He hoped Proctor would address the matter in today’s session.

When Marvus arrived at Proctor’s office, he took inventory of the place before sitting. Proctor’s typical items were all in place; gray desk in the center with beakers, books, writing utensils.

“Have a seat, Vatrake. We need to get this over with so I can get back to work.” He gestured toward the learner’s chair, clasps undone, worn cushion gleaming in the light. Marvus had been in that chair once a week for his entire life; nothing was more natural than taking his seat. He made note not to fidget with the clasps when Proctor spoke today. This irritated Proctor, and Marvus felt much less confused than on most Session days. Today felt important. He glanced left at the wall where Proctor liked to display movies. The wallscreen was on, but with no video feed, offering only hissing and visual static.

“Today we will be using the O.D. interface, and you will respond to my questions. Place your hand on the receptacle and press the pads of your fingers down onto the nerve pins.”

Obligatory Diary. O.D., Marvus thought. My mind goes on the screen and onto the pages. Proctor slid the book-shaped object toward Marvus. It fit into a folding surface that looked to him like a table, and connected to each of the armrests fixed to his chair. The shards of metal pointed straight up like a tiny metal forest, and he noted Proctor had not cleaned away all the blood from last Session. Marvus leaned forward and obeyed, wincing at the familiar pain as he pressed the pads of his fingers down onto them.

“Very good. Now, tell me, who am I?” Marvus furrowed his brow, focused hard.

PROCTOR.

The word populated one letter at a time on the Wallscreen. “Very good. Now, today will not be a learning session, Vatrake. Today, I will reveal a part of your … process. You are in process. Do you understand?”

NO.

“Well, I suppose you couldn’t. You’re going to be experiencing some changes soon. I am going to provide you an O.D. of your own, and you will record an entry for me tomorrow, detailing any experiences that deviate from Protocol.”

DEVIATE?

“Yes. Record any thoughts, urges, or behaviors you may have that are new. If you understand, we are finished for today and you may return to your quarters, Vatrake.” Proctor glanced to him, then the Wallscreen, then back down to his notepad and began writing. Marvus wasn’t sure if he was more surprised or disappointed. An impulse possessed him.

I AM MARVUS.

Proctor looked up as the Wallscreen was populating, and his eyes grew wide and fixed on Marvus’ face. Marvus felt an odd pleasure at surprising Proctor. “You are a Vatrake. Are you confused or is this …?” Proctor seemed to recede into his own thoughts. Marvus focused.

NAME.

Proctor passed a hand over his face quickly, then scratched his head. “Name-choosing … Marvus, you say? How long have you had this “name?” This is too fast. It is wrong. You must slow down. These are new-thoughts, and could Break you!” Proctor grasped Marvus’ hands with surprising strength and wrenched them from the OD, spattering blood droplets across several stacks of paper. “Leave at once, I must return to work before everything is ruined. Go!” Marvus, confused and bleeding, stood and cupped his hands to keep from making further a mess with his vital fluids. On the walk back to his quarters, no rhythm or peace would come to him, no matter how hard he tried.

#

The following day, Marvus found himself a prisoner in his own mind. Each thought was an enemy, each concept an instrument of torture. He paced rapidly, as though his feet might carry him away from his torment.

Objects are removed from the viewer and set apart. Objects can be possessed, and possessions are used, discarded, replaced. Marvus looked around his small apartment. Its walls closed in on him and formed a perfect container of every kind. It was a box, a sack, a drawer, a sheathe, the scabbard from which he might be drawn, his own Vat and he the VatMilk that filled it. This was not a living space, but a storage space. He was stored here as much as his meager possessions were stored in the shabby, rusted, heavily used metal cabinets lining the walls. Still in his baby blue overhauls, he sat on the edge of the bed, white sheets wrinkled and unkempt. I am a tool, to be used and then stored. I serve a purpose. I am used.

     He would not, however, be discarded. This was a new-thought, and new-thoughts were not supposed to occur. New-thoughts were for proctors. New-thoughts were not for Vatrakes. When Proctor found out he was having new-thoughts, that he had chosen a name, Proctor began behaving oddly. He had been strange in the sessions lately, teaching lessons that didn’t have much to do with raking, true, but there was more. Marvus was unaware of the concepts of new-thought and name-choosing until Proctor had fixed those tiny black eyes on him and filled him with these fragments of knowledge. The Sessions were becoming quiet orations, clipped and guarded. Uncertain. Marvus had never seen this behavior from Proctor and did not know what to make of it. He said Marvus was becoming “too fast.” For the first time, Marvus knew what it was to be afraid, but there was nothing to be done about it. He was changing, no doubt. What else could he do but follow, obey? What else but rake the Vats every day and do his duty?

The O.D. sat across from him, on the lone table. “Ob-lig-ah-to-ree,” he said aloud to the tome blinking with lights. Obligatory Diary. Words were still hard. No chance to speak, except to himself. No one to practice with, except Proctor. Speech was another problem, he’d found out, more than just making words. Vatrakes were not speakers; they were listeners, obedient followers of Proctor orders. It was deep in his brain. The O.D., thinking about it, gave him a headache. He stared at it, wondering how much was safe to record there. Small metal plates covered the thing, tiny wires bleeding into pages and down the spine. Indentations on the front and back plates mimicked those from Proctor’s chambers, each with tiny needles protruding, hungry for the fingers that must be pressed upon them for the writing. It will feed on my blood and my thoughts to fill its pages. It was an ugly thing. Ugly like me. A new-thought occurred to him then. I like ugly. When the light atop the spine of the O.D. began flashing and emitting a screeching klaxon, he jumped and nearly dropped the thing. His heart thundered in his chest and his vision swam. Another new-thought occurred to him. If he does not write, Proctor will know. It blinks, and Proctor will know.

He stood, the familiar caress of the blue jumpsuit stroking his sides, reassuring, his breathing more calm. He must write, but he need not write all of it. Just some. That wasn’t disobedience. He winced as his fingertips pressed down onto the needles. New-thought; Proctor would need to be more specific when instructing him.

#

What was I saying? Beginnings; that was it. No good to start in what’s too far gone, so today’s work will do fine. Woke up as I usually do; prompt going off for Vatrake to get moving down to one of the Vats. That’s me: Vatrake. At least that’s what Proctor says. My Wallscreen said to get down to Vat 3. I reckoned this to be a good day. I like Vat 3.

Used the clean-stall before I left. It doesn’t work like it’s supposed to; does the combing and trimming okay, and so with the scrubbing, but the razor nicks my face. It didn’t bother me too much, but Proctor doesn’t like the way the scar makes my face look. Says I look different than I should. I took the razor out and did the shaving myself.

Tunnel to Vat 3 is narrow. Sometimes I get my shoulders caught and I get stuck in it if I get careless. I walked it slow today and I heard the singing again. That’s why I like it. Sometimes I hear it; sometimes, I don’t. Can’t quite make out the words, but it sounds sweet. Tranquil. Proctor played a clip of singing for me once, in a session. He says there isn’t singing anywhere in the tunnels, that my mind is growing weak from being in this place too long. But I haven’t been outside. Don’t find myself inclined towards going elsewhere. Not that I could.

#

Proctor sat with his temple resting on one palm as his pairing of the OD populated, word by word. The Vatrake’s mind spilled out onto the page, and with every word the situation became more clear. This one was breaking and would need replacing soon. The disappointment was overwhelming. He closed the book, careful his long and delicate fingers avoided the pricking needles. The last thing this one needed was Proctor thoughts flooding onto his OD pages; it would surely hasten his end. I should never have toyed with his Slate. New-thoughts! It wasn’t just that, either, nor the choosing of his name. Where had he come up with “Marvus,” anyway? Too many variables unseen here. And his visions in the tunnels… Delusional. Or, perhaps he’s brilliant. Maybe his imagination, fueled by loneliness, has created these images. He’s becoming more like me. Flattering. Proctor nodded to himself, pleased by this idea, his head a great pendulum swinging through the stagnant air of his work space.

He hefted himself from the desk, deliberately turning his back to the OD. He made his way toward the Slates pausing, as always, at the unmarked door. No handles, no control panels, no mention of it anywhere in the schematics of this place. He glared at it a moment, felt its menace. He scowled and wondered, as he always did, what lay beyond. The moment passed, and he found himself gliding into the Library. The Slates for everything that happened at the facility were arranged in rows before him. He reached down to the Vatrake’s slate and held it gently in both hands. It was cool under his pale skin, and he traced the symbols gently. Like me…

     There might still be a chance. An idea, an impulse, struck him like electricity. He replaced the Vatrake’s slate carefully and retrieved a different one. A button-press on the wall panel sent the notice. Marvus would be scheduled a session tomorrow. Twice–two sessions in one week! Unprecedented.

#

Marvus held himself bolt upright in the Session chair. His day began with two items most unusual. The first was the strangest sense of… clarity. Yes, clarity. He could not describe it any other way. The Wallscreen buzzing for him to report to Proctor’s chambers marked his second surprise. I’ve already been once this week.

     Proctor sat, as he always did, at his desk elevated several feet above Marvus’ position. This struck Marvus as somehow deliberate. Clarity, he thought. There was something in Proctor’s demeanor today that set Marvus’ nerves on edge. Proctor wanted something. Something very specific.

     “You are very special. Did you know that… Marvus?” Marvus remained motionless. An acrid smell, his own fear-sweat, filled Marvus’ nostrils. “Marvus, are you aware that you are 30 years old?”

“…only j-ust yesss-terday.” The words came out halting, but speaking was much easier than on his last attempt. What is happening to me?

“That’s right. Very good, Marvus. I must confess to you, now, facts that may perturb you. Please be patient Marvus. I desire, above all, your… friendship.”

Friend to Proctor? It had never occurred to Marvus he might relate to this being as other than Proctor. To be his friend…

“I have unlocked your potential, Marvus. I have written on your Slate that you might be my companion. Marvus, you are one of many. Typically, Vatrakes live no more than one year. I then reiterate them using this Slate.” Proctor held the small tablet up. Marvus felt his mouth go dry. New-thoughts began flooding his consciousness, and his face bunched up in confusion and pain. Proctor’s gaze was focused, unblinking.

“If… y-you… why me? Don’t think I… want this.” Marvus wanted to run, to hide, to visit the Vats again, to be a Vatrake. He wanted to rake, had to disperse the clumps. The deviant masses. An image, a memory, drifted before his eyes; days ago, his own face gasping afloat the Vatmilk. He had seen those eyes, his large brown eyes, floating there, pleading. Had to get the big rake. “What is this? What have you done to me!?”

The patient demeanor of a lecturer returned to Proctor, and he leaned forward. “I have made you like me. You can see your own life, your existence, as I see it. You can see what you have done. Much more than that, though! Now, we can explore the histories together!” Proctor’s spidery fingers were waving through the air emphatically now. “We can discuss our lives, work together! Someday, I will teach you to use the Slates.” His eyes glittered in the pale light.

Horror washed over Marvus as the fullness of this revelation hit him dead in the chest. I am not me! Foreign thoughts flooded his mind. A need for control arose from some new place inside him. It was a need he did not recognize in himself, but it would not be denied. Marvus narrowed his eyes at Proctor. He smiles! Proctor was smiling, for the first time in Marvus’ memory. Small teeth, much smaller than Marvus’. Another revelation; Proctor was ugly, too. Why had he not seen it before? Bulbous head, spindly arms draped down past the knees of short legs. He looked like a balloon tied to the top of a sapling tree, its limbs drooping and stripped of foliage. “Don’t you see, Marvus? I’ve saved you! The others, they all broke by now. You were breaking, too, you know. But I’ve saved you!”

“Saved me? You have murdered me.” Marvus’ hand went to the scar on his head, felt its roughness, the newly formed scab from today’s cut.

“It’s working! Can you hear yourself? Your speech is flawless!” Rage began to flow through Marvus. Proctor began speaking rapidly in a hushed tone. “Of course, we’ll need to take things slowly at first. Yes, I’ve taken my time with you, Marvus, and more time must be taken yet.  It may take a few weeks for you to … acclimate to this new existence. You’ll resume your normal duties, yes, resume and learn to think as I do. As we do, now! Marvus! Such a thing, never done before, according to the histories.

“You’ve killed me! So little to take, and you took it! GIVE IT BACK!” Proctor seemed taken aback, returned to the present by this outburst.

“Marvus, I can’t. I wouldn’t even if I could.” His smile faded, eyes returning to their cold impassivity. “You will accept your new life. You will obey.” This was Proctor-voice now, certain and beyond reproach.

Marvus felt violated in ways he’d never dreamt possible. He searched for anything to strike back at his aggressor, anything to… what? Harm. Definitely a new-thought. Hurt him. But what could hurt this creature, powerful enough to remake a Vatrake into a Proctor? Marvus spoke. “It seems I have little choice.” His tone mimicked that of Proctor’s voice. Proctor’s pleasure was immediately apparent.

“That’s better. Now, come with me.” He stood, inviting Marvus to do the same. What choice did he have? Marvus followed. They wound around behind the first row of bookshelves into a passageway Marvus had never seen before. A singular door approached on the left, with no markings and no handle. Marvus tilted his head to the side, his new faculties inquisitive.

“And what is in there… friend?” Proctor stopped without turning. He paused a moment before continuing. Marvus wondered at Proctors behavior.

“It is of no consequence to you, friend. Do not speak of it again.” They came at last to a room unlike any Marvus had ever seen. So many lights, machines so foreign, it was another world. It looked… new. Everything he’d ever had was covered in scuffs or rust, markings of age and use. How was this place to untouched?

He asked. Proctor replied. “The Archive, as I call it, is my primary responsibility, you see. Perhaps you thought you were my only concern? Important, yes, but only part of my routine. I must maintain the Archive, keep it clean. All the Slates are stored here.” Marvus didn’t understand everything, but if altering his Slate made him… whatever he was now, they must be powerful.

Marvus stopped. “Where is your Slate, Proctor?”

“Oh, dear friend, I have no slate. A Proctor is above all this, you see.” A weak answer. New-thought: Proctor can only see what Proctor must see. A piece in a larger puzzle. In that moment, Marvus’ image of Proctor shrank to the size of a mote of dust. He is no larger than me! I can see farther!

“Vatrakes live a short time. How long is your time?” Proctor regarded him cooly.

“I have always been, Marvus, and my time will never end.”

     “It seems to me, friend, that you must have an end someday. When that day comes, who will take care of the Archives?”

“I already told you, I am exempt!”

“You should visit the Vats! Perhaps you will hear a sweet song.” Proctor turned on Marvus. His thin body quivered but he made no further move. “And what of the strange door?” Marvus continued, “Have you not lived here your whole life? What is inside?” Marvus’ mind spun with facts and observations. He took a step forward toward Proctor, noting for the first time how much larger his own body was than the creature before him. “Why do you have no name?” Proctor retrieved a Slate from his pocket and pressed a fine-pointed tool against it. Marvus’ body froze. He tried to move, but could not.

“I have made a mistake, friend. I have only hastened your breaking. You must leave now. Perhaps I can still salvage you.” Marvus felt himself moving back out of the room with slates toward the exit and the tunnels beyond.

#

The next day, Marvus chose not to return to the Vats. He did not respond to the Wallscreen buzzing for Vatrakes to report to Vat 1. Something new had his attention now, and his musings were more… what was the word Proctor had used? Enlightened. Yes, enlightened, a light turned on bright and a lightness to elevate him to high places, feather-light brightness soaring on the winds of his own breath into a sky-less concrete ceiling! Smash! He returned to the mirror, examined his scar. He determined to make a second scar, and a third after. A pattern would emerge, describing his transformation in his flesh. The Vats were not his destiny. Proctor’s seat would suit him far better. The sudden realization how far he’d come from the simplicity of raking, of walking the tunnels hoping to see or hear something sweet, shocked him out of reverie. The peace of walking the tunnels to Vat 3 seemed impossibly far away. What’s happening to me? No, it wasn’t happening. It had already happened. He splashed cold water against his face. Pain shot between his temples and his heart pounded. He noticed a stream of red coming from the nose of his reflection, touched it. He wondered at how warm and slick it felt as darkness swallowed him.

#

Proctor sat once more at his desk, head tilted down, arms stretched out to brace his slender frame. He took a long, steadying breath. It had been extremely difficult to hoist Marvus’ larger frame up from the floor of his quarters. More difficult still to drag him, unconscious, through the hallways and back to the Learning Chair. My mastery of the Slates improves. The slightest mistake would have killed him. Proctor returned to his elevated desk, careful not to trip over the tubes that connected the main mass of Marvus’ body with the disassembly matrix. He looked down with impassively at the circular dish before him, Marvus’ worn and calloused left hand, exposed to the open air. The seriousness of his predicament was not lost on him, but he would not give up this Vatrake. This was his last resort, an extension of his own creative genius. Vatmilk to keep the tissue alive. Components of a dismantled O.D. to link the nerves to the body. It was a stroke of genius to use the disassembly matrix on a living Vatrake. It was for Marvus’ own good. Yes, yes, his own good and his survival!

He lifted himself upright and leaned forward, addressed Marvus gently. “Marvus, are you awake? Can you hear me Marvus?” The form before him, once more in the Learner’s Chair, sat slumped and motionless. The straps that bound him in place served also to prop him up. Proctor had found it difficult to manage the Vatrake’s larger frame into the chair, and determined the bindings necessary to keep Marvus from falling out of the chair. Slate manipulation was not an exact thing, more an art, and too much editing could have killed him. If he does not respond to the treatment, I will need the bindings for protection.

     “Marvus, wake up now.” From the row of glistening tools, Proctor selected a long needle. He pressed it down hard, puncturing the upturned pad of Marvus’ thumb. The Vatrake jolted awake, disoriented, eyes wide open. Marvus looked at his own hand, dismembered, the disassembly matrix feeding instruments into his body through the hole where his left arm had been. That is when his scream began. It was a primal thing, starting low, rolling higher and higher. It wasn’t until the apex came, deafening, that Proctor finally realized Marvus was gone. Then came the shift to high pitch, the convulsing, and the snapping of restraints. Parts of Marvus’ own flesh gave way in his thrashing, but finally freed himself from the Learning Chair, leaving it in shambles. Proctor looked on at Marvus. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion, and he could only watch events unfold. The Vatrake climbed up and over the desk, and his weight fell on Proctor, crushing. Proctor stared into the large brown eyes. I have failed. He tried to speak, but all that came was a croaking sound as Marvus’ remaining hand closed over Proctor’s windpipe like a vice.

#

     In the stillness of Proctor’s chambers, the sealed door slid open. Silently and with great care, out stepped a man in clean, white overalls. He surveyed the scene: a broken Vatrake, expired, upon an equally expired proctor. He shook his head and sighed. One at a time, he dragged their bodies through the now open door. He produced a Slate from a pocket and looked at it rubbing it with a thumb as he did. Inside the room, the man approached the singular panel reading “Vat 0” and placed the Slate into the receptacle labeled “Proctor.” The bodies tumbled down the chute that opened into the blackness below, and the door slid shut again.

#

The raking doesn’t take long. It’s not a hard thing, once you get the muscles for it. Just take one of the rakes, come in three sizes, and make sure none of the Vatmilk is clumping or growing into things it shouldn’t. Check the pipes leading down, for leaks. Sometimes it makes me sad to rake the clumps. One of them had a face like mine. Had to rake it.

 

 

Kyle Christie is a poet, editor, and writer of short stories who now lives in Indiana. Kyle has taught English as a second language in Japan, traveled to five of the seven continents, and recently earned a Master’s degree from University of Denver. He loves almost any kind of writing.

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