Take a deep breath.
I am breathing. The heavy air–fattened by the shavings of metal, humidity of sweat–fill my lungs with the part of my desert lips. My neighbors across my square, they breathe too. They open their mouths like fish. Gulp. Air in. Now continue working.
I work hard on the machine. Using the turn of the lever. Dropping my weight to get its spin. It presses down. Steam. Hot and blistering on my unprotected face. At least there are goggles. There hadn’t been for some time until it’s been proven that blindness leads to us being unproductive. One must be able to see in order to work.
We make the world. I am the process of the turning earth, the orbit around the sun. We’ve been blessed and chosen to work these machines. For those who live in Great City, we are their life support. Without our operations how could they survive? Without the metal hands to serve them their meals. To clean their homes. I process the materials, make the bodies of the machines which now serve humanity.
Which now I serve.
I remember the readings of when I was young. How robotics would come and evaporate all work for us. How we’d live in peace. In luxury. But they had not made robots with synthetic skin or brains to think. They’ve made limbs. They’ve made processes.
And I make them both.
I feel the bones of my knuckles rub on the insides of my gloves. The skin peeled back. Twenty-four hours shifts will do that to a person. I hear in Great City that bodies never rot. Never break down. They are perpetually beautiful with painted faces and hair that shines and stays on their scalps. Their teeth are white and straight, cleaned, breath that smells like mint. Whatever mint may smell like.
I too want to be there with them. I too wish I was of better blood, of better skin. I may have not been chosen to be here, otherwise, if I were born better.
I am among the others outside of Great City. I’ve always been in the nameless area. Home for us who work. Who must work. Working. Providing the services to make that beautiful world turn for those beautiful people.
The machine press opens its mouth. Ready to chomp down onto the raw material. To mold that perfect device for those perfect people. With heat that obliterates the imperfections. Birth the divine in the molten. Gifts to Great City.
I climb inside the press. I sit with knees pressed to my chest, waiting to be created. The alarm sets off. My body is burning. Another worker flies towards my station. He looks me in the eyes. Ready.
“Thank you for your services,” he announces.
“Thank you, I hope the best for the company.”
He places his hands on the lever. The machine closes its mouth. I am deaf in the enclosure. But I think the machine might be screaming.