Short Story
                                             The Factory
                                                                     By Rose Titus


     Maxwell, whose real name was MX0001138WL1936, was watching the clock above the assembly line
in the factory where he and probably, he guessed, thousands of others like him worked.  They were all
given a number that was to be their new name for life, and their memories had been erased, but many of
them invented names for themselves with the few letters in the numbers they had been given.  It was one of
the few ways they held onto their humanity, what little humanity there was left in world, after The Company
took over everything…

     People weren’t supposed to remember, but the erasure process wasn’t perfect.  Sometimes, just
sometimes, people remembered what a blue sky looked like, what clean air smelled like… other things,
like grass, trees, the song of birds… and other dangerous ideas that The Company had long ago banned,
for the good of society.

     He stood next to RL0001066HP1929, also known as Ralph, or Ralphie, as he liked to be called, and
he knew Ralph was looking forward to quitting time, too.  Soon they would be herded into the transport that
carried the vast numbers of working people back to where they existed when not working, and another
shift would come and take their place on the assembly line.

     They were all constantly reminded to be grateful to The Company for their jobs, and that they could all
be very easily replaced by robots.  But secretly Max and Ralph wondered if human life was now so cheap
that The Company used up people rather than purchase robots?

     On the viewscreen up above near the digital clock ran a constant stream of commercials praising The
Company and all it had done for humanity, but people working through the dullness and repetition had
ceased to watch long ago.   The messages scrolling across the screen reminded everyone how lucky they
were to have a job working for The Company.

     Instead, most of them just watched the clock.

     Soon they would go home and watch their viewscreens at home, watch more programming controlled
by The Company, and heat up their dull slabs of protein for supper.  Ralphie once told Max that he bit down
into his protein slab and bit into an actual human finger.  

     “What?”  

     “Yeah,” said Ralph, “I tried to report it, but they said that probably just an air bubble got into the mixture
when the machines were mixing all the wonderful vitamins The Company gives us grateful workers and it
just looked like a finger.  But not to worry, they said they’d replace it with a whole new package.  Wasn’t
that nice of them!”

     “Yeah?  Wonder how the hell a finger got in there?”  

     “Dunno,” said Ralph, “Maybe the machinery people work on in the food processing plant isn’t so safe
after all?” he chuckled, “Wonderful Company that we all work for!”  They laughed.

     Suddenly the intercom announced that Employee Number MX0001138WL1936 was to report
immediately to the office.  “What the hell is this about?” Max was worried now.  He knew he’d been slow
lately, but it was long past the time when people used to be allowed to retire.  People weren’t allowed to
retire anymore.  The Company didn’t give out pensions.  No one knew why, but The Company probably
made it that way for everyone’s own good…

     When Max arrived at the office, he was greeted by the Supervisory Robot that everyone on the factory
floor reported to.  It was a standard model Supervisory Robot with a dull matte gray finish and chrome trim.

     “Congratulations, Employee Number MX0001138WL1936,” it said in its gentle electronic voice, “You
have been chosen to be transferred to the Food Processing Plant.  Your labors at the new work location
will be much more enjoyable!  On behalf of The Most Glorious Company, we are thankful to your service in
this factory!  The transport to the new work location awaits you, Employee Number MX0001138WL1936.  
Please hurry along –

     “Oh screw your damn circuit board,” Max mumbled.

     “I assure you, Employee Number MX0001138WL1936, my circuit board is screwed in tightly and
functioning properly.”

     “Never mind,” he hated these robots, but they ran everything now.  Humans had long ago disappeared
from supervisory and administrative positions.  No one knew why.  Another Company decision for the
benefit of society.

     “Please gather your belongings and hurry to meet your transport, Employee Number
MX0001138WL1936.”

     Max hurried to his locker to get what little he had.  He would miss Ralphie.  He would miss having
someone to joke around with.  Ralphie hated the supervisory robots as much as he did, maybe even
worse.

                                                                             * * * * *

     Finally he went out back toward the delivery entrance and go on the transport.  As soon as he boarded,
he realized it wasn’t a vehicle for transporting people at all.  He had been put into an equipment truck.  No
seats, no windows, no… nothing.  What the hell kind of ride to his new job was this?  Finally the vehicle
stopped moving and the door opened into darkness.  He looked around and finally his eyes adjusted as
there was only minimal light, and what he saw shocked him.

     He was dropped off into what appeared to be a warehouse filled with people, many of them sitting on
the concrete floor, some standing around looking forlorn, some leaning against the concrete walls.

     “What the hell is this place?” he asked out loud, hoping someone, anyone, would dare to answer.

     “This is the food processing plant, what else?” said one man sitting off in the corner by himself, not
looking up, just staring at the floor he sat on.

     “Max!”

     Suddenly he heard a soft voice…

     “Max!  Is that you?  It’s me!  Tish!”

     He recognized her coming toward him; it was Tish, otherwise known as TSH1149CV159188, “Max!  
Oh no.  They sent you here, too?”

     They worked together for years, until one day very recently she didn’t report to work.  The others on
work crew were told by the robots that ran the factory that she had just been promoted, and that they
should all be proud of her.  ‘Well, she could have said goodbye,’ but now he wondered what it was really all
about.

     She came closer and put her arms around him briefly, then suddenly took a step back, a look of
sadness on her face.

     “Hey, Tish!  What the hell is going on?  The stupid machine that owns all our jobs tells me I’m being
transferred to an easier job at the food factory, and now I end up here?  What the hell is this place?  Why is
everybody just waiting around…?  I don’t understand any of this…”

     “Max! This is the food processing plant.  Max…  I don’t know how to tell you this, so I’ll just say it.  It’s
terrible.  We’re all waiting to be processed.”

                                                                              * * * * *

     A week later, Ralphie sat alone at the table in the company break room, about to sadly bite into his
protein slab.  He truly hated the protein slabs the workers were given out, day after day, the same dull pink
protein slabs, no change in flavor, but full of wonderful vitamins and nutrition and so good for you, they were
all told.

     He’d flush it down the toilet if he weren’t so hungry.

     He missed Max.  He hoped Max was happy wherever he was now, and wished Max was sitting
opposite him on the other side of the table where he always used to be.  They always had lunch together
and joked around, making fun of the Supervisory Robot and anything else they could complain about on
the job.

     Finally Ralph took a bite out of the slab and out of loneliness, he imagined Max was with him now and
imagined they were having lunch together like always…
About Rose Titus

Rose Titus works two jobs
to support her writing
habit.  She exists
somewhere in cold, dreary
New England, with two
manipulative cats and a
very out of date Macintosh
with which she creates
horror and fantasy fiction.  
She also has a restored
classic car to ride around
while in search of
adventure.

For travel she has stayed
for the night in an
allegedly haunted castle,
has taken a boat ride on
Loch Ness, and has
visited the fabled Bermuda
Triangle without getting
lost.

Her work has previously
appeared in Lost Worlds,
Lynx Eye, Bog Gob,
Mausoleum, Midnight
Times, Blood Moon Rising
Magazine, The Bugle,
Weird Terrain, Descend,
Wicked Wheels, The Dead
River Review, and other
literary magazines.  Her
novella Night Home has
been published with
Bathory Gate Press and is
available with Amazon,
Barnes and Noble .com
and Smashwords.

When she’s not writing or
working or messing
around with her old Buick,
she waits by her mailbox
for the next issue of
Fortean Times to arrive.
To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.