| Down in Seattle
By R. Todd Fredrickson
That is how long I’d been a machinist.
I started out through an apprenticeship program with a small outfit in Snohomish. I mastered the skill in
no time. I was making tools and parts from scratch, and then it just took off from there. I tried to work out a
solo gig for myself but the liberals in Olympia kept raising my taxes so many ways and so many times that I
ended up giving more to Uncle Sam then to myself.
I eventually ended up at a huge plant in Seattle that built ships. It was a great fit. That is, the job fit my
abilities, but I couldn’t handle working with those union fuckers who spent more time complaining about
shit instead of just doing their job. I almost lost my mind!
They said it was my mouth that got me fired- but Christ-all-mighty, if I didn’t say anything those mother-
hummers would just keep on milking the company for all they had.
I had no idea they were going to let me go. I showed up to work on a Monday and the Officer at the gate
said my pass had been pulled and I’d be getting a letter from upstairs explaining things. I have never had
any problems with this guy but boy I didn’t like his attitude. I climbed out of my car and got up in that punk’s
face and let him know what I thought of him and his family and the got-damn company!
He pulled out a large can of pepper spray and told me I would be tasting jalapeno peppers for the next
month if I didn’t remove myself from his face and get off the premises. Well, I didn’t need to go to jail over
this guy’s power trip so I got back in my car and sped out of there. I made several calls to the head office
but the sweet bitch on the other end said Jason the boss was in a meeting. Right, I know how it is, one
bullshit meeting about a meeting to schedule a meeting.
Since I was fired, I didn’t qualify for unemployment assistance, but I’m not the kind of guy that takes
something for nothing, not like those tree-hugging-liberal-fags. I had enough in savings to get me by for a
bit. A man can live off Mac n’ Cheese for a long time if that is all he has.
Two months down the road and the money was getting thin. About the same time Seattle had brought in
a tunnel digging machine for a seventeen mile project. Big Babe, they called her. Five mother fucking
Well, I knew a good thing when I saw it so I went to the library and used their computers to apply for a job,
and boy-all-mighty, it wasn’t but a few weeks when I got a call to help get them out of a jam. I guess the Big
Babe had broken down and they needed an expert to climb down and have a look and then fix it. I gave
them a reasonable salary expectation and the gal on the other end laughed and then said that the
Department of Transportation didn’t negotiate salaries for labor positions; however their starting salary
was $5 an hour more than I had asked for.
Jesus-Joseph and Mary! No wonder the government is broke and taxes are so high, with salaries like
that you’d think they were doing post graduate work in dirt digging!
First thing I noticed when I got to the job site was three guys standing around watching one guy do all the
work. Sure enough, they were union. Since rent was due and I had groceries to get I ignored all that. The
site manager was a prick; I saw that right up front. Pointing his finger at me when he was jaw-jacking about
how I was late.
I’m not usually scared of heights but that Big Babe was one large momma. Me and the boss-man were
talking options about how I’d get down in the recover pit they had dug in front of her. We were standing on
top of the big wheel looking down into the hole when out of nowhere a gust of wind came off Elliot Bay.
This guy almost fell off. Problem is he saved himself by grabbing me. I took two steps back but the second
step was thin air. I fell quickly, but I still had time to think about how big the cutting blades looked from this
I don’t remember hitting the ground. Only waking up and sitting there for a bit in a fog. I felt like I was
going to puke for a second and then I heard a popping sound, like how it sounded when that jack-ass
dentist pulled my wisdom teeth. The queasiness got stronger, like being sea sick. And then I stood up.
The sensation was immediate.
First the pressure on my eyes, then my ears popped and then it felt like I was 20 feet under water. My
entire body was being squeezed. As I took my first step, it felt like my feet were weighted down with wet
mud, heavy to lift and sloppy on the landing. I didn’t want to go any further but something was pulling me. A
curiosity- or was it more of a push?
When I looked up towards the entry where Big Babe was, I could see the famous blue sky of Seattle,
visible beyond waves of heat lifting out of the crevasse, it was behind me now rather than above. Looking
back down the hole I could see something in the distance, it shimmered yellow, orange and red. There
was a steady draft coming from that same location, hot like the San Diego sun. A wretched smell of wet
dog and musty decay made breathing a challenge; the odor resonated in sinuses and the back of my
throat. I pulled the collar of my tee shirt over my nose and mouth, which only worked a little so I eventually
gave up trying.
After a while the pressure on my body relaxed some. I couldn’t tell if I had simply adjusted to it or maybe
moved beyond the maximum threshold and entered the other side, whatever that might be.
I moved forward one slow step at a time. Initially it was like walking blindly into a darkened room, arms
out to feel for something solid, and then remembered that I had been wearing a headlamp in anticipation
of having a look at the front side of the Babe to see if I could find out why she had stopped. I turned it on
and the beam was limited to a few yards in front of me. Beyond that it fell dense and obscured anything
behind it so I made an effort to mostly point the light at the ground, watching for trip hazards and holes.
Up to this point, I didn’t see any surface on the side, how big was this place? But now deep pockets on
the walls were visible, where the hot glow in front of me cast shadows. My footing no longer was sloppy,
each step crunched under my weight like walking on a bed of sea shells. I picked up a handful and
strained to see it and was reminded of when I scattered the ashes of my father in the Puget Sound a
decade earlier. I thumbed the pieces and then with horror dropped it- was that a finger joint?
I shook off the image and wiped my hands on my pants. I turned around to look for the entry but it was
“I should go back.”
But instead I continued down towards the light, sweat stinging my eyes and dripping from my chin.
The descent shifted to an obvious path. Like the lava tubes at Mount St. Helens, it narrowed for a stretch
and then opened to an elbow or a room and then narrowed again. I was able to place both my hands on
either side for a moment. It felt sharp and ridged. I shined the light on the wall and it looked like bubbles
that had burst but left half the bubble in the rock. When I touched one, I was overwhelmed with a torrent of
images. I felt it like weight on my chest, difficult to breath, but also broken spiritually. It pulsed through me,
one moment of darkness, the next euphoric. I tried to pull away but that seemed to strengthen the effect.
I fell to my hands and knees, gasped for air and then stood up quickly, brushing away brittle chunks that
had gouged my knees.
“I should go back.”
I paused and listened. Beyond my breathing there was a vibration. Then I noticed that when my mouth
was closed my teeth buzzed. It was mild, but definitely there. When I opened my mouth it stopped, closed
it again, the vibration.
“Just keep your mouth open, idiot!”
The thing is- I don’t know if I said that or I heard it.
The sound of my voice was muted. Strange, I expected an echo. I looked towards the bright light at the
end again and it was closer than I recalled. Another half hour or so and I’d be there.
Moving forward became a challenge, like walking in deep sand. One step forward, half a step back. I
kicked something that skipped across the ground and then bounced off the wall. It sounded like it
shattered. I shined a light towards the sound and swear I saw a jaw bone. My mouth was dry and tongue
stuck to the roof of my mouth.
Fuck that! It’s just an illusion- move on, you pussy!
I moved as quickly as I could past it and then felt silly when I looked at it from another angel and saw that
it was just a rock.
When I turned back towards the light, I was there. The sound was unbearable, but I wasn’t allowed to
cover my ears with my hands, I tried but my arms wouldn’t move. The lamp on my head burst and then
blood tricked down my face from the shattered glass that stuck out of my forehead and the top of my nose.
I heard laughing, then crying behind the fire, a bone chilling shriek below my feet. My thighs were wet
And then I fouled myself.
“I should go back.”
But I knew I wouldn’t. I stepped up onto the lip of the doorway. The brightness hurt my eyes at first. I
looked back down the path I had taken, the yellow and red light flickered off the ceiling and floor.
Embedded into the walls were skulls and limbs. The sand of the floor was made of shredded bones. I
looked towards the rock that I had thought was a jaw. The top of the skull that I had kicked lay next to it.
When I turned back towards the light, heat and screams, I was no longer standing at the doorway. I was
inside the tomb, above the liquid mantle, embedded into the placenta, only able to move my head and
The ego was gone, there is no more me. I only understood that I had been an asshole and now have to
relive the lives of the people I tormented.
|About R. Todd
R. Todd Fredrickson's
novel Brothers of the Sun
and Moon releases late
Summer 2016 in
paperback and e-book
formats. He is currently
working on his second
book a compilation of
short stories White
Salmon- and other stories.
|To read other short stories,
click one of the titles below.