Rob Does Words
Treating fiction poorly since 2019


The factory floor looked exactly like what you'd expect a factory floor to look like, especially in this town. A layer of unidentifiable dust covered almost half of the machines, the other half were idling softly, but not doing anything obvious. Half a dozen people stood around a single bench in the middle of the floor, talking among themselves quietly. They were mostly immigrants, each speaking a rather butchered version of English. None of them were paying any particular attention to the machines. Sealed buckets that could have been work sat nearby, also coated by the ever present dust.

The only sign of work came from an office across the far side from the entrance. The entire wall that separated this office from the factory floor was glass and behind it a figure was sitting at a desk, their back to the glass, tapping away on what looked like a cutting edge computer from 1996.

A door which led somewhere else opened and swung in on well oiled hinges and two more people walked in.

“George,” one of them said with authority, but in a tone that was genial. “Got you a newbie to sort out,” he indicated the young woman next to him who was looking around the office – which was too big for one person – with distinct interest.

“Sure, Pete, no worries. Take a seat, newbie, I’ll be right with you,” George said without turning around, or altering the pace of his typing.

“Oh, ok,” the girl said, taking one of the other office chairs that were packed around the walls of the room.

Pete rifled through a folder in his hands, took out a few pieces of paper and plopped them next to George’s keyboard. The typing man looked at them and then spun on his chair. “Her name is Christina, she’s a new worker for the floor,” Pete said.

George spun to face the girl and leapt off the chair to his feet. “Tina!” he shouted, throwing his hands up.

“I prefer Chris,” the girl said.

“Never used to,” George said. “It always used to be Tina. And it was always Sty to me.”

“Sty,” Pete said, rolling the word around his mouth. “You guys know each other?”

“No,” the girl said.

“Long time ago,” George replied, smiling.

“Well, I’ll let you get reacquainted, shall I? Oh and do something about those idiots out there will you? They're just sitting around talking.”

“Sure, Pete. Thanks.”

The girl stood and eyed George suspiciously as Pete left and took a big step towards him as the door closed behind the other man. “Why do you always have to be so damned annoying?”

“It’s good to see you too. Come on, I have to show you what’s what,” he grinned as he led her out to the courtyard behind his office.

“What are you doing here?” she asked him suspiciously.

“Working. What are you doing here?”

“Working,” she said.

George stopped and sighed. “Come on. Let’s have a seat over here,” he pointed to a picnic table which had a ratty umbrella standing over it. “Let’s talk about work.”

Neither of them said anything as they sat. George spread the papers that Pete gave him out on the picnic table and eyed them with fake interest, waiting for her to speak. “Fine,” she said eventually. “What are you doing here?”

“Same as you, I suppose. Watching. Waiting.”

“When did you get here?”

“Few years ago. When shit started going downhill. It was actually a coincidence. I moved here after everything that happened, you know, just to get away from everything back home, and then everything here started to go haywire. I stuck around to see why.”


“Did Ryan send you?”

“He probably would have. He disappeared soon after you did. No one knows where or why. One day he was just gone.”

“Probably for the best, huh? He wasn't the straightest of us.”

“Matter of opinion.”

George rolled his eyes as she smirked. “You always know how to wind me up, Sty.”

“Ah,” she said pointedly. “About that. Some things have changed since you moved. Sty isn't a name I use anymore. Neither is Tina.”

George raised an eyebrow and shuffled in his seat uncomfortably. “What happened?”

“Nothing really dramatic. Just some of those,” she paused. “Features have gone. They weren't needed anymore, so they sort of fell away.”

“So, Sty and Tina ...” he searched for the words.

“Don't exist anymore. Like I said, I prefer Chris.”

“That kind of explains why you took a few minutes to recognise me.”

“The names tripped everything back into place for me.”

Chris was about to say something more when one of the immigrant workers approached George and asked him something in quick, accented English. George sighed and slowly talked the man through some, what Chris would consider simple, tasks. The man walked away slowly and Chris would swear black and blue that he was still unsure as to what he was expected to do.

“Sorry about that, your new coworkers leave a lot to be desired. I recommend you at least try to do the same. This place is one of the affected areas.

Chris perked up at the mention of something odd. “Affected like back home?” she asked.

“I guess in a general sense,” George shrugged. “Something odd is going on here, but there's nothing specific that relates to what went down then.”

“I sense a but.”

“There isn't much that makes sense about what’s going on here. It’s like the town is dying, but no one can see it.”

The girl leaned back and considered this. “A dying town and now the two of us.”

“Wait, hold on,” George started. “You're not here because of the weird shit?”

“Nope. Left home like you.”

“Which means you being here is the exact opposite of a coincidence.”

“So that means what exactly?”

“We get to do all of that shit that almost ruined our lives again.”

The two almost smiled at each other, but it never quite started.

Somewhere on the other side of town, a large house burned. The fire licked into the sky and the smoke drifted down the street, thick and black. It had been burning for months now and no one had said anything about it. Behind the flames, the house itself could be glimpsed, with not a scratch on its 50s era weatherboards.