The clock struck 3 just as Larita moved her last batch of assembled parts onto the conveyor belt.
She dried the sweat from her brow with the back of her sleeve. In front of her, the metal counter tallied the last of her work. She’d just completed her quota of 1,500 filter parts two hours earlier than normal.
Removing her gloves , she pressed her right palm against the screen of the counter, allowing it to read her pattern of blood vessels in order to properly identify her so she could sign off on her work.
If she hurried, she could grab her jacket from the staff lounge, an empty room with a window and several coat racks, and make it by payroll to get her payment.
One of the best things about her plant was that they paid daily. It was the only thing that attracted potential employees. The location was horrible, the management poor, the work mind numbing, and the hours long.
With her jacket in one hand, Larita extended her right arm into the reader so her palm and wrist lay flat against the glass.
“Leaving early, today?”
Larita didn’t know why the exit attendant even bothered to speak to any of them. No one really knew anyone else’s name and very few cared to even ask.
Make parts and live clean. That was the unspoken manifesto of the workplace.
“Yeah, I have to move today apparently.”
She wasn’t sure why she offered the information. The comment didn’t seem to thaw the glassy look of the attendant’s eyes.
Larita watched as the machine read and registered her the patter of her blood vessel framework. It pulled up her account and deposited the payment the day’s wages–10 ounces of clean water.
She quickly walked toward the four-foot long imaging detector, noticing the attendant greet the next person with the same exact question. Larita shook her head. They were all drones.
It was hard to not feel numb most days when you were doing the same thing over and over again with no hope of something better.
But today was different. Today they’d finally found fresh water. That changed everything.
Larita released her hair from the tight bun that was standard for work, letting her dark hair fall over her shoulders.
She didn’t realize how many others were leaving work early until she was standing on the platform waiting for the shuttle, wondering if they felt just as anxious as she did at the thought of temporarily leaving their homes in Sector 7.
“Lost in thought?”
Larita turned to her right and was startled to see the tall woman in the red dress, smiling down at her from behind huge sunglasses. Everything about the woman was elegant. Next to her, she felt like a poorly dressed child. Up close the woman was so striking it took Larita a moment to realize she was staring.
She opened up her mouth, willing herself to speak, but nothing came out of her.
The woman was beautiful, but there was something unnerving about her, filling Larita with feelings of peradventure, making her think it was better to stay silent. A wide smile revealed perfect teeth and gave Larita chills.
Bells sounded and the platform began to vibrate as the train approached. The force of the train pushed air about the small metal platform, lifting Larita’s hair into her face. She brushed it aside, expecting to mutter goodbye to the woman, but the woman was gone.