Lynn Viehl (Paperback Writer) has recently started “Just Write” Thursdays, which are pretty much what they sound like: write something, post online by midnight, link. http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com/2014/05/just-write.html
(Which means no editing. Which means this is going to be first-draft-tacular and epically info-dumpy.)
But I’ve been feeling really stalled with the pre-writing for The Gears that Grind. So I decided just to jump in, get into Sally’s head, and see what she’s up to.
Sally didn’t hear the watchman until he was nearly upon her.
She’d slipped into the factory to hide, and had nearly fallen asleep despite the din. Her ears had gotten used to it, she supposed; she’d had her first job in one at five, slithering beneath the machines after stray bits of scrap, where even an older child wouldn’t be able to fit.
Twelve years later, and most of the machines were run by clockwork. Machines didn’t make mistakes, they didn’t drop scraps. Just one reason for more and more factory owners to convert.
Clockwork didn’t see so it didn’t need light,and the high windows that had once let in the sun had been boarded up to keep out saboteurs. So the watchman (half guard against those same saboteurs, half maintenence man) was moving by lamplight, walking quickly among the rows.
As a child, Sally’d been good at finding places to poke into. As a young woman, she remembered them. And last night (or was it still night; Sally had no idea how long she’d dozed) when a group of young men drunk on cheap gin had taken to the streets, she’d come in here to hide.
Not that anyone would believe that, if she was caught.
Sally pushed herself up into a crouch, and dug her bare toes into the ground, fighting the impulse to make a run for it. She doubted she’d get far; she hadn’t eaten since the day before she’d come in to hide, whatever that had been. There was at least one locked door between her and the dubious safety of the streets.
If she was caught, she’d be hung for a thief or a saboteur. Far from her years of work getting her mercy, they’d be the evidence that sent her to the gallows. The factory owners protected their investments.
The best reason to go clockwork,, of course, was that machines didn’t have to be paid.
The factory Sally was hiding in — the one where she’d worked most of her life — had gone over to machines just after Christmas. It was summer now, and Sally’d had no luck in finding another position. There were plenty of white men wanting the too-few jobs; they took one look at her and turned her away.
Even being white and a man was no guarantee, she knew; her uncle George, her mother’s uncle, hadn’t worked since the day the workmen came to convert the factory. He and his wife and their six were sharing a room with two other families.
For a moment, she had a vision of herself darting out, grabbing the watchman’s lamp, and throwing it into the gears. After years of doing the work, she knew exactly where it would do the most damage, and if they were going to hang her as a saboteur, she might as well be one.
Two things stopped her; she would probably fail, and she might succeed.
She could imagine, too vividly, the kerosene splashing on the wood, taking the fire with it. And though she imagined she would enjoy seeing the machines burn, there was nothing to stop it from spreading to the tenement that backed up next to it. Families, like her Uncle George’s, lived there.
No need to be desperate, she told herself. Not yet.
(Copyright Kit Russell, 2014. This is first draft, unedited work.)