Author : Grady Hendrix

Stevenson walked down Corridor J-12 and a rustle went through the living quarters. Stevenson was coming! Stevenson was on his way! Stevenson! Stevenson! He turned the corner at Junction J-12/J-13 and the first thing that hit him was the marshy smell of flatulence, followed by the briny odor of stagnant urine. Up ahead of him was the end of the line. When the women at the back saw him they fell to their knees, palms upturned, foreheads on the deck. Stevenson pulled on his gas mask, never breaking his stride.

He followed the line down corridor J-13 for nearly half a mile and as he went the women fell to their knees. As he approached the facility more and more of them wore homemade filter masks, nose clips, even scraps of cloth tied over their faces, anything to cut the stench. Their eyes were red and watering, their stomachs swollen and distended, their foreheads carried fading bruises from the last time Stevenson had passed their way.

A contingent was waiting for him at the door to the facility.

“Stevenson, you have come!” the leader said.

They presented him with their offerings.

“Show me the problem,” he said.

And they opened the door and led him into the public toilet.

When the vast starship New Hope left Earth 20 years ago, it rapidly became apparent that some genius had thought of everything – artificial gravity, entertainments, education – except toilets. The commanding class had personal chemical toilets in their quarters, but for the 40,000 people in the general berths there were communal facilities and they had built the exact same number for men as they had for women. That is to say: not enough. And so they kept breaking, getting clogged, overflowing from overuse. Man’s great expedition to colonize the stars and they were up to their knees in their own shit and piss. In a situation like this, who becomes the most important man on the ship? The plumber.

It had been easy enough for Stevenson to get rid of the other two plumbers over the years. Airlock accidents. A plunging machine run amuck. Those two men were thought of as heroes who gave their lives in service to humanity but Stevenson was the ship’s only hope. He knelt in the dirty chemical backup from the toilet and he sent the women out while he arranged his tools and he thought about the baby in his wife’s belly back in their enormous suite. His chosen successor.

They were 30 years from their destination and by the time they landed, the Stevensons would be the most important humans alive and no one would quite remember why. Outside the door he heard the line of women begin to sing a hymn in his praise. Stevenson took his plunger and began to churn it in the bowl and he smiled to himself. So this is what it felt like to become a God.

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