Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer

Catherine Jenkins has worked on the dissection floor for many years but has not once considered the gory nature of her job. Nobody here does.

Humanix is a huge corporation and this factory is surely one of its largest. Multi-storied, perpetually filling holding pens in which the doomed are drawn to stare at an irresistible light. An anaesthetising flash that stuns but does not kill. Carcasses that are then fed onto a massive conveyor, ever so carefully laid out, so as not to bruise the flesh.

Catherine’s work station is one of many that branch off of this main belt, she operates a lever which opens a gate, a sluice into which a single body slides. A stainless steel cradle that splits at its end. An inverted V that parts the legs and perfectly positions the body.

The legs are first to go, they’re inspected and branded with a code that both grades their condition and labels them as part of a set. Catherine, scalpel in hand, then expertly scoops each from its socket and the detached limbs are wrapped and elevated to the shipping floor above.

The same process is repeated for the arms. Then, the cap of the skull is removed and the brain excised and discarded and the cavity thoroughly cleaned.

The remaining body components are rendered down into pet-food. Pets are of prime importance. In fact, employees are allocated 5kg of raw product should they wish to supplement their mandatory pets’ diets with unprocessed fresh meat. It adds to the sheen of their coats.

Catherine Jenkins knows that she is a synthetic. She knows that these creatures she butchers were, once, the most advanced level of intelligence the planet had ever known. But she does not know why their civilization fell and she has no idea why she does not care. She is grateful for her job, and for the way her cat pushes back against her fingertips and for the music – the human words that flow over her as she stands at her station and cuts.

A week ago the body of a young female slotted down into the chute. Catherine hummed as she snipped away its filthy clothes and hosed it down and disinfected its skin.

“Perfect”, she says as she stamps and detaches the legs.

But her smile turned to a frown as she saw a tiny tattoo at its heel – Evelyn.

“Ruined”, she scolds tossing it into the waste.

The body moves. It’s not uncommon to see spasms, the stun doesn’t always entirely take hold but this is different. An undulation from inside of its stomach. Catherine makes an incision and peels back a doorway of flesh.

A baby, again not uncommon, but there is no way that it should be alive. She places the child in a stainless steel bin and, nonchalantly, continues with the remainder of her shift.

She has no idea why she bundles the child into a specimen bag and weighs it and signs it out as her weekly allowance.

Nor why she takes it home and washes and feeds it the milky sludge that the company provides to nurture her compulsory pets.

Catherine names the child Evelyn and, although she remains indifferent at her work, she cannot now wait to come home of an evening.

The child is changing her. She feels it.

Today Catherine came home and she walked to the cot she’d made from a box. Evelyn is cold and blue and she lifts the tiny human and hugs it close at her neck and she thinks, that if she could, she’d cry.