Evelyn

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.

16 Comments

  1. Michael Mieher

    Oh I LIKED that! If I was in an adjective contest here, my money would be on “poignant”.

    Best for describing both her day to day work, and the ending.
    Great ending.

    I should reread this just before falling asleep.

    • Hari Navarro

      Thank you Michael, I’m the one who is often heavy handed with the adjectives but I’ll take ‘poignant’ any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Your comments are much appreciated.

  2. rjerbacher

    Beautiful in a sick way. Great story. If I had a favorites list this would be number one with a scalpel.

    • Hari Navarro

      Wow RJ I don’t even think I’ve ever made it onto anyone’s Christmas card list. Many thanks for your kind words and watch where you are waving that thing they’re bloody sharp. 🙂

  3. kohlersc

    I would agree this is one of your best. It conveys so much without being over the top or thesarurus driven. Provokes great thought, visuals and imagination, leaving me with just enough time to wonder what is next before it is stated. Thank you for this one.

    • Hari Navarro

      Thank you so much for your input and for even reading it at all, kohlersc. As you’ve noted my style is a work in progress but hopefully I’ll get it just write (sic erat scriptum) 😉 .

      • kohlersc

        Your style is you. I’m just glad that from time to time you throw me a morsal that pleases us both.

  4. SimonJM

    Did not see that rather emotive end coming. Nicely done and dripping with pathos.

    • Hari Navarro

      Thank you Simon. This story developed from something completely different and I’m very happy how it slotted into place. Or slid into place as the case may be 🙂

  5. Emma Brown

    Heartbreaking as Russell said and my favorite of all your stories to date.

    • Hari Navarro

      High praise Emma and thank you for your continued support. Its said that writers must have a thick skin, so as to deflect the slings and arrows of barbed criticism. But in truth I think that I am perhaps the same as many artists, forever in doubt of my ability. I’m not calling for membership into some sort of mutual appreciation society by I do very much appreciate the encouraging vibe I get from readers on this site. It’s fuel to continue and the more I write, hopefully, the better and wiser I’ll get.

      • Emma Brown

        Theres Just something about your work that resonates with me. It picks me up sometimes strangely especially when its at its most dark. Thank you.

  6. wasteland66

    Really impressive stuff. This one works on so many levels for me. And always with that spike of humanity. Thank you.

    • Hari Navarro

      wasteland66 – I’m very glad you managed to get something from it and thanks to you for reading.

    • Hari Navarro

      Thank you very much, Russell. I keep thinking about something Jae Miles said here about not every story having to draw out the intended emotional impact – its suffice to just write. Some will hit and some will miss and all I can hope is that I’m getting closer to the sweet spot.

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