Cackling

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I'm surprised, a bit skeptical and it shows. What is he going on about?

"Who's doing what?" I say cautiously.

"Oh my," he says, "I would have thought someone with your talent... So you don't know anything, then?"

Grandpa's starting to get on my nerves. "Maybe I'll know something if you explain what you're talking about," I say. Calm down. Be nice to your coworkers. It's your first day.

Dave takes a long hit on his cigarette and just look at me in a cloud of smoke for a while. He's thinking this over.

"OK," he says after a while. "A few things, though: you can't say I didn't warn you, you can't come to me for help and you can't make fun of me."

He seems shadier by the minute. "That seems fair," I say.

"OK, so you know how the world is made of lines and forces and it resonates and all..." He looks at me for confirmation. I can't bring myself to nod.

"Anyway, that's not what I want to talk about," he says. "It's just... I thought I had found a nice situation for once... But for the last few months, the energy of this place has been way off. Particularly the factory and the mountain, but I also mean the whole town. It's on a scale I've never seen before. And it's getting worse."

"Hm," I say. Stay polite, but don't encourage him. "And what might be causing this... bad energy, in your opinion?"

"That's where it gets tricky," he says. His cigarette must be half-cinder now, but he doesn't care anymore. "It's not random. It's not blind. It doesn't feel like a thing or a force of nature so much as an entity. But girl, if it is someone..."

He raises his hands into the universal gesture for 'I caught a fish this big'. "If what's causing that is an entity, it's at the level of an evil god."

OK, I knew it. He's not just a nut-job, it must be some kind of new cult. That's what the drunks from last night were talking about, right? He's coming, he's gonna eat you? It's my fault, too. What was I expecting from the local retiring poop cleaner?

My opinion must have shown on my face, because he insists. "I knew it: you can't see what's happening. You can't because you're like me. Different. Unaffected. We're a special kind, you and I."

"OK, I'm gonna have to stop you there," I say. "I promised I wouldn't make fun of you, but I didn't say I would help you test your pick-up lines. So maybe you put back your heart in your pocket, Dave, and we get to work."

"OK, new girl, whatever," he says, shrugging. "Maybe you're not ready to hear this. As long as you remember rule number two..."

I'm not sure I want to know what he's on about anymore. In the corner near the entrance, there is a couple shovels and an old locker. I grab a shovel.

"...which is not asking me for help once you find out the truth," he continues. "Hey, you're gonna want the industrial rubber gloves with this."

As I just stare back at him, annoyed, he adds: "In the locker." I open the locker door, grab a pair of gloves hanging there and put them on. They're bright green and go up to the elbows. Perfect.

I can go to the other end of that narrow building and work without hearing bullshit all the time now. I continue ignoring him as I make my getaway, all focused on my shovel like a good employee.

"Well, fuck you, OK?" he shouts from his end, realizing he's not gonna get a rise out of me anymore. What a lovely old man.


* * *


A covering of shit and thousands of feathers stuck in it. We're basically shoveling all that into a big pile in the center of the room. I guess we'll follow up with wheelbarrows or something. I hope we're not just dumping that in the mountain, even thought it's probably not the worst fertilizer you can find.

I don't know if that's the way chicken usually live before they're all chain-murdered, but even if I did eat meat, I think I would ease on the wings for a few weeks.

All the while, it's such a storm outside that being in the crap den feels like a blessing. Hail is playing its 'insane drummer on the roof' melody again. From the fenced windows, waves of cold wet wind attempt to freeze me to the bone, without much effect given how much I've warmed up shoveling. It's a pretty good workout, I guess. Yay summer.

The storm lets up by the end of the morning, leaving everything damp and dripping. We're almost done shoveling the dung-castle into shape when a loud bell rings, sounding like someone hitting a pan with another pan at a very fast pace. I turn towards Dave, who I've stopped systematically avoiding since he no longer tries talking.

"Lunch," he says, succinct. I may have to apologize.

While we put the shovels aside, I try connecting back with him. "Listen, Dave?" I say. "I'm sorry I snapped this morning, I was just getting really uncomfortable, you were, um, pretty intense."

"I can take it," he says, unfazed. I haven't won him over yet. Me and my attitude, seriously. How can I be so meek in some situations and so pig-headed in others?

"I'm sorry," I say.

He lightens up a bit. "Yeah, I know. You're not the first person to tell me that I talk to much." He lets out a sigh, looks at me in the eyes and holds out his hand.

"Let's make peace?" he says.

I look at his hand, still covered in a grimy glove, and can't help laughing. "I'm all for peace," I say, "but I'll skip the handshake."

We drop the gloves and shovels where we took them.

"So, lunch," I say, pressing onward, "is there any kind of catering around here?"

Dave bangs his shoes against the entrance in an attempt to make them cleaner. I've honestly given up. Caked in poo I am, caked in poo I will stay. I hope they got showers.

"Well," he says, "there is corporate catering where they serve you industrial chicken all year round, usually with frozen fries."

I screw up my nose. That's not an option.

"Or there is a fast-food shack about one mile down the road, the kind that trucks stop at," he says. "It's not good, but more... diverse?"

I nod. "I remember seeing the place. I'll go with that. You coming with?"

"Can't hurt to have a decent walk," he says. "I need to stretch my back."

When we cross the metal fence and walk onto the road, I hear that low rumble again. Well, it might just be my stomach.

Really, who cares?


* * *


Isn't that Deb getting dangerously aloof? We know something's deeply wrong with it all, though. Come on Deb. Wake up!

Thanks for reading, please share this chapter if you liked it: the more people tell me what's good and what's not, the more I might give you chapters you like :)

See you Sunday!

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