I arrived home an hour after my normal time. This threw my routine off and left me feeling a little angry. With each passing day I was fortunate to grow older I relied more on routine like an anchor.
My landlady peeked out of her apartment when she heard me coming up the stairs. “Rent’s due,” she croaked.
I shrugged my shoulders. Not once had I not paid on time. In fact, I usually paid a day early. “I will drop it off tomorrow morning as usual,” I said and walked into my apartment. My tiny apartment was still cold since it didn’t have the extra hour to warm up. I turned up the heat and walked into the kitchen to fix me something to eat.
A little canned meat with some potatoes and some water was my feast for the evening. But since I was eating later than usual I opened another can. I knew I would regret eating so much in one meal since I only had enough to last me until the next payday but I was hungry and not thinking clearly.
After I finally started feeling the effects of the food I could start thinking again. I thought of Elliot and his warning. It seemed a little needless. Even though the HUB had monopolized our lives no one seemed to trust it. Ever since it became the regulating force there was always a black shadow on it. I, for one, assumed they were up to no good. Though I never vocalized it. But now Elliot’s warning seemed to shine a light on my foreboding.
For one thing, the company never allowed communication between the departments. Clerical didn’t associate with the miners. Miners were not allowed to fraternize with clerical. And heaven forbid if the chemists were found anywhere near any clerical or miners. We all worked in our own departments doing our own thing. The dots never connected.
Years ago when I first started the set up bothered me. I craved human interaction and I tried to make that happen. But after a few disciplinary meetings I learned to accept my lot and play by their rules. I no longer questioned things. I just showed up.
Maybe that’s all that Elliot meant. Maybe he was just tired of the lack of communication.
But somehow I doubted it. Whatever he was trying to communicate with us he died in his efforts and we would never know. I shook my head as if to clear my thoughts. I turned on the television for the noise and sat down in my recliner. Anytime thoughts of the bus ride surfaced I turned up the television to drown out my thoughts. I did this a few times without thinking about how loud the sound was getting until my landlady knocked on the wall and I turned the sound down again.
I walked to the window and opened it to let the cold air come in. Maybe the fresh air would prevent me from dwelling on Elliot. I breathed in deeply and started coughing from the cold polluted air and shut the window.
How could things possibly be worse than they appeared to be? I thought over and over again. Why would he risk his life to tell us something we already understood to be true deep in our hearts. We all did understand that, didn’t we? Surely everyone did since I – a simple miner – did.
I fell asleep and dreamed I was stranded on a deserted island all alone with no hope of rescue.