Benjamin and Tul walked down the steps into the engine room. Benjamin first, with Tul warily glancing over his shoulder. When they reached the floor, they paused.
“You don’t have anything to worry about,” said Benjamin, “it’s not as if it can do anything to you.”
“I know that,” said Tul, “it just creeps me. I don’t like it.”
“It doesn’t like you either. That’s what we used to joke about.”
“‘course it doesn’t like me. It doesn’t like anything. It runs on hate.”
“And spite, and malice. There’s a lot of complex reactions going on in there but none of them are anything that you need to worry about.”
“Why did you bring me down here anyway?”
“Wanted you to see the thing for yourself. See there’s nothing to be worried about. It’s got no moving parts, can’t get at you in any way and is firmly bolted to the floor. No way for it to escape, even if it could. So you can stop worrying.”
“I’d be worrying less if I wasn’t right in front of the damn thing.”
“Careful with the language you use too. It likes foul language. The right phrase will make it glow a little brighter. Just enough to notice if you’re stood close and paying attention.”
“So you just wanted to scare me with it?”
“No, no. Got some things I need hefted up to the main deck and you’re the only hand I could find who’s not already busy with something more important,” Benjamin pointed a thumb at a pile of taped up boxes in the corner of the engine room, “old rags, mostly. Papers too. Stuff we’d have just burned in an old style engine, but we don’t have the luxury of that with this one. Need to haul it up top side and use it for the night braziers.”
“I can help with that. Not too heavy, are they?”
“Nothing you won’t be able to handle, no.”
“I’ll get to it then,” Tul nodded and set to work.
Half an hour later, he was down to just five boxes. “There was more than it looked like,” he said to Benjamin, “thought it wouldn’t take me more than ten minutes.”
“Aye, I stacked them well. Better than you loafers on deck are used to at the least.”
Tul nodded, breathing heavily, and wiped his brow with a rag, leaving a dirty smear. “Nearly done though. Let me have a breather down here? Then I’ll do the last five. If I wait ‘til I finish somebody have me straight onto something else before I catch my breath.”
Benjamin shrugged, “go ahead,” he said, “I’ve got five minutes before the next inspection needs doing.”
Tul sat on a box, leaning his arms on his knees whilst Benjamin took a bottle of water from a cabinet and passed it over to him.
“Thanks,” said Tul, taking the water and unscrewing the cap, his eyes fixed on the engine.
“It still can’t hurt you. Doesn’t have any power to do anything but move us forward and stop us when we need it to.”
“You say that, but it still creeps me every time I’m down here. Each time I come to get one of these boxes it’s like it’s looking at me. Like I can feel it watching me as I go around the room.”
Benjamin laughed, “watching you?” he said, “it’s got no eyes, Tul! Nothing to even watch with. You’ve got a lot of nonsense in your head.”
“That’s just what I said it feels like. Not that it was doing it. It’s just what it feels like is all.”
“Doesn’t make it true, Tul.”
“I know that. I’m not stupid enough to think otherwise. I know what it is.”
“Then I don’t know why it bothers you so. It’s not able to do anything except what we tell it.”
“I know all that!” yelled Tul, scowling at Benjamin, “it still creeps me! That’s all I’m saying! That’s all!”
Benjamin shrugged and took the water bottle from Tul and took a swig himself before offering it back. Tul shook his head. “I just dream about it sometimes,” he said, “and it can do things when it’s in my dreams.”
“Ah. Yeah, your dreams are different. It can do things in your dreams.”
“I thought you said it couldn’t do nothing to us?”
“It can’t. Your dreams are just your dreams, Tul. That’s just stuff you’ve got in your head. Thing used to creeps me too, and I got dreams about it, but that still didn’t make it able to do nothing. I knew that was the case and the dreams went away. I don’t get dreams any more.”
Benjamin nodded, staring at the engine.
“I’d get rid of the dreams too, if I could. Sure I’ll have some mighty ones after being down here with it for so long.”
“Nah,” said Benjamin, “You’ll be fine. Nearer you get to it the less it scares you; that’s true. You’ll wonder what you had to fear at all after a while. Give it enough time and you’ll see.”
“Enough time down here?”
“Enough time down here, aye.”
“I’ll see. Shifting boxes was easy enough I suppose.”
“Always got more boxes.”
“I’ll get these last ones out then. See what else I got to do.”
“You do that. I’ve got to take care of it now anyway.”
Tul lifted up another box and set off towards the steps up to the deck. He didn’t feel much better for his rest, and he still felt like the engine had eyes burning into the back of his head as he walked away.
That night, he still had dreams. Horrible things came out of the engine from hidden cracks and doors and windows and poured into his eyes and mouth and ears and he screamed. Somebody threw a shoe at him in bed and he woke up, covered in sweat.
“Just a dream, Tul. Dreams can’t do nothing to you,” came a voice from the darkness.