Day 27: The Worst Engine

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.”

Sounds nice.”

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.

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