Books are gentle companions. Usually.
Except for that one time I was just about murdered by books.
That was twenty years ago . . .
I didn't know what to do with my ... [+]
The sweets they pine for are not squeezed from the machine with stripes intact. No—they must be painted on, by hand, with so much care. It is almost unimaginable, the care.
My partner is a sweet turner. He holds the sweet and turns it. I apply the stripes. He is my partner. But also, we are in love.
We work and live in the Cormack Candy Factory. Our region is Green Region 3, where sweets are painted and nuts are shelled. At day's end, we sweep up the shells, lay down blankets, and sleep.
Mr. Cormack is a powerful man. He is a great and a terrible man. A generous man, as well. Without him, we would have nothing. Not even a floor on which to sleep.
He is like a magician, this Cormack. I have never before seen his face. I have heard his voice, and when I turned . . . there was nothing. Is his a pleasing or a nightmarish face? When I gaze at the intercom, I wonder.
One evening, after the sweeping-up . . .
I was returning my broom to the cabinet in Hall 7. At the end of the hall was a man. His back to me. A black suit, he wore. There were rumours of a black suit.
I moved forward—slowly.
He was admiring a painting, this man.
I proceeded. Feeling weak.
He was a few feet from me now.
And suddenly, he turned. Hearing my light tread, he turned. The man in the black suit turned.
I looked at his face. But I did not see his face. For he wore a mask. A jewelled mask.
I trembled. And quit the hall quickly.
In the past, it was my duty to paint one hundred sweets per day to keep my position. Now Mr. Cormack is insisting on two hundred.
My art is taxing. There is so little time. But if I cannot keep up, if I cannot continue to live and work in this factory . . .
I do not even want to dream of that.