On day three of a sacred routine, Mae dabs four globs of WD-40 on their forehead, nose, and chin, and thinks: THIS IS ME NOW. They scrub into a thick lather. They rinse. They pat dry with a microfiber towel like the internet tells us all to do. And because the towel is slightly out of reach and therefore difficult to find behind closed eyes and with water trickling down their neck, the routine is dead by day four.
M.A.E conjures up a bathroom with green ceramic tile, sink, toilet, and tub. Above the vanity, in lieu of a mirror, hangs a tiny oil painting: a bathroom with blue ceramic tile, sink, toilet and tub. M.A.E doesn’t sense the difference between hot and cold, so water streaming from the faucet feels like nothing. M.A.E pumps out two, three, four globs of La Mer cleansing foam, then draws a blank. Even in an imagined world, twenty-three dollars worth of product still oxidizes in the palm of a hand.
Once Mae’s sacred routine diminishes, so do other parts of their life: iron supplements leave a metallic taste behind / the train ride into the office takes seven extra minutes / they trip up familiar steps that suddenly seem taller / the machine stops responding to their touch / a coworker won’t respond to // they can’t read more than two lines of code before // they stop forming full // can M.A.E feel ?//
A low-level buzzing like a fly on the outside of a windowpane keeps M.A.E from deep sleep. She’s not bothered, since deep dreams are volatile and violent. Metaphorical eyelids flutter awake, refreshed. M.A.E recites a private mantra, mutters a string of numbers, then buries it within. This morning’s tiny painting above the green bathroom vanity says: Better Every Day! M.A.E carefully takes a dime-sized amount of La Mer cleansing foam and swipes it across her ideal face.
The Factory Man ingests enough microplastics (within tolerance) and will carry a Little Factory Boy made of amorphous compound, a precious sack of inorganics. When the boy is ready, he’ll emerge slathered in the chalky debris of runoff catches and screeching amongst machinery, born fluent in polymer language (god willing). A worker who used to be a nurse might dust him off and swaddle him in a Company t-shirt, may murmur something unintelligible before presenting him to waxen, frowning new father. The boy will grow up playing hide-and-seek between lathes, learn to read from system screens, snack on sweets dusted in resin and milk pumped through hot PVC. Father tells him: back in the old days we choked down glass to see clearly (and whatever happened to clarity?).
Once grown, Factory Boy will inherit his job from his father, because (though unqualified) he’ll show naturally refractive properties. Time slows as it passes through his synthetic skin, breaks into pieces off the curve of his spine (which benefits overall production numbers). In multiple timelines, more work can get done. So even if Factory Boy says things like: EEEERRRK and REEEEEE and SSSRRRR, his contributions will speak for themselves. Imagine fully formed objects, flying from the conveyor belt (protective eyewear, riot gear, scuba masks, bullet-resistant shields, and transparent lego pieces, among other things). They’ll pile high towards corrugated ceilings. Finally (inevitably) buried in this unprecedented output, old father Factory Man, now cracked and yellowing, will peer through endless layers of plastic and smile upon his son’s distorted image.