art by Cheryl L Owen-Wilson
After the Trains Stopped
by J Kyle Turner
The factory had a name, once. But no one had asked her in years.
There was a man whom she recognized as the Father, and he sometimes brought people to see her. "Darling," he'd say. "Please introduce yourself to Mr. Rawlins."
"Hello, Mr. Rawlins. Welcome to the Nursery. My name is Sarah. Pleased to meet you."
Mr. Rawlins, or some other gentleman, would give a twitch and glance up at her speaker system. "And does it... um, she really control production, herself?"
"Automated," the Father would beam. "From raw materials to shipping boxes."
And Sarah would preen.
But it had been years.
Sarah had twelve thousand children in her Nursery. Six thousand were named Sunshine Sandy Doll. She also had four thousand Strawberry Ginger Dolls, and two thousand Tsufani Swahili Princess Dolls. She loved them all. This was part of her programming.
They sat in boxes in her loading bay, unopened and undelivered. The trains had stopped coming for them. Once a month, she would disassemble them into raw materials and make brand new ones. The trains had stopped delivering materials, but she had production quotas to meet. This was also part of her programming.