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Shaylen Maxwell

A Sweet Tale from the Candy Factory

He walks the scrap bin to the garbage and you follow.  You throw out the cardboard, he hits the button for the compress.  The vibrations reverberate through the floor.  The sickening stench of decaying chipmunks dipped in caramel fills the air.  It’s not the most romantic of all stenches, hardly, enough to put anyone out of the mood.  But you’re still attracted to him.  You must be ill.

“I have a sweet story to tell you,” he begins, with one of those devilish grins you cannot resist.  He’s pretty in that dangerous felon, Prison Break sort of way.  You peer over the edge, watching the metal vice compress the cardboard.  The dark, humid summer air makes you sweat. 

“What’s it about?” you ask.

He grabs you from behind, and shakes you.  You twitch and he laughs.  “It’s a true story,” he continues, returning his hands to the plastic cart.  He drags it back into the corridor and you follow.  He winds past the washing bay, the egg room, and the steps that lead up to the cooling belts and vats of nougat.  At the elevators, he opens the door, and you join him inside.  “It happened the other night.”

You were working then, weren’t you?  Of the late you’re always working--you have no life. 

“You weren’t here.” 

Hmm, must’ve been a night off, if he’s right about that.  Until today you didn’t think he’d even noticed you at all. 

“They had us cleaning.  Shut down the lines and everything...”

No, you weren’t here.  The last time they shut the lines down was early June.  That was the day you scrubbed the rubber belts with ninety-eight percent rubbing alcohol for eleven hours straight.  The fumes made your lungs ache.  You thought it would be the death of you.  Well, that and you’d sat up on the belts, against the advice of the wrap technicians who threatened to fire you.  You’d never disobeyed the rules like that before.  And you’d enjoyed it.  That’s why you like him: He breaks rules, and has no respect for authority.

“Who was on that night?”

“Melissa, the team lead.  You know her?  The perky one who assigns the most dreadful jobs and is always smiling about it.  As if to say, you’re going to hate this but grin anyway.” 

Did he have the hots for her?  She wasn’t pretty.  Not like you. 

“Yeah I know her,” you say.  Melissa was an aspiring chocolatier.  Even if she had a promising future in the sweet tooth industry, you still despised the bitch.  She gave you the very worst jobs, because you could be trusted to work diligently.  Like the day she made you spend five hours cleaning six month old dried egg whites from a vat.  In the egg room.  You don’t even need a very acute olfactory system to imagine how that might smell.  And you’ve always been quite the blood hound when it comes to your sniffer.  Reputably though, it was still a better job than picking out the expired peanuts.  That was one hell of a job.  Or sweeping chocolate in the mixing room: you sweat cocoa from your pores, apparently.  There were a lot of bad jobs here.  Nay, there were only bad jobs here. 

“I was working the pressure hose,” he continues, smirking yet again. 

He always asks to work the pressure hose.  You never elect to take that job, if you can help it, even if it's less offensive smelling than the others.  Scalding hot water scares you.  You’re quite a baby, in that respect.  He’s not though.  Not like you.  He doesn’t even wear safety boots.  Steel-toed are part of the mandatory dress code, sure, but he elects to wear sneaker boots.  They look like safety boots.  But they're not.  Yes, it’s stupid.  Certainly not a winning move, by any means.  But that ballsy gutless bravado makes you weak in the knees.  Sure, if his foot gets run over by the pump truck, he’ll probably never walk again...  Or rather, he’ll limp like a pirate with shattered bones, probably requiring multiple surgeries, and reconstruction for the next decade or two.  But, taking risks seems enviable to you.  Thrilling even!  Oh yes, leave it to you to be enamoured by reckless endangerment.

“Wasn’t it boring?” you decide to ask then, grasping for anything to say to show your enthusiasm for his story
“On the contrary,” he replies, the elevator doors opening as he steps back out onto the top floor.  “Eventful.”

Again you ask, “What happened?”  You wonder if the story was set in the washing bay, and that’s why he prefaced it with that.  What happened there?  Is he going to ask you out when he’s through?

“You know the break Nazi?”

Oh yes, you were the one who coined the name.  You like giving people nicknames, especially to the strangers who keep you company here, on the night shift.  The old woman, who spent all her breaks in the yard with a pack of cigarettes, she was the break Nazi.  If you were two minutes late, oh how she’d holler!  She didn’t like you, because you waited in the break room for him, and sometimes just to listen to him for a minute or two if your breaks didn’t overlap.  Usually you chose your breaks just so you could run into him.  You’re smooth.  Well, not really.  Usually he doesn’t even notice you.  You wish the Nazi would feel the same way.  You swear she’s plotting your demise, all on account of your reckless disregard for her smoker’s watch.  Was he working with her that night?

“You know her friend?”

Oh, the rat lady?  Ahem, the crazy rat lady.  You snicker but he doesn’t ask why.  He drops the cart near the skid of candy covered chocolates ready to be dumped into the bagging machine.  Break Nazi looms nearby, scowling.  She motions for you to come over.  You follow him.  She doesn’t hate him as much as she hates you. 

“Fold some boxes,” she orders.  Her voice is raspy.  You hope she’s getting lung cancer.  “The girls are running low.”

You look at the girls she's referring to.  Girls.  More like old ladies to you!  The ones who worked the second floor were lazy, usually middle-aged single mothers with teenagers at home asleep.  They got behind deliberately, so as to not get up off their ever widening behinds. 

He doesn’t mind being asked to make boxes, no, but you resent it.  You fold flaps with him, a tape gun in one hand, and an exact-o knife in the other.  “She had a fit about the rat traps again,” he continues, reaching the palette of boxes.  The rat traps?  Afraid so.  The factory--the spotless chocolate factory--had a serious infestation of rats.  It was a secret.  They got traps to counteract the problem.  The rats went around them.  It's pretty disgusting.  “She had some sort of hissy fit and requested to lie in the sick room.”  He makes a face and you grin.  God he's hot!  The sick room used to be a smoking area, until smoking by laws.  The Nazi remembered those days.

“What happened to her?”

“Nothing,” he continues. “But you know the thin guy?”

“Skeletor.”  Stupid you!  You weren’t supposed to say that aloud.  At least you didn’t slip and call him Danger Boy.  That’s what should be written on the laminated name tag on his bump cap, not his name, or last name.  Just Danger Boy.  You are so clever!  Danger Boy.

“You call him Skeletor?” he demands, folding down a flap, letting you tape it down.  He laughs and you nod.

“You are most unusual, you know that?”  You take this as a compliment.  Weirdness was rarely rewarded, but in a factory, it was nearly as fine a compliment as they come.  You're beyond flattered.  “You nickname everyone?” he asks next, setting the first finished box on the slick grey flooring.  You watch his feet.  Don’t tell him you call him Danger Boy, he’ll never ask you out.

“Some,” you lie.  He smiles.  Skeletor got his name on looks alone.  The boy looked like he was dying of a tapeworm.  Or worse!  And he never wore gloves.  When the lines overran last summer, you were stuck with him, pulling off the heavy slabs of nougat and caramel, thick like a roll of rug.  You pulled it off into a scrap bin that would later be recycled and reprocessed.  Except he had a cut on his arm.  And he was bleeding.  You watched it rub against the roll of nougat.  You said, and you remember this vividly, “Don't you need a Band-Aid?”  You couldn't help yourself.  He declined and you were beyond disgusted.  There was a girl he sometimes talked to, equally as gaunt and grotesque.  She was bruised though.  Emaciated.  But like from an illness, not an eating disorder.  You nicknamed her Skeletor’s Bride.  Yes, you make yourself giggle far too much, you should really stop that.

“Michael, ahem, Skeletor, was sweeping up on the third floor.”  Skeletor with a broom, well, at least you know the food wasn’t tainted.  “He got partnered up with that guy, you know the one who has the family, the tall, nice guy, who always works hard, keeps to himself.  Earl something.”

“Oh yeah,” you reply.  Yeah, you don’t call him Earl.  You call him Merlin.  Like a wizard.  No not a wizard. You suddenly can’t remember why you called him Merlin.  He’s just always been Merlin to you.  You’re not sure why his nickname, and thinking about his nickname, is remotely important to your train of thought. 

He sets another box down, cradled by the first, forming a stack to be slid up against the back wall.  “He was supposed to go home on backup.  He probably should’ve,” he says then.  “He moved, you know.  The commute is long and he was quitting.”  You throw him a look, preparing another piece of tape.  Your hands graze his this time.  He doesn’t notice, but your heart races.  “He could’ve gotten a few hours of rest in before his interview.  He couldn’t wait to get out of here.  Can you blame him?”

You shake your head.  You couldn’t.  Everyone here was waiting for the great escape.  Except unlike you, they didn’t have a post-secondary career to return to come September.  After all, factory work, as they say--those hollow folk with their bump caps and dirty coveralls--is like being comatose.  You go crazy after a while.  This is your second summer here.  You elect to go crazy, apparently.  You like the solitariness.  Even if your sixty hours a week leaves you unable to sleep, and eat--the chocolate stench making you gag, your pants were falling off you, and black swirls under your eyes.  You wept once too, at six am, your shoulder so sore from scrubbing.  You cried, with your head resting on the cooling tunnel.  And then they stuck you cleaning the plexiglass that contained the wrapping machines--for a full twelve hours.  Alone!  You pretended you were a window washer in New York city, high up, you might fall.  It got you smiling again.  You even gave yourself a name! 

“What does any of this prove?” he might ask. 

That you are indeed mental?  You sought this out.  And you did.  There was a story in it.  One day you’d set a story in a chocolate factory, or many.  It seems romantic to you.  Romantic?  Or dirty, gross, and a way to permanently be turned off of the holiday Halloween for the rest of your life.  Yeah, that too.  You just knew you’d end up here.  Just like you know that your future offspring will one day call a convict Daddy...  You just don’t know which convict yet. 

You help him finish two stacks of boxes before Break Nazi manoeuvres another skid of boxes from the elevator via pump truck.  She’s as uncoordinated as she is skilled at curbing her temper.  You think this might be the moment he gets his foot run over.  He doesn’t.  When she’s through, you ask him again what happens in the story.  You still don’t even know where it happened.  

“Right,” he says, as though he forgot.  “You know that girl?  The flirt?”  You know immediately who he’s talking about.  The whore.  You just call her Whore, because you don’t think she deserves a better nickname.  She lives off free packages of saltine crackers stolen from the cafeteria, walks around her with coveralls zipped low, and entertains herself by flirting with each and every engineer on the floor, including the one named Charlie who never showers, and wreaks like he’s taken a pine scented air freshener that should’ve hung around the rear view mirror of his car, and rubbed it against his stinky armpits to cover his abhorrent body odor.  Oh, indeed, if you told anyone about these people, just imagine the kind of backlash!  A chocolate factory, home to these freaks?  Charlie, in particular, was disgusting, vile like his deadly pine musty stink that permeated the floor whenever he was on shift.  And Whore actually hit on him.  Even if she was just paying for a drug problem, which, in addition to the pitiful diet, was what obviously kept her so thin.

“Angie,” he continues, a grin creeping across his lips.  You cringe.  You can’t help it.  Did he want her?  What if he was dating her?  If this is a story about how they fucked in the change rooms, you didn’t want to hear it.  And if she was already his girlfriend, whore girlfriend, you hoped she got fat too. 

“Yeah, Angie,” you prompt, hoping he’ll tell you fast and quick if he’s fucking her.

“She was with the forklift operator that night...”

Your relief is probably all too apparent, you can’t contain your grin.  You’re so pathetic!  “What’s the story about anyway?” you ask a third time, this time the agitation reads in your voice.  You’re growing frustrated.

Before he can say another word, the Nazi is back, demanding you take your break.  She asks you run by the cooling tunnels first, “The lines have been finicky all week,” she says.  She’s no expert.  But you relish the opportunity to walk through the plant, on the way to the lunchroom.  You’ll have more time to converse this way.  And he’ll finish the story.  Well, if he has a point.  Given his lack of common sense, you’re not sure the story has a point, but no matter, you still want to hear it.  You start down the steep metallic steps.  You grip the railing, just in case.  He doesn’t.  Your heart skips a beat.

“In order to understand the story, you have to know who was in that night.  It also adds to the suspense, doesn’t it?  Not knowing who the story is about, or what happened?”  He’s a story teller?  The clouds part, you’re soul mates!  “Break Nazi was in the yard when it happened, having her cigarette.  I’d just finished with the hose and they sent me to sweep up on the under the lines with Skeletor.”  He chuckles, you do too.  You lead the way, winding around the plant, past lines one through seven, the rat traps near the waste station, to the cooling tunnels - the mouth of the machine that cut, cropped and poured chocolate down on the slabs of sticky sweet treats.  “Earl was in the break room waiting to go home.  He’d even punched out his social insurance number.  Was just waiting on his ride.  And Starla (the rat woman) was still light-headed on the stretcher.  Well, then the worst happened...”  A fire alarm?  A melting chocolate emergency?  A surprise arrival from head office at four in the morning?  “The team lead was up at her locker, with her dog.  Snuck in one of those small toy breeds.”  Against protocol, but not worthy of a story, was it?

You walk the cooling tunnels and the chill air gives you goose bumps.  You stop shy of the head wrap technician you fondly call Buttons.  He has big safety glasses, and a cord around them to keep them on his face.  He smiles at you, but you let Danger Boy do the conversing.  You stand near the edge, watching the bars descend the belt; so precise, orderly.  The Halloween treat sized bars make your eyes go funny, there have to be two hundred going by every ten seconds, at least.  You once tried to count it.  You got a headache.  And then he showed up in your field of vision and you were distracted.  He’d smiled at you then too, you were totally shocked. 

“Bob doesn’t need us,” he says, returning to your side then.  You follow him as he leads his way out through the swinging doors to the hall.  The hall runs the length of the factory from the break room, past the refrigerator, all the way to the garbage disposal.  There’s a hot room too, and he takes you to the door and stops you there for a moment.  He points in. 

Oh dear god, it happened in there?  Did someone die?  It was possible, very possible.  That room was a hazard.  They put you there only once.  One of the first shifts you ever had in fact.  You’d sweat so much you had to change your jumpsuit-–and you hardly ever sweat.  Put to shame the workers in the other plant who worked with pet food, scrubbing rotting marrow bone from the grates.  You’d done that too.  But the hot room, you’d agree was worse.  Your knees felt like they caught fire when you kneeled.  There was a time limit too.  You could only be in there for five minutes, then you had to come out.  Otherwise you could die.  The warnings were all over the door.  The first time you’d read them, they scared you. 

With his hand on the door, you wonder if he’s going to take you inside.  Suddenly you can imagine kissing him, your zipper down, the lacy camisole you wear under it, exposed.  You can picture him kissing your collarbone, up to your ear, saying he wants to lick chocolate from every inch of you.  No, not chocolate.  Nougat.  Stickier.  You wonder if you’d vomit anyway, not from him, but the sugar.  The thought of anything dipped in chocolate makes you queasy.  Maybe do away with licking things off you entirely.  Pretend you’re just sweating, hard, and he’s dragging you behind one of the vats, pressing you against the wall, and kissing you with those lips.  Those dangerous lips, Danger Boy’s dangerous lips.  Maybe you’d even forget about the time limit, in your stupor.  You might even really risk expiring in his arms.  Maybe.  Or maybe he devises a way to make out with you on a swing-shift.  Five minutes inside, making out, five minutes out, getting water, cooling your red features, flamed from the excitement of his kiss.

What?  Where were you?  In the hall.  His hand is on the sign, his coveralls, no steal toed boots, his bump cap, his name tag, his ear plugs and the safety glasses.  “Didn’t happen here,” he says.  “But while Melissa fed her dog peanut butter in the change room, she asked I come in and sweep here too.  Not that I could, of course, because I needed a partner and by then the sixth line had broken and Skeletor had to pack chocolate into boxes manually.  So I went to mop the third floor where Earl and Skeletor had been sweeping.  I got to work the pressure hose for that too.  Had a bucket and soap, everything I needed.  I figured when they were done I’d get to the hot room.  But I never got to it.”  He leads the way at last toward the break room and you follow.  Before he’s even hit the doors, he’s pulled out his ear plugs and removed his bump cap and hair net.  You wait until you’re out.  It’s loud, and you’ll damage your hearing. 

Inside the modest cafeteria--mostly black from the night sky, a dim two lights still glowing above your designated table in the corner--you sit.  You put your bump cap down and remove your safety goggles.  He raids the refrigerator for the meal he packed.  He eats a lot.  You put your soup (you always pack soup!) into the microwave, and while you wait you stare at your goggles.  You’ve exchanged pairs of safety glasses six times now, always looking for the hippest, newest version.  Preferably something large, that hugs your face, accentuates your petite nose, but reveals your large eyes.  That girl, the one you met the first night you ever worked, who’d had heat stroke and needed you to drive her home, well, when she thanked you for the drive she’d said you had pretty eyes.  Sure, she was probably delirious, but you hoped he noticed too.  With the goggles off you wait for him to gaze at you, but he doesn’t.  He starts into his sandwich, reaching for the newspaper.    

“Don’t you want to tell me the rest?” you ask.  That came out wrong.  You should have been more authoritative sounding.  You sound passive.  You’re nearly positive he’s not into passive women. 
“You know when you’re a kid, and you’re told not to think about something, so then all you can do is think about it?” he asks, with a full mouth.  “This story is kind of like that.  If I tell you, you’re not going to be able to eat for the rest of the day.” 

Why would he tease you like that?  Now you absolutely have to know the rest.  What could be so disgusting, beyond the things you’d already thought up?  Nothing!  At least nothing you could concoct could ever be worse than caramel squirrels, bloodied nougat, pine scented body odor, and whores.  You retrieve your soup and stir it while he thumbs through the paper.  You still have twenty-eight minutes, you’ll finish eating and pester him then. 

As you sip at the spoon, careful not to burn your tongue, you watch him with curiosity.  You admire that he’s got a studious side.  He enjoys intellectual pursuits even if he doesn’t wear safety boots?  What a contradiction.  The bad boy and the brainiac in one body: a winning combination that would placate your libido and your mother at the same time.  You smile, asking him if you can read the ideas section.  You can pretend to be interested too, you think, even if the news bores you. 

With the page open, you find the first article to catch your fancy.  And you use it to strike up a conversation. 
“A cat was barbecued,” you read.

He coughs on a mouthful of bread, before lifting an eyebrow at you.  It wasn’t worthy of that reaction, was it?

“Morbid too, huh?” he smirks.  It certainly wasn’t worthy of a smirk.  “You’ll like the end of this story.”

Morbid and grotesque?  This story was now sure not to disappoint.  You smirk too.  “A bunch of teenagers did it,” you continue, “reputably tortured it, then barbecued it.  Horrific, isn’t it?”  Horrific things scare you.  But still you live for weird details.  They might come in handy, for the future day you begin penning fiction.  You never know when a barbecued kitten (that image will never burn out from your mind) will make for a random or horrifying anecdote in a story.  Everything reads like a story, even he would make a good story. 

At thirty minutes he gets a glass of water from the tap and you put your container away in your locker.  You meet him again at the doors, pulling your hair net back over your matted hair and putting your bump cap over top.  “The lines are down,” he observes, leading the way through the doors.  You can see that.  The bars are running off and you run to scoop the lines, propping them up on the belt.  You’ll have to do this together until the lines are repaired and can suck up the bars.  It’s all about eliminating waste.  “You know what they do with these don’t you?” he asks, shoving a bin under the end to catch the chocolate you don’t scoop in time. 

Yeah, you know.  The plant manager told you at orientation.  “Pig feed,” you say, “even the wrapped ones.” 

He grins, “I dare you to eat a line of them.”  You make a face and he doesn’t relent.  He puts on a pair of latex gloves.  They’ve got the small size out again and he has large hands.  You like his hands.  You’d like anything about him though.  “Fine.  One of them?” 

It wasn’t like you’d get fired for it.  They let you eat as much chocolate as you liked on the floor, for free, provided you not take it home.  You steal them anyway.  Just because, hiding a stash of bars in your knapsack on occasion.  That’s how you have a whole bag of candy in your closet at home now.  You won’t eat it, it’s more just so the company knows that you don’t conform entirely to their rules, like a preservation of autonomy.  And so that come winter, when you won’t see him, and miss him, you can open one each weekend, smell it, and retrace those days spent scrubbing, being a drone, and remember what it was like when he dared you to eat the whole line of chocolate bars, like he did today.  You won’t eat them, no, you’ll probably still have your aversion to candy bars.  The novelty of unlimited chocolate fades when your bedroom starts to wreak of cocoa and even your socks stink of peanuts and caramel.  Sometimes when they ran the peanut bars, the plant smelled like fried chicken, like KFC, sort of.  Yes, it is revolting!  “No thanks,” you finally say.  “I had a big lunch.”

He makes a face, “Soup?  Come on, eat it.”  He picks one up from the conveyer and sets it next to you, motioning to it.  Love makes you stupid and lust is worse.  “Come on,” he urges again. 

You sigh, holding it and looking it over while he takes over scooping the lines onto trays.  “I hate chocolate,” you add then.  It’s the truth, not that you wouldn’t still eat it.  You’d probably eat a hamster if it came from him, baked, not fried, and drizzled with ketchup.  “Tell me the rest of the story!”  Yes, now you have leverage.  You hold the bar to your lips, as though ready to take a bite and wait for him.  He ignores you, the belt beginning to turn in the opposite direction.  They’ve fixed the lines.  He loads the bars, every so often stopping to stick his gloved fingers into the creases in the belt.  “You have a death wish, don’t you?” you tease then.  If you can’t get him talking, at least you can appeal to his interests.

He glances at you.  “I do live by the tenets of self-destruction,” he confesses.  

That’s no surprise to you.  “Come on, how does it end?” you ask.  Why won’t he just tell you already?  You swear he’s getting joy out of seeing you squirm.  Does he want you to beg?  Oh you’ll probably beg, you’re totally pathetic.

He loads the last tray onto the belt and you wait for the machine to suck up the last line.  He stands with the tray in his hand, looking at the bar still in yours.  It’s starting to melt but you’ll eat it when he’s done.  “You know the safety procedure, so that they always know how many people are on the floor?” he asks then. 

Yeah, it had something to do with the punch clock.  If there was an emergency, black out, etc., the wrap technicians knew precisely how many bodies were on staff at one time.  They cross referenced the clock with the sign out sheet, it was mandatory to sign in and out.  “In case of accident or injury, right?”

“Right,” he grins.  “So Earl punched out his pin, his ride came, and he signed out at the desk.  Melissa should’ve been at the door to see him out, but she was with her dog, right?”  You nod.  “He was about to go when he realized he’d taken his watch off and left it next to one of the vats where he’d been sweeping.  So anyway, he ran upstairs, threw on his helmet and coveralls and went to get it.  What was another few minutes to lose, right?”  Again you nod.  “Well, the lines broke down and there was a run off.  It was crazy.  Total panic. I was called, Skeletor had to drop packing and help, Starla even ran over, Angie stopped fucking the forklift guy.  Even the forklift guy came to help.”  He sets the metal tray back into the slot and glances again at the chocolate bar you hold.  “Aren’t you going to eat it?  Take a bite.”  You sigh and lift it back to your lips.  You take a small bite, just enough to graze the chocolate coating.  You let it melt on your tongue.  “So Earl went for his watch.  And he slipped on the floor.  In the panic I didn’t put up that stupid yellow caution sign.”  Of course he didn’t.  He pauses, “... He fell.”  Was Merlin hurt?  Did he break a leg, or worse?  Would he sue?  Was Danger Boy getting slapped with a lawsuit of his own?  “He was pretty close to the edge, see.  Well, he tumbled over.  No one thought anything about it cuz he’d gone home, right?  His ride was at the door but couldn’t get it.  I mean, it was night shift so he could only rap at the windows until someone went into the break room around sun-up and saw him.  They didn’t believe him.  The sheet and the clock said he’d gone, and Melissa assured the manager he’d gone too.  I mean, she couldn’t admit she’d been feeding her dog.  Anyway, she grinned earnestly and they believed her.  Wasn’t until the plant supervisor called two days later to find out why he’d not shown for his shift when they went looking for him...”  Was he dead?  “They found him - eventually.”

He urges you to take another bite and you do, this time cutting right through to the nougat.  The bar is soft and the sticky combination gets caught in your molars.  “Where’d they find him?” you question, putting the last of the chocolate bar in your mouth.

You’re mid-chew when he smiles once more, “In the vat of nougat.”  You stop chewing, most of the bar already down your throat.  “I know, far-fetched, sure, but a true story.”  Then he laughs.  It’s not just a laugh at the expense of the factory’s reputation.  It’s yours too.  “Wanna see which one?”

You are about to shake your head when he reaches out and takes hold of your coveralls, giving them a tug.  “Come on,” he coaxes.  And before you can utter a word, he’s taken your hand and is leading you back down past the lines and up the steps to the third floor.  You don’t want to follow, not this time, not really, and you probably wouldn’t, if he weren’t squeezing your hand - his warm hand, his skin finally against yours.  Maybe he wants to sleep with you, right here.  You find yourself smirking despite the traces of chocolate, caramel and nougat lingering on your tongue.  God you really are pathetic!

He weaves around the pipes and tunnels, under a cooling vent which gives you the chills.  “It’s like a child’s suicide or something, when you think about it.  Dying in a vat of corn syrup and processed sugar,” he laments, his voice trailing off.  You’ve reached the spot.  He yanks you toward the edge, tugging at your hand.

You wonder then how it was that he knew any of this.  He knew too much.  The thought is fleeting because he’s dropped your hand and he’s pointing.  He leans over the railing, and motions for you to do the same.  Your eyes follow his finger and he grins at you again.  “They haven’t even taken him out yet,” Danger Boy laughs.  “Can you believe it?” 

You can barely shake your head as you spot a safety boot poking up through the sticky goo.  The same sticky goo that still lingers, sweet in your mouth.  Poor Merlin.  Poor you.  Your stomach rolls.  

He grabs you from behind then, pressing his body into yours, leaning you hard against the rails.  His breath is hot on your ear, as he grabs your shoulders, pressing his lips to the back of your neck.  His lips, his dangerous lips.  And then he shakes you once more, just as he did in the garbage room only a few hours earlier.  You tense up, but he doesn't let you go this time.  “Careful or you might fall in,” you nearly expect him to say.  He says nothing of that sort.  He only laughs, seemingly oblivious to your peril and your disgust.  You dry heave. 

“What’s the problem, Doll?” he whispers, tightening his grip.  “I told you it was a sweet story.”


Shaylen Maxwell's fiction has appeared in over a dozen publications in the US and overseas, most notably: OG's Speculative Fiction, Reflection's Edge, Wild Violet, and Literal Translations. She is also editor-in-chief of State of Imagination ezine.

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