White lights, like noise, whined on the low ceiling. My hands are starting to go stiff, as if somebody replaced my bones with ice, but I can't stop: Operations is watching. I only have four seconds to screw the shiny body. A second late and Operations's circuits start to go haywire.

He slithers up and down the room, like clockwork. His shiny red tie seems to be clenching his throat, making his plastic head look like a balding balloon. He has a look of hate about him. I don't see a thing in his dark black eyes, not even a glimmer of light.

I'm scared he'll catch me lazing off, so I look down before he notices me. I take two screws from the green box on my left and place them inside the holes at the bottom of the body. Then I reach for the black snake coiled above my head and shove it's face inside those holes. Next, I press a button and the head starts spinning violently, pushing the screw deeper and deeper into the metal. Once they are deep enough, I place the body on the conveyor belt towards my right. Then pick the next one up from my left. And the next. And the next. And the next...

Until a strange feeling starts to overcome me: I want to cry. But the tears won't come out. My hands start shaking as I try to tighten the screw; the motion reminds me of home...of how I would get up every morning, before the sun turned the sky blue, and planted seeds with my father. Layers of mud would hide under my fingernails as I dug out the earth and sprinkled it with seeds. I always wondered what the seeds felt like once they were buried in the ground, all alone in the claustrophobic darkness. How frightening it must be, to be left alone like that. I was always surprised to see them break their way back into the light, completely transformed and vividly alive.

I wish I could be like those seeds, but I am not alive anymore. They took my brain and replaced it with a plastic chip. I do what they tell me to do. But something inside is malfunctioning...I look at my desk, and there is no mud anywhere, and no life. Not even a speck of dust. Just plastic air filled with a mechanical hum.

Uh-oh...he's looking at me again...He is looking at me, but I don't think he really sees me...I want to go to take a piss. He's coming towards me.
So I get up and walk towards him instead.
"I would like to go to the bathroom." I say.
"Are you blind?"
"Can't you see? Nobody else has asked to go. What's the problem with you? Get back to work."
"Sorry sir," I say as I go back to my chair, feeling ashamed. I look at time ticking away on the factory wall. Four more hours till our next break. But it doesn't matter, because Operations can set the time to go as fast or as slow as he wants. And whenever we are working on the floor, he makes time come to a crawl. He can let it crawl till we turn to dust. You just sit there, assembling metal after metal, and feel acid build in your muscles. My limbs are starting to go numb and my bladder wants to cry.

I gaze into the dark, glassy surface of the metallic body to distract myself. It's beautiful to look at. So simple and pure. Like a star-less sky. The glass sensuously wraps itself around the edges, tucking itself into the metal block like flowing water. I want run my fingers all over it. I want to lick it. It seems so human.

...But then I look deeper. My heart freezes. There is something there...something lurking within its body...suddenly, it starts to become clearer. I am facing the ugliest creature I have ever seen in my life. It looks like a man, but what kind of man looked like this? Its eyes are like burnt coal. Decaying teeth are jutting out of a slit that is supposed to be a mouth. The skin is stretched like a plastic doll, colorless and formless. My heart races faster as I stare at this ghastly figure, beating faster still as I start to recognize it. I am confronting my own reflection. What have I become?

"What are you doing?" I hear Operation say.
"I was just inspecting to see if..."
"Don't give me that shit. You're wasting time." he said. "Every time I look at you, you're wasting time. This phone," he says picking up the glass body, "is worth a lot more than you are."
"I was just..."
"Don't fucking interrupt me when I am talking to you. You're going to work overtime for nothing. Get the fuck back to work"
"And you, over there, what the fuck are you looking at?" his voice is getting louder and louder, licking the mechanical walls. "Do you want me to cut your pay too?"

All eyes in the room focus on Operations. The room is still, alive only with the symphony of the machines.

And that's when I stopped understanding a word he said. I felt big, and I felt like punching him. Honored to be working...What's so great about jolting yourself up at 05:00 AM, frantically rush to get to a place where you're treated like slaves, and expect to be grateful for being there? I was about to get up, when suddenly, I notice a fly hover over my aching fingers, like an angry bit of life. It came out of nowhere. I try to ignore it at first, or else I would get in trouble, but it keeps circling above my hand. It doesn't look like it wants to stop. So I smack the air above me, but miss. I smack again, then miss. Smack. Smack. Smack. Until finally I hit its wings. It dwindles towards the green mat on my desk, like a falling star. It still isn't dead yet, but it has no more rebellion left in it. It has been tamed. I think for a moment about whether I should crush it, but I can feel Operation's scowl slithering all over me.

I bow my head and get back to work.