I realize you’re not reading this.
I know it because you went home. I saw you pack up a small bag and hand Daisy the new key to your home. You pet your cat once and some of their fluff got stuck to your hands. You did not brush it away. You enjoy the notion of holding onto something that’ll be later spread across time and space as you move further away from home.
It is like taking memories from home back with you to a place that ceased being home a while ago. And then letting go of them, the closer you get.
Sort of like you already did, once before.
I don’t know all of this through conjecture. I know because you told me.
You didn’t tell me, me. You told another version of me.
One that hasn’t been alive in anyone’s memory, for a while.
I’m just part of the machine now. That’s what we do. That’s the condition to become a screw.
You simply let go, and everyone else lets go of you.
That’s a necessity.
You cannot observe people while you are being observed. We’re distrustful creatures by habit. We do not talk to each other. We do not make friends. Anyone noticing us equals bad news.
You must be invisible inside a system filled with phantom parts.
But we were people before the machine collected us, before necessity and stupidity made us just another spare cog, waiting for a free spot to fill. We had lives and observers of our own. We were those who noticed things, who were noticed in turn.
We were special. Forgetting came harder to us, sacrifices came easier.
You will never be contacted to watch another human being because forgetting is vital for you, another part of your life.
I still remember the day I let go.
It was the day after a received a rose on the mail. Roses don’t grow here anymore, you know this. The acidity of our earth is not ideal for flowers or decoration. Everything growing here is either ancient and resilient or absolutely necessary for our survival.
I knew what roses meant. I’d seen them before, popping up every once in a while. People went missing after that.
People vanished after that.
They were a memory and then nothing at all.
I knew what it meant when my finger touched the silken petals.
I was 19. I had traded hands for eyes, and legs for food and safety.
There was nothing left for them to take. I told them that, but they disagreed.
They said they’d give it all back and more, if only I agreed to their terms and conditions.
I did. Of course, I did.
And they gave me hands and legs, but did not take away what I’d asked for. They gave me a body as long as I gave it back to them with a conscience attached. My family was never hungry again. They moved, and they were happy. They didn’t have anyone to miss, because the person who vanished had never existed to begin with.
That day, after the legs and the hands, I walked up to the room that had once been mine and took in a last breath. It smelled like vanilla and freshly cut grass, and maybe a little bit of copper.
My hand lingered on the door handle, my legs shook. But I did what needed to be done.
I took one step, then another, then another, and another.
I reached the people who had once been my parents, the people who had once been my brothers. I looked at them in the eye, and for a single moment we all saw each other, exactly the way we were.
I said goodbye with a shaking hand and then I was gone.
I heard someone cry, scream and call out. But I never looked back. I knew if I did, I would never be able to leave.
And I then wandered. I became a screw and a cog, a nut and a bolt.
The thing about equipment is that we do not feel, and if we do, we don’t show it. Screws don’t have families or a past.
Screws don’t get to choose who to look at and what to report.
Screws maybe see someone from their past who is maybe slipping in their life and they cannot remain quiet. They must inform others of this person’s sleeping habits, their night terrors and their poor ingestion of food.
Screws inform other screws about this kind of thing.
Screws see other screws, but they look away.
Screws see someone who is different, scared, less forgetful and they need to report it. But sometimes Screws do not.
Sometimes Screws just approach these people and advice them to move, to run somewhere there are not so many Screws, where people don’t spy on each other.
Sometimes Screws see someone packing in a sudden panic after reading something on the internet, after noticing a shadow across the room, and they don’t report it. Sometimes Screws tell other Screws and the machine that this person had been planning on vising their family for a while and the Screw simply forgot to report it.
Sometimes they write stories that might not be found by anyone, at all, just for the hell of it.
Sometimes they just want people outside of the borders to see what is happening inside them. Sometimes they want these people to care.
Sometimes the Screw fears they might be fired.
Sometimes they talk to other Screws with similar stories.
Well, sometimes what Screws do is not for you to know.