1: Out With The Young
Slim felt the familiar little
pinch on his wrist from the bulky cuff that kept him
tethered near his bed. “We're getting pricked
tonight,” he warned his three Brothers, who hadn't
yet put on their own restraints.
The elder Brother Joints
grunted as he sat on his own bed across the
seven-metre wide room. “Goody.” He put on his own
cuff, which clicked and locked for the night. His
own little jab soon followed.
Blue settled in as well,
putting his cuff on and getting his jab over with.
Lenth wandered over to Slim
with a gentle smile, and Slim began to return it.
Slim's eyes widened, and he
groaned with pain. Collapsing back on his bed, he
gripped the sides and bucked back.
wrong?” Lenth gasped. He wanted to help his
favourite Brother, but had no idea what was going
on. Slim let out terrifying soft groans. His body
thrashed to the side, his eyes wide in terror.
What's going on with him?” Joints yelled.
“I...I don't know!”
Slim gagged and began to slip
off his bed, but Lenth helped him stay on, fighting
another of Slim's convulsions.
Overhead, upon the Brothers'
iron grate ceiling, the faceless Rubberman stomped,
calling attention to the green light that had turned
on behind the head of Lenth's bed.
have to help Slim!” Lenth hollered up to the
dark figure. The Rubberman stomped again, harder.
looked at Slim and over to his own bed. “Now? I
can't leave him! Something's really wrong!”
Lenth looked up at the Rubberman and back to the
The Rubberman stomped on the
grating once more, and the room shocked all the
Disobedience warrants punishment.
Knowing that his actions were
harming his Brothers as well as himself, Lenth
scurried over to bed and secured his cuff around his
Rubberman ran out of view as
Slim's convulsions began to calm a little.
Slim alone was shocked again.
He had a sudden, violent convulsion.
are you doing to him?” Blue yelled up to
Rubberman's level. No reply, not that any was
expected. Rubberman never spoke.
Again Slim was shocked.
And then it was quiet. Slim
had stopped convulsing. He wasn't making any sounds
at all now.
“Slim?” Lenth said. He sat up
on his bed, but being tethered with his cuff, he
couldn't go check on Slim. The cuff wouldn't open
until Rubberman made it so. “Slim, you okay now?”
Joints leaned forward in bed
to peer over at Slim. “He ain't breathing.”
“What?” Blue said, puzzled.
“Slim, what are you doing?”
Joints sighed. “I've seen this
before, I think. Before you three came here. If it's
the same thing, Slim won't be here tomorrow.” Joints
lowered his head.
“I...what?” Blue was alarmed.
“I don't understand! Why not? If he's not breathing,
why does he have to go away? He'll start again,
right? Where's he going to go?”
Lenth stood up and walked as
far towards Slim at the tether would let him, which
was about two metres from his own bed, still about
four away from Slim's. He stood silently, looking at
his dead Brother, not knowing what death was.
“Slim...wake up, moron,” Lenth
said quietly. “I don't want you to go away, that's
stupid.” He turned to Joints, looking for the wisdom
of his age. “Hey, away where? Where would he go? Up
with Rubberman? Or the place Rubberman goes when he
isn't here? What...”
Joints' face wrinkled inward
with consideration. “How am I supposed to know? It's
not as if I can fathom the ways of Rubberman any
more than you, Brother.”
None of them were actually
Brothers, but they had always called each other
that. There existed the Brothers, and there existed
the Rubberman. And that was it.
As far as
they could tell, anyway. Joints had told them before
that his old Brothers had gone away, and that then,
his new Brothers came. There was no explanation of 'where
from', or 'where to'.
These were things for
Rubberman to know, and Rubberman never talked.
was understandable, since he didn't have a mouth.
Even calling him a man was a point of question. A
man, or an 'it'?
Brothers all wore plain cloth foot coverings,
slightly tougher on the bottoms, and simple cloth
bodysuits, from the neck to the knees and elbows.
This left a fair amount of skin showing. This was
not the case with Rubberman.
Rubberman was all black
rubber...even over his head. Where eyes would be, he
had only a pair of large dark circles that reflected
light at certain angles. Where a mouth or nose might
be, there was a metal circle, about as wide as his
eye. It did not seem as shiny as the eyes, and had
many little holes.
But Rubberman had gone away
stood there, as close to Slim as possible, pondering
what had happened. What might be about to
happen. Slim was their Brother after all, but Lenth
felt the fear of losing Slim the most keenly.
The green lights behind the
beds lit up again. The lights were built into the
white, age-worn walls, and sealed in with a clear
layer of a plastic-like material.
It was bedtime. The day was
The Brothers all tried to get
as comfortable as they could on their beds. A
three-centimetre thick pad was bonded to the metal
bed frames, and indestructible to any force the
Brothers had ever been able to summon.
“Slim doesn't look very
comfortable,” Blue said quietly. Indeed, Slim's
position suggested that he would wake up sore in the
morning if he didn't move.
stared at Slim and the lights dimmed. Breathe,
you idiot. Just breathe again.
A soft hiss came from above.
observed. Sometimes, sleep-smell would come when a
change was going to happen.
“So...so it's true,” Lenth
said quietly. “G...goodbye, Slim.”