A thud rang through the empty machinist floor, echoing and calling back to its source. The wooden mallet struck against steel again; the shape finally coming to fruition. The piece of steel was fairly thick yet easy to conform to the intended design. A few more strikes and it would be ready to add to the rest. Five in total, as well as the wide backing plate, and the knives.
He moved to the tig welder ten feet from his work station; and it was his work station. One that he had earned over years of work. Nineteen years, by his reckoning, and ten of those spent in this exact spot. No doubt he had earned the right to stay late to work on a personal project. In fact, his supervisor had insisted he could. No doubt to keep me from leaving, he thought to himself. But he wouldn’t leave. Springwood was his home. Though he had spent most of adolescence further north, Springwood, Ohio would always be his home.
Lining the blades to the shaped metal, he pulled the welding mask over his face. Sparks shot as the pieces of metal bubbled and became one. He continued one by one, only stopping and lifting the helmet to wipe sweat from his brow. He took the pieces and placed them in the water tank next to the welder. Steam rose from the hot metal and his thoughts went to the boiler room. His masterpiece was almost complete. It still needed a few rivets to allow for maneuverability, he couldn’t rightly do his work with his fingers held out stiffly. Machine work wasn’t his real work, merely a way to pay the bills at most.
Everyone knew him as a machinist. There goes Fred, still covered in oil and metal shavings. No one rightly concerned themselves with him beyond that. And for that, he was grateful. This allowed his real work to go on without a second thought.
Fred’s thoughts fell back a few years as he punched the rivets. He could almost smell the steam of the boiler room in the abandoned warehouse on the far edge of town. It was a smell he could draw to his mind in a flash as if he’d spent his entire life in those halls. In a way he had, for that was the place he was free. Free of prying eyes, of the demands of life, and the callous whispers about him.
He remembered the boy. The curly brown locks that draped just past his eyebrows. The blue eyes that weld with tears in fear. Fred could almost feel the tangles in the boy’s hair within his mind as he recalled patting the boy’s head.
“Do you want to play a game? That’ll surely cheer you up. You like games, don’t you Neil?” Fred asked in as soft and counseling a voice as he could muster. “Let’s play hide and seek. You can hide anywhere you want, but we have to stay in this room. I’ll count to fifty, so go on and hide.”
Fred was pulled back to the task at hand as he pinched his finger in the pop-rivet gun. He let out a cus as blood began to pour into his palm. Tossing the gun to the floor, he walked back to his work station. He wrapped the wound in paper towels and duct tape to hold it in place. His finger was already beginning to grow numb, but he ignored it and continued working.
The night was late, but his hard work had paid off. Pulling the glove of leather and steel over his right hand had almost made him forget all about the incident with the pop-rivet gun. Slowly he flexed his fingers and tapped the tips of the finger-knives against each other. He smiled a deathly grin as the sound of steel against steel echoed.