I lifted my parcel to the top of my shoulders, grunting as the weight shifted and I nearly toppled over. The person in line behind me coughed as if to warn me against clumsiness; it would throw off the entire assembly’s production for the day.
“Sorry, Smith,” I murmured under my breath, digging my feet into the earth beneath me to steady myself.
“Stop talking. You know it’s not allowed on the line,” he grunted from behind. His breath was hot on my back; he was practically on top of me. I marched in silence, legs burning, arms numb, thinking only of the possibility that I was the slowest one in the line, my weak legs causing the line to lose precious daylight.
We reached the base of the mound. I shrugged my shoulders and used my forearms to nudge the parcel to the ground in front of me, panting to catch my breath. The bigger men filed in behind me, nudging me to get out of their way. One of them grabbed my parcel and pinched it with his teeth, clawing his way backwards up the enormous hill, stacked sky-high with rations, to drop off my hard day's work and tout it as his own.
"Hey! That's mine!" I shouted to him as he scurried away. He didn't answer, knocking over packages and stumbling past the others as he escaped.
I noticed a parcel sitting on the ground at my feet, untouched, and nearly identical to the one I'd lost a few moments ago. I looked to my left, to my right, and stealthily kicked it to the other side of the hill away from the main entrance. When no one noticed the kick, I steadied my nerves and picked it up. I strapped it to my back and crept up the stairs to the entrance of the depository. This poor fool. Now I'll get my rations after all.
I'd almost reached the depository via my detour when I noticed a dark shadow pour over the hill. I looked up to find the source of the shadow with my eyes but I couldn't see anything - it was as if the sun was being blocked by something huge, something dark and sinister. I heard rumbling, and then I felt the ground below me erupt with the stampeding sound of hundreds of factory workers, screaming and running from the entrance to the depository. Arms outstretched, looks of sheer panic on their faces, they sprinted towards me with no regard to their parcels or mine.
"Smith, run, get out of here! It's going to kill us!" screamed a familiar voice, rushing past me before I could see who it was.
"What's going to kill us?" I yelled, starting to panic.
"It burns! It burns so badly!" Someone was whimpering as they limped from the doors and down the hill. I didn't recognize his face because it was soaked in a brown, slimy liquid. It looked like his mouth was melting. "Acid, it's acid!" he moaned, grasping at his face as he pushed me aside, running into the endless grassy field at the base of the hill. I was still standing near the entrance as more and more people poured out, screaming in terror as I stood, awestruck.
Suddenly I saw it. The brown liquid was bubbling up from the entryway, spewing from the mouth of a red cylinder that was held, floating mid-air by the massive shadow. The stream gurgled and erupted as the acid exploded from the doors, washing away the wirey bodies of my former coworkers, forming volcanic streams of murky runoff down the hill. It washed away the ground beneath our feet, our hill, our depository, our rations, our livelihood. It disintigrated lives.
I stood without moving, clutching the unsteady ground below me as I watched the liquid wash over my feet, up to my abdomen, pulling loose the grains of dirt that were piled so meticulously to build our home. I closed my eyes and tried not to feel the bubbles swell over my head, fizzing and popping as I lost my breath, body swept to the bottom of the hill among countless others, hearing echoes of laughter from the great mass hovering over our colony.
"You stupid bugs, why would you build a house out of dirt?" he cackled as my vision faded for the last time.