Deafening

Flash Fiction Fridays

It was very loud inside the plant.

“Double Hearing Protection Required” read the signs that seemed to be posted every ten feet or so. “Noise Levels Exceeding 85 db”

Good, the woman thought to herself.

She walked past equipment that she couldn’t name – complicated mechanisms attached to motors as big as her entire car, and small blue devices with digital readouts that meant absolutely nothing to her. All along every wall were stainless steel cabinets emblazoned with strings of letters and numbers, along with bright red stickers that warned: “DANGER! Energized Equipment”.

She could almost admire the miles of pipework intimately woven together and traveling from room to room, carrying their fare. “Gland Water” said the large sticker on one. “HP Steam” read another. She idly wondered what the “HP” stood for and decided that “Steam” was information enough. On a whim she reached out her fingers to touch this particular pipe and immediately snatched her hand back. So hot.

And so loud. She had no earplugs, no industrial earmuffs like the picture that accompanied the noise level warnings. Her entire head rang with the continuous pulse and hum of motors and pumps, high voltage electricity, and the rush of product through pipes. She thought it very likely that she would sustain damage to her hearing if she remained here much longer, but she paid the thought no mind. She hadn’t yet found what she was looking for.

So she continued on, feeling rather than hearing the click of her heels against the cement floors as she walked. She went past sewer grates belching puffs of putrid-smelling steam, past nests of cables that seemed to snake off in every direction, and past enormous, pressure-driven valves that slammed shut so violently they could easily slice man’s hand clean off.

That thought made her smile.

It wasn’t long after that, on the third floor of the building, that she found them. All three were a filthy mess, their fur covered with dirt and matted with thick red fluid. The oldest was licking his claws clean while the two younger batted a blood-soaked hard-hat back and forth.

“No bits left at all,” the woman observed with a tap of her foot. “You must have been hungry.”

Though the din of the plant was enough to deafen a man, the three siblings heard her soft voice and gazed up at her with sheepishness in their black eyes.

All she could do was smile and crook a finger at them. “Time to go home, children,” she cooed. “And be thankful that no one could have heard him scream.”

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