Sewing Machine

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Klaus collapses on to his bed with a long sigh, still in uniform. The thing had taken a ridiculously long time to put on and by the looks of it, would take an equal amount out of Klaus’s day to be rid of it. He would just sleep in it if not for how itchy and bulky it was. Heidi opens the door to their little concrete house for the fourth time that day to move all her belongings in from her old dormitory. She throws a pile of clothes down straight onto the pink carpet, causing Klaus to frown, and idles there until the boy turns his attention to her.

“...Do you need something?” He asks.

“I can’t pick up my sewing machine...” she mutters back. Klaus furrows his brows, not understanding what she’s talking about.

“What...?”

“My sewing machine. In my room.” Without warning, she grabs his hand and pulls him out of his bed. At this gesture, Klaus can’t help but remember the day he met her, when he had skidded into an alleyway after foolishly abandoning the others in his nervous breakdown. The image of Rolf waving goodbye at him as Klaus weaved through buildings in a mad dash to escape his situation still bores a hole into his mind. He had slid into the alley, head in his hands, ignoring the feeling of the wet mud soaking his once clean white socks and started sobbing shamelessly. After maybe ten minutes or so, he had let all his tears out and continued to sit there unmoving, a dull headache throbbing in his temple.

Heidi had appeared then, opening the door to a building across from the dark alley in which Klaus kneeled. She was knifing open a large bag of some powder as he stood up and shakily walked out of the darkness of the alley. After he revealed himself to her, she had taken his hand in much the same way and had dragged him down corridor after concrete corridor, telling whoever she could find about finding a boy(!) and then following him at every bureaucratic step and psychological test, awarding him with unwarranted applause with a completely straight face after each trial was passed.

Now she pulls him along once more, out of the neighborhood and into the fluorescent tunnels, referred to by the unit leaders as the “Intestines”. While on the job, Funk had chatted to the two about them while lifting two bags over her shoulders which had to have been at least forty pounds each with ease.

“They’ve been here as long as anyone can figure and they span all throughout the country, hundreds of miles long! You’ll learn all about them in your introductory presentation. I think the next one’s on the 30th?”

Their shift is over now, but Klaus’s wrists still ache from cutting open boxes all day. Sure, it’s a manageable first shift, but it definitely doesn’t get the blood flowing. Plus, Klaus had found it hard to shake the urge to stab himself in the eye or perhaps on the back of the hand with the box cutter. These thoughts generally occurred randomly to him, and seemingly for no tangible reason. You could always do it though, his mind would say to him. Or maybe someone else could stab you in the back of the head? ...It’s a possibility.

After many grey hallways, Heidi stops in front of a wooden door labeled 162 in gold letters and fiddles with the lock for several minutes, finally getting the thing open. From the space between this and the neighboring doors, Klaus can already tell the room inside must be quite cramped.

His suspicions are confirmed. The tiny dim dorm has barely enough space for the two to stand in. Bathrooms and showers are communal for the worker class apparently, evidenced from the lack of toilet or even sink in the room. Moreover, Heidi’s room in particular is a mess. Wine bottles and paper wrappers are strewn about, and the room overall smells quite stale. It seems she had shared it with a disheveled looking forty-ish year-old man, who appears to be sleeping on the bottom row of a metal bunk bed to the right when the two walk in.

The sewing machine in question is on the wooden counter across from the bedding. Heidi opens some drawers below the counter, as if looking for any stray items she may have missed. A yellow duck charm scarcely the size of a penny rolls into view as she opens one, and she hurriedly shoves it into her pocket, feeling across the back of the drawer for anything else hidden away there. Klaus inadvertently glances over to the bed, and notices her former roommate staring back at him through the covers. Unnerved by the alcoholic, he looks away and sets his gaze instead to the sewing machine he’ll have to lug back to their housing. The thing looks yellowed and worn; several cracks are haphazardly covered by transparent tape. Heidi’s name is scrawled across the side in black marker.

Klaus winds the cord around it and picks it up. It’s lighter than he had thought but still quite bulky nonetheless. Heidi eyes him warily as he holds it.

“Don’t drop it...” she mumbles.

That’d probably total the piece of junk, Klaus thinks, blowing air out his mouth and adjusting his hold on the machine. Heidi doesn’t have much left to pack, and by the time she’s finished, she holds under one arm a bountiful sewing kit and a baby blue hat box under the other. Klaus raises his eyebrows.

“What’s in the box?”

“The outfit I came here in...” Heidi says. She plops the box down onto the counter and unlids it, pulling out a white dress with little red and green flowers printed on it. Despite the garishness of its many frills, it would be a cute thing, if not for the torn sleeve and ominous dark green stain spilling down one side of it.

“Uh...” Klaus doesn’t really know what to say to that. She folds the dress back into the box and they head back to their place. Klaus can’t help but study Heidi as they walk. She mostly just looks straight ahead. No noticeable expression rests upon her face. Somehow, he doesn’t feel all that intimidated by her; in fact, he finds he can almost converse with her like a normal human being, something otherwise quite difficult for him to do without wanting to kill himself afterwards. He supposes it must be her undeniable oddness after all. Anytime he saw normal looking girls pass by back at home, all giggles and bounce and chatter, he would always attempt to obscure himself behind a tree or building out of fear of being perceived.

To test this newfound ability of communication, he tries talking with her some more.

“Th... that dress. I’ve never seen anything like it in stores before. ...D-did you make it?” Klaus shuts his eyes and cringes. Now his words just sound forced and banal. Heidi hums a singular tone for a few seconds, and Klaus is sure all semblance of normal conversation has broken down at this point before she nods slowly.

He chokes out a “C-cool...” and they stroll the rest of the way back in silence. That night, as he tries to find sleep, images of him and Heidi at the altar, wedding bells ringing and chiming flood his mind incessantly.

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