Posted in Writings

Short Story – Engineering Skills

Engineering Skills

It was the twenty-first of September when we finished the framework. The twenty-second to the twenty-sixth was all we had to finish the floors and the walls. It was nothing special, just plaster and concrete, all of it an innocent grey, nothing wrong with it at all. The crowd still gathered, though.

There were a lot of them, crawling around the base of the tower with their signs and their megaphones and their righteous ways, a decidedly unlikeable blend of modern-minded folk and nay-sayers. A deadly chemical mixture it was too, the common name for it being ‘protestors’. Or so I’m told.

I’m not sure what they’re protesting about. Something about asbestos. Yes, I remember now, because I remember the man in the bowler yelling that ‘it would affect me too’ as I ate my lunch. I just ignored him and went back to my pea and tuna casserole.

Some of the wiring failed. Something electrical, I’m no expert. The electrician refused to come. I didn’t blame him. The narkies had the place surrounded, and you’d need a legion of our biggest-built blokes to get to the front door.

Even so, the next best person for the job was me, apparently, like as if my twenty year old apprenticeship in engineering actually counted for something.

I jiggle my legs as I wait for the lift to reach the seventh floor. It’s a brand new lift, mind you, but somehow shoddy enough to be forty years old. With a ping, the lift doors open.

The interior is just as bland as the exterior. Grey walls and floors and piles of plastery smelling dust everywhere, with one large window on the far side, looking out across the city. I’m sure once they paint it up and bit and put in some damn furniture, it’ll be nice enough, but if I’m entirely honest, I would never live here myself, no matter what they do to the place.

As the lift doors close, I spot a small electrical panel on the opposite wall. I stride up to it as if I were striding up to a bully in the playground. Issuing a challenge. The panel seems to accept, and lets me wrestle off the plank.

This is bad. I squint at the little wires for what must be a good five minutes, before finally deciding to let my fingers have a bit of a fiddle. I yank a green one and a yellow one out of their sockets and try swapping them. Got up and flicked the power on. Nothing.

Kneeling back down in front of the panel, I swap them back, and then sit back on my heels, waiting for something to happen. A great groan sounds from inside the building, and I hear an awful chugging sound, not unlike that a train would make. Cringing, I turn back to my wires.

After messing around a little while longer, I realise I can’t make sense of it at all. Electrical circuits should be simple. Something’s disconnected, but I just can’t figure out where I could fix it. Sighing, I stand up and head for the lift, press the button and wait.

Six minutes later, I’m still waiting. Frowning, I press the button again. Then a horrible thought comes to me. If there’s no power, how did the lift bring me up in the first place? If that’s the case, how will it come back up to get me? Just as I feel the blood draining from my face, I hear a reassuring ping as the doors slide open.

I take a step forward and hit a solid grey wall.