Amand waved to her little sister on the training roundabout, and smiled. Ah! Those were the days, she thought, so carefree. Her sister was only two but could keep going for ages. She seemed to enjoy it; it was still a game for her. Have fun while you can, thought Amand. It won’t last long.

Amand’s pace slackened when she’d lifted her hand to wave at her sister, so she now pushed harder. Despite her extra effort there was no perceptible change in The Wheel’s speed. The other seven children must have been pushing steadily, so her lapse was absorbed. It would have been different during the evening shift. With only four children working The Wheel, a quarter reduction would have showed – or at least annoyed the other workins.

“Amand! Pssst! Amand!” came a voice from behind her.

“What is it Samanth? You know we can’t talk now.”

“Can I come and see your rat tonight? I’ve heard he’s got really fat.”

“I’ll have to ask my dom,”  said Amand. This referred to a dad who had become a mom. Its opposite was a mad. Neither were her real parents. They had been appointed by The State.

“I’ll come at four, just after dunch.”

Amand’s shift ended at two. She ate dunch – the only meal they were allowed each day – with her family, and then went to the shrine. Every home had to have one, containing either a carved or a living rat. She fed the rat some wholemeal bread. It’s teeth nattered so nicely. Nat-nat-nat-nat! It was hard to believe that people used to kill rats once. Millions of them, even in their own homes. It was good the State had banned killing animals.

Her grand-dom said that a long time ago, animals were used for work. They even had something like The Wheel that was turned by cows. Imagine that! Cows instead of children turning The Wheel at the village centre, pumping water, making power, grinding grain! It was too funny to imagine.

Samanth came over to see the rat. She fed it red cabbage. Nat-nat-nat-nat! Amand mentioned about cows turning The Wheel.

“My grand-mad told me too,” said Samanth. “But she said it was horses.

They had seen neither animal. They were kept only in temple-zoos.

“So what did all the children do?” said Amand.

“I’m not sure. I think they just played.”

“What? All day?”

“I guess so,” Samanth shrugged. “My grand-mad said there were too many children. No one could feed them anymore. That’s when The State said that children had to become workins. They had to work to stay in the community.”

“What if they didn’t want to work?” said Amand. She rubbed her hands, which were sore from pushing.

“Well, they didn’t get any dunch. They’d eventually get hungry and go back to The Wheel.”

Something got into Amand that night. A kind of fury. Even though it was evening shift, she pushed harder than ever. The other workins looked at her strangely. They whispered from all sides asking her what’s up, but she ignored them. Then instead of pushing, she started pulling backwards, working against the others. They were surprised and slackened off. So without really meaning to, Amand pulled The Wheel backwards.

The village lights dimmed. People came out to see what was happening. Workins not on duty ran to help with The Wheel. But because of the dimness and general confusion, they pushed the wrong sides of the handles, and worked with Amand rather than against her. There were no longer four, or even eight, workins at The Wheel. Each handle had three children, so there were 24 of them pushing hard together.

The Wheel accelerated, spinning in the wrong direction. All the gears worked backwards. Nat-nat-nat-nat! They reversed their linkages, magnifying The Wheel’s effects. It started here in the centre of the village, but spread throughout the system. As the children ran around together, laughing, they felt that they had broken the cruel fist of history. They had twisted it around its own back. They were playing – what children should do – and not working!

The Wheel locked without warning, and they were all thrown off. They banged their heads together and bruised their limbs. They landed in a jumble. The next day Amand was back at The Wheel. This time she was chained to it. Despite her little sister waving to her from the training wheel, she couldn’t wave back.


2 Responses to “Workins”

  1. Babar
    this is very ambitious what a wonderful thing to do .Good luck

  2. What do you eat to make you think of strange things?

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