He’s started to get rashes from sitting in pissy blankets and I’m going to have to bite the bullet and buy him some of those not-diapers. I grab my wallet and keys and hit the door to go to the supermarket a few blocks away on a somewhat crowded street during the store’s busiest hours, reducing somewhat my odds of a run-in with the Centralli. I can blend in. I told Willie to just chill on the couch, stay in front of the TV. I’ll be back soon.

I get there, winded, having practically ran, and find what I’m looking for quickly. Before taking it from the shelf, I scan and actually do find Centralli agents in the store. They style themselves a secret police organ but are easily detected by their shaved heads, face tattoos, trench coats over utility or tactical trousers, some kind of hiking boot, and always, always, always a pair of those Mechanix gloves, for some reason the only name-brand to have survived the Transition. I see them by way of reflection in the store’s vast windows and walk backward toward the registers to keep them in view, a carton of pull-ups under each arm. Another not-so-secret: they are all sterile, in fact sterilized not long after birth, once harvested for state service.

Then I bump into something which bumps back, hard and sharp and vicious, knocking me to the ground. I stand to either confront or apologize, depending, then go with the apology option, seeing it’s a Centralli agent. I open my mouth to stammer and scrape, and he snaps his fingers and points in my face to shut me up, then mumbles something into a sleeve mic. We’re joined by the agents I saw reflected in the window.

One of the agents picks up one of the cartons I’ve dropped. Where’s the kid, he wonders.

I deny having one.

Another, the one I bumped into, reminds me of the penalties for unregistered children, and I swear, I plead, tears already running down my face, sniffling, I don’t have any.

Then why am I crying? Why am I buying diapers?

After a very pregnant pause, I mutter something so softly I can’t even hear it. One of them shoves his hand under my chin to lift it, warns me to remember whom I’m talking to, to speak up.

I say my reason, barely louder than a whisper, and the guy slaps me. Last warning before I get fed to a dungeon or a trash compactor.

I say it loud enough to hear: they’re for my own sexual gratification.

Another lengthy pause. Then they all start laughing. Laughing and pointing at me while looking at each other, incredulous.

What the fuck, they ask. How?

I wear them and the sensation itself provides sexual fulfilment. Sometimes I soil them. In either event, I derive sexual satisfaction from it.

They’re screeching now, beside themselves.

Oh shit man oh shit, they lament. They see some shit but never no shit like this, one says. Holy fucking shit. He asks if I’m kidding and I insist I’m not.

The leader, I guess, the guy I bumped into, tells me to pick up my packages and fuck off. I do, gratefully, and, almost home free, the guy tells me to stop and turn around. He records me holding the packages with his handycam, then tells me to produce my ID so he can record that. For future reference, possibly, he says.

I practically run home once I’m on the street outside, afraid to look in the windows and give them more reason to suspect me of something, but I do, I can’t help it, and I see the animals have already moved on to throwing someone’s kid into one of the seafood tanks.


For all installments of “The Engineers,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1