The first time I heard the metal speaking to me, I ignored it. The factory I work in is a chamber full of sounds ranging from the high whistle of mini-drills to the low growl of the natural gas oven cooking plastic. It was the second time I heard it speak that I stopped my work and knelt beside the source: a stout fifty-five pound counterweight. One of the machine operators had set it down in passing and as soon as it touched the floor I heard a voice say, “Listen to this.” I picked up the weight and dropped it in the same fashion and yet there was only the ringing of metal hitting concrete. I repeated this twice more which my supervisor witnessed and berated me for dicking around.
Thirteen days later I was changing molds on the machine. I reached for the counterweight and drilled it onto the metal arm. After fastening a bolt on one side I heard it say, “Go for it.” It was definitely a man’s voice and I was most certainly afraid. Over the next few months the voice had come and gone as randomly as before. I heard it once, sometimes twice a week. One week I heard it three times in one day and on the second hearing I urged my supervisor to observe me handling the metal as I suspected the material was poorly made and wanted to prove we needed to budget for higher-grade material. My bluff sufficed as he tailed me for nearly three hours before the voice came once again, saying, “This is great.” My supervisor acknowledged the strangeness and told me to go home early.
Two days later a man in plainclothes alerted me that he would be observing me working throughout my shift. I asked who he was. He said, “Charlie Mayberry. I’m a representative of interests.” And I wished to not ask any more questions because, admittedly, I was excited, so I went about my day.
This man observed me for six days until the metal spoke loud of enough for both of us to hear it. “All of it here,” it said. I looked at the representative and he said, “Well isn’t that curious,” before pulling out his cell phone and quickly making his exit.
The following day my machine was shut down. In fact, the entire factory was shut down and no other employees were present. The president of the company, Sean Mathers stood stone-faced, arms crossed next to Charlie. Before them were three individuals crawling on the ground taking pictures and making notes in small spiral books. The chunk of metal that seemed to speak the most was prominently displayed in the center of the group. “It’s just a cut from a cheap slab of aluminum,” Sean said.
“Any idea where it came from?” Charlie asked.
“None,” Sean said. “We buy them from third party sellers. They might have direct contact with the manufacturer, and that’s a big maybe.”
The next day I did not bring my bottle of water to work. I also forgot to pack my lunch. It’s funny, I’ve had the same routine of filling a bottle of water before making my lunch the night before work for three years and yet today my mind forgot all about routines, including wearing my work jacket, pants, and boots. In fact, I went to work wearing my cotton pajama pants and white t-shirt. I didn’t even clock in, I walked straight to that piece of metal and began speaking to it. I had my mouth so close to the surface the vibration tickled my lips and I felt the words speak back, dancing across my face. I felt submerged in pure bliss and the sensation urged me toward the open door of the oven and before the door closed I saw the twisted blades of the ventilation fan spinning before me, the rushing blades created the illusion of a solid object. And as the door sealed shut and the flames grew tall, the whispers of the metal were now the screams inside the oven.