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"Chew" (2022)

𝚌𝚑𝚎𝚠;



The warehouse was painfully quiet... But it suited Ryan just fine.



An easy job with a hefty pay packet, Ryan spent his time sweeping and strolling until the early morning light filtered in through the barred windows to signal the end of his shift. He'd been hired to 'keep an eye on things,' a security job with shockingly low stakes and decent perks; A living wage, easy work and private healthcare. Not bad for a job he'd found in the local newspaper.



His 'colleagues' consisted of defunct animatronics, the remnants of theme parks and arcades and pizza restaurants. The once-vibrant entertainers had been left in a state of disrepair, faded minky fur splotched with motor oil stains, latex faces drooping in chewing gum waterfalls, innards pulled outwards and paint flaking onto the floor around them. Most of them had been harvested for parts, bits and pieces carved up and used to install bigger, better, more modern counterparts in those same theme parks, arcades and pizza restaurants. Ryan often wondered, if these tin men had hearts, would they feel betrayed?



Ryan had become familiar with each of them. Normally concealed beneath dusty shrouds, he'd pull the sheets aside to stare into rolling, glassy orbs. He'd smile back at their perpetual rictus grins. He'd greet each of them by name and playful song, he'd straighten their bow ties and fix their top hats, he'd brush dust from their patchy pelts and let the fading sunlight sparkle on their exposed, metallic bones.



Each night, he'd fill the ghostly warehouse with a childish glee, his own personal audience of waiting friends. Hanging mouths frozen in eternal amusement at his awful jokes, vacant eyes following his every move; his mechanical menagerie of willing participants.



Ryan 𝙡𝙤𝙫𝙚𝙙 it. For the first time in his life, he felt seen, and heard, and 𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘰𝘥.



Even when he broke for lunch, chewing a mouthful of sandwich opposite his 6ft teddy bear friend, the salty taste of his mother's flesh didn't ruin his day.



Originally written and shared as part of Verbuary 2022: https://tinyurl.com/37vmjrd8

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