The morning is like every other, gloomy, what was once bright sunshine is now blocked with a thick layer of dark cloud. The distant smell of burning coal and oil penetrates the smoggy air. Jonathan, who steps out of the car, puts the rubbery gas mask on. His footsteps tap along the empty bridge. The chatter of machines and workers slowly make Jonathan aware he is nearing the other side. Even through the smog, Jonathan can now sense the dark structure towering over his head. As he rushes through the air-locked door he rips off the mask exposing his dirty face. With relieving breaths, he gulps in the filtered air. Walking into the coal factory now 30 minutes late for work.
The bustling building feels like a different world compared to the dark empty streets outside. Faces turn and look at the next man to be fired. The worn down concrete factory smells of biscuits and coffee as everyone eats their morning breakfast. Jonathan changes into his dusty high-vis work clothes, they feel like sandpaper on his skin making it raw whenever moves. Beginning the long treck around the factory to his workstation gets his mind racing. His boss, Jake, is not the man that you want to be late too. One of his assistants forgot to put sugar in his coffee so he fired her on the spot. No job means no water, food or air. The cost for an air supply now is 0.56 cents a cubic metre. Jonathan not being able to afford air to his house would result in his family having to sell it and move to the work-camp.
He can see the metal door coming closer, the door leads to the southern wing of the coal factory, where the burner is. He has only ever seen this part of the factory as every wing in the building needs either an orange blue or red pass to get through. Jonathan hears the reassuring blip as he scans his orange pass. Pushing through the metal door he gets a wave of heat come at him from the burner. The large room has peeling paint off the walls with the big metal burner in the middle, it smells of smoke and coal. The little office in the corner is where his boss is usually sat, scoffing down luxurious foods like pizza and very expensive meats like beef and lamb which he hasn’t tasted since he was eight old. One of the workers once asked him if he could try some of the beef so Jake sent him to the north wing and no-one ever saw him again. The north wing is a red zone, meaning only high ranking people with red cards are able to get in. No one knows exactly what they do in the red zone. Some theorise that the material being burnt in the ‘coal’ factory are the remains of bad workers. Or that bad workers are sent there to be chopped up and sold as lamb or beef. Few believe that it’s true but there is the nagging thought in every worker’s mind of where people disappear too after entering the red zone. Looking around he can’t see Jake anywhere, a sigh of relief washes over him, but just as he starts walking towards the burner he feels a large hand crash down into his shoulder, “my office, now!”. Jake’s voice rings in his head he slowly turns around into the sweaty, red face of his boss.
The faint scent of chicken wafts over to Jonathan as Jake breaks into a grin. “What have you been doing that made you so late?”, Jonathan stutters “w-w-well I had to go to the bank. “Bank? Are you short on money? Mabey we can work out an arrangement, step into my office”. “So you’re not angry?” exclaims Jonathan. “Angry?! why would I be angry at you Jonny?” Jake says with a sickening grin. Jonathan follows his boss into the dirty office reeking of mildew and off food. “So,” Jake says “how would you like to run a quick errand for me?” “You’re not going to fire me?” asks Jonathan. “Oh no we couldn’t do that, your one of our most valued workers we can’t have you leaving the factory”. Jake breaks into another grin. “All you’ll have to do is deliver some papers for me, is that so hard?” “No… Sir” Jonathan stutters. As Jonathan leaves the office his boss hands him a red pass. “Go through the metal doors and at the end of the corridor take a right.”
The words of his boss ring in Jonathan’s head. The red pass trembles in his cold hands. Jonathan, now walking back the way he came, becomes more and more aware of the stares that he’s getting from people. He has only seen a few people ever walk into the red zone yet alone get back out. In the foyer now he slowly makes his way up towards the north wing. This part of the factory is top secret and feels deserted compared to the south wing, the few people wandering the bare corridors give Jonathan menacing smiles. Warning signs along the way state “you are now entering a red zone, those without passes will be prosecuted.” Upon approaching the door one of two armed guards tells him, “Pass and I.D.” Jonathan hands him the red pass and his workers I.D. “Go on through sir”. “But w-what about my I.D” Jonathan asks. “Don’t worry, you won’t be needing it again” As Jonathan pushes through the thick doors he is washed in a wave of fear. Shouting and screaming coming from every door fills the stale, cell-like, passageway. With each footstep, he becomes enveloped more and more into the north wing.