He cringes as he sees them through the grimy window.
He can't see much besides the blurred silhouettes, but he can see that they are hunched over their plates, stuffing brown globs into their fat lips.
"Back to work, sweetiebun," the master says, lashing him a few times to get his mind back on the task at hand. Today he's in charge of...
well, he's not even quite sure what he's doing, just that he's shoving things into a meat grinder.
Anything, really; he's done ordinary meat, bones, teeth, little cups of congealed bone marrow, anything he puts in comes out as the same brownish sludge.
He doesn't know how it works, but he's not sure he even wants to; last time his friend, Harrison, asked questions, Anders saw some... questionable meat in the grinder the next day.
Finally, as the Diner slowly dims over the course of the day, the master is through again. Some sludge for everyone and then it's off to the bunks.
He watches some children get taken away by the guards for talking; their own fault, really, though he can't help but feel a twinge of sadness at their departure.
But he knows not to get too upset. Getting attached in this place is a death sentence.
Four hours of uneasy sleep later, he's quickly ripped awake by the master's incessant yelling, her volume seeming to cause her to teeter on her spindly legs.
"Wake up, sweetypumpkins," her voice blares, giving each worker two lashes as she goes by. They wake up in turn and clamber out of their respective bunks, filing into the kitchen.
"Counter duty today," she speaks, her speakers vibrating with the noise, "goes to employee #256-L-98. Come to the front to receive your uniform."
Anders shrinks back, stepping away from the meat grinder. He's never had counter duty before, and he doesn't want to. Those who man the counter always come back sobbing.
"Employee #256-L-98. Come to the front or you will be terminated."
Whispers circulate him as he walks to the front, quiet steps on the greasy floor. Once there, she hands him a hat dripping with oil and pushes him towards the exit.
"Walk out those doors," she says, "and serve the customers." She repeats the command as he pushes them open, letting them glide to a shut behind him.
The first thing he does is gag; the scent of rotting meat was strong in there, but he'd gotten used to it. The smell in here overpowers him.
He retches on the floor, but the bots don't seem to care.
The actual restaurant is similarly grimy and greasy, but the colors are oversaturated and seem to be modeled after a crude understanding of what a 60's diner would look like.
Blocky, plastic furniture decorates the room, worn with age, and the things...
Oh God, those things.
They're nothing more than lumps of fat, sickly greyish and dwarfing the chairs they're sitting in.
Their skin seems to drip with sweat and oil, and their face is nothing but two beady eyes and a yawning, toothy maw, filled with thousands of fangs.
Their skin is sickeningly shiny and pale, grease-covered and unnaturally smooth. They all glare at him as he walks out, but quickly return to their meal.
The restaurant is filled with the sounds of slurping and chewing.
Anders hears a bell ring, and his head turns to the door. One of the people (if you could even call them that) wheels in on one of those handicapped scooters, fat hanging limply off the sides.
Its presence is signaled by an intense smell of mold that seems to overpower the rotten meat.
It points to an item on the menu, a plate of steaming bones, and he enters it in on the register. This... isn't so bad, he decides, and it goes like that for a while.
Thing, point, enter, and their meal would go to them. It becomes like habit, throughout the endless day. Thing, point, enter. Thing, point, enter.
Another thing comes through the door, grunting at the others as if saying hello. It approaches the counters and points to an item on the menu, far off to the left.
He stretches over the counter, trying to see the image.
His stomach drops and he's forced to tap the icon.
A stick figure. He hopes this doesn't entail what he thinks it does.
The thing finds a seat right in front of the door, settling in on the plastic chair as best it can. He hears something from behind him: a scream.
A child is wrestled out through the double doors by the guards, their claws digging into her flesh, still in her grimy uniform.
As soon as she's close enough, the thing grabs her, taking a moment to sniff her neck. She sobs gently.
Then it rips into her throat with its teeth, spraying blood all over the immediate area. It laps up the liquid spewing out of her neck like a dog, before ripping into her chest and arms as well.
He throws up again, and again and again, watching that thing eat her alive.
The door. His eyes flick to it. It's only a few feet away. He vaults over the counter. An alarm blares, but he ignores it; freedom is so close. Open the door.
He looks around; he's surrounded by stores and those things, and the floors are greasy and there are employees in the stores, employees like him, looking through the windows, their eyes going wide at him.
None of the things seem to notice him, but the guards do. They lunge for him.
He runs. Through the mall, past the stores, narrowly avoiding the wheeled things on their scooters. He runs until his legs want to give up, and still he runs.
Half the guards are after him, now, running tooth and nail to capture the runaway. The front doors are in sight, giant gateways.
There are no windows, but he can still tell that they lead to freedom.
He knocks them open with his shoulder, spilling out onto the concrete outside. Free. His eyes adjust to the sunlight, the sun he missed, all those years.
His skin is sickly pale, too, but he can hear it: birdsong.
The guards seem to have given up, and the doors close shut behind him. He kicks off his worn shoes and feels the green grass underneath, smelling fresh air for the first time in forever.
He screams, a luxury he wouldn't have been able to afford back in that restaurant; in the fresh air, the memories of the girl's face floats away on the breeze. Animals bound around him.
He wanders for a while, slightly in shock, before he hears a voice behind him: "so you escaped, too."
A girl approaches him, her golden blonde hair shining in the sunlight. He laughs and hugs her, peeling off his shirt.