Shift, p.60
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       Shift, p.60

         Part #2 of Silo series by Hugh Howey
Page 60


  Solo trembled. His boot slipped a little on the ladder. But he held. He held very still while this woman talked to him. Her eyes were wide and alive. Her lips moved. She was hurt, didn’t want to hurt him back. She just wanted his name. She was happy to see him. The wetness in her eyes was from being happy to see him. And Solo thought – maybe – that he himself was like a shovel or a can opener or any of those rusty things lying about. He was something that could be found. He could be found. And someone had.



  • Silo 1 •

  DONALD SAT IN the otherwise empty comm room. He had every station to himself, had sent the others to lunch and ordered those who weren’t hungry to take a break. And they listened to him. They called him Shepherd, knew nothing else about him except that he was in charge. They came on and off shift, and they did as he ordered.

  A blinking light on the neighbouring comm station signalled silo six attempting to make a call. They would have to wait. Donald sat and listened to the ringing in his headset as he placed a call of his own.

  It rang and rang. He checked the cord, traced it to the jack, made sure it was plugged in correctly. Between two of the comm stations lay an unfinished game of cards, hands set aside from Donald ordering everyone out. There was a discard pile with a queen of spades on top. Finally, a click in his headset.

  ‘Hello?’ he said.

  He waited. He thought he could hear someone breathing on the other line.


  ‘No,’ the voice said. It was a softer voice. And yet harder, somehow.

  ‘Who is this?’ he asked. He was used to talking to Lukas.

  ‘It doesn’t matter who this is,’ the woman said. And Donald knew perfectly well. He looked over his shoulders, made sure he was still alone, then leaned forward in his chair.

  ‘We’re not used to hearing from mayors,’ he said.

  ‘And I’m not used to being one. ’

  Donald could practically hear the woman sneer at him. ‘I didn’t ask for my job,’ he confided.

  ‘And yet here we are. ’

  ‘Here we are. ’

  There was a pause.

  ‘You know,’ Donald said, ‘if I were any good at my job, I’d press a button right now and shut your silo down. ’

  ‘Why don’t you?’

  The mayor’s voice was flat. Curious. It sounded like a real question rather than a dare.

  ‘I doubt you’d believe me if I told you. ’

  ‘Try me,’ she said. And Donald wished he still had the folder on this woman. He had carried it everywhere his first weeks on shift. And now, when he needed it—

  ‘A long time ago,’ he told her, ‘I saved your silo. It would be a shame to end it now. ’

  ‘You’re right. I don’t believe you. ’

  There was a noise in the hallway. Donald removed one of the cups from his ears and glanced over his shoulder. His comm engineer stood outside the door with a Thermos in one hand, a slice of bread in the other. Donald raised his finger and asked him to wait.

  ‘I know where you’ve been,’ Donald told this mayor, this woman sent to clean. ‘I know what you’ve seen. And I—’

  ‘You don’t know the first thing about what I’ve seen,’ she spat, her words sharp as razors.

  Donald felt his temperature rise. This was not the conversation he wanted to have with this woman. He wasn’t prepared. He cupped his hand over the microphone, could sense that he was both running out of time and losing her.

  ‘Be careful,’ he said. ‘That’s all I’m saying—’

  ‘Listen to me,’ she told him. ‘I’m sitting over here in a roomful of truth. I’ve seen the books. I’m going to dig until I get to the heart of what you people have done. ’

  Donald could hear her breathing.

  ‘I know the truth you’re looking for,’ he said quietly. ‘You may not like what you find. ’

  ‘You may not like what I find, you mean. ’

  ‘Just . . . be careful. ’ Donald lowered his voice. ‘Be careful where you go digging. ’

  There was a pause. Donald glanced over his shoulder at the engineer, who took a sip from his Thermos.

  ‘Oh, we’ll be careful where we dig,’ this Juliette finally answered. ‘I’d hate for you to hear us coming. ’

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