Bogleech.com's 2015 Horror Write-off:
" Big Betty "
Submitted by Gareth Barsby
...is what they called me. I thought I understood why, but now I'm not so sure.
I don't know when it was I started thinking; I have vague memories of being formed, but I'm sure I didn't start thinking then. I do remember my first thoughts, however, my first thoughts were about the people around me. They had necks just like I did, only theirs were smaller and thicker than mine. They had teeth and I had teeth, but my teeth were used for digging into the ground. I wasn't entirely like them - I was big enough for one of them to sit inside me - but I thought there must be at least one way we were similar. If there wasn't, why would they let me work with them?
Big Betty, they called me. She, they called me. 'There she is,' they'd say, and since I was among them, I assumed they were "she" too. When I heard "he", I thought it was a way of shortening the word. It wasn't until later I found out about females, the people my co-workers whistled to, the people my co-workers went home to. However, even after finding that out, I still thought myself as a male. I suppose I'm just used to it.
When the work for the day was finished, my co-workers all went back home to a female, who they called their "Mrs." At one point I even tried following them when they went into their cars, only for Bill to cry, 'Oi! Get out of there!' The other vehicles, the others of my kind, they had no homes to go to, and the same went for me.
I've tried to talk to the others. The cranes, the dump truck, even the ground I've been digging into. All are silent. None of them seem to think. Time and time again I've tried to talk to my co-workers as well, also to no avail. It was odd; I had a mouth, yet I could not speak with it. I could see without eyes, hear without ears, yet I could not speak.
So there, in the site, I spent most nights alone. I went to different places to aid in different construction projects, but every night there was spent in solitude. Sometimes I'd like to pretend the dump truck was thinking like I was. It was a he and his name was Bob. I'd tell him my thoughts and he'd tell me his thoughts. The ground could think and he was called Derek. Or they were called Derek. Was the ground one thing or loads of little things together?
And there were things I just had to talk about. For example, one co-worker told another co-worker a story about a construction worker, just like them, who hated getting egg-and-cress sandwiches. His friend then asked him 'Why don't you ask your wife to make a different sandwich?' and the worker replies, 'I don't have a wife, I make my own sandwiches.' I didn't understand that story, I didn't understand why he would make sandwiches he hated, and I didn't even know what cress was.
Even though I couldn't talk to them, I looked forward to my co-workers coming in day after day, and listening to their conversations. I may not have understood them, but they provided entertainment. Besides, all I was doing I was doing to help them. What kept me going was the thought of people like my co-workers enjoying the finished project I had aided in.
Most days followed a routine: spend a few hours in silent solitude, help the co-workers, rest while the co-workers eat their lunch, and then do some more work. This routine was broken up one day when a female came to our site. A female human and her little male child. They had come for Bill, but the child had come for me.
'Big Betty!' cried the child, and he lifted something towards me.
A picture. A picture of me, or what looked like me.
An excavator, bright and yellow just like me. Same neck. Same head with teeth. Yet he...she had eyes above her teeth, with a big pink bow atop those eyes. Big Betty Saves the Day was above her in letters as yellow as she was. The picture opened up to reveal another picture, one of the brighter Betty using her head to get a dump truck out of what looked like a giant mud puddle.
'Look!' said the child, 'It's you!'
I bent my head down slightly to get a closer look, making sure not to hit the child on his head, when Bill approached. 'Yep,' he said, 'it's Betty, alright.'
No, I thought, that can't be me. I didn't have eyes, I didn't have a bow, and I didn't remember rescuing a dump truck. The dump truck in the picture had eyes and a hat, and it looked like he could think. Nonetheless, they talked a bit about Betty, the other Betty, about the adventures she and her friends went on. They were machines like I was, but they didn't have humans working with them. They built big buildings all by themselves, ones for little animals to live in.
I wasn't that Big Betty, but maybe, I thought, they said I was her because we were so similar. Because I was connected to her.
She was my Mrs.
I couldn't very well be the only sentient excavator out there. If my co-workers could have wives to go to, why couldn't I? If Bill knew so much about the other Betty, then certainly she had to be close by.
Since there was a break in the usual routine during the day, I decided there would be one during the night. So after everyone had gone home, I escaped the construction site and trundled off into the nearby fields. That's where Betty lived; a bright, vibrant field filled with flowers. I made sure to avoid the roads; I've never trusted cars.
Along the grass I rolled, keeping an eye out for Betty, but also taking in the scenery. Could those bushes think, I wondered, those trees? Such a thought made me freeze as all the greenery my co-workers razed flashed through my mind. Another thing I recently learned about was death, when someone just stops thinking, just stops moving, and never starts again.
Was there the possibility that could happen to me?
I just lay there, hanging my head, wondering if it was worth going out at all. No, I thought, I had come too far. So on I trundled.
All of a sudden, I saw her.
The spitting image of myself before me, standing as still as I was a while ago, but I knew it...she was thinking. She was sentient, just like me. My Mrs. My Betty.
I understood her, she noticed me, yet she told me to leave. All I could ask is 'Why?'
'I came out here so I don't get reminded of what I am, thank you very much.'
'But...aren't you Big Betty?'
'Big...what? No, actually they call me Mary. That's how I ended up like this. They gave me a name, they gave me a personality, and boom, soon I started thinking and talking.' She brought her head closer to mine. 'It's Hell, isn't it? He describes in detail his day, his personal life. How he has a nice warm home to go to, his lovely children who he watches TV with, how he doesn't have to spend his free time alone with no arms and no legs, no family...'
'I want that with you!' I blurted out.
'The other workers,' I said, 'they have Mrs...es to go to, so I thought you would be my Mrs. You know, after work is done....I go back to you....and...'
'And then what? We can't have homes to live in, we can't have TVs to watch or food to eat? Have you ever heard about sex?'
'Well, apparently it's great, but we can't do it! Because we aren't supposed to be alive! We weren't born, we never lay in cribs playing with rattles having bedtime stories read to us. We never went to school, we never played games with other children and we never will. We'll never have wives that'll make us sandwiches, or even make sandwiches ourselves, or make egg and cress sandwiches that we hate or whatever it is they talk about!
'I try not to think about that. If you made me your "Mrs", it would be hammered in my head even more. I shouldn't exist, you shouldn't exist, I beg and pray that whoever gave me my thoughts to take them away and make me an inanimate object again. Yet I remain in my Hell, and the fact that there's someone else like me just makes it worse. Times I've thought, "At least there's no-one else suffering like I am", and here you are.'
'Okay,' I said, rolling backwards, 'I'll go back.' I turned around and headed home, because what else could I do?
I turned around.
'Just forget you ever met me.'
I attempted to, yet all the way back to my construction site, what she said refused to leave my mind. Images of the life that I couldn't have, being like my co-workers, they stayed and stayed and wouldn't go away. If they hadn't named me and spoke to me, could the life I have been given to a human? Could I have been chatting away with others while eating sandwiches? What would the sandwiches taste like? What would egg and cress sandwiches taste like? Could I make others laugh like my co-workers...like the humans do?
Humans could do all sorts of things, I thought as I remembered Mary's words. They could read books, they could make books, they could make and eat food, they could tend to others, but all I could do was dig. I could do nothing but dig and the humans made me aware of it, all the while showing what I couldn't have in front of my form.
Then I had another thought. Mary and I were made sentient by the humans naming us. Talking to us.
I spoke to everything in the site. I spoke as if they could answer back.
I imagined them having thoughts. I imagined them having personalities.
I named them.
I put my head closer to the ground I had earlier been digging into. Closer to Derek.
I heard whispers.