Garbage Man
"Confirm."

"Confirm," 49-86900 agreed, and continued loading the children's bodies into the processor.

After the last few had been stuffed into the machine, 49-86900 exited the chamber and headed toward the break room. The wall mount buzzed with daily news as 49-86900 contemplated his peanut butter sandwich and sour cream chips. He picked at the cheap bread substitute and rubbed the synthetic nut butter between his fingers as he dug out the center of the sandwich. 49-86900’s eyes flicked up for a second as The Leader appeared on screen. A new learning center and test facility would be opening soon at the far edge of town. 49-86900 frowned.

“Is something the matter 49-86900?”

The orb of the overseer was circling above him, and 49-86900 kept his eyes down, stared deeper into his food.

“No.”

“Then finish and return to your work. Meal ends in 10 minutes.”

As his day ended, 49-86900 walked home alone. The boarding house was quiet as he hung his coat and shuffled to his sleep zone. His bunk was the middle of a twenty high tower, and as he climbed up, he stopped at 49-86872’s.

“49-86900, is something the matter?”

“They are opening a new test site...I think I want to try and take the test again.”

49-86872 sat up as much as he could in the small space. “This would be the last time they would let you, and you wouldn't be able to study for it. Plus, I heard getting the implant out is horrid.”

“The Leader just opened a new learning center; maybe I could go and get help with the study materials.”

“They would never let you in, the learning center is for the healthy children and fertiles. They won't let you have a bunk for free. You’ve failed the test twice now. They are just waiting for you to fail a third.”

49-86900 shrugged and moved to hang on the edge of the bunk as 4986988 climbed passed him, up the tower. “I think I could do it this time. I think I’d be a good fertile.”

“We can talk in the morning; some of us have strenuous jobs that make us long for time in a bunk.”

“I'm sorry for bothering you. Have a good rest.”

49-86900 settled into his bunk, staring at the bottom of the mattress above his. He had been on the pill for six years, but hopefully not for much longer. He closed his eyes and entered a dreamless sleep.

“I have heard from the others that you are taking the test again.”

49-86900 paused by the body pile and turned to look at 49-86512. “Yes. Tomorrow in fact.”

"Confirm," said 49-86512 with a curt nod.

"Confirm," 49-86900 agreed and returned to his task.

49-86900 bunched his papers in his fist as he entered the first open testing terminal and waited in silence for the testing check-in services to acknowledge him.

“Present papers and confirm.”

49-86900 hurried to flatten the wrinkled sheets before inserting them into the machine’s feed slot. “Confirm.”

“Begin test.”