The Forklift Next To Me
The air was heavy with fog. I slowly moved forward, alert, and turn on my headlights. Beneath me, the grass was cool and wet.
Suddenly, I heard a noise behind me. Oh no oh no…
I kicked into overdrive and raced crazily, even as I felt my fuel drain. Hold on, I told myself.
I snuck a peak backwards at my mirror and saw another snarling forklift after me. An angry man drove the vehicle. Immediately, I knew what he wanted. When he caught me, he was going to dismantle me, piece by piece, and throw my broken body into a landfill.
I’m getting away, I’m getting away-
And then I was driving off the edge of a cliff, air rushing past me as I fell…
“Max, wake up!”
I jerked awake with a rev. “What…?”
“Bad dreams?” the forklift next to me asked sympathetically. He didn’t chastise me for falling asleep on him during night watch, probably because he could sense how distraught I was. He had always been good at knowing what I felt like before I even I did. Maybe it was because we were twins, made from the same manufacturer. We were both 20000 pounds of yellow and blue painted material and standard pneumatic tires (Dave argues that the tires were what attracted the ladies). We also had a load center of 24 inches, a Duplex mast, and a maximum fork height of 144 inches.
I nodded and tried to clear my head. “Sorry Dave… you get some shuteye and turn yourself off, I won’t be able to sleep anymore.”
But he said, “Nah, I’ll stay. Besides, if you fall asleep again, our chief will take my tires.” He chuckled, thinking about our irate chief. We stared at the night in silence after that.
The next morning, I dragged Dave from his sleeping spot to the dining commons.
“Urgh what…” he blinked his lights. “Five more minutes…”
“We’re going to miss all the diesel!” I cried. “Come on!”
“Look who’s here,” someone said behind me. “it’s the brothers who used to haul lumber from the lumber yards.” Mean laughter surrounded us. I groaned but turned around.
“Hello Keith,” I grumbled. Ever since the war between humans started, they enslaved all of the forklifts to do their bidding, from military uses (with the highest death rates) to recycling centers (my personal nightmare). Dave and I used to be a part of the cruel lumber yards, until we escaped and found this refugee camp, one of several scattered throughout the country. Despite all of us being refugees, there were still several forklifts (Keith’s gang) that antagonized us because we were “newbies”. Also, the gang was from construction sites and had solid pneumatic tires, where were much costlier and of better quality then ours.
“Go away Keith,” Dave muttered.
“Aw, little baby cars tired out today after doing a few hours of watch?” Keith mimicked, and laughed with his buddies. Disgusted, I quickly took a diesel can and left with Dave behind me.
During our next night watch, three days later, I became impatient.
“Come on, you have to admit that the humans are never going to find us here! We could be getting some sleep instead of wearing out our batteries! Come one, I probably have a life span between 10,000 and 20,000 hours, and we’re wasting it here doing nothing. I’m not getting any younger, you know!”
“I’m sure the chief has a good reason for putting us here,” said Dave placatingly.
“Uh huh,” I grumbled. “Maybe he should stand watch himself if he wants it done so bad.”
“Max!” Dave said.
“Well it’s tru-“
I listened, concerned. Then I heard it.
Rustling sounds from the nearest bush.
“Should I get back-ups?” I asked, and Dave nodded slowly. I reversed, slowly, until something came out from behind the bush.
A human-?! And his dog!
This was going from bad to worse to… well there wasn’t a word terrible enough to describe my panic attack and need for an immediate jumpstart.
“I’ll distract it and you go get the chief,” Dave muttered.
But just before I ran for it, the human spoke. “Wait! I come in peace!”
“Wait,” I said slowly. “It’s a compact human. It’s not fully grown, I think. It can’t do anything to hurt us.”
“There could be more of them!”
“They would have attacked already.”
So saying, I approached the human. It- he, I think- approached me slowly. It was strange- meeting a youngling of the cruel people that had enslaved us. But I remembered some of my grandfather’s stories, about how humans and forklifts once lived in peace. Back then, I had scoffed, but… maybe his tall tales had been true.
“Hi,” the youngling said. “My name’s Brad.”
“Max,” I said. He touched the forklift cylinder solemnly.
“There it is! Catch it!”
Suddenly, the air around me was charged with engines revving and rushing toward the human.
“Get in!” I yelled, as a dozen lights snapped on and blinded me. Brad did as he was told, however, protecting him from the anger of the other forklifts momentarily.
Keith snarled as he came in front of me. “What are you doing?! You’re harboring the enemy! Put it down so we can kill it before he alerts the rest of its pack!”
“No,” I said defiantly. “This human has done nothing to hurt us. He’s innocent.” “We can’t do the same thing they did to us!” Dave cried. “That makes us no better than them!”
“Fine,” Keith said. “Let’s see what the chief has to say about this.”
“I say we keep the human boy,” the chief said. Everyone looked to the right in awe and respect; here was the chief, with his battle scars showing on his mast and overhead guard.
And that was how the boy and I became best friends, despite everyone making us into social pariahs. It took them months to accept the boy, but when they did, they all loved him. That is, with the exception of Keith and his faithful, no-good posse who tried to stir up trouble as often as possible.
The boy took us to his own refuge camp. It turns out the humans there were sick of the fighting and enslaving, which prompted them to form a resistance movement to the others. An allegiance between the refugee humans and the refugee forklifts formed. We weren’t so different after all.
Who would have known…
“Hey Max, you want to play tag?” Brad yelled, breaking into my reverie.
“Yeah, one second!” I said, looking at the spot we had first found him. Perhaps one day… all humans and forklifts would be able to live together in peace, each relying on the other.
And that filled my engine with hope.
“Grandfather, you’re kidding!” said Milo.
I smiled tiredly. “It’s true! Ask Granduncle Dave if it isn’t true. Humans and forklifts used to be at war with each other, but Dave and I were part of the movement that changed everything.”
“Uh huh,” said Milo in disbelief but awe. “Please grandfather- tell me what happened after that!”
A human kid came into sight, and Milo looked back at him. I laughed. “You go play with that kid today, and I’ll tell you the rest tomorrow.”
I looked after Milo, wondering when Brad would come visit me. Brad was fully grown, in the prime of his years, and had a family to take care of now.
I looked around us, at the humans and forklifts collaborating, at everyone smiling and laughing and working.
We made it, I thought happily. We really did.