The Nilfisk Advanc 2067P I Replaced
“It can’t be true,” I heard a lift murmur to his neighbor. That seemed to be the gist of all of the hushed conversation around me. I could barely make out the words, but they were all discussing my impending doom. I felt it. How could they not whisper? Maybe they wouldn’t be whispering if my humans- no, my ex-humans- had been decent and waited until I was sold to bring in the newest model- the SW8000.
That however wasn’t the case. I watched as a stranger helped ride her into the floor. One of my ex-humans started to ride me out. I drove on right past her. I didn’t even get to ask her name. Maybe it’s better I don’t know it. It would have kept me up at night.
Not that I got much sleep those next few days. I was driven up a ramp- an incline, as if they were trying to point out my one weakness- and then strapped onto an unsteady, wooden platform. The highway moved too fast to sleep and the machine carrying me was too busy concentrating on moving 70, 80, even 90 miles per hour to talk for me. When we stopped, she was too tired to discuss anything. That was okay though. I didn’t want to talk. I knew machines that sprung a leak when there was even a rumor of their replacement. I knew better than that. I didn’t want to be out of work for long, but doing something stupid and self-destructive like that would keep me out of work. I was made to clean floors, and if I didn’t get a job soon, I’d be going crazy. Without work, life seemed pointless.
After a journey that took longer than I could keep track of with no company at all, other than the quiet tractor, I was finally brought to a warehouse. I had a feeling I’d be here for a while if I wasn’t bought quickly. I could tell by the machines there. Their metal parts were a dull gray and the only sounds they made seemed like nonsense. They sounded dumber than humans.
In the shadows of the warehouse, whose floors I could not help but notice were appallingly dirty, I was parked next to another sweeper. Instead of a gray body like me or he SW800, his body was red. Although this was unnervingly different, it felt familiar. It made me almost want to talk to him. But I couldn’t. What if their insanity seeped into as I spoke? Plus, I couldn’t get comfortable here. If things went well, I’d be gone in a day or two.
“I know you from somewhere!” he screeched, penetrating our utter silence.
“No,” I murmured.
“I do,” he insisted.
“I’m tired,” I answered. I didn’t want to deal with this. Not right now. I was tired. I needed rest. So, I let myself rest.
I only slept for a few hours at the most, but the feeling of being intently watched woke me from my dreamless rest. My engine revved as I jumped awake. He was staring at me blankly. Just staring. I tried to turn myself away slightly, but I still felt him staring. Every part of me tingled and the bristles of my brooms shook.
“Can I help you?” I finally asked.
“I know you,” was all he said.
“No. I just look familiar, I’m sure.” I huffed.
“No. I know you,” he said more firmly.
“Maybe another sweeper of my model came in and was resold. We’re pretty popular.”
“I know you.”
“Please stop. You don’t know me. I’ve never been to a place… like this before. I don’t know how you would know me.”
“Where do you come from?”
“Why does it matter?”
He looked around before looking back at me. His eyes got sad before he spoke again, “Never mind. I just thought I knew you.”
I sighed and tried to go back to resting. Maybe I could sleep away my whole stay here. I slept for longer than I ever had. It was dreamless, but refreshing sleep. When I woke back up, the room was loud with the hum of machines, talking less nonsense and with more excitement.
“What’s going on?” I mumbled sleepily.
The old sweeper now seemed uninterested as he spoke, much less animated, “Oh. Some humans are coming in to do some shopping.”
“Wow! Really?” I grinned proudly, trying to look my best.
“Yeah,” he shrugged.
“Are you crazy? Why are you not excited?”
He sighed, “When you’ve been here for so many years… It stops getting excited.”
“How long have you been here?”
Before he could ask, the humans walked through the garage door. There were tons of them! I didn’t look over at the old sweeper, I was too distracted. So many humans were looking around. I watched carefully as they chattered about and dilly-dallied around other machines. The clock ticked slowly and loudly, echoing, even in the bustling room. Finally, the humans approached the sweeper section- which consisted just of me and the old sweeper.
“This one just came in,” the seller human told the browsing humans.
“So something’s wrong with it?”
“No, nothing was wrong with it when we got it.”
“But if nothing was wrong with it, why was it sent away?”
“The previous owners wanted an upgrade.”
“I bet you the old one’s reliable.”
As the humans debated who was the most reliable, me or the old sweeper, the old sweeper glanced at me. “I remember you, kid!”
“No you don’t!” I huffed.
“Yes I do. You replaced me. Remember? I remember it like it was yesterday. Your bristles were harsh against the floor- not worn yet. Your body shined more than ever before.”
“Wait you mean, I … You… What? That can’t be true!”
“Yes it is! The warehouse you came from- you were placed next to a lift uh… Let me think of his name… Leonard.”
“How do you know Lenny?”
“Because I knew him before you kid!”
I gasped. I took his spot. He was the Nilfisk Advanc 2067P I replaced. I did to him what the SW8000 did to me. I was just as awful as the SW8000 and there was no way around it. The humans seemed to be leaning towards him and he slumped.
“Don’t worry anymore. Work’s coming your way, it looks like.”
He shook his head, “I can’t let what happened to me happen to you.”
“What do you mean?”
“This place gets to you…”
“Well what’re you going to do?”
He closed his eyes and looked like he was concentrating, hard. He hummed softly at first, but it grew loud enough for the humans to hear. And suddenly, there was a loud crack. I squeezed my eyes shut, but by the human’s voices, I knew what was happening. He sprung a leak, a bad one. They tried to laugh it off, but everybody knew how awful it was. No matter how old that sweeper was, it wasn’t his time- not yet. He went too soon.
I didn’t have time to mourn him, because just a few minutes later, I was being shifted and transported back onto a fast-moving highway machine. This drive was much shorter and it brought me to a living warehouse, where work was plentiful. Here, I work everyday, sometimes several times a day, and quickly became popular with the other machines. But at night, when the only sound are the crickets singing lullabies outside and the hum of resting machines, I think of his last hum, his last act of nobility. I wonder what it would have been like if I had more time with him. I wonder if I could have ever been as strong as he was. More than anything though, I am thankful to him. Without him, I might have never worked again. Now, I am doing what I am good at and what I love with efficiency and strength.