Another sign that went up in factory canteen where I laze around for minimum wage read as above, "No smoking anywhere on the premises except in the designated smoke shelter". Confusion arose until we discovered what the "designated smoking shelter" actually was. Basically, the genii in our management have decided to import a bus shelter from some hapless bus station somewhere and dump it outside the factory. Smokers go in, and leave their fag-ends in a special wall-mounted bin.

Two amusing things have already come of the designated smoke shelter:
  • Some wag prank called the local bus company and told them that there were a lot of people waiting for a bus and would they care to send one down. A double-decker arrived, and the driver got increasingly angry for half an hour until someone told him it was in fact a "smoke shelter".

  • The discovery that as the shelter is entirely made of metal, it is very susceptible to lightning strikes in thunderstorms. As if the life of the smoker were not already hard enough with heart disease, lung cancer and emphysema, they now also have to contend with 30,000 volts randomly dropping on them should they want to have a puff during an electrical storm.
They gather in this increasingly rare public temple to worship before the coming imposed fast. Each table supports a brazier heaped with ash and the ceremonial spun cotton cylinders. Each table is lit by dim yellow globes and the rain spattered window. The earth toned carpet and chairs share the ritualistic burns of chaos and accident.

The worshipers click their machine matches to ignite their charge, incinerating the carcass and freeing its soul to the waiting spirits of air who carry it up and out to the freedom of the winds. Each supplicant bears the cross of dedication, each shortens their life through worship, speeding it along to the next life, the next lesson, the next form. Each knows at some level that awaiting them is a cavalcade yet of shapes, of colors, and of burdens. Each will churn and change behind every pair of eyes, at the heart of every plant until each has sucked the marrow from the bones of each lesson. Only then will they be dried in the sun, wrapped in paper and entombed with nineteen others waiting to be freed.

They seek to convert no one, they are taxed and shunned, and demonized by the information priests. They are deaf to the cries of “quit or die” knowing that abandoning their mission will not stay death's hand, but they do not fight or struggle against their tormentors as the work of the faithful has never been easy, which is why only the faithful see their vow through to the end. Many do not even understand what it is that they do, it is an unconscious drive , a near compulsion… it is these that tend to work the hardest.

In order to travel this globe and follow the paths lain before them, they are forced to fast in the presence of the nonbeliever.

This was not always so.

Once the work was relished by Kings of men and performed with fitting reverence by entire nations of people. Not long ago, so many worshiped in the markets, at the telling of fables, in eating houses and houses of drink of learning, in the public carriages, and the great ships of water and air. Then the alchemists that created this marvelous age did turn on the missionaries like a pit viper and now the work has all but been outlawed.


I grind the filter into the dusty heap and gather my things…

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