I inspect the bridges. The ones trains run on. Really crucial work, making sure they function properly, wouldn't want some poor souls to fall to their death in a blazing fury of steel and fire, into the remorseless canyons, a select few drowning, the especially poor people who don't just die instantaneously, from a broken neck or crushed skull...
It can be a stressful job. You can't really test it out properly without getting people involved. It's really important I make absolutely sure it's safe, otherwise I can expect a whole lot of sudden deaths.
A whole lot of nightmares, too, but I guess that wouldn't change anything.
I remember my first few jobs. I'd done some engineering, I knew how these bridges worked. Really, it was all very abstract, there wasn't any human risk, not really. People who hired me said they really had the people's best interests in mind, honest! They were different from all those corrupt, money-obsessed train companies.
I used to believe them, I really did. They were so sweet, how could they be anything but honest? The first time I misjudged, I was expecting something really bad. I'd cost the company a lot, hadn't I?
"Don't you worry a thing! Everyone makes mistakes, and with you, ahem, track record so far, you really need not worry over this small slip-up! Besides, you work with us, not those obscenely wealthy train mongers; don't you worry a bit about them losing anything, we're not concerned with that—we're concerned with the good of the people! And remember, it's not all on you, there were several inspectors, as there always are. You're doing a good job, and I trust you to keep doing that!"
Ah yes, the other inspectors. Really, that was the first time there was anything other than complete co-operation between all of us. They really believed the bridge was sturdy, each and every one of them. They kept asking me to go over the numbers again, maybe this time I'll find whatever error it was I made.
At the time I just accepted it. They were all my elders, both in age and job experience. Just imagine what would have happened if I was alone there! It sure would have been a waste, wouldn't it?
Which is why they had all these extra inspectors; legally, all you need is one, but they really went above and beyond, all for safety; each one got a separate contract to sign, to approve of the bridge.
I didn't quite get that at the time, why wouldn't we just all sign the same contract? It's obvious now, of course, but it took some time figuring out.
I had a breakthrough some years into the job. I'd been suspecting something for a while, but it took time for proof to surface.
I went to the bar a lot back then—still do, really—helped get me through the stress, as well as the guilt, knowing I had cost so many lives throughout the years...well, not really me, the other inspectors. They would sometimes disagree, but there was only ever one dissenter at a time, so it wasn't just me.
Though it was only when I disagreed that people died.
One of those bar visits really stood out from the others. I saw my boss sitting in one of the cubicles, across someone that looked real familiar. Wouldn't you know it, it turned out to be one of those train-mongers, money-thirsty, blackened conscience, withered heart. You know, one of those guys.
They sure were chummy. Almost as if they were old friends in on some secret, concocting some devious plan. Only in broad daylight.
And really, doesn't that sum the whole thing up? Everyone knows what these guys're doing, so there's no use hiding it. Even I knew, somewhere, somehow; even though I pushed it down, ignored it.
Just like I ignored all the dead people at the bottoms of canyons.
All the mistakes forgiven before they were even made.
The excess inspectors.
The errors never found.
The broken bridges we approved.
You know, during my entire stint in this job I have yet to reject any bridge. Not a single one. There's always something I did wrong, some error in my calculations, an error in my judgement...
These days, when people ask me what I do, I lie.
I inspect the bridges.