Tiny slivers of sunlight peered though the shredded curtains of the window, piercing my eyes and snapping me awake. I stole a look at the clock, which read six sharp. Twenty more minutes to rest, I told myself. Twenty tiny pieces of time to enjoy before my life morphs into the living hell it is each day. Unfortunately, sleep didn’t come again. The rising alarm rang though the filthy dormitories, awakening everyone else with its unforgiving screeches.

“We’ve got ten minutes to reach the main floor, Dong Zheng,” my roommate Min whispered. I headed out of our prison cell, squashing a cockroach on my way, and joined the hundreds of people going in the same direction as us. A hard-faced supervisor met us at the towering metal doors.

“Quiet! Now listen! Since the iPhone 5 units are complete, thank God, today is an easier day for you all. From now until eleven o’ clock tonight, our sector of Foxconn will polish one hundred thousand of these little pieces of magic.” The supervisor’s sarcasm ended that speech. He held up a virgin white iPhone 5 for all eyes to see, then he stowed it away before anyone could snatch it. The doors opened, revealing an enormous room filled with long tables, complex machinery, unforgiving bosses, and enough misery to kill any particle of happiness you could ever possess.

After shepherding the eight hundred workers inside like sheep, each supervisor was assigned to overlook fifty employees. Min and I were stuck with Mr. Zhou, one of the meanest head supervisors in the land of Foxconn. He wordlessly pointed to two seats at the end of the table for Min and me. Min leaned on the table, catching her breath. Quicker than light, Zhou spotted her offence. He slapped her hard and gestured for her to sit up. Oh, I so wanted to pummel that bastard’s face into the ground, only that would harden the situation. But I couldn’t brood. The iPhones had arrived, each one dusty from handling during production.

We only had five seconds for each phone. In five seconds, we had to remove all dust and fingerprints from each unit before the next one arrived. The first hour was tedious, and the ten hours lined up succeeding the first were worse. No talking was permitted, and if caught, you were to stand in a corner for ten minutes. It was too much for Min. She was a starving sixteen-year old earning forty cents an hour to provide for her family back home in Shenzhen. Min collapsed from exhaustion after working non-stop for nine hours. Seconds later, two of the bosses grabbed her as Zhou arrived.

I didn’t avert my eyes from my work unless I wanted to be punished. But my ears heard what was going on; the cries, screams, and chaos as the men verbally and physically abused her. Min thrashed madly, trying to loosen their grip, and the last I saw of her was her helpless expression as the men dragged her off.

The following two days were a living nightmare for me. Min didn’t show up for work and my worry for her ballooned inside like pus. No one else in the entire Foxconn factory had such an impact on me as Min did. She was too fragile to work here. Even though I hated nearly every moment of my time in this hellhole, I could bear it. That was the sole benefit of an abusive grandmother I had back at home. Min, however, came from a family who believed in manners and peaceful conflict resolutions. But poverty trapped them within their shack like a dome. Min was the sole breadwinner, sending thirty-nine of her forty cents earned per hour to her kin. Out of all of us, she suffered from Mr. Zhou’s abuse the most. For that, I detested the head supervisor even more.

At eleven o’ clock on the Wednesday of that week, I headed to my dormitory along with my droopy-eyed roommates. I climbed into my lumpy bed and just started to sleep when the door crashed open, revealing the outline of a young male worker.

“Everyone, get up! There’s a girl on the balcony about to jump!” he cried.

I was out of that room and on the landing before anyone else even got up. Seconds later I rushed onto the veranda, determined to reach her, to stop her death in its tracks.

“Min!” I screamed, grabbing her. She slapped me, begged me to let her end it, but my grip upon her was too strong.

“Dong Zheng, I’m out! Done! Death is nothing!” she cried, now glancing around at the onlookers surrounding her. I clung to her until two rough hands tore me away.

“Assault upon another employee is forbidden by law,” Zhou growled in my ear. I bolted from his hold and ran where Min stood, but she wasn’t there. The only thing left of her was her body lying sprawled on the ground fifty feet below us.

Time slowed and stopped. Someone noticed the body and felt for a pulse. After realizing she was dead, the man backed away, calling for assistance. I didn’t remember anything past that point. All I could recall was my crushingly terrible survivor’s guilt that haunted me even decades later.

Josi Matson grew up in Hightstown, New Jersey. She always had a passion for art, and she thus put her heart, soul, and mind into entering the School of Visual Arts. She’s currently a sophomore majoring in Graphic Design, with a self-appointed minor in finance. Matson is determined to work for the one company she truly loves after leaving college: the Walt Disney Company.