humans must have done before clocks were invented. Now I can hear voices.
“Dump him by the fence,” one of them remarks. “Bombing or no: a dead rat will not jeopardize my quota.”
Go forth and get that promotion.
My arms are dark black when they lift me off the ground and toss me aside. Next to the fence that supposedly killed me. Close enough for it to try again if I move too much.
The machine gun has been turned away: damaged in the attack, so they can’t exactly point it at the prisoners working on the trench. Besides, after someone just bombed your camp, you’d want to point your guns where the planes went, right? Since that’s the direction they’d come from if they wished for a repeat performance.
The prisoners think I’m dead. Or they know I’m alive but don’t want the Guards to send me to the hospital. They have new scientific things to test out: but not on me.
Above all else: survive.
I risk moving my head ever-so-slightly. And there it is: not my blackened body, which I’d been trying to inspect.
Something that makes my mouth fly open.
* * *
Remember the trench I was digging? And the pile of tools we use for our daily assignments? I had a pick-axe.
Note the past tense: everyone was so shocked (pun intended) by the morning’s events that no one bothered to ask what happened to the implement I was using to dig the day’s hole.
It had flown off the ground where I’d abandoned it, propelled by the energy of the bombardment, and gone right through the fence.
Fast enough to get there before I did; low enough for no one to notice the damage it had done. Unless their face was close enough to lick the metal.
Someone will be executed for losing the tool. Someone else will be executed for standing next to the person accused of losing the tool. Later, when the day’s work is done.
Above all else: survive.
Right now, there’s a hole in the fence large enough to crawl through...if I dig in this mud and get low enough to…
Wait: I know that smell. It’s the gas from the battlefront. The one that makes you forget. And I don’t want to.
“Rotten. Piece. Of. FILTH!”
Now there’s a shadow standing above me. Kicking this blackened body. It’s wearing steel-tipped boots and grey trousers. Checking to see if I’m really dead, as an excuse to get a whiff of some of that gas.
You see, the Guards hate it here too. So do the Overseers and Contractors. So does the Camp Commandant. Only the doctors seem to be enjoying themselves.
Everyone who isn’t a doctor wants to forget where they are, for an hour that lasts a day.
Each blow is harder: each connection a thrill to the one making it. I know this Guard. I HATE this Guard.
Now he’s bending over me. To take a trophy: and no doubt lie to his pals that he managed to kill an enemy soldier. This is technically the front line now; there could be some of them close by.
Ears and noses are the standard.
And that’s the sound of a knife being pulled from its sheath.
- NEXT CHAPTER -G