written by Fyren
Frostbite has stricken too many of my people. The few medics we brought with us tell me that they could save lives by amputating the blackened limbs. It has been less than a week, and already this talk of hacking our people apart. “Fine, see it done.” I say through gritted teeth. We must forge onward, at all costs. The cold continues to deepen, chasing the warmth from our tents. The generator, the massive technological marvel that it is, can’t seem to keep up. The handful of educated folk we have are hard at work devising solutions to the myriad of other problems that we face.
I sit at my desk, head hung low, trying to determine how to stretch our dwindling coal resources when a woman barges in. “I will not stand for it!” she begins her tirade “I will not let you send my daughter out into the cold to work like a slave!”. I take a deep breath, fold my hands in front of my face, fix her with a stare as cold as the snow outside and let her finish. “Have we lost all decency that we let our children freeze to death? Have you no heart? She is only 9 years old and you would have her pulling apart old wrecks for scrap metal? She worked herself half to death yesterday, she needs rest. You must let her stay inside today.” She looks at me, expectantly. I let her words hang in the air. She waits for my response. After a moment, when her heat had died down, if only a little, I stand. I cross the distance of my tent in just a few steps and tower over her. “I would have her contribute to the survival of us all.” The words leave my throat, calm and measured, leaving no room for discussion. “None of us can afford to make exceptions.” I hold open the flap that serves as a door signaling that the conversation is over. The indigent mother opens her mouth as if to protest, but the words die in her throat as she thinks better of pressing her luck with me. As they turn to leave, I bend down to catch the child by the shoulder. “It’ll be OK. We will all be OK.” I tell her as I muster as much of a smile as I am able.
I know that it’s not true. It’s only going to get worse. Each passing day grows colder than the last, and as the snows pile up around us, hope withers. The frost chokes the life from all it touches. The cases of frostbite are now overflowing the medical tent. We’ll need to start burning more coal, but we’re dangerously low already. I begin going over the plans on my desk for a modification to the generator. “I hope this works” I think aloud as I scoop up the plans and head to the workshop to order the modification to be done immediately. I step outside the tent just in time to hear a shriek in the distance. I go to investigate.
Outside of the medical tent, a case of frostbite it seems, lying motionless on the ground. Frozen to death while waiting for treatment. I clutch the papers in my hand tightly. I will fix this. “What should we do with the body?” one bystander asks. Good question. I hadn’t really thought that far ahead. We can’t afford to spare time and resources giving each person a proper burial. More will die, and soon. “Dig a pit, and make it a big one. We may have need of it again soon.” No one dare speak. The people standing around the fresh corpse, with frost already forming around its eyes, stare at me with mouths agape and eyes blank with disbelief. The tension grows thicker than the snow with each passing moment. “Are we so comfortable that we can just stand around? Get back to work.” I decree loudly. So, this is the kind of leader I will be.
Continued in Compassion and Cruelty In Equal Measure