written by Fyren
Another day dawns, though I can barely tell. The sun no longer graces us with its presence in the sky, the permanent cloud cover merely gets brighter. A headache is pounding its way through my skull, as the numbers on the pages littered across my desk seem to jump off the page and dance together. The pounding in my head is echoed by the pounding of hammers in the distance as the engineers continue working to improve our generator. So important is it, that it has become almost an idol to the people.
The rhythm of the hammer strokes is soon replaced by a constant drone of wailing parents at my door. The decision to put the kids to work has not been well received, to say the least. I need the parents to get back to work, just as much as I need the extra hands of their children. I don’t have the time or the energy to deal with this. I get up and leave the tent. Without saying a word, I push past the group gathered at the door and make my way to the cookhouse. The group of parents follow me the entire way, each trying to shout their complaints at me louder than the next.
In the cookhouse I find several children hard at work making the soup rations that feed the entire settlement. The temperature inside is warm, compared to the bitter cold that pervades everywhere else. The stoves in constant operation keep the interior damp yet comfortable. Not a bad place to work, all things considered. “I should put in some time here myself if I can ever find a few moments. If only to escape the cold.” I think to myself as I survey the now quieter kitchen. Work has stopped. The children and the one adult supervisor are staring at me, wide-eyed, as if I was about to order their executions. Soon, the noise level rises again as the parents following me begin to file into the kitchen, determined to be heard. “Quiet!” I shout, in a firm and commanding voice. “Please… my head is killing me.” I follow, in a voice distinctly lacking in strength and begging for compassion. I take a moment, before looking to the supervisor in charge of the cookhouse. “All children who labour, all of them who work, are to be given double rations.” I say it loud enough for the crowd that had burst in behind me to hear. I turn slowly towards the door and look at them all. Their faces display all sorts of emotion ranging from a grim acceptance, to satisfaction, to a shocked delight. “Good enough?” I mumble under my breath. They slowly start to file out to resume their duties.
I exit the cookhouse, and decide to make the rounds of the settlement. First stop is the medical tent. I enter the tent, but no one here takes notice. Good. The few medics and nurses are hard at work. Broken bones. Cuts and bruises. Coughing fits. Mostly though, it’s frostbite and the resulting gangrene that comes from it. In the back corner a man, in his late 30’s, is having a leg amputated at the knee. He bites down on a strip of leather as the nurse goes to work with the saw. I will spare you the details, suffice it to say that the process is messy. A rotting smell fills the tent. “Ok, you’re next.” the nurse says having finished. She points to another patient, a woman in her 50’s. “I can’t. I won’t. Please don’t do this to me.” the woman pleads. The nurse attempts to calmly explain that without amputation the gangrene will spread and ultimately kill the woman. I watch all of this quietly, but the nurse takes notice of my presence. Amidst the protest from her patient she motions at me helplessly. I approach the older patient from behind and place a hand on her shoulder to calm her. I explain what the nurse had already told her. When I finish, she resumes her protest right where she had left off. I’ve had enough of these people. Never happy, never content, never understanding. I shiver as the wind blows the tent flap open and cold air comes rushing in followed by a few snowflakes. I grab the collar of the woman’s shirt and begin dragging her towards the door. I step outside into the bitter cold, gangrenous patient still in tow. I toss her squirming body into the snow. “Fine, if you want to die. So be it.” I cannot abide useless people.
Continued in Of Health and Heat