written by Fyren
The generator can now heat a larger area, at the cost of increased coal consumption. We need a mine, and fast. We can only forage so much. My engineers are hard at work cooking up additional upgrades to the generator. “Sir, I thought you mi-might wa-want to know.” a young boy stammers as he holds out a scrap of paper. He seems to be afraid of me. I snatch the paper from his hand. The woman I had thrown into the snow only two days prior had died, painfully. I let out a sigh. “Thank you, you may go.” I tell the boy and he wastes no time in running off. To work I hope.
It’s time to make the rounds. I exit my tent and begin my daily routine inspecting the settlement to ensure that we stay on track. To ensure that we survive. When I make it to the medical tent, I see several people sick and freezing sitting in the street outside. There are too many sick and not enough nurses nor beds to accommodate them. The gears of my mind spin up, running through the possibilities. “We need to be working on a coal mine or we will all freeze to death, but I cannot allow these sick people to just die in the street waiting for care.” The nurses are exhausted and exasperated. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure we get you right.” I tell the patients waiting out in the cold.
“You, and you. Don’t walk away from me! You too! Stop what you’re doing, we need another medical tent. Over here, start immediately.” A few of them start to protest, one of them even talking about the coal mine project. “I know, just do it.” I tell them. The construction resources are running low as well. Hell… Everything is running low.
The new medical tent is constructed in record time, operational in a day. I couldn’t be prouder. The sun sets on another day. Just as I lie down in my cot to take some rest, the flap of my tent flies open and my best and brightest storms in. “Sir, our coal reserves are gone. The heat won’t last the night.” A leader never sleeps because the world’s problems never sleep I suppose. “What can we do? We can’t be out foraging coal in the dark unless we want to lose our best workers.” I ask him. “We can adjust the heat. The people on the outskirts of the settlement will be unhappy, but it should get us through the night.” Good enough. I think back to when I was put in this position on our arrival. You can’t please everyone. “Do it.” I tell him.
Early in the morning, when the sun was just beginning to brighten the sky but had not yet made an appearance, the hole in which our small settlement was growing became suddenly very quiet. Too quiet. The familiar drone of the constantly running generator now absent. The only sound, the bitter wind and the chattering of teeth. This is not it, this will not be our end. I step out into the cold to make a decree. I yell deeply and loudly, my voice echoing off the walls, “Everyone gathers coal today. Whoever you are, whatever your job. Today we are all gathering coal unless you want to end up in the corpse pit.” My words merely served as the instruction, the motivation today came from the eerie quiet in the absence of the generator’s humming. I head inside to grab my tools and gloves for even I must labour today.
I come back out to find a man, head held high staring at me. His arm is in a sling and a hand is missing, recent amputation by the looks of it. “I won’t take up space under a roof that I can’t pay for. As you can see I can’t work, so that’s that.” he tells me. He seems proud. “Don’t let me stop you.” I grumble at him. “Ya know, there were places to take care of people like me back in London sir” he calls after me. I’ve got work to do and I don’t have time for this man’s complaints. “I don’t know if you noticed, but we’re not in London.” I yell back to him without turning around to spare him so much as a glance, I push my way into the snow in search of coal.
Continued in The Lost Souls