Laborious Strainings

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CHAPTER TWELVE

The days of labour soon assumed a constant, labouorious routine. I would be woken at the crack of dawn, along with the other servants (ahem, slaves), and we would be forced to collect water, firewood and basic herbs from the well and the woods by the camp, ever concious of the restraining chip on our necks. Then we would have to cook for the hundreds of people, government workers and slaves alike, that laboured at the mine some way beyond the tents. After they all went off to mine, we would have to clean all the cutlery, plates, bowls, pots and pans that were used. By the time we were done with that, it was time to cook lunch, and after that more cleaning. Lunch was simple sandwiches most days, so in lieu of cleaning we would have to carry things, usually supplies, to the miners. The mine was both open-cut and underground, somehow, and the homeless who worked there had chained legs as they moved rubble, chipped at rock, or carried things around. It wasn't a nice sight, especially considering the government soldiers who were always watching them, ramming them with the butts of their guns when they slowed down even minorly. It made me angry but I had to contain it, or get bashed up. Eventually we would start making dinner and serve it after dark to the weary miners. Then we had to clean up once more.

Finally our day would be over, but there were no comforts for us besides sleep. We were provided with the thinnest of blankets and made to sleep on the dirt floor of the tent. It was cold every night but I suppose it wasn't all that bad, considering I hadn't slept in a real bed in months.

The next day the process would start again, and it continued going on, tiring me out each day and making me realize just how easy my life had been before.

I was still confused though. Why were we here at all? Why make a huge affair of kidnapping the homeless just to work here? I mean, I know they probably thought (correctly) that no one would miss us, but still it was a lot of effort to go to just for one mine.

One day, while chopping vegetables alongside the head cook, I decided to try and find out.

"So," I began, scooping sliced carrots into the pot beside me and starting on potatoes. "What's so important about this particular mine that it's so... specially organized?"

The cook gave me a look, signaling that I shouldn't ask questions like that, but then she gave in.

"There was a government survey," she said, and I perked up immediately at the fact that she was actually answering. "here, a while ago, apparently. Back then there was no valley, just flat lands above us. But that all changed when the survey made the government realize that this site had the largest abundance of precious minerals on earth! Of course, the government wanted to have that so they got to work; first blasting off the upper rock to make a mine, then planting trees here to give protection, extending the railway track, choosing people to work here, and for laborers, after they passed those new laws they realized they could use it to their advantage and quickly planned to have your kind rounded up." Shock ran through me as her always stern expression dropped and I saw how bitter she really was underneath. "It's a lovely system isn't it?

"Not to be rude," I replied hesitantly as I peeled the last potato. "But why are you here if you don't like the government's methods?"

Her expression hardened. "Surely you've worked out by now that the government has many ways of persuading people to aid in their prosperity. Trust me, I do what I have to do, not what I want to do. Now finish chopping those potatoes, snappy!"

With that she walked off, all kindness between us forgotten.

Ah yes, the conspiracy only seemed to grow larger with each day that passed, and with each person I talked to. Not that I had much time for talking of course, but that didn't stop me listening: to soldiers conversing as I passed them, to miners grumbling as I hauled supplies to where they worked and to the government officials though of course reading between the lines of their speeches.

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