13 Apr Two Years a Slave – A Short Story
I’ve been working on various projects recently, depending on how I have been feeling emotionally, ranging from comedy to the following, which comes from a darker place. I have learnt to embrace it when I am going through a difficult time emotionally, as it results in a different viewpoint.
There is a lot wrong with the world, and the following story, influenced by the fantastic film, ten years a slave, hopefully makes people realise how connected the rich and the poor, the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ really are.
Two Years a Slave
The sun beat down, beads of sweat collecting on his forehead, before dripping onwards to its destination, the a pool collecting around his feet. His dark skin burned under the violent oppression of the afternoon sun. The temperature would soon be hitting 45 degrees, which it did everyday, as he toiled away, with no end in sight.
He was midway through his fourteen hour shift, and the dull pounding in his head continued, as it had done almost continually for the last two years. A symptom of the heat, lack of water and complete loss of hope they all felt. Water was only allowed once an hour, and he and his fellow workers only had one bottle between them. Not nearly enough to stave off the heat and the throbbing in his brain.
He had been here exactly two years today. He knew this from the markings he had carved into the wall next to where he bed down to sleep each night. He had crossed off another week, dragging the knife across the crumbling rock wall, and realised, a tear dripping from his face, that he had done two years of the hardest time, and there was no end in sight.
His thoughts drifted as he wielded his tools under the harsh sun. He desperately missed his family, but he knew escaping this place was impossible. He would never make it back to them. What past misdemeanors had he performed to deserve this? An entire workforce of his colour, working themselves to the bone, for the comfort of another more powerful race.
The thoughts of his family, thousands of miles away were broken by a commotion a few feet away. One of the new workers had downed tools, refusing to carry on until he got some water. The rest of them, the veterans, put their heads down, making sure to not take part in the protest. They knew better and were desperate not to be associated with it. They knew the punishment for stopping work.
The protester was dragged away by four of the managers, all thick set, scarred and paid to keep productivity on track, using any means necessary. They enjoyed their work, literally cracking the whip to make sure their slaves kept to schedule. The other workers tried not to watch as he was beaten within an inch of his life, first with fists, then with pieces of wood, and finally with the boots of the managers, their hard exteriors crushing his brittle and bruised bones. They finally stopped, before he died from the initial onslaught, leaving his prone form out in the square as an example to the rest of them.
The sun and dehydration did the rest, and his body gave up the fight a few hours later. He didn’t realise that he was the lucky one, they had all muttered to each other a few hours later, as they trudged back to their meagre shelters, to share some rice and meat, and rehydrate with the same filthy water they washed their hands and faces with, before bedding down, ten or twelve to a room, only to start over again the next day, unsure whether their former workmates body would still be there to greet them.
He feared closing his eyes as night drew in, his body in the same place he always slept, wedged in between another worker and the toilet door. He followed his nightly routine of staring at the picture of his family, saying a prayer for them, and then himself, as his eyes began to close. Like every night, his final thought was to hope that the night terrors would not visit him, and torment him while he slept.
He slept fitfully that night. His rest interrupted by cockroaches and his fellow workers bumping into him, as well as terrifying nightmares of the things he had seen over the last couple of years.
They were woken at four in the morning, to start their day before the sun rose, to ensure they could get a good start before conditions became harsher. The workers trudged back to the building they were working on, passing the brutalised body of their former colleague, left out in the elements overnight, picked at by scavengers, the same amount of dignity displayed to him in death as he was shown in life.
Staring at the spectacle of the dead worker, he knew he had to escape this hell.
He climbed to the top of the building, a vast structure, passing fellow workers on the way up, eyes glazed, oblivious to each other and the outside world around them. Just the task in hand and the heat for company. Stopping at the top, he admired the view, out across Dubai, his fellow construction workers adding to the skyline every moment of the day and night, as the march towards westernization moves relentlessly onward.
He offered a final prayer for his family back home, in India, who he had hoped to support with the wages from the clerical job he had been promised by the agent who had recruited him. The same agent who had taken his passport and left him with his current employer, to work all hours of the day, every day of the week.
With a final silent prayer, for the fellow workers he was leaving behind, he stepped over the side, falling thirty floors to the concrete below.
Below the building, part of the tallest apartment block in the city, the concierge rushed to clean his body from the sidewalk, whilst the western residents of the building sipped on another cocktail.
This will form part of a collection that is currently being finished off. If you would like to receive more stories from it, and be notified when it comes out then you can join my mailing list here – http://forms.aweber.com/form/15/906625915.htm