Who do you work for?

The old man was digging furiously. He worked for ten minutes a time, maybe more, before discarding his pickaxe and moving the recently displaced rocks clear; all so he could dig again.
He didn’t seem to tire; indeed, every klink and clunk of his pickaxe seemed to energize him, feed his fury.
The young man watched. Carefully, as best he could, without attracting the attention of the guards. One of the men assigned to moving loose rocks paused by the young man, and joined him watching the old man.
“Shame.” He gestured at the old man. “Got the crazies. Seen it before” He said, filling his mine cart with rocks. “Dead before tomorrow” he added knowingly, pushing his cart away.
“You. Back to work.” A distant guard barked at the young man.
So he did. His section was opposite the old man’s, so, for a while, he just worked, fearful of the guard. But he still heard the old man, three clinks for everyone the young man could manage. ‘Dead before tomorrow’ echoed in his head all day. It was the last thing he thought as he fell to sleep, and the first thing that greeted him as he awoke. He prepared and walked to his assigned area slowly, turning over and over in his mind the old man’s intensity of work. He felt great pity for him. Wished he could help him somehow. He turned the corner to hear a low clink-clink-clink sound. The old man. He was still working. Furiously. Had he rested? Or had he worked all night? Where did he find his strength? The young man couldn’t help himself. He stood at the entrance of the tunnel, staring at the old man.
He was covered in sweat. The young man felt such a pang of sympathy, of pity. He took a step forward, but he didn’t get far; several things happened at once. It was only later that the young man was able to make sense of it all.
A guard had noticed the young man staring, and had shouted but been ignored, so lost in the old mans work was the young man. So the guard had walked down to him. Not bothering to shout again, the guard roughly threw the young man to the floor, and kneeled on his back. Just as the old man broke through. The wall crumbled up, up and higher, revealing a cavern beyond the tunnel. A cavern dominated by a fast flowing stream. The young man watched with a mixture of horror and jealousy as the old man threw down his pick axe, turned to the guard, and smiled and saluted, before jumping into the stream and being carried to freedom.
The guard had to choose – He stayed with the young man, but radioed in the escape.
As he lay contained, still captured, the young man thought of all the work he still had to do.
And he wondered if the old man had pitied him before he left.

Advertisements

The Killer Goldfish of Edgeley Pond.

It was dark around the edge of the water. Elsewhere, it was dusk, but the weeping willows, close to the edge of the water, turned the pleasant air of the evening from something warm and inviting into something cold and fearful. The way they drooped down, willing supplicants, timid worshipers of the water. There was no wind, so the water was still, large and grey, shimmering with a diffuse misery, sucking the last of the days heat selfishly.
The dog was a Yorkshire terrier. Big for his breed, and cocky, his easy and well cared for life giving him confidence that was misplaced. Tim, he had been called, but being a dog, he simply associated the name with either treats, or hugs. Or a scolding from the man. The man, Tim knew, was very different from the woman. She was kind and caring, a summers day at the park. The man was… More like the park at dusk, on the edge of the water. But the man, who only ever brought Tim to the park after an exchange of shouting, would do something the woman would never do, something Tim lived his days for, often excitedly shaking in his basket at the smallest recollection of it. On arriving in the middle of the park, that large green grass square only contained by roads, with a single path cut through the middle, the man would roughly shake Tim’s lead free from his collar, give him a swift kick, grumbling ‘g’on y’little sod. G’on an get lost’ before lighting a cigarette.
Tim had come to learn two things; one, the man meant every word as he kicked him, and two, by the time he had finished his second cigarette, he would be different. Panicky, frantic, even, if Tim was not back on the lead. Tim didn’t care. For two brief, burning sticks, he was free to go and do as he pleased. So long as he didn’t go too far. But again, Tim’s pampered life meant he didn’t really have a concept of too far. Freedom to Tim was being off the lead, but always being able to see the man. For too brief a Time, he was free of the leash, free to go wherever the sights, sounds and smells pulled him. Tonight, for the last time in his life, they pulled him to the water’s edge.
It was a strong odour, lush and earthy. Unmistakably female. It led Tim a swaying path, from weeping willow to weeping willow, before stopping abruptly at the water’s edge. He had enthusiastically dived between the branches of the willow, to the trunk, where it was darker, gloomier. After examining the spray on the trunk of the willow, Tim glanced out between the branches, and felt a pang of sorrow as he saw the man throw the first cigarette to the ground, snub it with his foot, and quickly pull out and light another. Tim shivered, cold here, under the skirt of the tree, and apprehensive at the thought of having the lead back on. But he still had time. He reacquainted himself with the scent, and followed it out into the open, down to the water’s edge. The ground sloped down, the short, kept grass ending abruptly into dark water. He couldn’t see the man from here, but his eagerness to saviour a last minute of freedom, and his confusion at where the scent had gone meant he didn’t notice. He backtracked briefly, found her smell, and followed it, diligently, slowly. Accurately, it took him to exactly the same spot. Right on the water’s edge. Had Tim any sense of occasion, he would have squeaked out a short confused bark, and tilted his head to one side, allowing an ear to flop comically down to signify his puzzlement. But he didn’t, so simply stared into the black water, wondering where she had gone. The water was still, a glistening, metallic blob. She hadn’t gone swimming, then, Tim decided. Then, a ripple. Straight in front of him. He lowered his head for a better look, but could see nothing. The water hid whatever had moved. Maybe it was her, Tim reasoned, and moved closer to the edge, eager to greet her.
A jet of water hit him hard, knocking him over on his side. It drenched him, the water was cold and smelt of pond scum and her. Tim got up, and was shaking himself dry, more confused than ever, how could the water smell of her? When the fish jumped out of the water, flopping down hard enough to knock Tim onto his side again. It was a goldfish. But a huge goldfish. Easily four or five times the size of Tim. No longer bright orange, it was a muddy, bloody terracotta colour, And one eye was white and useless, a jagged scar above and below it. The killer goldfish’s remaining, working eye moved around erratically, scanning for food; for Tim. It found him, and the giant fish convulsed, leaping again into the air, catching the back legs of Tim in its gaping maw as it landed, then jumping back toward the water, using the momentum to propel a yelping, squealing Tim further into its mouth while it was in the air. As the fishes tail felt the water, Tim was more than half swallowed, and with one final jump the fish had swallowed Tim whole before landing back into the lake with a deep splash.
The man, who had finished his cigarette and started to look for Tim, had seen the fish jump, but it wasn’t until he had come closer to this oddness that he had seen the killer goldfish of Edgeley pond take Tim to a watery grave.
“well” said the man as the water settled. “She’s never going to believe me.”