Monday, May 10, 2010

Tyrannis: Light in the Deepest Darkness

Written by my as an entry for Roc's contest. 

Contest details

Light in the Deepest Darkness

The planet that surrounding us had been a Shadowed, foreboding place.  Forests of tall but ultimately useless trees grew in the valleys between the powerful peaks of the ever shifting mountains.  Powerful thug cartels had run what little work was left, but even they lacked the money or resources to penetrate the thick layer of rock and dirt on our world or keep the majority of the wooden buildings standing through the tremors.  The dirt and dust had settled all over our town after the mega corporations had left some years ago, taking their factories and mining equipment with them.  I was left homeless and jobless at 33.  It wasn't a  life, taking scraps of trash as food, living day to day with what work could be found, begged borrowed or stolen, or more likely survival through pure chance.  I had watched many co-workers die from the cold, from starvation.  It had left me numb, the only feeling left was hunger eating at my gut.

I heard rather than saw them, eyes drawn skyward towards the rumble of decelerating objects above.  I didn't know who they were, or why they were here, just looked up, jaws open, forgetting about the hunger in my belly or aches in my body.  The wind whipped around us from the descent, clearing the thin layer of dust from our faces and bodies for the first time in ages, pushing it seemingly out of the town.  A structure seemed to fall from the sky, supported by small craft and thick lines, moving slowly for some clearings in the dense woods a few kilometers outside our town.

Fear was the first emotion to spread through me, fear of the unknown, but it must have been stronger in the Cartel houses.  Those men of limited power seemed at once humbled by the structure, seeking an answer, desperately trying to ensure their power remained intact.  I saw them send one or two of their cronies towards the structures the first day, they moved through the back alleys, one lashing out and kicking me roughly, but none ever returned.  A day passed, and a group of unemployed but brave locals gathered in the square.  A heated debate followed, I didn't participate.  The cartel masters came down and forbade them to go, promising them death if they returned, or worse, no work or food.  It didn't seem to matter to some, already unemployed, hopeless... They headed towards the structure.  I wasn't with them, but some I knew were.  They never came back.  The people of the cartel grew more smug, guards laughing at the families they represented.  Their heartless mirth was short lived.

The third day a hush spread over the town, a quiet so profound that it stopped work, and silenced the cartel bosses.  Just before noon I could hear a faint noise, coming from the outskirts, the sound of a few people making their way through a crowd.  I moved through the alleyways to get a better look.  Nobody had to wait long.

A large mass of people came into the square, forcing me out of the alley I had been hiding in reluctantly so I could see them, hear them.  I waded through the crowd slowly, finding holes I could slip into, nearing the front, at the same time fearing for my safety, expecting the return of the cartel gang members, now violent and triumphant in their conquest of the new distant structure.  The sight that greeted me was not what I expected.

A small group of what looked like people from another time stood in the middle of the crowd.  They were clean and dressed in simple but functional coveralls, smiling, backs to the central square, even some of their faces looked familiar but it was impossible.  They spoke with easily people in the crowd as if old friends.  I pushed towards the front trying to make out some of their words, breaking suddenly through the shifting crowd, nearly striking a tall, vaguely familiar man, clad in a clean pair of coveralls.  My eyes focused on him, his face was no longer covered by the dirt or beard that had grown to cover his gaunt cheeks and strong jaw.  "M..M.. Michael?"  I stammered brokenly, his face coming into a shape I hadn't seen in months.  A smile.  His eyes betrayed him, they were hopeful, not hungry, he reached out to me...

"David, someone came, it's amazing what they have, tools we have never seen before, knowledge, hope."  His eyes filled with tears and he looked away, nearly whispering at the end, his hand holding my elbow.  "David, they have food, water for us, for us all."  I stood there stunned, Michael turned to walk away, clearly understanding my loss for words.  Spreading the word to others.

In less than a hour they came.  Some were serious military types, visored, too scary to look at directly, emanating power, threatening violence.  Others were smiling, dressed in the same utilitarian coveralls, standing in the back of the trucks driven by the military men.  They spilled from the back of the trucks, military and others alike, helping to drop boxes from their overloaded trucks, filled with supplies of all kinds.  Things we hadn't seen since before we had been abandoned as hopeless.  Groups of the outsiders, these angels in dark blues and reds, walked through the crowds, following the trucks, helping the ill, and old.  Even the Cartel workers stood in awe.  The Cartel leaders remained on their balconies, supposed finery dwarfed by the simple efficiency and cleanliness of the outsiders.  For once they were dirty like the rest of us.

A young lady appeared next to me, her piercing green eyes meeting mine, I tried to withdraw, but she handed me a bowl of warm stew.  I took it greedily, but was simply ushered to a set of portable tables, a warm blanket wrapped around my skinny shoulders.  I shuddered as the warm cloth touched my aching back and arms.  It took just one bite of the warm stew, before tears of relief slid down my face, pooling at my chin as I lent forward for another bite, my tears dripped onto the table, dirty black against the white of the table.  I tried to clean them away from the surface, leaving a black smudge from my unclean hands.  I looked around, terrified, expecting to be expelled from the table.  My fear was baseless, it didn't matter, I couldn't stop crying, or eating until the deep bowl was empty.  Others from the crowd had joined me at the table and we all ate, drinking the cold, clear water from pitchers at the center of the table.  The warmth of the stew met the warmth from the simple blanket and I leaned back, trying to understand my new found smile.

Michael found me there, beckoning me off to the side without saying a word.  We had known each other from the factories before this planet had been labeled as "a net loss in profits."  I had been his boss, now it didn't matter, it hadn't mattered for a long time.  "They plan to put us to work David, to help them create items they can sell."  He wasn't scared at the idea, his tone matter of fact.  His eyes were alight with chance, of a hope at a new life.  "They have the means and the money to create factories quickly, to give us a life again."  My body shook like a frail old man, belying my 35 years.

"I thought we were abandoned," I choked back the tears and the hope I felt, trying not to be sucked in.  "Left to rot on this planet...  Can we trust them?  What makes them better than the mega corps?"  I looked around again, seeing the fallacy of my own words as more were served food, cared for.  "How do we know..."

I was stopped by a loudspeaker broadcast in the center of the square.  A tall Siebestor stood there, broadcast by the speakers and projected by his strong, determined voice.  "Some of you must know by now who we represent, CONCORD has allowed pilots access to the planets, and we represent them, or at least some of them.  Now I will tell you what we are not!  We do not expect you to trust us, but please listen..."  He glanced over the crowd, his eyes taking us, our wretched mass, in.  "We offer new jobs at the simple price that you do them, WELL.  We will offer training, but even our funds and supplies are limited and in the end we need you to be successful so we can remain.  We aren't your government," He spat the government word out like a curse, "and we don't want to be.  We are your employers, you are not our slaves."  He pointed over to a group of women setup around a long line of tables.  "We can help each other, please."

I shuffled towards the women lock step with hundreds of others.  The Cartel members frowned down at us from their balconies of filth.

It was five hundred and fourteen days of a simple heaven before reality and the dust returned.

If you liked my entry, head over to Roc's Ramblings and vote on a few others, lots of good work over there!

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