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It’s really cold outside the guards wouldn't allow us to bring our coats not that most have any. My sandals are getting a little too small for me. And my hair is showing it hasn't been cut in a long time or cleaned.
The boys in my bunk are the worst and get beatings a lot. They are the worst of all the cabins, these boys are the only thing I can consider family. They call me Ton-Ton even though my name is Taki. Guards usually get our attention by the dreaded whistle. Everybody lines up in a straight line and the main guard scans us like a grain of rice is hiding somewhere in between us. My body shivered. The guard passes me once, the smell of dirt, grass stains and alcohol cover him, drenching him. He never makes eye contact and if he does that means your getting a beating. Relief over flows me, he passed me. I droop my head down a bit and he senses it. Weakness. He stops and just waits. I don't move. He slowly turns around to face me. His eyes are narrow and small, a large belly folds him together and his hand is placed on his belt. He grunts and two smaller guards take me by the arms. If I resist, I will get a larger work load or a heavier beating. They send off to work at the coal mine, but they push me off to the smaller tunneled mine. The smell of burning coal is easy to distinguish when you have lived by it your whole life. I soon roll off a barrel and get to work. They only give you a head light and a mining tool. I start finding coal, but the stench is overwhelming my lungs, it's stuffy and hard to breath step by step I take. Sometimes your eyes start to water, but you just have to keep going until you reach the end. I try to work as fast and efficient, but if I don't get enough coal then I will have to starve tonight.
Last time I went through the coal mines the amount and individual had to accumulate was two pounds of coal. There was nothing to make sure you had two pounds of coal before it got weighed by a guard, you just had to be witty and smart. I wipe my eyes on my t-shirt sleeve, yet it still burns. My shoes slide across the rough drilled earth and my feet ache with cuts and blisters. Determination rolls down my face and soon drips in my mouth. I finally can make out the clearing; the ending. Another guard is waiting outside. A sign reads five pounds of coal.
Five pounds of coal? That's over twice as much!
He gestures me to come and I sluggishly walk and push the barrel on to the weighing machine.
"Three and a half pounds. That's not enough!" he spat. I swear I felt some splash my face as his eyes scanned me.
"You are not getting supper tonight,"
I am crying inside, but on the inside I keep calm.
"Can I go through again? I didn't know I needed that much coal. " I plea
"No, go back to your cabin, your punishment will be settled there. " he crosses his and calls for the next person. I leave the barrel there only to reach my cabin.
The cabins are old and cranky. Other boys were already in there, smoking. Most boys had to smuggle cigarettes inside, but if they were lucky enough their family would bring them a pack or two. Me? I don't smoke, the tunnels are just as bad though. I've heard that the tunnels have caused over twenty deaths, starvation three and suicide none. I lay on my bunk bed and listen. The quick rain fall patters up everything. It brings me to a per cautious dream.
Shuffling of feet wake me. The boys are lined up in front of a guard. In nothing flat getup and dare to rub my eyes. The guard called out everybody's name except for mine. But I still have to follow, its apart of the punishment. The mud is still soft and confused from the drought we had earlier this year. I bend down to touch it, you can feel all life, it's all connected. We reach the kitchen and the cooks already have stew ready. I sit down at the bench and wait for the boys to return at our usual spot.
The first to return is really quiet, his name is Bic and he doesn't really do anything. The next was Rachet, a tank sized man practically, with a bad attitude. Pichu, always smokes and is sickly skinny. And the last one is Waken, hes really hard to figure out, no one really knows.
The rest of the boys really aren’t worth knowing. All they ever do is smoke and cover the only clear air and they they are a lot older than us. I sit there solemnly, debating. Debating about what? I don't really remember. While others enjoyed their stew, I had my mouth watering, salivating. I had my mouth begging. I was starting to pant a little.
"Ton-Ton, you want some?" Waken asked. I looked around the guards were watching us closely, too close. I decided not to.
"Nah," I started, "I won't risk it. " I smirked and waved my head over towards the guards. Waken looked and shrugged. Leaving the kitchen we headed back to the cabin. There i found my bunk bed and plopped on it. Why was I here? Why don't I have a real family? I put my hands behind my head, crossed my feet and stretched out. We were told lights her out at 8:30. It was 8:00 already. Most of the boys scrambled off their beds after the guards left to get a good smoke I before going to sleep. Everybody was smoking, except me, it just didn't feel right, so fake, so unnatural. The fumes made the room hazy and musty, making it hard to see. 8:25 almost asleep, the boys are settled down again and in their bunks.
Did I ever have a family? Was I ever loved? Was there another child? 8:29, my thoughts filled my head, like the empty room and the thick smoke. Why can't I get out of here? Note: get five pounds of coal.
and maybe you'll eat next time.
My head was spinning when I woke up. The lights were making my eyes swell.
"Get up, lazy boys!" one of the guards yelled.
The other guard stood there looking pretty,
"Yeah some of you might get orphaned. There are some white people from England coming. " he finally announced. As fast as the got up for a cigarette they soon were in the restroom trying to clean up.
"Get out of there! We are taking you to a different site where you can clean up!" his face still showing anger.
We then got in a straight line and followed the guard. There were outside showers, hand washer and two bathrooms we had never seen anything like it. Some of the boys ran to the showers and drank the water, others were still just stunned. I casually walked to a hand washer and washed the clothes off my back. Having the feeling of doing something for my personally, felt do greedy, yet so good at the same time. I took my time and watched the dirt residue and stains wash off slowly. The shirt wasn’t white, but it wasn't brown either. I waited a while and Hun out the cloths to dry. There were still some visible stains, but they weren't that bad. I soon stood as naked as the day I was born in front of everyone. The water sought my skin, penetrating every pore, scab, cut, bruise, scratch- everything. It felt like it washed away all my sins. Like the time I stole bread, I was just hungry. And it had been my first week in the mining building. Or the time I went outside to feel the droplets massage my back in a natural way. I soon was back to my shower, by the call of a guard yelling to get back. I soon stepped out of my trance still soaking wet. I shook my head like a dog. I grabbed my clothes and ran where the other boys were.
Soon after the washing up, the guards took us to our bunks where a few new people were found. The people were white and talked in high pitched accents that were barely understandable. Most of the boys didn't care and knew that they weren't going to get picked to be orphaned. Even some of the little boys sat in the back.
A rather plumpish guard came up and said,
"Okay, the people will pick at one of you to interviewed. Once satisfied they will either adopt you or adopt someone else. Please be on your best behavior. " and with that he gave us a cheap smile and walked off as if he was fatter then everybody.
Mumbles came from the white people, but it was hard to tell what they were saying. Atlas a young woman, maybe in her early twenties, stood up and pointed. Her finger was nearly a foot away form my face, it was is if claws were attached on the finger and wrinkles finely bordered the piece of work. The womans eyes were stern yet kind and gentle, melting and bending. Her posture was perfect, too, she held herself up confidently.
“You,” She said
She didn’t have an accent though and her tongue curled around the word, her face pushed forward defining her large cheek bones and dismaying the jingle of her earrings. Her dress ruffled slightly. I turned to look around and everybody was staring. The white people, the boys, guards; everybody, as if vultures scouting their next meal. I was served to them, too. I took in a heavy breathe and stood up. The woman was fairly petite and smelled on an unknown substance.
“Ugh,” I look around, palms sweating, “my name is Taki.”
A little giggle was setting the mood in the room and then it was hushed.
I breathed in sharply again.
“How old are you?” she blinked several times and then smiled. I was starting to think she was mental...
“I’m thirteen,” At least I think. Last time I checked a calendar. She sighed , clasped her hands together, heaved and said,
“Has anyone ever told you, you have beautiful eyes?” she blinked again.
Embarrassed, I look down, trying to avoid eye contact. The boys are about to laugh. I sit down quickly. Once I gain my confidence to look back up I see the lady sit back down in her seat, disappointment written across her face. She soon stood up and left.
Some other boys got called on, but not me, not again.