Friday, April 07, 2006

The Farm Worker

The long rows of vegetables and potatoes stretched out in front of them for what seemed like endless acres, although it was really only about a 40 acre plot. It had been a cool, wet summer, and the beans and potatoes were heavy with thick green leaves.
All day long, he pulled weeds, picked bugs off plants and spread composted human manure along the rows, slogging up and down in the sun, stopping only to relive himself and fill up again on the water from the creek.
It was backbreaking work, and his hands were beaten to a raw pulp. The last few pair of moldering cotton work gloves had long been worn through, and the dirt in his cracked fingers had caused them to bleed and ooze every time he pulled another weed.
Being hungry all the time had been hard, knowing that he was surrounded by food that he couldn't touch was worse. Thinking about how many would starve the coming winter bothered him, and the fact that he might be one of them made it even uglier to contemplate.
He sure had lots of time to think, something he hated. From sunup to sundown, a long stretch of time in this northern climate, they worked the farm.
Even had he chose to run away, the guards on horses with the few remaining bullets would have run him down. They might not even waste a bullet on him, the last few escapees had just been knocked unconscious and had a plastic bag wrapped around their head, gasping out their last few moments without even being aware of it.
He thought back to his life before the virus. His memories had become sharper and less accurate over time as he took them out and rubbed the edges down. Lots of things had drifted out of his memory.
He'd tried to forget the months of hell that followed the dying times, although he often woke up with images from his escape bubbling up, shredding what little sleep he got. In the 5 years since he'd left the ruins of Omaha, he'd drifted around the Midwest from one ragged band of survivors to another, until he'd been picked up by the Collective's sweep crew. Just another indentured servant at this point, he'd been treated the way peasant serfs had for millennia. Work, sleep, plant seed crops and hope you didn't get beaten dead by guards or by frostbite or a broken spirit. Or worse, a broken anus, since many of the guards were rapists, and the older ones hated the former corparate executives who had shit on them in the name of money or "company policy".
But the worst part of this life was the boredom. He'd been somebody once. An important man in a big company, making life changing decisions for little people.
Now his biggest choices were between committing suicide by attempted escape, or how to kill the potato bugs he pulled off the plants. Sometimes he ate them. It was a protien source.
It was a form of culture shock he never expected. To be on the bottom of the ladder, all his skills as an executive worthless, miserable and bored enough to die.

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"Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis." Ralph Waldo Emerson