I need to stop starting my days with doom scrolling. My writer brain doesn't shut off when I'm scanning through updates, and as of the end of this week I have a lot of questions that probably won't be answered in my lifetime. History will wash down what's happening right now, like sand and gravel in a sifter, and the lumps staying on the screen to be kept likely won't have much to do with the many, many sandy stories and conspiracies people today are saying will be remembered. I really think a lot of us are buried in sand that will sift out, only for our great-great-great-grandchildren to look back at the whole situation and finally see the big gravel clearly.
My questions mostly spiral around Coronavirus pandemic outcome projections and generational long term health impacts, expectations of subsequent pandemics with high double-digit death risks, all the "what-ifs" around the civil and political situations in the USA right now, "what-if" impacts (or lack of) in Europe due to Brexit, China and Russia both riding current upward political power trends to <undisclosed outcomes due to Western culture fear mongering which implies everything not controlled by Western culture as unknown and evil (insert personal eye roll here)>. I also have a few questions about things like increased storm activity, global pollution handling, and the impacts to, and advancements by, not-world-power countries that are ignored which as a Canadian I only get updates on when I actively seek out sources not affiliated with or filtered out by North American owned large media.
To state it clearly, the only thing from the above List o' Doom I'm actually having true fear about is the expected subsequent pandemics which could have terrifyingly high death tolls. The rest of these things leaving me with most of my questions seem to be power struggles in circles I'm not part of – aside from race and ethnicity issues, which I'm daily working to challenge my being-born-white outlooks so I can push anti-racism forward on a wider swath into the world; race and ethnicity issues are in an Everybody Alive circle. I'm (luckily) not a social or political leader, and history is full of people like me who just keep working and living while whatever overlords of the times, and their beliefs and policing, rise and fall with whatever zealots they have as devoted followers.
None of history is written about A Country That Never Changes, In Which Nothing Interesting Ever Happens. Seriously.
They jogged carefully to the end of the cage so they wouldn’t trip on the grid and then climbed down. They raced as quickly as they could toward the pulley hoist that John had pointed out, Tor and John doing the needed fighting against the few guards who tried to stop them. Tor collected two new straight-bladed swords and gave them both to Tam so Justin kept a free hand to hold his injured arm with.
Tam and Justin collapsed near the base of the hoist as John clicked the ratchets and started the platform dropping down to the narrow road they were on. Tor took up a look-out stance, watching the edge of the pit that the army would be arriving from, and the storm clouds that would be arriving with them.
“I hope that hoist rises faster than it lowers,” Tor called over his shoulder as the first of the regular movements he’d been expecting started where he was watching.
“What do you see?” Tam asked, her voice exhausted.
“When will your dad be destroying the canal?” Tor ignored his sister’s question and walked over to stand beside John at the hoist controls.
“Getting to the blasts, getting to the canal, setting everything… probably another ten minutes if he doesn’t have to deal with any guards,” John answered, adjusting the controls so the platform dropped quicker for the final few idlesides.
“And if he does have to deal with guards?” Tor asked, watching the motions on the far side of the mine a moment longer, then turning to study what John was doing.
“Twenty minutes, at most,” John assured the group.
“What’s wrong, Tor?” Tam asked, pushing up to her feet.
“Jin’s back. He brought friends,” Tor answered, not looking away from the ratchets controlling the hoist’s platform and counterweights until the platform was sitting on the road. “Load up,” he ordered.
Tor helped Tam settle in the middle, setting the pack of supplies he’d been carrying in her lap and checking over his weapons to make sure everything drew properly. Justin pushed up to his feet and started pulling off the pack he was carrying. Tor scoffed a laugh at him and hooked a hand behind the elbow of Justin’s bad arm.
“You couldn’t fight scouts and you know it,” Tor whispered so his sister wouldn’t hear.
“You can’t do it alone and we don’t know if John can fight,” Justin argued at the same volume.
“I figure as a petty thief and a couple of non-criminal laborers, you three will be forgotten by the end of tomorrow,” Tor said. “But a disloyal scout? A deserter?” He shook his head to the negative. “Me they’ll keep hunting.”
“So we stay ahead of them and get to the coast,” Justin argued. “That was the deal.”
“No it wasn’t.” Tor tilted his head to look up at Justin. “The deal was I set you free and you set Tam free. Her staying alive gets you to the coast, and you being alive buys her safe passage out of Opat. No matter what happens to me, you take care of her.”
Justin’s brows furrowed as he wracked his brain for something other than what Tor was saying right now and came up with only memories that matched.
“No, I –”
“You promised this morning. Whatever happens to me you’ll take care of her.” Tor’s grin angled into something sad. He let go of Justin’s arm and tapped a finger into Justin’s chest. “You promised,” Tor repeated.
“No, that was for crossing the river. That wasn’t –”
Justin’s argument ended in a grunt. He was lying on his back, staring up at the crane cables overhead, trying to remember how to inhale while his shoulder screamed at him not to.
The pack Justin had been carrying thudded onto the platform. Tor had grabbed it when he threw Justin, a simple way to make sure he landed flat so as not to hurt his wounded shoulder further. The scout kicked one of John’s feet out from under him and shoved the bigger man onto the platform as he was still stumbling. Tor reached into the guts of the machine that controlled the hoist and, with a sound half way between a grunt and a growl, ripped out the brake holding the platform down. Justin rolled and reached out with his right hand, but Tor dodged around the first grab and ducked away from the second, using the spin to throw his weapons belt. Justin’s fist closed around the leather strap that had both swords, three knives, and both lengths of rope hanging from it.
You promised! Justin heard the words clearly even though Tor’s lips didn’t move as the scout pointed up at him on the receding platform. Then Tor smiled brightly and waved a friendly farewell, knowing anything he tried to yell would be heard all the way around the mine and not willing to pass on anything to the troop of scouts which could be used against him later.
The emergency brake automatically applied at the top – as all cranes had in case of control failure – and the platform jerkily came to a stop, banging hard into the catch. Tor waited for the counterweight cables to go slack and then used them to quickly scale further into the mine. Justin watched the black shapes on the other side of the pit pause and then all sharply change direction to follow Tor straight down.
Tam was silently crying when Justin looked at her, her face composed calmly beneath the tears. He was holding nothing but the belt when he finally sat up. She looked at it, nodded once, and then picked up the pack of supplies she’d been given in one hand and the two straight bladed swords in the other. Justin pushed up to his feet and helped Tam stand, steadying her as she stepped onto the catch, and leaving her leaning on the railing while he went back to retrieve his pack.
“I’m sorry,” John stated, not aiming his condolences at either of them singly.
“Where’s the shed?” Tam asked, bracing against the wind as a gust rocked the platform. John swallowed hard and led them the short distance to the supply shed.
Justin paused beside the small building and looked out at the clear view on this side of the mine. The heavy trees leading in had been cleared away what looked like decades again to make fields for farmland and he could see all the way down to where the snow stopped, and then beyond into the green and brown winter crops below. The farms under the snow line were all so far away that they were tinged blue. The guards’ village was nestled into the side of the mountain above where they were standing. It was maybe only a twenty minute walk, at a fast pace, from the closest houses to that edge of the mine.
“This is the way we need to go?” Justin asked Tam, pointing toward the distant farms.
“Yes,” she answered woodenly. There was a muffled thunk and then the sound of wood splintering. Justin looked over at John.
“Door’s unlocked,” John said, lowering the crow bar as a gust of wind pushed the door fully open. “I figure if we take one of these sleds, and we take turns pulling it, we can –”
“Got any canvas tarps in there?” Justin interrupted, tucking his bad arm into the strap of his pack the way Tor had shown him as he walked over to look at what supplies were available.
“What are you thinking?” Tam asked, stepping beside him. Justin stepped into the shed to study the heavy ratchets and replacement crane poles.
“You’re an Islander?” he asked John as the shed’s inventory started coming together into a plan. Justin already knew the answer from John’s accent, but he didn’t know John, so he waited.
“Do you know how to sail?” Justin pressed.
“Of course,” John’s tone was nearly offended.
“Ever build a boat?” Justin asked.
“No,” John answered flatly.
“Good.” Justin grinned over his shoulder at the larger man. “Then you can’t argue with me about how wrong this will be.”
A weekly blog updating on Fridays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!