Hector could have smiled if he were a contracted worker; the middle of spring had just arrived and for the right price a pool could be laid and set within a week. But as a fellow resident of the Blocker Prison and Rehabilitation Facility, Hector's set of tools consisted only of his hands. Outside, he had used his diamond pickaxe and shovel for all sorts of construction tasks. Inside, he didn't even get a stick. As far as he and the other workers were concerned, the guards and the Warden would be lucky if they finished before autumn.
He slapped both his hands against a rough slab of cobblestone, creating a small fissure on the surface, a minuscule puff of dust rising and falling. He hit it again. And again. He continued to hit it, chipping away piece by piece, needing to crush it for its raw material to form a more perfect cube of pure stone that would be the foundation of the pool, as he knew and as he was instructed. His hands began to bleed, but he took no notice; he even thought that this block seemed softer than most.
Beside him, others toiled, performing similar techniques with much the same results. The workers would receive some fresh hands tomorrow, half of which would break their bones on the first day, and half of the remaining would get a serious (often deadly) infection the second day. Plus there were occasional hemophiliacs and people with hypersensitive hand-nerves. They were always fun to watch.
Hector let his thoughts drift as he hit the cobblestone, slowly and slowly accumulating more and more stone-dust at his feet. The hours slid by, the sun reached its peak and began its descent, and soon the shadows lengthened and the evening guard blew his whistle, instructing all the workers to collect their stone-dust and head inside to their cells. Hector collected his dust in a sack, weighing it in one hand, estimating that he had probably collected enough for a full half block! After he handed his sack in to the Sack Manager near the main building, he wandered over to the communal drinking pond to wash his hands of his blood and grime and take a drink. There, he met with Jasmine, his one true companion in the bleakness of prison. They allowed the genders to mingle every so often, as part of the rehabilitation program, and sometimes a guard would even look the other way and allow a couple to share a cell for a night, if the couple didn't have a history of trouble-making.
"How was your day, fairest?" asked Hector, drying his hands on his dusty jeans.
They stared at each others' eyes, a moment of silence passing as they enjoyed just being together. At once they both began speaking, Hector cutting off at "Hey, I collected--" and Jasmine at "You should really--". A couple laughs later, Hector gestured and said "Go on."
"You should really try and find something else to do," she finished. "Your hands look worse day by day."
He waved a hand, sending a small draft of air in her direction. "Nothing better to do, and they'll be fine. I collected almost half a stone's worth of dust today! I was going to ask if you wanted to share a cell tonight."
Her eyes lit up at the request. "Of course! But you shouldn't have to hurt your hands just to get on the guards' good side..."
"I said they were fine, now come on!"
When the cell door closed and all the lights went out, the pair remained sitting on the singular bed, talking in whispers throughout the night.
Posted on 2010-11-02 by Jach