A Barren Planet?
We talked while we walked to the area where we would begin working that day.
“There’s nothing else growing in this field other than these rows of plants you eat,” I remarked. “Do you have to pull the weeds too?”
“There are no weeds,” Arn replied. “Nothing else can survive in this place.”
“Are there any other plants on this planet?” I asked, stopping and turning to Arn.
“Keep walking. We never know when we’re being watched. The answer is not many. As far as I know very little grows on this planet. It’s too dry. “
“Are there any animals?” I asked.
“None I know of.”
“Are there any oceans, Arn?”
“Rumor has it that from the top of those mountains ahead of us you can see an ocean, but I’ve never been there,” Arn said hesitantly, studying my face as he answered.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” I asked.
“I’m wondering why you’re asking. We’re not allowed to go past the end of the field. So I wouldn’t really know what lies on the other side of that mountain.”
“Well something must be on the other side of the mountain. If there’s water for these plants, the goons must be getting it from somewhere. Maybe they’re getting it from an ocean that’s on the other side of those mountains.”
The Longest Day of My Life
Arn stopped, looked around, then pointed to a red stick next to a nearby plant.
“That’s where I stopped yesterday. You work on the row next to you. I’ll work this row. We brush a hundred plants each. Then we do the next two rows on your side. We keep doing that until we’re to the white pole, then we start on the next section closer to the mountain. You’re going to have to keep up with me.”
“I’ll do my best,” I replied.
“You’ll catch on real fast. It’s not hard work, just hot. You’ll get your technique down and pick up a little speed,” Arn said as he flipped his brush into the air. It spun as it ascended. As it fell, Arn effortlessly plucked it from the air,
“You should have been in the marching band, Arn. You’d be really good at throwing and catching a baton.”
“What’s a baton?”
“I’ll explain later,” I said as I leaned over and began brushing the dust off the leaves of the plant next to me.
The temperature rapidly increased. Although we had no thermometer, I guessed the temperature rose to at least one hundred ten degrees within an hour, and eventually got even a little hotter. I was amazed that the plants could survive in that heat.
Every few hours by my best guess, a guy in a uniform of sorts came by on an old motorcycle with large jugs of water strapped to either side. Two metal cups tied to wires hung next to the jugs. We drank as much as we could in the minute or two he was there. There were no toilets. We used the fields, between the plants.
There was no breakfast and no lunch – only water. Twice during the day one of the guards, or field goons as Arn called them, walked near us to make sure we were working. We worked with our heads down and he didn’t speak to us.
Talking dried out my mouth, so we talked very little during the day. I quickly learned to keep my collar up, my slightly oversized hat pulled down as far as it would go, and my lips tightly pressed together to keep them from drying out.
At the end of a very long hot day, as darkness approached, the siren blew three times. Arn jammed the red marker stick into the dirt next to the plant he was brushing, stood up and motioned for me to follow him.
“You survived, sweetheart. I figured you’d never make it through the day.”
“You’re right about this place. It’s almost as hot as I think hell must be. I wasn’t sure I’d make it to the end of the day either.”
“Welcome to my life.”
We slowly made our way to the area near the shack, but hung back until everyone else had turned in their brushes and gloves and had picked up their large bowl of soup.
We stood and waited in silence. I was too hot and tired to talk.
After everyone else had taken their turn, forty-three by my count, we moved up, turned in our equipment and picked up our soup and headed back to Arn’s tree.
The soup was slimy and tasted like I thought grass and spinach soup would taste. I couldn’t detect any meat in mine, much to my relief. When we finished, we returned our bowls and walked to the water barrel.
Arn whispered, “Drink as much as you can. You won’t get more ‘till tomorrow. Drink every drop you put into the mug. Never waste a drop of water.”
We drank until we could hold no more, then turned and began walking back to our tree. There was just enough light to find our way.
Between the yucky soup and several mugs of water I no longer felt dehydrated. My lips were moist enough to risk talking.
“Thanks for looking out for me today, Arn. I would never have made it without you.”
“Yup. Didja figure out how you got here?”
“Nope. I just remember falling and then waking up with my face in the dirt. That’s all I remember. If I’ve ever been here before today I don’t know it. Maybe you could tell me more about this place tomorrow and maybe something would make me remember.”
That’s the last thing I remember before waking up the next morning.
Not again! I’m still stuck in this bad dream. I sure hope it’s a dream and I’ll be out of here soon!