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Winston
February 9th, 2020, 09:44 PM
(Warring: Adult themes)

When I was a child, I remember seeing my first locomotive. The steam from the engine was mystical, as if some sorcerer conjured clouds of a divine machine. The clouds would climb, then slowly evaporate into the ether. On cold days, the clouds were larger, and climbed higher. I hardly noticed the people, horses or anything around me. It was only the vapors and me.
Behind the steam was the engine smokestack. It belched a foul, dark creosote that also climbed to the sky. Unlike the steam, the smoke would slowly settle back to the ground after it's futile climb. If the train sat long enough, the soot would cover the things, and people nearby. I appeared to be the only person on Earth to notice.
Such is my burden.

The train was late today. Although we are ironically called "bearers of secrets" by the guards, rumors are carefully spread and traded. They are almost a form of currency. That is, if one wishes to buy or sell hope. Well, one doesn't have to enjoy or even appreciate a product to trade in it. It simply must have value, to somebody.

The rumor today was that either partisans sabotaged the rails to the camp, or they were bombed from the air. To imagine that someone outside of the fence is fighting might give hope to some. To me, it is but a curiosity. We will all be dead soon. In the meantime, there is work. The train may have been delayed, but it still arrived.

It bothered me at first, living while so many around me perish. But some live, and some die. There is no fairness to it. When I got off the train, a soldier simply directed people to the left or to the right. Among the chaos, the pattern was still obvious. The very old, the very young, the infirm or weak... all went one way. I looked healthy and strong, so I was directed the other way. Fairness? It was fair to me.

Other men (such as myself) were escorted to a barracks and broken up into work details. We were forbidden to talk to anyone else in the camp, and I soon discovered why. To help buy our silence, we were given first pick of things like shoes and cigarettes taken from new arrivals. The Christians have a fable of a man named Judas, who betrayed the Prophet for a few pieces of silver. Last week, I found a can of corned beef. That was much more useful than coins.

I never liked the smokestacks of the train engines, and I like them much less now. Behind them are much larger smokestacks. We keep them going. The soot falls, and it does not wash off. We clean the ovens afterward, dumping the ashes into a nearby pond. Then we crush the bones into a meal. It is good to stay busy. I do not like to close my eyes. Even with my eyes shut, all I see are smokestacks and ash.

We have been at this for a couple of months now. The rumor is that sometime soon, we will no longer service the ovens from the outside, but instead from within them. Others will take our places. I do not fear death, having made such an intimate acquaintance with it. After all, it may bring comfort and rest.

Or, it may not. I may find myself with others that have betrayed their people. I will be in that cold, dark ring at the bottom. We will have no comfort in the justification of our actions. That we were just following orders, creating a more orderly existence.

What follows an existence where there is no freedom? Where once there was wonder and exploration, but now is rigid order and separation? Do we expect our future world to be one of eternal comfort? Or eternal damnation?
Is the removal of the pain the blessing, or Hell itself?
Regardless, I am denied the comfort of tears.

This morning, it is very cold. I focus on the white steam of the locomotive, and all I can smell is sulfur. Soon, there will be separation, weeping, then silence.
But for today, I have my job. The train must run on time. Good order, and all that.

I just hope that the pond doesn't freeze over too soon. We will soon again have ovens to empty, and ash to dump.

Plasticweld
February 9th, 2020, 11:36 PM
....

Nmm
April 21st, 2020, 02:04 PM
I really enjoyed reading this

hvysmker
April 24th, 2020, 07:51 PM
Very good, Winston. I have to search for my one about a little girl, her teddy bear, and those ovens.

Better yet. Since I already posted today, I'll IM it to you.

Olly Buckle
April 24th, 2020, 11:27 PM
Just one thing struck me.
" We will have no comfort in the justification of our actions. That we were just following orders, creating a more orderly existence. "

That is not really a guy who arrived on a train and was selected to work, he works or dies, then dies anyway. That is someone who does the selecting and killing.

Ibru
June 24th, 2020, 02:47 AM
Loved this