“Why did we come here?”
I was standing inside of a small cell within a chain of tiny caves, surrounding the main alcove in the middle. I could see the children extract the stones and brush off the suplus rock bits off with the heavy, metal polishers until their fingers bled. Others held just as heavy extractors, pulling at the colorful stones, careful not to break them. Some of those children were not much older than nine, and most were covered in dirt and sweat, rarely conversing or even looking up from their designated stones sticking from the rock walls.
“I was just curious what you’d think of all that.”
I sniffed. Gogor had a twisted sense of communicating. When he had pulled out my Oculus out of the slime, or rather extracted it, he’d simply asked me to accompany him. Stunned, I'd asked him where he was going, and he answered: ‘Errand.’ I agreed because I was curious to see what kind of errands Hopefuls had to do, and I was expecting something more or less magical, or grand in some way. I should have known that nobodys didn’t get to see magic.
Kins of lower descent didn’t have access to the knowledge, and my own family’s hopes were planted in Trick’s future apprenticeship, which would ultimately save him and my parents from the lesser lives they lead. I had dreamed about the same thing once, but it was me who got to be the apprentice and Trick the one who’d go to the Concaves. It’s not that I didn’t love my brother; it was more rivalry and envy for something I hungered for and didn’t have a chance to get.
But this… was worse than I had imagined.
“Is this your future, d’you think?”
A traitorous snort escaped my lips. Laughter was bubbling up my throat, but I kept it at bay because I didn’t want to look like a mad person who laughs at the pain of little children. As I watched them dig and pull and polish and sneeze, I realized that I’d had it wrong all along. I didn’t have the worst of it because the worst would have been people finding out what I was and throwing me to work like these small children, forced to do manual labor like adults, which they were not.
I wanted to throw up. The world had gone mad if children had to do the work of grown men. I knew that it was their punishment for being half-breeds and homeless, and they had to work to make a living, or else they’d be dead or barely surviving out there. And yet, how could child labor ever be considered a good idea?
Gogor’s face did not betray any emotion whatsoever. In fact, his words rang back in my ears as if I hadn’t realized what he had asked me, only how he’d said it. Void of feeling. It somewhat made sense for someone who was so high up to be so out of touch.
“I don’t think this should be anybody’s future,” I said.
I was afraid that he’d hit me for speaking my mind, but some part of me knew he wouldn’t touch me like that. In spite of his lack of emotion, he had warm eyes.
“I agree,” he said, laughing. It wasn’t really a laugh as much as a chortle; a mixture of surprise and pleasure. I crossed my arms to hide my confusion.