How We Survived – Your Place (Nano 2016, chapter 5)

Such beauty was rarely beheld by human eyes. Great swathes of vegetables growing bright and vibrant. Waves of grain stretched as far as the eye could see. He turned his palms downwards while walking forwards letting the husks brush against his palms. Their hard exterior gave way to the soft nutrition inside. He walked among the food that would feed the people of the world. His fruits, his vegetables, his grains… this was the food  which the world marched upon. Children born would be nourished by this, children would be raised on this, pregnant mothers would anxiously wait for this food. Hungry men, swept in the sweat of work would sit down with families and pray. They would link hands, and break the bread grown from his ground would adorn the table. All we ready to feast, but moments would be taken. Either the brief breaks before a sandwich at work, or the careful time taken by a housewife to knead, proof, and bake a loaf.

The bright and vivid hues of the peaches in summertime, or the deep browns of pecans and walnuts in the autumn. He tilled soil, he pruned trees, he planted each seed with care. No day began without a breakfast made possible by his work. The nights spent caring for plants, walking between the furrows spraying deftly at the leaves, clipping leaves, straightening petals. The world began and ended with food. And he was the world’s farmer.

97 reached the end of his chain and felt an abrupt jerk backwards. He had reached the end of his tether. He pondered a step forwards. His feet would begin grinding into the well managed earth, and he could fight his way against his bounds, but to no avail. He had worked this patch of land for 14 years, and he would continue to work it each day as he had before. He had seen men and women driven mad by their confinement. But he knew it was for the best. Each had their place on this earth, each was put there either by fate or by government, and who was he to fight against the powers that kept this earth from ruin?

Each day he rose from his cot and lined up with the others. They were fed well from the harvest, and they were sent into the fields under the dome. Each day he would pass by the tall shoots of corn, the patches filled with gourds, the near motionless fields of grain. He would walk several miles before he was where he needed to be. His place was on the edge of other places, those areas where wheat met tomatoes, met cauliflower. Those better than him were smart enough to rotate the crops, and though he worked the same acre, he was always facing new challenges. He had worked this acre so long because he knew what he was doing. He excelled with the plants, caring for each as a child, because they were to feed the children. The world could not be refilled and reconquered if the people did not grow up big and strong. He knew all too well what happened to a man if he was unable to work to his fullest potential.

More than one worker had managed to hang themselves from their chains, giving up the gift of caring for prosperity. Some farmers, mostly hydro farmers couldn’t take it. The hydro farmers couldn’t take the days of sunlight under the dome at a time. They grew up underground, deprived of the light that made these crops grown strong. They languished under the light of UV bulbs, their skin growing pale and sallow as their crops grew strong. There was nothing to be done for them. They were a weak people, only made weaker by the buzzing lights. They poured themselves into the crop, and they seemed to gain nothing from it. Not the rich bounty of harvest, nor the satisfaction of hearing the train pull away, loaded with saving life and power. Those things that make a body strong, and a mind sharp. Everyone benefited when you worked hard. Wrapping the chain around your neck at the most slack point and running until you flew at the end of your track, and then swung in the air was weakness. He had known the sun under the dome all his life, and he knew that his tasks were noble. Those that killed themselves were weaklings that did well only by removing themselves from the farms. They couldn’t support the people, they weren’t strong enough to wake by day, work by sunlight, and sleep by night. They were well taken care of here. He couldn’t understand the desire to end it all. All he wanted was to care for more plants.

He wanted to break the chains, not to escape, but to care for more people. He would work his hands to bone, and his soul to ashes, if it meant one more person would have one more day to work for the farms, work for the domes, work for the trains. Just once he wanted to stop on his way here and view the works under the dome. To man a tractor, to do more than water and harvest, to decide and divine, to drive the future of the world outside this dome.

The others didn’t understand, that this was where they belonged. Since he was a child he had known where he belonged. This place was the cradle of all life, and to take your own in this place meant becoming fertilizer. Even in failure, it was assumed that your last act would carry this place forwards. The others didn’t understand. They didn’t understand at all.

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