Tuesday 5 July 2016

The Prince of Exiles, 28

I'm burning through a manacle using a dead guard's gun, trying to ignored the stickiness of the handle, those last traces of blood I couldn't manage to wipe off in my haste.

The man, a Rmoahal, more than a head taller than me, is looking down at me with hooded eyes. His mouth has been closed off, a grille bolted across the lower half of his face with an aperture to one side, presumably through which he can eat or drink. His hands are at his side, and he doesn't flinch when the metal gets hot and burns his skin. I asked if he could talk, and he stared at me, no expression there.

The manacle falls off, and he doesn't move. I put my hand on his bare, scarred shoulder. He raises his and places it over mine. His chest rises and falls serenely. I nod and move on.

All around me, freed slaves liberate their own, using the weapons of the dead and the factory tools to sever chains, slice manacles.

Some, particularly among those whose spirit has not been broken, have insisted on retaining their collars. A deep blue giant who told me his name was Moh, one of the earliest to be freed, told me as he batted my hand away, "One of us wears the collar, we all wear it," and I understood what he meant.

The smell of oil, blood and sweat is overpowering, the heat still everywhere. But the heartbeat of the city has ceased. The noise now is the noise of metal being broken, sighs, weeping, breathing, talk.

They're going to be coming for us. They're on their way. More blood is yet to be shed.