A young man had just died. Michael had been there when it happened and he felt guilty that he had not stepped in. Lincoln could see this and Lincoln had been the one to hold Michael back, if he had not then Michael could be the one they were burying today. He was wrought with guilt that the young man had died, and he had not stopped it. He was so thirsty and so tired and in so much pain. His body hurt from the sores of the whip and his muscles cried.
He could see Lincoln was weak but he tried to hide it. He had not had water all day. He was suffering, his lips were dry and his voice was hoarse from the water deprivation. They were forced to continue the work late. It was hard, it was murderous. Children dropped from thirst and only then was a sip of water given to restore them only so they could continue working.
“There was nothing you could do, Michael,” Lincoln said.
“I know,” he replied solemnly as they heaved the next sack on their backs. Heavy, crushing sacks of murderous sand and bricks. The hill was the next blow towards their apparent slow death. The sweat was dripping off them now, losing the precious water that their bodies needed, losing it for it not to be replaced. They would soon, like the others, die of exhaustion, hunger, thirst, or a beating too severe. It was a slow process and Lincoln was sorry he had gotten Michael here. He wished they would just be satisfied with his labour but they had to go and get his brother. Michael’s legs gave and he fell to the ground with a muffled cry. Lincoln quickly put his sack down to help him up and help him replace the sack before a guard saw. It was done and he could see the pain etched on Michael’s face but they both knew they had to push through it.
“Thanks,” Michael muttered before they rejoined the line of workers lugging sacks to the top only to go back down and fetch another but night was drawing close and they had no doubt they would be held in the dungeons until the morning and that meant no sleep on top of no food or drink.
They were not taken to the dungeons, the king did not want his workers to catch disease, he wanted them healthy. Not that healthy since water was given in small amounts. There were wooden cages that held them near the monument so the next morning they could get right to work.
Michael and Lincoln took a space on the floor, Lincoln let Michael lean on his shoulder. Michael looked around at the young and old faces, dirty, tired, solemn. The children’s faces had streaks through the dirt where tears had fallen through the course of the day. It broke his heart and all he wanted to do was hold them, make it better, make them laugh or even just smile like a child should. He would do if he was not so tired. So tired… exhausted… so tired…he needed sleep… sleep… darkness…