“When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty”
Would you call this mud? A tenuous strand of thought emerges from the disarray of a crimson haze, soaking through the
veil of blood-sand that coats the man, drip-dropping into the fast-fading corridors of his consciousness. He wonders, absently, how he can still hear those wispy echoes – amidstthe click-clack-boom of gunfire and a quaking heartbeat. The pounding punches through the crevasse of an empty vessel: shriveled and all but lifeless. His hands grab at the wound, the fountain of blood that has etch-a-sketched his soul into the dirt around him. Pain arrives, unannounced, having shed the cloak of adrenalin, and in its glorious white-hot caress, the man in the blue jumpsuit loses himself, pulling a leaden dreamscape blanket over the anarchy of this Thursday afternoon.
The tunnel hangs thick with stench and smog. The rock is everywhere – powdered into the air – chiseled into the pores and wrinkles of the rhino-skinned workers. This is a place of starkness – the chill of stone and the whine of power tools echo through the unyielding bathroom-stall fluorescence. This place could be easily mistaken for nought but a deadened recess. But, with a grating on his bones and a scaly claw against his ribs, the man is reminded that this tunnel is alive. It reaches through his hard hat and tears fissures through his thought. It basks in his suffering, rewarding his hacking lungs and bloodshot eyes with a rare glimpse of platinum – a taunting, toothy sneer. He thinks he must be mad, returning here, settling again into the claustrophobia of barely-on-the-breadline monotony. Shack to chicken-mesh cage to pit. Pit to cage to sleepless foam mattress.
Every single day, he descends into this hellish gutter, placated only by the four-thousand-rand he’s granted by a man whose shoes are worth more. His friends have died here, paying for that man’s shoes. He too, will probably die here, perhaps for a necktie, or a new watch. His kids, too, will gain a far too common inheritance – a limited vocabulary and a limited lifespan.
Grains of sand scrape across his face, jolting him back into the waking world. Thorns of shrapnel and rubber rounds scream out, reminding him where he is. The drought of the mine field pervades him, drawing out any flicker of fight in the man. Why did he fight? The thought plagues him, suddenly, as desperation creeps through barricades of pain and resignation.
Why is he here – clutching a panga in the desert, and not there – clutching a pen in an office?
Help, he almost cries, almost roars into the 8mm lensed vultures encircling him, cackling in beeps and flashes. Almost. A flash of memory resuscitates his resolve to die on this land.
An executive arrives. Tailor-cut Armani suit; gratuitously clunky wristwatch; polished, plastered smile. He walks among them, but above them. Token hard-hat and headlamp on his head, gleaming for the cameras. The man watches, from the crowd of cloned colleagues. His thoughts drift from the CEO to last night and back again. From the neckchains to the stale bread he lives off and back again. From the watch to his daughter’s shoeless feet and back again.
It was all wrong.
The pain is dull, now. Its throbs are repetitive, silent, numb. Blood gushes from him, bathing his hands in warmth. But it is not blood. It’s something far more precious.
He can feel it, with the same hands that have grasped the metals men sell souls for. This is more, this is new.
This is the cost of integrity.