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Worked to Death

Callea’s coughing was a regular fixture in the mines. She never could afford a breather and they aren’t standard issue. Instead, she wore a damp bandana over her mouth while she worked. She labored hard, pickaxe in hand, pausing to violently cough here and there. When she worked it through she just swung harder to keep pace with the other miners. She never wanted to be perceived as weak or lesser than despite her illness. Today the coughing fit started and it wouldn’t stop. Worrying about quotas, Overseer Billins told her to get back to work, an impossible request. Kollis dropped his shovel to go to her aid. That’s when he saw the blood staining her hands and mouth. Still she coughed. Then she choked. Overseer Billins was yelling for Kollis to get back to work, and Callea was on the ground, eyes vacant, blood dribbling from her mouth. He didn’t think. Kollis scooped her up and put her into the ore cart she was filling and he started pushing toward the exit. The words “Stand Down!” echoed in his ears but he ignored them. He had to. It was the right thing to do.

-Nick

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