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THE LIFE OF WARREN NEWBODY

It dawns in Deephaven, and the fog stays. The city begins to wake, beds creaking, wooden floors groaning, windows wiped but never opened, tall buildings spearing the fog like ancient trees. Here and there, slowly at first and quicker now, lights flare up in the apartments and outside the wooden constructions. Slowly, like a sleeping giant, the city comes to life. The fog stays.

Warren doesn't remember his childhood. He has no memories of anything before his eleventh birthday. Now, 28 years later, he feels tired and worn out. His room isn't small, but no one would dare call it big. It is almost the perfect size for him, if it weren't for the small sink and toilet and the low roof that hangs over his head, an inch or two away from his scalp. Slowly, he gets out of the bed and stumbles to the sink. He splashes water on his face and head. His hair wet and shiny, he battles fiercely with the grime on his cheeks and forehead. Stalemate. He manages to get most of it off his forehead but cannot rid himself of the grime on his cheeks and neck, on account of his beard. As so many inhabitants of Deephaven do in the morning he sighs and surrenders himself to the slow but ever growing crust. He now drinks a little water straight from the tap, grabs a small loaf of hard bread, puts on his big overcoat and opens the door to the street. The fog hangs in the doorway, scared of the heat inside. With heavy eyes, Warren walks outside and shuts the door behind him.

The walk to the requisitions office is short but gloomy. The grey light of morning illuminates the streets around him through the fog. Tall, rustic buildings made out of wood loom on either side. Here and there, workers dressed in brown and beige wake up, open their doors to the mist and come down the ladders from the high buildings. Each building has many floors and each floor has many single room apartments, each with its own door to the street, connected to the ground with a single ladder. Although smaller in numbers, some workers also emerge from ladders connected to lower layers of the city. Their clothes are worn and the crust on their faces tends to be darker, more definite. Nothing much however, as they live in what used to be the previous street, before the new layer was built. Even though the street Warren walks on its fine and not marred by millions of steps yet, it's been a while ever since it was built. Warren looks around and sure enough, there are groups of carpenters and prospectors at the corners and intersections, already starting to sketch out how to build the next street above. The Deep is always rising, a heavy thought.

Piter, the requisitions foreman sits in his office. Warren doesn't bother with knocking and walks in. He nods as a greeting and Piter does as well, clearing his throat.

"You're late." - "Slow morming."

Piter looks him up and down with sunken eyes. He is fat and slightly yellow, old. Warren doesn't remember ever seeing him off his chair in the foreman's office.

"Any news?" - "None. We are assigning you a new partner. Oskar, call the new kid in."

In another time, earlier, Warren would've felt sad. Another one lost to the Deep. Not his first. Somehow, he always makes it back. The rickety wooden door opens and in comes the new partner. Piter was right, only a kid, with bright blue eyes and dirty blond hair, pale as a ghost. He doesn't look a day past 16.

"Meet Agustin. Agustin, this is Warren Newbody, your partner. He'll be taking you down today." - "How old are you kid?" - "... 18, sir."

Warren gives an accusatory look to the foreman. Piter barely acknowledges it and turns back to the stained papers on his desk.

"Don't blame me. Didn't you see the help wanted sign outside? We're low on manpower. Now go, you don't get paid to stare."

Warren takes the new kid by the shoulder and walks outside of the office. Outside, in the big but low warehouse that is the requisitions office, Warren turns his new partner around to face him. The warehouse is long, and dark, and cold so that the fog creeps in the corners. In front of Warren, the kid is only wearing a woolen brown sweater and beige pants. Hand-me-downs from his family most likely. Wool is hard to get in Deephaven..

"Where's your kit?" - "Kit sir?" - " Your stuff, your equipment?" - " I'm afraid I don't know sir, I was just hired this morning, an hour before you arrived."

Warren could scream but he manages the fury. Instead, he turns the boy around and points, telling him to go to the stockmaster and to get a company kit. Once he has the kit, he is to meet Warren by the dockyards, in the city's outer rim.

The walk to the dockyards is longer. Warren walks by busier streets, with butcheries and grocery stores here and there. They sell mostly good stuff, here in the topmost layer. The lower layers still get food, but most of it is what the stores in the first layer didn't want from the shipments. Eventually, Warren reaches the docks. Being the only outside connection with the outside world, the docks are flooded in light. Tall gas lamps and headlights go through the fog, almost driving it away. Here and there, you can see workers making sure the ropes are strong and taut, that the large wooden cranes are in perfect working order. As Warren nears the entrance, a shipment comes the fog surrounding the city. The ship is a zeppelin of medium proportions, slowly gliding over and through the fog. It appears almost instantly, a dark whale of technology, glass, and steel, and it docks a couple of feet away from the city. The docks are specifically built for this type of ship, allowing the ship to travel between two wooden gangways, with cranes on either side. However, the door to the ship's cabin and quarters never opens and the dock workers make sure to stay away from the ship. Automatically, with a metallic clunk, a side door opens in back of the ship and the mechanism moves the cargo, large bundles of dark wood. A crane moves and claws one of the bundles, slowly beginning to unload the cargo.

Warren watches this for a while, until Agustin emerges from the mist half a street away. He is carrying a bundle of rope on his shoulder, a light backpack on his back, and a gas lamp on his right hand.

"I'm here sir." - "What took you so long?" - "I... I got lost, sir." - "Huh. Never been to the docks before?" - "No, sir. I was born 4 layers below, sir, today and yesterday is the longest I've ever been topmost." - " Figures. Lose the sir, Warren is fine. Come."

With the kid behind him, Warren strides into the docks. He walks to the other end of the docks, directly opposite where the ship is unloading. As they walk, the space gets narrower, losing to tall buildings and tight streets. Eventually, it gets so narrow that they have to walk right next to the city's edge. There is wood to step on and less than half a meter away there is void, only fog going down and down and down forever. Warren walks quickly, with heavy steps that make the wood creak. Agustin can't help but hug the wooden planks that separate the dock from the street, as he stumbles behind his partner. There is a wooden railing alongside the edge, but its planks are thin and flimsy and it wobbles when Agustin grabs it. Better the wall.

The crane is old and certainly less looked after than its sisters on the shiny ship-side of the dockyard. It rests on a little platform built over the edge. However, its rope is thick and taut and the old man that sits by its cabin gives an aura of reliability. He nods when he sees Warren approaching.

"The late Newbody, come to die at last." - "Shut up, old man." - " All your colleagues are already down, Newbody. What kept you? Scared of the dark?" - " As if."

The crane-man pats Warren on the shoulder as a friend would. Then he sees Agustin standing meekly behind him. New blood?, he asks. Warren nods and heads inside a little room built alongside the wall. Agustin introduces himself and sticks out a hand but the crane operator only looks at him. Unable to take the inquiring gaze, Agustin turns to examine the crane and almost jumps when the contraption whirs to life with a low rumble. He turns and sees that the old man has gone inside the crane cabin and is operating the equipment. From the top of the crane arm a counterweight descends at speed. Soon it is below the edge and heading down into the fog. Meanwhile, Warren comes out of the little room carrying his own equipment. His lantern is of a sturdier build than Agustin's company kit's, his rope thicker and his backpack bigger and heavier. He stands next to Agustin as they watch two lines of rope move, one down into nothingness and the other up into the light.

"I'll only ask this once." - "Si, I mean, Warren?" - "Do you know what you're getting into?"

The kid lowers his eyes for a second.

"Yes."

At that point a cage attached to the end of the ascending rope comes up from the fog, stopping just about at the edge's height.. It is made of rusting metal, the first Agustin has seen outside of a factory. There is a small gap between the edge and the floor of the cage, where the fog swirls and gathers. The crane operator comes out of the cabin as Warren and Agustin move in front of the cage.

"Kid, what's your layer?" - "Fourth topmost, sir." - "You know, it's nothing like that down there, are you su" - "He knows, old man. Let him be."

Warren reaches out and forces the cages sliding door open. Then, keeping one foot on the edge, he places the other into the cage and steadies it for Agustin. Agustin follows and enters the cage, becoming suddenly very aware of his weight as the cage bobs under every one of his steps. Warren places his other feet in and closes the cage. He looks to the old man and nods.

"Be safe." - "Be light."

The crane operator goes back into the cabin and pushes a lever. The cage jolts quickly, frighteningly, as if to fall for a second, and then counterweight begins to rise deep, deep down. The rope line tenses. The cage is engulfed by the fog.

Texto agregado el 12-05-2019, y leído por 121 visitantes. (0 votos)


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