Rusty machinery whirred and whips cracked in Old Lilley Factory
at three o'clock on a Sunday afternoon. A distant foghorn could
be heard even on the skinning floor, signalling a break for the
workers. Collectively, a sigh of relief was issued, followed by a
peculiarly ordered stampede to the soup queue in the canteen,
five floors below.
A slight girl with a pointed, rat-like face remained at her post,
gazing out of the grubby pane, seemingly absorbed by the darkness
outside. Although her eyes, as black as the sky, were unfocused
and dazed with memories, her hands kept on absentmindedly peeling
flesh from the thick, fat-coated skin of a foreign beast.
Her delirious mind was little more than a haze of unadulterated
confusion; I recall her bizarre tales of this time like nothing
else. In later years she would become a dreamer, a miracle-worker
and a lover. Eternal darkness came before her, at times consuming
even her with its pitiless lust.
In those days, when her eyes became unfocused and her gaze quick
to blurred ideas, she could see the world; the mountains, the
ancient forests, the great lakes and last of the free people,
dwelling deep in the heart of the White Sea. She told me
persecution cannot control those who are truly free, death cannot
stop those who champion liberty.
The Floor Guard noticed her delay; with a swift movement the
whip-bearing man crossed the factory floor, clamping his
calloused hand on the girl's shoulder. A harsh torch threw light
onto her features; her hair shone in tones of the deepest blue
and her skin gave off the unhealthy glow of someone who hadn't
slept properly in a while. Unsightly red welts covered her neck
and her slender face appeared scarred, both with acne and a
curious burn beside her left eye.
Fury poured from the girl, a fire of rage erupted from her
arrested shoulder, creeping into every chasm of her body.
Barely wincing, she was thrown from her stool and onto the floor
in an instant, her body collapsing onto the grit with a sickening
thud. The steel torch smashed against the ground, merely inches
from her nose, blinding her black eyes once again. Crimson beads
began popping up in miniscule droplets where the gravel had
scraped away her skin. The torch shone through the grey skin
clinging to the little rocks, creating an eerie silhouette
patterned with dying life.