The Chimney's Children

Reads: 500  | Likes: 1  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 3

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Chimney's in the Victorian era didn't clean themselves, people would crawl in them and remove the soot. It was one of the most dangerous jobs and who performed it? Little angels...

Submitted: October 12, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 12, 2016

A A A

A A A


It's dark, disconcerting and spine-chilling, like a maze. The walls are seldom cleaned and the tunnels are barely explored by common folk. Inside it’s sullied with soot and coal. Narrow and claustrophobic, it brings death and pain upon those who enter it. We perceive it as harmless and useful, it’s something so simple yet it brings misery, a chimney.  

 

The morning sun has not yet risen, but the children have opened their eyes and now they were getting ready for their master to walk in and usher them onto the streets of London. The hay they lay on was uncomfortable to say the least, and the nasty bag they used as covers did not provide the desired warmth. Their empty stomachs, tired limbs and fresh wounds ate away at them, they waited for the work day to start. The trap door creaked open and the children’s smudged faces darkened. Their master came in and said, 

 

”Get up, we have work to do!” the children flinched at his rough and low voice. However, reluctantly they got up and hurried off to the stairs. Before them was a rare sight, breakfast. They sat down onto the icy floor. Hungrily they consumed the two loafs of bread they shared. It was dry and hard in the mouth with the taste unrecognizable and twisted. Regardless, the starved children relished in the feeling of food in their stomachs. 

 

When the breakfast faded into nothing more than a distant memory, the children scrambled to their feet and each received their cleaning tools. Petite hands held a brush and a metal scraper. The front door of the house opened with a screech, and noises of the city flooded in. All the chatter, howling of the wind and clatter of carriages, it was deafening. The familiar cloudy sky hovered above London and its citizens. 

 

The girl and boy went their separate ways. Walking in the chilled morning on the dirty streets of London, and barefoot at that, was nowhere near enjoyable.  

 

“’Weep, ‘weep, ‘weep!” the children chanted on top of their lungs. Marching through the streets they alerted the passersby of their services. Their throats were sore and they tasted blood in their mouths. Day to day, morning to night, all year around they traveled the streets and offered their services. Someone stopped the girl and asked for her assistance, 

 

“Good sir, I will get my master and we will clean out your chimney!” she feigned a cheerful voice and rushed through the people to seek out her master. Reciting the address in her mind she spotted the man she was looking for and walked up to him.  

 

“Master, I have found a customer for us!” as the chimney sweep listened to her words, he seemed pleased. The little girl was delighted, always best to stay on his good side.  

Passing the lords and ladies dressed up in fancy attire, wearing top hats and walking proudly through the foul atmosphere of London. Everyone minded their own business and had a destination, so did the master and “apprentice”. The girl always laughed at the word apprentice, more like slave, she always thought.  

 

The master knocked politely, yet loudly enough for the occupants to hear. Some servant unlocked the door and happily let them in. She guided them to the busy kitchen. The smell of delicious food was torture on its own, but now the girl was looking at the fireplace.  

 

“Shall we get started? Go on then, up you go!” the master said in a demanding voice. Leaving the girl no choice she walked to the fireplace and hesitantly crawled in. Above her was the chimney, 15 to 16 meter shaft which she had to clean. She could feel her master’s impatience grow and she started her climb. 

 

Pressing her back against the brick wall, knees bent and her ankles propped under her for support, she began her ascend. The tight and nyctophobic tunnel smelled of smoke and soot. She held her brush overhead and moved it up and down, cleaning the soot. It fell on her head and shoulders, making her breathing labored.  

 

The flesh of her knees, back and elbows was scraped away against the walls and her body felt on fire. She swallowed a groan of pain and kept scrubbing and scrubbing the chimney.  

 

Climbing higher and higher, stopping from time to time and letting a cough escaped

her lips, her heart throbbed in her chest and she swore she could hear her heartbeat in her ears. The claustrophobic space scared her and she could only pray to not get stuck. She wondered what was the boy doing this time.  

 

Turning and maneuvering her body to fit through the turns and twists in the chimney, her fear only grew. Nevertheless, it was useless to go back down, the master would be enraged, and she didn’t want that.  

 

Her eyes stung from the sudden light surrounding her, noises of the outside reached her ears and hope welled up inside her. She stuck her head out the chimney and took a deep breath before going back in. Cautiously she slid down the walls, her flesh with no skin being clawed at. Wishing she would get out into the right fireplace and not into a fire. Navigating through the pitch dark labyrinth she took turns and hoped they would lead her to the exit.  

 

Then she was out, tears of relief threatened to spill from her strained eyes. The lady of the house thanked them both, gave the master a few coins and sent a sympathetic look towards the girl who shook like an autumn leaf in the wind. 

The pair walked, until the master stopped and turned on his heel. His eyes on fire from rage, his fist came flying down at the young apprentice. 

 

“Do you know how long that took?! I taught you better! Too slow! Next time be faster!” her master growled. The girl’s body hurt all over, her past injuries were bleeding and her soul was crumbling down from the anguish she felt. She wanted the day to end and for her to be in the boy's warm embrace. 

 

The master set down a bucket full of water he was carrying and dipped a dirty rag in it. Beckoning the fragile figure to come closer, he rolled up her pants and started to scrub at the oozing bruises. The was pain unbearable, she hissed and wanted to run, yet she did not. There was nowhere to run. It wasn't just water, but it was mixed with salt to accelerate the healing. 

 

The rest of the day was exactly the same, going up a chimney, coming down, getting a beating for being too slow and the salt water. No breaks or pauses, continuous work until the sun began to hide itself behind the horizon. The two apprentices have come back to their home with throbbing wounds and tortured souls.  

 

The ravenous children craved food, they did not receive it. The dark night consumed the light and enveloped London in its chilling embrace. The stars decorated the sky and the pair huddled together in the deepest corner of the attic. Savoring each others warmth they collected their shattered hearts. Crystal tears painted paths on the children's cheeks, they shook under the weight of the world on their shoulders. That one night they did not do their nightman duties, they did not go out and collect what others got rid of.

 

They fell into a dreamless slumber. As the morning sun has risen the day repeats itself and the mazes require cleaning. They would work and work until they bled and they would choke on the soot and get stuck in the mazes, with no way out or anyone to rescue them, they would grow angel's wings and fly away. 


© Copyright 2017 iicupcakeii. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Comments

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

More Historical Fiction Short Stories

Booksie 2017-2018 Short Story Contest

Booksie Popular Content

Other Content by iicupcakeii

Melted Heart

Short Story / Romance

In the Corridors Beneath

Short Story / Horror

In Between

Short Story / Horror

Popular Tags