Wasted Effort (Flash Fiction)

Bob trudged up the hill. His sweaty feet slipped within his worn, leather sandals. As he ascended, the gravely soil of the riverbed graduated into volcanic rock. He walked in a crucifix form with his arms slung over a thick branch suspending the large buckets of water he slaved for.

The path snaked its way up the hillside beneath clouds of smoke and ash. Each step brought him closer to the broken mountainside that still seeped its molten blood. The elders had praised the eruption as a blessing from the gods. Bob passed slowly by a slaver standing guard along the path and found it difficult to cheer. The guard, a fat man with a sweaty face painted in thick black, raised his whip and inspired Bob to pick up the pace. The water sloshed about inside the wooden buckets.

The black rock sloped away to his left and grew into a vast chasm. The river of magma that flowed gave the canyon an orange glow. The heat was relentless. Beads of sweat ran down Bob’s forehead and chest and back, tracing the curves of muscles that burned with agony. The final steps of his journey were torture onto themselves, a staircase carved into the ripples of a dead, ebony flow that led to the forge and anvils being worked by other slaves. The deafening rings of their efforts filled the air .

Bob reached his destination and performed a painful squat to unload the precious haul. The recipient, a man even thinner than himself with stringy arms and thin hair, plucked the first bucket and set it beside his anvil. He took the second bucket and dumped the contains, glistening river water running from the far side of the mountain, over his weary body. Small plumes of steam quickly formed on the ground.

Bob’s mouth fell open. He looked down the path just traveled and looked back at the man. “Dude, what the fuck?”

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