His fingers bled as he heaved the basket of freshly picked greens upon the cart of the King’s collector, almost collapsing as he stumbled backwards in response to releasing the heft of the load. The sun relentlessly beat down upon his shoulders, blistering the skin; he winced in pain when he heard the harsh tones of the man atop the cart yell, “Here’s your pay grunt!”.
Failing to catch the few coins the man had flicked at him, he scrambled to the ground to hastily pick them up from the dirt. He felt only weakness throughout his body, mouth dry as the desert and aching of thirst, he willed his body to stand up and begin the journey home to his wife and children. He gave a shutter when he heard the crack of the wagon man’s whip hitting the horse that pulled the load.
On his journey home and thinking his eyes deceived him, he almost didn’t stop when he saw the glisten of the setting sun upon the waters surface of a puddle in the road, but his thirst was so great he did stop. Falling to his knees and lowering his lips to the ground, the wetness on his lips was proof he was not hallucinating and he sucked in the liquid which he knew was probably mostly dirt.
The snap of a twig from behind jolted him to attention. The suns rays were well beyond the horizon now and he squinted in the darkness to see what had caused the noise, but could make out very little. Reaching down into the puddle he palmed the murky stew and splashed it upon his face, hoping to become more alert; just then he heard the voice.
“Well then peasant, what have you got for me then, Hmmm?”
A hard shove came from his left and in an instant a large burly figure was pinning him to the ground. As hard as he could he willed his body for strength, oh how he had willed it! Yet it gave him nothing– he was dehydrated, starving and sick with longing. He prayed to the gods that he knew, as the strangers fist fell with the force of a thrown boulder upon his face.
“So lets see what you have in those pockets!”
As the stranger dug into all of his pockets he wanted to scream, he wanted to yell out… he wanted to fight back against this burly sack of stupid, this heathen in which no mercy or reason shown upon. He couldn’t manage too. He could not move, the weeks of being over worked in the fields. The weeks of agony and exhaustion, heat from the sun and lack of water or food. The weeks of self hatred and doubt, the weeks upon weeks of this life, suffering every second.
The stranger pulled from his pockets the measly earnings of the day. He was crying, and yet no tears ran down his cheeks. How strange this was, he thought, almost as if he was above himself watching this whole scene happen, as if… he had been here before. In the back of his mind he heard a sentence begin to take form… but not one he was to speak.
In unison the words in his mind and the words of the stranger merged, just as a blade fell upon his chest, piercing his heart…
“Thanks for the change asshole!”