It was about 5 o'clock in the morning. The sun would just be coming up over the hills and valleys on the outskirts of town, lighting up the old farmsteads with warmth and urging the tired old farmers out of their beds. They'd be greeted warmly by their families, before heading off to do an honest day's work providing not only for their loved ones, but those of every single person in the city as well.
Sadly for this tired old man, all he has left to greet him in the morning are impatient, irritated people and the fog-infested sky so thick not even the sun could pierce it. Not to mention his menial little job; of which (in his eyes at least) had utterly no importance.
But I digress. Such is my life.
Glancing over at the window, I slowly rose out of my old wooden chair and walked towards it. Every day I would look through this very same glass, and see the very same thing: Hundreds of men, marching off to work with their lunch in one hand, and their tools in the other.
Industrialization. "A good thing" they'd always tell me. Yes, good maybe for the high class. But not for us poor working saps. Slaving away every day, being corrupted and churned until we become just as evil as the smog that blinds our petty little eyes. What does it take for a man to stand up for himself? To defend his honor, and protect his land? His children's futures?
Apparently too much, I assume. For even I am one of those blind idiots. Spending all my time complaining about everything I hate, and never having the guts to actually do anything about it.
Resisting to urge to punch the window in my frustration with myself, I quickly turned and walked back towards my chair, picking my old patched-up coat off the back of it, and putting it on. It smelt rancid, but so did every other man's work clothes. It was from all that time spent in those factories. The big, noisy things. They always smelled like oil. And not the type you would light or warm your house with. This oil was dirty. Almost as dirty as the people who used it.
Pushing the creaking wooden door open, my lungs were assaulted with the stench of the city. I coughed; my throat strained from this daily routine. Quickly closing my door behind me, I joined the crowd of men parading by. Glancing silently from face to face.
Most of them were young folks. Barely into their twenties. But every so often you'd spot an older man like me, struggling to keep pace with the energetic youth. And every so often you'd spot a child. No more than five years old, holding his father's hand; face covered in soot. The children were used in the mines on the edge of town. Their small bodies could fit in a lot better. A part of me feels sorry for them, and another part of me feels glad that my childhood was spent in my father's fields, tending to cows and trying my best to help.
I miss that life. So peaceful and sno. I can't do this again. I start feeling horrible about it all. Start regretting the fact that I let them take everything from me. Start regretting that I now work for those same stuck-up assholes.
"Good morning Mr. Steven, how are you this morning?"
Looking up, I saw the grinning face of young man who I'd seen a couple of times before around the mines. Though I didn't know his name. "I'm as good as a man can get in this hellhole of a city. And yourself?"
He laughed. A rough and labored sound; from years of working in the mines, breathing nasty things in.
"I guess that makes a heck of a lot sense, don't it? Hard to be that good with all this crap floatin' about us."
I just kept quiet, trying to keep up with the crowd. I saw him watching me in the corner of my eye.
"Hey Mr. Steven, I've got a question for you."
I looked at him.
"You work in the production wing of the mine, right?"
I nodded silently, wondering where he could be going with his.
"Then how come you carry around that there mining' lantern?"
I glanced down at the old, rusted lantern in my hand. I'd take it to work with me every day without thinking. Habit from my time as a miner, I suppose. I stared at it for a good ten minutes before looking back up at him. He was watching me intently. "I'm not quite sure. I suppose I'm looking for something, and need some light to help me find it. The sun aint going to be much help. Not with this damn smog everywhere."
He laughed again. It was painful to hear. "Yeah I suppose you're right. What is it that you're lookin' for?"
We were at the back of the group, so when I stopped suddenly and placed my hand over my heart, he slowly made his way back towards me. "You alright, Mr. Steven?"
"Honesty." I dropped my hand back down to my side.
"I'm looking for honesty in this world. A man with the guts to do what I can't: Stand up for what's right. For a poor old sap like me, who is too tired to do anything now."
"That sounds like a good thing to be lookin' for."
I smiled and placed my hand on his shoulder, trying to keep the pain from showing on my face. "Promise me something, son." He looked at me. "Don't ever let no one push you around. Don't follow the path of this old idiot. Live your life how you want to."
A sharp jolt of pain shot through my body once again, and everything slowly faded away. The last thing I heard was the sound of that rusty old lantern, slipping from my limp hand and hitting the ground; shattering.