PART two: omli
Chapter 11: The Year
An eventful year had passed without OMLI even realizing it. OMLI continued to work in the mine whenever he was needed. He fretted over his SKIMMA often, doing his best to ensure that its mostly beautiful white fur didn’t get too dirty, while completely failing to notice the mine deepen the blues on his own wrists and forearms. OMLI also managed to find a long string, and ample hollow blue rocks that were small enough, as he dug through the mine over the months. He saved the rocks and the strings for months, until there were enough for him to make a necklace, which he gave to his best friend, his loyal SKIMMA.
OMLI managed to find the largest shiny objects three times over the year. The first time, he was rewarded with two meals for two successive days. The second time, he was allowed to eat extra, and work half the hours the following day. The final time was the best. He was given an entire day off, along with a special treat, something he had never eaten or seen before. He wasn’t told its name. All he knew was that it was sweet, soft, creamy and extremely cold. It could be eaten, but it was more enjoyable to lick it instead. He also accidentally found out that consuming too much of it too quickly made one’s head hurt. The special treat was the greatest experience OMLI had that year.
A lot of what OMLI saw happening over the year scared him. Multiple mine shafts collapsed as the year passed. Many of the OSZA, including a few of OMLI’s friends, were lost forever. OMLI didn’t fully understand why they had stopped moving when they were finally dug out of the collapsed tunnels, but he had seen enough death to know that they would never move again. Each collapse made him think twice every time he had to go into a mine shaft or tunnel himself. But he always managed to shrug off the fear and do the job he was expected to do. Hunger, and sleeping out in the open, scared OMLI more than the possibilities of collapses. Hunger, and having no roof to sleep in, were a certainty. Mine shafts and tunnels collapsing weren’t.
The angry OSZA outside the mine increased in numbers as the months went by. They also began showing up and yelling at the various other entrances and exits of the mine. Armed OSZA, with even more weapons than the mine guards, and with hair styles and colors that OMLI had never seen or imagined before, arrived at the mine towards the end of the year. The strange colors of their eyes, as well as the different shades of gray their skin was, fascinated OMLI and the other children in the mine. The armed OSZA patrolled the mine constantly, and their eyes never left the angry OSZA outside the mine, the ones with the boards, for more than a few seconds. OMLI continued to work at the mine whenever an opportunity presented itself. However, just like in the slums, he eventually began sleeping at the mine with one eye open.