PART TWO: OMLI
Chapter 6: The Slum
OMLI gave his new friend the grand tour of the slum he lived in over the next few days. He showed his friend all the tiny shops whose leftovers he rummaged through to feed himself every night. He showed the SKIMMA each of his sleeping spots, including the ones he no longer slept at, thanks to the bad OSZA who had begun to visit them and take whatever kids they could grab, for purposes that OMLI’s imagination couldn’t fathom. He even, with a heart heavy with guilt, showed the SKIMMA some of the larger tents and makeshift huts that he stole food from when he was desperate, which lately had been more often than he cared to count.
Two days after their grand tour had been completed, an older friend of OMLI’s came for him. There was finally work at the mines for an entire week. OMLI was ecstatic. He would get a meal a day, along with a roof over his head, for the next ten days. OMLI put the SKIMMA over his shoulders and ran behind his friend, following him to the mine. A small collection of OSZA, larger than usual, had gathered outside the mine’s main gate. A number of them carried boards with things written on them, things that neither OMLI nor his friend knew how to read. All they knew was that the number of OSZA, as well as the boards, had increased. They took a sharp turn, and made their way towards one of the various side entrances of the mine, where there would be no loud OSZA who angrily shook their boards and yelled at the mine.
The OSZA with boards always confused OMLI. He wasn’t sure what they wanted, or why they were doing what they did. Sometimes, their chants and screams made it seem like they wanted work in the mines. But sometimes, it seemed like they were either angry that they had to work in the mines, or angry at something that had happened during their work in the mines. OMLI wasn’t sure why they didn’t just do what he and his friends did. Wait until the mine bosses called for them. The mine bosses always sent somebody out to look for OMLI and others like him whenever they could after all.
OMLI was also confused by why the OSZA yelling outside the mines even needed mine work in the first place. Many of them had their own tents or huts. Most of them ate more meals than OMLI every week. He saw them, stuffing their faces in the food stalls whenever they weren’t cooking in their own homes. OMLI didn’t understand why they wanted to leave their tents for the sleeping room the mine provided. They had entire tents and huts to themselves. Why did they want to share a room with fifty others like them? If he was in their place, and he had a hut, or even a tent, and more meals every week than he currently did, he wouldn’t work in the mines. He wouldn’t even leave his tent. He would just sleep in it all day, cuddling with his new friend, leaving it only to stuff his face at the food stalls. OMLI didn’t understand why they even bothered coming to the mines. None of it made any sense to him.
OMLI stopped wondering about the angry OSZA when they reached the side entrance. A large OSZA stood by it, guarding it, and creating large clouds of smoke every few seconds, as he sucked on one of those strange things that burnt on one end. He moved out of the way as he saw OMLI and his friend approach, and completely ignored them as they ran past him and entered the mining compound.