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Chapter 7: The Mine

The next ten days went by in the blink of an eye. OMLI worked for most of the day, after which he ate the daily meal he was given. Once the meal was over, he lay on the floor of the congested sleeping room that he shared with other kids who worked in the mine, and told his SKIMMA about his day for a few minutes, before passing out of exhaustion.

The mine was full of narrow tunnels and shafts, and it was always buzzing with activity. OMLI had lucked out this time and received the day shift, unlike his older friend, the one who had brought him to the mine. OMLI considered himself to be doubly lucky because his favorite guard, a short, stubby OSZA who always had a large smile on his face, worked the same shift as him, and took care of OMLI’s SKIMMA while he was busy digging through the blue rocks to find the shiny things, the ones that the mining bosses doled out rewards for.

Much to OMLI’s chagrin, all the children were chased out of the mine in a hurry on the tenth day, a full day before they expected to be let go. The OSZA that shooed OMLI and the other kids out of the mine, through one of its lesser known exits, kept yelling the word inspection at them. OMLI saw a large van pull into the mine, and a trio of very sweaty mine bosses nervously bowing to greet the OSZA who got out of it, as he ran out the exit. He was annoyed. He had lost the surety of a meal and a roof for the day.

OMLI spent the next few hours slowly making his way through the town that lay around the mine. The town fascinated OMLI, but he didn’t like it. The buildings and structures in the town amazed him, even though he wasn’t allowed into any of them. But the town had no stalls or tents, no opportunities to steal food, no open garbage lots where he could rummage for left overs. The town also had too many guards, nasty OSZA that always chased him to the exit whenever they saw him. Worst of all were the OSZA who lived in the town. They always glared at OMLI, and unlike the OSZA in the slums, they never gave him a little bit of whatever they were eating. OMLI didn’t understand why the town was so hostile to him. He had done nothing to it.

OMLI spent the next few weeks in the slum, eating whatever he found, sleeping wherever he could, always with one eye open, always alert for the bad OSZA who took children away. He spent many of the better parts of his days playing with his SKIMMA in the large garbage heaps that littered the slums, while simultaneously keeping an eye out for anything edible. He also ventured to the outskirts of the slums once in a while, and climbed the small hills, to watch the three suns of UWA set with his furry friend. On clear nights, OMLI cuddled up with his SKIMMA, and they observed the stars and the moons, and named each one until they feel asleep. The days and the nights passed in this manner, until OMLI was called to the mines again.

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