Shoulders and arms aching, Angelica lugged the buckets filled with the thick, sloppy mud she’d spent the morning digging out of the riverbank. There had been reports that the wall by western treeline had been weakened, and she’d been stupid enough to piss off the crew boss.
Her hair escaped its makeshift holder and flopped in her eyes, making them burn. What she wouldn’t give for an elastic hair tie. But her last one had broken months ago. And forget about barrettes. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen those on anyone this side of the wall. Stopping, she twisted her hair into a makeshift bun and shoved a couple twigs through it and secured it as best she could.
“Keep up, scrub,” Tovah called back, hoisting the bales of hay she’d been dragging.
Angelica flipped off the older woman, picked up her buckets again and stumbled forward.
The sun was high by the time they reached the cracked portion of the wall, and sweat poured down her back. It was impossible not to think about things like air conditioning and swimming pools. Well, clean usable ones, anyway. There were still swimming pools, but all of the ones she’d seen resembled algae and debris-filled ponds or were cracked and empty. But air conditioning was a thing of the past. And forget fans, too.
Generator use was limited to emergencies only, and the swampy heat and humidity of August was not considered an emergency. She got that, but it didn’t make her feel any less pissy about it.
Tovah dropped the hay bales and knelt down to carefully sliced through the baling twine with her pocket knife before methodically winding the twine and shoving it in her pocket. Things that had been once considered garbage, because they could always get more, were now saved and reused until they just couldn’t be anymore.
Angelica set the buckets down next to the hay that Tovah was separating into piles and stared at the cracks in the concrete. It had been years since they’d had anything other than mud and hay to fix it. The bags of quick mix concrete that had been salvaged from the home improvement store had long been used. Pretty much everything that had been a convenience had long been used.
Sinking to her knees, she began mixing the mud with the hay and shoving it into the cracks in the wall. She wasn’t exactly sure why they bothered anymore. The wall was tall, but it wasn’t impossible to scale. Just like the rest of the walls that crisscrossed the rest of what used to be her country. Every city, every town, every village had a wall.
He kept saying we needed to build a wall. Build a wall to keep out the undesirables. To keep out those people who would try to hurt us or steal our jobs. But it wasn’t those nebulous “others” we needed to be afraid of. It was him. And now, the only job was survival.