Based on the theme ‘The Longest Day’

“We ain’t working in these conditions.”

Ros gave him the look. It was usually effective in shutting down entitled proles. Today, however, things were different. Her steely gaze only seemed to bolster Ted’s resolve. He crossed his arms in defiance.

“Don’t try that one on me, lady. You ain’t a patch on my granmama.” He performed an awkward half-twist of his torso, trying to indicate the scene around them while also keeping his arms between him and Ros. “You think we’re blind? That we ain’t going to notice how you’re treatin’ us? D’you think we’re stupid?”

Ros surveyed the view laid out before her. It was pretty dim in the mine, but she could see at least eight drones lining the walls, their expressions hard as Ted’s. Bolt-guns and pickaxes were slung over their broad shoulders, the cords wrapped tight over denim dungarees. She looked back at Ted.

“Yes?” she suggested.

Tension descended noiselessly on the room. Fists subtly tightened their grip upon handles. A drone shifted slightly, his stance widening.

Ros was not, by her own assessment, stupid. Sometimes hasty, perhaps; she liked to see a task done, and hated delays. She could tell that now was not the time to be pushing these men any further than necessary. Something was brewing. This called for something different. A soft touch. Careful handling. Yes.

She looked at Ted, took a breath, and smashed his nose.

The next ten seconds seemed to pass very quickly. Where they ended was in breathless tableau. The composition was almost artful: the open-mouthed shock of the drones; burly Ted face-down on the floor in a splatter of blood; Ros perched above him, arm twisted in her grip, a bloody chunk of flesh in her little teeth.

She spat it out. “Do you see what happens?!” she bellowed in his ear. “You are a drone! You work! You are stupid and have stupid ideas and so help me God if this affects our productivity I will end you.” She gave his shattered forearm a final twist for good measure, eliciting a satisfying howl, before releasing it. The others backed away as she swung an accusing finger about the room.

“And the rest of you! You will work, you will produce, and you will stay happy.”

One of the drones opened his mouth. Perhaps in protest, perhaps in acknowledgement. Whatever the words, they didn’t have a chance to escape. Ros swivelled on one heeled foot, woolly scarf streaming behind her, and planted her foot squarely in Ted’s mouth. Blood flew. Teeth pinged from the walls. She turned back to the others, looking satisfied. “And if you even consider pulling something like this in future, I guarantee your family will never see you again. Are we clear?”

A petrified nod ran about the room, like a Mexican wave. She smiled her sunny smile and clapped her hands. “Good. Now, back to work!”

The thud of pickaxes began to ring behind her as she strode away down the corridor, humming. Occasionally, her shoe would stick to the floor, but that didn’t seem to dampen her spirit. At the end of the corridor was a set of stairs; at the top was a door.

She went to move through it, then paused. “Hmm.” She reached over and brushed a stray tooth from her shoulder, adjusted her shawl, and made sure her hairpins were secure. There. Neat. Tidy. Everything in its place.

She opened the door and smiled. Customers.

“Welcome to Granny’s Fudge Cottage, dearie. What would you like today?” Behind her, the door swung shut. The echoes of slavery died quietly away, drowned under the tinny, cheerful music of the sweet shop.

-Henry