The paper looked like a label, with
neat writing in a sickly green ink. It had one column headed
EARNINGS and one headed OWING. The EARNINGS column had a
single line with 0n 0r 0b. The OWING column had 4n
6r 18b. As Arthur watched, the OWING column rippled
and changed to 4n 7r 1b.
"You see why no one ever earns their
way free of their indenture. We are not paid until we reach
the bottom of the Pit and even then, only if we find usable
amounts of Nothing. But we are charged for every breath
of this foul air, and ridiculous amounts for our meager
"So there is no money, I mean coins
or notes, at all in the Pit?"
"So I have been told, informed, clued
in," said Japeth. He started to walk along the railway again.
"Shouldn't we be getting on, moving along, advancing, progressing?"
Arthur nodded. Japeth was clearly
getting more and more nervous, and it was infectious. Arthur
hurried after the Denizen, the sound of their clogs clattering
faster and faster till they were almost running.
It was just as well they hurried.
A hundred yards farther down the track, an Overseer suddenly
loomed up out of the smog. He was marching with purpose
along the railway, his steam-gun ready. When he saw them,
he grunted and waved them past, then followed. Clearly he
had started to investigate the delay in the new arrivals.
The smog cleared a little in front of Arthur. He saw several
groups of Denizens marching away without Overseers. Another
group was standing nearby, watched by an Overseer who had
his visor up and was polishing his teeth with a cloth and
an open tin of white paste. He was shorter than a head by
the Denizen he watched, but much broader across the shoulders.
His face was really squashed down and two of the teeth in
his lower jaw protruded out like small tusks.
"Here you go," shouted the Overseer
behind Arthur. "Couple of laggards."
The Overseer rubbed his teeth one last time, slipped the
tin under his apron, gave a surprisingly gentle sigh, and
clanged down his visor. Immediately a change came over him.
He hunched forward, growled, and drew his staem-gun. His
backpack steam engine went from a purr to a harsh rattle,
pumped out a heavy cloud of black smoke, and vented steam
to either side behind his elbows.
"Hurry up!" he shouted. "Get in line."
Arthur and Japeth ran to the group
of Denizens, who were milling about, trying to get in line.
But no one wanted to be closest to the Overseer, so whoever
ended up there ducked around the back and joined the end
of the line. This went on for a minute or so, till the Overseer
blasted a jet steam into the air.
"Stop!" he yelled. 'You, stand there!
Right, now stand in line."
:When everyone was in line, the Overseer
marched up to Arthur and Japeth and roared, "Why were you
"I fell on my head," said Arthur.
It seemed to be an all-purpose excuse. "Where are we?"
"You are on His Mightiness Grim Tuesday's
Pit Railway Service Road!" shouted the Overseer. "You are
"Why?" asked Japeth. "How come? On
account of what-"
"Shut up! I ask the questions!"
Japeth shut up. The Overseer growled,
then repeated, "I ask the questions! And my first question
His voice trailed off as he struggled
to get a grimy piece of paper out from the inner pocket
of his leather coat. Having gotten the paper out, he had
trouble unfolding it. When it was finally unfolded, he held
it up to his visor.
The question, when it finally came,
was not what Arthur expected.
"You all been branded?" asked the
Arthur nodded with the others and
kept his head down, hoping to hide the fear that he was
sure showed in his face.
"Any swift healers?" asked the Overseer,
obviously reading from the paper.
"Orright, let's see your soles, then,"
instructed the Overseer.
Our souls? thought Arthur
in surprise when everyone stepped out of their right clog,
took off their socks, and started hopping about, each presenting
their right foot towards the Overseer.
"Come on, then, no time to waste
in the Grim's service," barked the Overseer. "Don't hop
about, you idiots! Lie on your backs and hold your soles
Arthur, still mystified, sat down
with everyone else in a line along the cold stone floor.
But as he slipped off his right clog, he looked at Japeth's
bare foot and saw what the Overseer was looking for.
The brand was on the sole of the
right foot! A brand that ran from the heel to the ball,
and said in glowing green type: INDENTURED TO GRIM TUESDAY.