Jook sighed allowing his helper’s chattering to meld into the background noise of the Silo that he had long ago learned to block out. He didn’t want a helper but the level boss had made it plain that Nia’s tagging along was not an option. He loved working among the mounds because they didn’t talk back. She, however, either didn’t grasp the value of the quiet or care. After months of being allowed to work without a shadow he now had one who would rather talk than eat. Silence was why he chose to work among the mounds in the first place and any talk was too much talk.
As long as he could remember, every waking moment of his life included the constant din of his fellow workers in the Down Below. The sounds of shovels and hoes, complaining overworked joints and muscles, the growling stomachs of underfed children and the aged soon to be planted in the rich brown earth combined to create a constant dull roar – background noise that could not be ignored.
He understood why no one wanted to be his shadow. To Nia and everyone else, his was an unseemly task – tending the places of those who had been planted. Scattered among the rows of ornamental tomatoes and peppers, barren mounds marked where some mother, father, son or daughter slept in the earth.