A beautiful dream

“Dante… Dante…, Dante!”

*Gasp*, “Mother…”

“It is time to wake up, Dante…”

I had experienced such a delightful dream, however, reality has once again dealt me a harsh blow. My parents’ endeavors to provide for our household are meager, and residing in a cramped and dilapidated cottage, I was awakened to prepare for my daily labor.

I am Dante, a 16-year-old boy, residing with my two younger sisters and one younger brother, and both of my parents, in the rural outskirts of Castle Combe, England. The year is 1885. Our family is impoverished, subsisting on the brink of destitution in our humble abode, relying on the proceeds of my father’s fishing and the limited bread we can afford through the labor that both my father and I undertake.

As the eldest, I have always shouldered the responsibility of caring for my siblings.

My father is a fisherman and also toils in the same factory as I. We are the primary sources of income for our household, while my mother, suffering from a debilitating condition, oversees the children, and manages to prepare meals and attend to the basic needs of my siblings.

As I groggily extricated myself from my bed, my father, attired in his work attire, wore a perpetual expression of gravity, his black hair tied in a brown cord, his gaze fixed upon me…

“Are you gonna sit there and watch me? Get up!”

I had not realized it, but my body felt as if it were on the brink of collapse. The rigors of labor have taken their toll on me. Six days every week. I felt so fatigued…

“Father, I am not feeling well…”

My father’s anger was immediately aroused upon hearing my despairing words. He approached me, seized my emaciated arm, and dragged me from my bed. As I fell to the ground, my head began to spin.

I remained with my head resting on the floor, my father’s shouts ringing in my ears.

“Get up or else you will be sleeping in the woods again!”

My mother attempted to placate him, but to no avail, he pushed her away. I ponder what has caused this sudden change in him.

We once lived in a slightly larger cottage, but unfortunately, the land on which it stood was requisitioned to build the factory where my father and I now labor. We were evicted and spent months as homeless individuals, until fate smiled upon us and we discovered this small cottage, which now serves as our home. Sadly, it came with a grueling and perilous lifestyle. It has been five years since we were evicted, the factory was completed two years later. Shortly thereafter, boy children living below the poverty line aged 13 or older were conscripted to work at the factory.

We are viewed as mere expendable laborers, and who can blame them, they hold the power. And where else can we go, we are of no use to anyone other than as manual laborers. None of us have any formal education either. It is a lamentable state of affairs.

I have been employed at the factory for over three years now.

My vision began to blur, but I mustered the strength to hoist myself upright and don my work clothes. It still pains me to see how my father has become so abusive in recent years. I often ponder, “I strive to the best of my ability to not disappoint my family, yet I am treated in this manner. Why…?”

I only had the opportunity to imbibe a small amount of water before my father ushered me out of the cottage, and I had yet to bid farewell to my sisters.

“Don’t make me go late, son. You will be dead if we are.”

I am surprised that I am able to remain upright, without the support of my father, I fear I would have succumbed to collapse. I can only pray that someone will exhibit benevolence and provide me with a stimulant to alleviate my grogginess or any other means to achieve the same end.

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