The Shed 


Smitty rubbed the soot from her eyes and looked at the sun as it hung low in the sky. Soon it'll be night and the dogs will come out she thought, automatically.  She stoked the coals and gave the bellows a few pumps to get the heat high enough. The sword she was working on was more than half done, she had hammered it into the right shape and length, and completed the heat treatment to harden the blade, now she was assembling the hilt.  After that it would take another few days to file, polish and hone the blade to meet the standards she set for her work.  

Making the hilt was her indulgence.  It was the one time she allowed herself to reveal anything personal.  On this sword she had planned to make the grip a rough texture, hammering tiny indentations in an evenly spaced pattern that covered the entire surface.  But on one side there would be a highly polished asymmetric silver streak, real silver inlaid into the steel, reaching from the guard to the pommel. That's what she'd call this one, the Streak, she smiled to herself.  The image of the finished sword was fully formed in her mind.  She swung the hammer with force and purpose, as she knew exactly what it would look like.  This sword would be one if the best ones, she thought.  Maybe I’ll keep this one for myself.

The sun slipped lower and she knew it was time to close the open wall of the metal shed that exposed the blacksmith works to the outside.  Smitty’s shed was on the Edge, a rubble strewn empty stretch of rocky ground not far from the bridge that led to the glass skyscrapers of Velo City.  The shed was only yards away from the river, a toxic strip of dark water separating the residents of Velo City from the rest of the world.  North of the shed were the crumbling buildings and camps that stood in contrast to Velo City’s glitter.

Just a few more swings of the hammer and I can put this down for the day.  Smitty wiped the sweat from her brow.  She couldn't smith at night with the south wall of the metal shed closed, the coals were too hot for the small space of her home.  At night she could polish and carve, but smithing was for daylight hours.

She examined the shaft of the sword, measuring it with her eyes. Had she fused the metal layers well?  Had the coals been hot enough to harden the steel for the best of strength?  Was the edge right?  Yes, I think so, she thought to herself.  I can just finish the hilt now and then begin the polishing tonight.

From across the open compound she heard low growls.  She turned, realizing the sun had slipped behind the tall buildings of Velo City to the west. Not exactly sunset, but dark enough to fool the wild dogs. She swung at the hot metal one last time, risking the arrival of the beasts that only came out at night and would kill and eat anything that breathed. 

She swung the hammer one last time.  That was it.  She could close up the south wall of the shed and make it safe.  She looked off toward the northeast, where the broken abandoned buildings stood.  To the east she could see the shadows of the dogs running her way.  She’d have to hurry.  She put down the sword and grabbed the edge of the shed's open wall.  Pulling it on its engineered wheels, it creaked as it moved, slowly closing the gap, shutting her in, alone for the night. 

Once the shed was closed and secure.  She climbed up the ladder, through the hatch in the ceiling, up onto the roof.  She sat back in the metal chair she’d made and looked toward the west, the sun completely gone, the towering buildings of Velo City glowing.  No matter what, she said to herself as she had many times before, I’d rather be here than there.