Monday, April 18, 2011


One constant that seems to follow human beings through their lives is that we make mistakes. Whether we're victims of overconfidence or just pure error, there's no way to avoid it. Yesterday was a sad day for a few of the girls women that work with Jess. This time, it was overconfidence that played us for fools.

Most of Saturday afternoon and early Sunday, a small group of us worked like mad to make molds for the plastic granules. Me, Jess, Pat and his girls, and Jess's students spent hours working on designs and comparing materials. In the end we decided on using a stock of clay we'd refined and stockpiled from the tons we've had to move around as we farmed the compound. The good thing about clay is that it's abundant and we can make new molds from a master easily.

In the end we made three clay molds. One for small medallions of plastic that we could work into scale mail. One for long plates to cover the limbs. One for wide plates of various sizes to cover the torso. Everything was going fine until we took the full molds out of the fire.

Three of Jess's students went to take the torso mold out of the fire (we had to use the makeshift forge we built for Patrick) when the thing disintegrated, showing them with molten plastic. I've never seen anything so awful in all my life, and I include watching people being ripped to shreds by zombies in that statement. I had heard stories from old friends at the factory about people who had gotten the stuff on their skin. I've even seen scars on one guy who had it happen.

Seeing it happen right in front of me was so much more than I was prepared for. I could smell the flesh and hair burn as the plastic washed across them, breaking into droplets. Not being total idiots, we'd gotten buckets of water ready in case something bad happened, and it was only a few seconds before we'd doused them.

The damage had been done at that point. One of them lost an eye as a drop of scalding plastic burned right through it. All of them screamed as Gabby and Phil pulled the cooling stuff from them, wide swaths of skin coming with it.

I'm told that if the medical staff can keep them from getting infections, the students will live. They'll carry scars with them for the rest of their lives, however long or short they may be. From something as simple as a clay vessel and melted beads of plastic.

We've become so used to making our ideas work that we've sort of gotten tunnel vision. We don't think about the consequences of our failure sometimes. It's a grim reminder that caution has to be our constant companion. Even then, we'll still fail.

I see those women every day as they work with Jess. I'll be reminded every time they come into my home the price of working too quickly. In their faces all of us will see the need to be thorough and careful. There just aren't enough people left for us to be anything less.

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