A Day in the Cells
Rain. I can hear the drops hammering overhead, beating their drums, warning of coming torrents. The ants will have known hours ago and moved their eggs to higher ground. I hope the last soldiers made it back to their community before the rivulets grew to rivers. I try to imagine what it is like outside – dark, windy perhaps. Wet.
I turn in my cell. I touch each wall in turn, no need for sight in the dim interior. Every crevice is familiar to me, every crack in the wall, nothing is secret. Stepping forward, just a single step, I sense my fellows to left and right. All in cells, just like mine – dark, still. Dry.
In times past I used to habit a cell nearer the entrance. There was more light there, but the traffic disturbed my concentration. There is much to be done – cleaning, tidying, checking the walls; those symmetrical walls that contain as well as protect.
I am safe in here. There is no need for me to encounter ‘Her’. Her of the engorged body, too fat to clamber to this height. Attendants dance to her demands – “Get me this”, “get me that”, “take this away”, “help me here”. Not for me that subservience. When I get away from here I will be free.
Free to wander where I will, visiting sights across the land. Free to soak up the warmth of the sun, to stop and sup where I will.
I’ll signal to acquaintances – a nod here, a wave there – busy going about their outdoor lives. Funny, in here we barely acknowledge each other, head down as we squeeze past our neighbours in those long corridors, past each other’s cells, past each other’s thoughts. But outside, where distance separates us, we have a close bond, as if the sun’s rays connect our hearts.
But there are dangers out there. As darkness lowers, I know I will retreat. Retreat from contact, back to my cell, my solitary cell. I need the protection, the security of knowing nothing can reach me. There I’ll dream of being free again, seeking the unfettered wilderness of wide open spaces, the smell of eucalypt, the taste of spring water.
The rain drums on. I turn in my cell, again checking the walls. They are the same. I knew they would be, but I still check. It is a compulsion born of evolution. I rotate, touching, sensing. My neighbour does the same, and his neighbour, and his neighbour.
The last drops patter to a halt. Warmth floods my cell. I feel my body stir.
It is time.
Time to end my day in the cells.
Time to go and seek the nectar of life, for work never stops for a honey bee.