Chapter 14: Chicken
Amy had been taken just three days after Kai arrived.
It had been the first night Kai had been able to sleep, and she’d been awoken by Amy shouting a goodbye.
“Kai! I’m going!”
The yelling had roused just about a quarter of the block, resulting in angry murmuring. Kai had leapt up and ran toward the bars, sticking her arm through, reaching out to Amy. The older woman had darted away from her guards to clasp her arms through the bars. The pair who had come to fetch her froze, unsure what to do as she ran from them. Clearly, this was not a common practice among their prisoners. It was the closest they’d ever come to each other, barely a breath apart. They stood like that for barely half a second, staring into each other’s eyes, before she was dragged away.
“I won’t forget you!” Amy called as she finally was lifted by the elbows and carried out, shifting to turn and face Kai.
Kai hadn’t been able to say anything to her, but had rather stood at the bars, her hands stuck through and face drawn tight.
It had been a week since then
She hadn’t tried to befriend anyone else, and Amy’s cell had been left empty. She couldn’t help but wonder if this was a punishment somehow. Talking was, after all, frowned upon, as Carol frequently reminded anyone who spoke.
Why couldn’t they have taken her? Kai wondered, She’s horrible.
Carol did seem to take a nap just after the trays from breakfast were taken, which gave Kai an opportunity to peacefully listen to the few conversations that had started up again. Not all of them were in English, Kai had realized the day before. She theorized they were grouped by language, as she thought she heard most Spanish coming from the “start” of the hallway, and something that might have been German coming from the end of it. She wasn’t a linguist by any means, but she had taken a year of Spanish class. The supposed language groupings puzzled her. Why would they group us together if they don’t want us to talk?
Perhaps for comfort, so that we didn’t go insane before they could ship us off. She supposed it wouldn’t look very good to have a bunch of insane women yelling at the walls, though she supposed regardless of language, contact was contact. They most certainly had the means to isolate their prisoners but chose not to.
It all was very perplexing, and Kai chose to look out her window instead of considering it further.
Dinner came with the awakening of Carol. It was roast chicken and potatoes that were inexplicably tinted light blue along with a glass of water. The flavor of both made up for Carol’s shushing. The portions were small, with Kai’s only being only a single leg and a portion of potatoes that could fit in the palm of her hand. She set her half-finished portion down on her bed, moving down to the edge of her cell.
“Hey.” Kai walked to the edge of her cell and stuck her arms out, waving them.
She wasn’t talking to anyone in particular, the only one she knew was Carol, and she knew she wasn’t a good candidate for conversation.
“What?” The voice came from the cell beside her, accompanied by a stuck-out waving hand, as was courtesy. It sounded young.
“Was your portion small too?”
There was a pause, “Nope. Got chicken, potatoes, peas and bread. I think it’s Sunday.”
“I only got the chicken and potatoes.”
This was clearly the end of the conversation, as the person retracted her arms and made an effort to stomp back to her bed. Kai waited a moment, then walked back to her own bed. She stood for a moment, staring at her half-eaten drumstick and the little glob of potatoes and contemplated her growling stomach. She would eat slowly, she decided, to trick her brain into thinking there was more. She briefly wished she had access to a fully stocked fridge. She remembered the time her father had cooked some sort of casserole that had turned out a soupy and unsightly mess. She and her mother had eaten a little and proclaimed themselves full, only to encounter each other at the fridge when her father had gone to bed. She remembered her mother’s laughter, joined by her own. She couldn’t imagine being that picky now. Kai would happily have eaten that casserole now, even though it had somehow been both burned and undercooked at the same time. She would have had to pick out all the chicken bones that had made it in there, as her father had forgotten to remove them. He wasn’t even that bad a cook, in truth, but he hadn’t made such a dish before. The recipe had come from her mother’s mother, written on a little piece of paper stained with oils and dog-eared at the edges. In fairness, it hadn’t explicitly said to remove all of the bones.
Kai sucked on her now-clean chicken bone, hoping to trick herself into feeling full. She supposed she’d been spoiled by a week of good meals, and it probably was for the best that she started getting used to going hungry again. There was no doubt in her mind that her captor, whoever --probably she-- would be, wouldn’t treat her as an equal. It was likely she would be starved out, or fed some sort of food that wasn’t meant for her. Or maybe they’d leave Earth altogether and she’d have to live off whatever space food looked like.
She didn’t know what it was, and didn’t care to find out.
Kai dropped the chicken bone on her plate, which sat on the floor, letting it clatter rather loudly. She sat a moment, waiting for any reaction, and when none came, flopped back on her bed. There had to be a reason for this strange reduction in food.
She touched her belly, then pinched it through the jumpsuit. There wasn’t much softness there at all, nor anywhere else on her. She certainly wasn’t fat, and even if she had gained weight, it seemed cruel to cut her food without asking. Kai’s eyes slipped shut as she laid there, having nothing else to do. She wished for a book, or even a newspaper. Or even to hear Carol yelling at someone for talking. The mind wasn’t meant to sit idle for this long, but Kai supposed boredom was a luxury few in this time could afford. She supposed she was grateful to simply lay there in boredom.
Her nap borne of boredom ended as her tray was pulled out of the cell by a long pole, hissing across the floor. Kai bolted up, eyes wide with surprise at the unfamiliar noise, making eye contact with the attendant. He seemed annoyed, with the same expression on the part of his face she could see that she’d seen on many fast-food employees. She couldn’t help but wonder if this job was the equivalent of that: a low-skill, low-wage job. It was a little bit funny to her, to picture some twenty-something year old complaining to their family about the humans they had to manage. She laid back on her bed, closing her eyes once more. All tiredness seemed to have slipped away, leaving her with the itch of energy in her limbs. She wished, for a moment, that she could run and exercise. There wasn’t much she could do about that, of course, as she barely had the motivation to keep her eyes open. Truly, it was an unpleasant paradox: the mind exhausted and the body energized.
The exhaustion had perhaps been more present than Kai had thought, and she woke far after night had fallen. Based on what little she could see out her window, it truly did look like a rather nice night outside. Oddly enough, she found herself rather content with being inside the prison. She felt as if a warm blanket of docility had been spread over her, her eyes half-open and limbs heavy. Her mind too was fuzzy, as if she couldn’t quite shake off sleep. Kai yawned and slowly sat up, swinging her legs over the edge of her bed, arms bracing against the frame for support. Her vision swam, and her legs were suddenly heavy and unuseful as she contemplated standing. Kai lifted a clumsy hand to her face as she moved to rub her eyes. Something was definitely wrong, she knew, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Her hand swam out of focus as she looked at it, and she shook her head in an effort to shake away the feeling. As she sat there in contemplation of her altered state, the telltale sound of the door banging open broke her focus. Her movements were sluggish as she tried to leap to her feet and move to the furthest corner of her cell. She crumpled slowly, as if moving through molasses, her limbs going fully heavy and her jaw slack. Her state was clear then: she had been drugged.
It all made sense, she realized, as her eyes rolled shut and the footsteps grew closer. Why not reduce a laced portion? She always ate her food, and giving her a smaller portion would ensure she took the entire dose. It had to be slow-acting too, otherwise it would scare the other prisoners. Even then, as she slipped away, and was dragged from the cell, she did not regret her few rebellions against these creatures.