Thursday, June 5, 2014
It was some time before Oses and I got to enact our policy of non-compliance. If one went by the number of times the lights in the habitats dimmed for a period of about 10 hours and came back up for stretches of 17 - 19 hours, Oses and I didn’t see Finiuld for three days.
In that period, we learned as much about our containment and our fellow prisoners as possible. First the habitat that was to serve as Oses’ and my home:
About a quarter of our prison was our tiny puddle of a pond, which would have allowed six men the size of Oses to lounge in comfortably. That was smack in the middle of our cell. Towards the back, away from the containment field, was a cave just big enough for the two of us to curl up within for sleep. The opening to that extended the width of the cave, so there was no place to hide within the shallow depression in the rocky outcropping. Our one tree also provided some sense of cover, but we remained out in the open. There was no sense of privacy at all. We were on display at all times.
That meant that the most personal of human functions was seen by everyone. Oses and I had found a small hole to do our business in, on one side of the enclosure. Oses dug down into the dirt to verify the hole went down beneath the flooring. It was just big around enough for him to get his arm in. It seemed to have no bottom that he could detect, and the tiny bit of old odor emitting from it pretty much confirmed it was the lavatory system. I made him scrub his arm for about 15 minutes after he was done investigating, though the tube seemed to have been well cleaned.
My stomach churned at the thought of doing my business in front of our fellow prisoners, as well as Oses. Some things you just don’t want others to see no matter what you’ve shared in the past. The first time I squatted over the intake, my face burned with humiliation. The Nobek was kind enough to keep his back turned.
I soon realized none of the other prisoners cared either. They were all locked in their own nightmares of captivity, which included them also being on constant display. No one had anywhere to hide. The best any of us could manage was to huddle in far back corners.
At least Oses and I had each other. All the rest were isolated. A couple of them had gone insane from it.
The Plasian was one who had crumbled into madness. All she ever did was cry silently. Lurb told us she’d been captured over a year ago. Her name was Simolsha. According to the Dantovonian, Simolsha had refused to obey Finiuld’s orders for two days. He finally subjected her to one minute of punishment. When he’d ended it, she’d stopped speaking or doing anything else besides eating and crying.
Hearing that made me feel sick inside. Oses looked grim too, but he told me, “Plasians are a gentle people, unused to violence. They cannot withstand the kinds of punishment we can.”
That might have been true, but just a few seconds of the Little Creep setting my collar off had been enough to make me wish I was dead. Okay, so maybe I could endure a full minute without going bonkers. What if Finiuld got it in his head to subject me to more? Would Oses be able to keep his vow to continue to resist?
Our other mental casualty was the Isetacian. He’d been in his cage and was already crazy when Lurb had been captured. No one knew the Isetacian’s name, though Oses told me we’d have never been able to pronounce it anyway. The alien hung from his vines, swinging back and forth near one of the walls, which he banged his head against for stretches as long as two hours. His tiny eyes, two rows of which encircled his entire bone-covered head, never blinked. He clung with six limbs upside down on his looping vines, rocking back and forth, smashing the top of his skull over and over. No one paid him any mind. After some time, the constant boom-boom-boom of his seeming attempt to beat his brains out became only background noise to me too.
The Tragoom spent most of its time squatting in its environment, which was directly across from ours. Of them all, it seemed to find me and Oses interesting. Looking like the bastard child of a rhino and a pig, it sat and stared at us with its little squinty eyes. Its wet nose snuffled, as if trying to catch our scents. The triangular ears perched on top of its head swiveled to catch every sound we made. Once every so often it would roll around on its mucky ground, snorting and squealing as it did so. I could discern no reason for these occasional bursts of activity.
Lurb found it odd that there was a Tragoom amongst us captives, because Finiuld apparently used several of them as security guards. The only reason he could think of that this one was kept as an exhibit was because it had been some powerful chieftain of its kind. The Tragoom had been important enough among its people to warrant being a prize, was Lurb’s guess.
The Joshadan’s name was Nifixcyl. Oses bowed and spoke to her with great respect. Nifixcyl nodded once and said hello in her whistling language, but nothing else. She sat quite still with her eyes closed much of the time, a sapphire furball that interspersed long bouts of meditation with weaving mats out of the reeds that surrounded her. Once a mat was completed, Nifixcyl would take it apart. I wasn’t so sure she hadn’t gone insane like the Isetacian and Simolsha.
“Don’t be fooled by how small and weak she looks,” Oses advised me, looking at the Joshadan with obvious esteem. “Joshadans are fantastic survivors with the hardiest souls of any species I’ve ever known. Other species may enslave them and even torment them, but the Joshadans remain strong in their minds.”
The Yeknap, which was named Zezezez, crawled out of its hole in the sand to click its serrated claws and bare a mouthful of fangs at us a few times. Oses said it was an expression of solidarity and friendship. It looked like a threat display to me, but a six-foot long creature that looks like a cross between a centipede and a lobster with a face like a bear trap isn’t going to seem friendly no matter what.
This was Finiuld’s merry menagerie, his live collection of captive species. Lurb said there were more exhibits elsewhere on the ship. Like us, they were no doubt a pathetic lot.