Each of the bodies was solemn beneath the light. Two lay on the foot wide benches curled on their sides, a third lay on the cell floor and on this prisoner the light reflected least. The features of this newcomer held on to the light they received from overhead. His eyelids were unconcerned by time and his involuntary posture was limp and his mouth paused ajar. His jaw met squarely at the chin. His voice lay dormant in the darkness of that cave but the pink tongue lacquered the edge of one lip and liberated a streak of saliva. His eyelids fidgeted first, then his tongue retracted. Finally from somewhere deep within him the bow of his abdomen expanded.
He had said, “It’s jail. There’s nothing to do but sleep.”
A sound stirred from the deep; it could have been a vacuum. Dry air rushed over the tongue and past the tonsils, the larynx, and into the furthest pockets of his lungs. It was held there, the air separated from itself, unaware of a movement outside itself, self-absorbed, and it seemed like seventy seven hours of unforgiveness. It became surreal, this subdivision of itself, for inside the sacks that had pocketed the air, it seemed as if little arms reached from the surrounding dark arresting the breath and demanding that it relinquish the luggage it carried, the oxygen had to be given over. These little red Gestapo cells were already ferrying away the boldest of the breath along crammed little flotillas or little train carts destined into the farthest corners of darkness. Few oxygen escaped this scrutiny or the fate within these detention centers.
To all appearances these bodies were inert and still they held hostage the gases invisible about them. Their tongues grew dry from the depleted, stale air, and yet in oblivion they knew nothing of the ongoing deportation that they were complicit in. If they would have any suspicions of guilt later it would come in the faintest flicker of conscience, for they would notice the parched roof of their mouths and want to wet their voices before they could talk again. However, before they could be aware of this even, the strangeness of their bodies would question their sleepiness in the face of the light. When they awoke this would override all other anomalies, the steadfastness of the walls, the ceiling, the cement all around them. Such was long ago decided, made permanent. But more obvious would be the unnaturalness of the lights, forever unblinking false daylight at them, soaking the irises of their eyes and bleaching out their unconsciouness.
Hens in mass egg production get treated this way. In the wild a hen will only begin to lay eggs in spring but agribusiness solved the nature dilemma by imitating the seasons to trick the hens to lay more eggs. First the caged, warehoused hens are fed large quantities of protein. Then, in emulation of winter, the lights of the warehouse are dimmed and the hens are fed nothing for two weeks. Next, the hens resumed regular feeding and the lights are now on twenty-four hours a day. Its biological process manipulated, the hen now begins to produce eggs.