Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Cell

Amala Devi

Pip is awakened by the prodding. He drowsily opens his eyes. The next thing he knows, he is dangling in the air and swinging back and forth. Pip squeaks. And then he falls down with a thump, just behind his cellmates. There is a burst of laughter. They have been watching all along as the two giant white fingers lift Pip up by his tail. It isn’t every day that a new inmate is caught sleeping. The new ones are usually alert. And the old ones have ingeniously developed their own radars that can sense the assistant in a fifty centimeter radius. But not poor Pip, who still sits flat on the ground in the position he has landed on, looking dazedly around. The assistant moves on, grinning with the other inmates.

Pip is extremely tiny, even by mouse standards. He has a shock of thick white hair that covers the better part of his face and too long a tail on which he himself sometimes trips over. The rest of his face is mostly a perpetually twitchy nose and thick whiskers, both of which now quiver as he peeps through the glass cell for his giant attacker. Thankfully, he has moved away, his white coat flapping around his ankles as he makes his way to the next cell. To scan carefully with his bulging eyes for defaulters.

Everybody has settled down again. Pip recognizes the monotony that had made him (he thought) fall asleep in the first place. It is pretty quiet except for the soft whirring of the ceiling fans, and that droning voice singing something in the background. Pip had heard someone mention that they are all supposed to be making sense of what that song is. But surely, why would any laboratory of national repute want to waste its time and mice with experiments like these? Maybe they are analyzing the comprehensive capability among pure breed white mice? Well, it seems pretty low then. Pip can spot at least a twenty in their cell itself staring blankly at the pale cream walls. And another twenty struggling to keep their eyes open besides the radared ones who are happily dozing off. Speaking of which, he himself is getting drowsy again. Something seems very wrong.

“Squeak there!”

Pip jumps and looks around. It is a rather chubby mouse sitting right beside him. Pip smiles sheepishly and says,

“I didn’t know we could to speak in here!”

“Hush, not so loud. We cannot. You seemed pretty worried about something. Are you okay?”

“Oh! Am fine. It’s just that I don’t know exactly what I am doing here. This is my first day and I was given my name tag and asked to sit here and do nothing else. And then, I simply fell asleep! Which is again very weird since I almost never sleep! It is almost as if I was…”


And he chuckles, looking at Pip with twinkling, but slightly droopy eyes.

“I am guessing you missed the orientation session, didn’t you? When they mentioned that they will be drugging us with some heavy dose anesthetic? All you have to do here is to remain awake and resist the drug and….”

He abruptly stops talking. The assistant is coming. Pip waits for him to go away. But he stops just near their cell and peers again, his bulging eyes almost popping out. Pip is desperate now. He so wants to ask his chubby neighbor about the song in the background. About the radared veterans. And about how to not feel sleepy. Like he is feeling now. Very sleepy. The assistant is still there. He struggles to keep his eyes open. But can’t stand it anymore. He plops down and gives a gentle snore.

Pip is awakened by the prodding. But this time he jumps, alert against an impending attack. There is no one around. Did they all go when he dozed off? Two white fingers pick him up. He can now see more of the assistant than the white gloved fingers and bulging eyes.

Fat. Dark. With some papers in his hand. A list of 700 mice. He takes one look at Pip’s ID and puts a tick in his list.

Name: Pip Tumbledown ID: 120

In fond remembrance of the third semester, a multitude of Pips in blissful slumber in their ‘Ecology and Environment’

Amala is a 3rd year MA student. Her candid and down-to-earth writing has charmed us all and we look forward to more from this philosophically inclined girl!

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