“No talking! No noise!” Gratch! Gratch! Gratch!
Chitkin and I had just awakened from our delicious dream of eating sugar-lerp when the Mandi came and started pulling back all of the bushes and clods of dirt that kept us trapped in our tiny gallery each night.
Gratch, Gratch! “Get outta there, NOW!”, screeched Mandi.
We all tried to get our legs moving without any sun to warm us up. Our legs were sore and we knew they’d be even more sore by the end of our long day. But we sure weren’t going to argue with Mandis who were so enormous and so cruel.
We felt our way along in the early-morning dark and cold and stumbled to the circle, the centre of the work area, for gloop they called breakfast. Yeach!
There were so many of us girls that there was no way even the Mandis could keep an eye on all of us all the time. So, Chitkin and I had a chance to talk about what we might possibly do to get out of this horrible situation.
“You know, Chitkin, more of the girls are missing again. One of these days it’s going to be you or me!”
“Hey, mellow, Cello. I overheard the Mandis talking about a twolegs coming to inspect this plantation to see if we are being treated with care. Ha! The twolegs will see right away that this is just a prison and that we’re all slaves. Then they’ll free us from all this! What could be easier than that?!” Chitkin whispered.
I said, “We’ve had twolegs visit before and they just said, ‘Keep it going. We’ve got to get the coco beans out of here, fast, so we can all get paid.’ And then they left without even looking at us!
“Ocellus, we can’t…”
Gratch! “Did I say to be quiet or not?!”, shrieked a Mandi. “Well, I’ll show you what happens when you don’t do what you’re told!” Gratch!
The Mandi grabbed Chitkin by her leg and threw her across the circle. Chitkin landed hard on one leg and cried out in pain.
“Quiet, you miserable troublemaker”, the Mandi shrieked. Gratch! Gratch!
“Everybody listen here. When the Mandis say do something, you do it. When we say don’t something, you don’t.” shrieked the Mandi. Gratch!
The Mandi stung Chitkin and then snapped down on one of her legs just hard enough to make Chitkin cry out with the pain.
The Mandi screeched, “Now get back to your group and BE QUIET!”
Chitkin dragged herself back to where I was standing, shivering, along with everyone else. The formic acid was coming off Chitkin so that I could hardly hold her to comfort her. Chitkin’s breathing got quieter and we looked at each other with an understanding in our eyes: we had to find a way out!
We all worked like crazy, swing and cut, swing and cut, until the sun was just going down. That’s when we heard some strange noises and we knew that the twolegs was almost at the camp.
Suddenly, the Mandis came pounding over to tell us to run into the woods and hide because the twolegs was going to try to hurt us.
“What?”, I said, too late before a Mandi heard me.
“Quiet!”, she snarled. Gratch! “You heard me, right Chitkin?”
“And by the way, there’ll be extra Mandis out there with you, so don’t get any bright ideas…or you know what will happen to you!” Gratch! Gratch!
The rumble stopped and we stayed hidden in the bushes and among the trees. The twolegs came up to the Head Mandi (“get it?), and weren’t we astonished to see who it was!
END CHAPTER #4