We had nothing to lose. We hadn’t seen rain for almost four months. The water that we used to get from farther down in the ground was all used up - too many wells drawing on the same water supply. The aquifer was dry and would take another sixty years - that’s right, 60 years - to replenish. And only if there was “normal” rainfall.
Nothing else was growing and, naturally, there were fewer food choices. We had nothing to lose and quite a bit to gain. We could go and work in another country, not too far from ours, and we’d bring back water and food for our family that was getting more and more desperate by the day.
We were excited and nervous at the same time. We’d have an exciting adventure, work with others like us and get a fair reward. What could go wrong with this plan?
So, off we went. The guides got us into a cuff that was going all the way to Cabo Verde. We had enough water for the whole trip and even had a couple of meals. This was a good start. After bumping along, going higher and higher, we finally arrived. What a surprise for two girls from a small hill to see hundreds more just like us milling around and looking kinda scared. What was going on?
We didn’t meet anyone who was willing to talk or even get close. So, Chitkin and I just got close enough to listen to what was being whispered. Some of the workers hadn’t chosen work here. Quite a few had been rounded up and forced to come here. They said that they had been bitten and stung and pushed around and were sure that there was worse to come.
“We can’t stay here”, I gasped to Chitkin. “We’ve got to get out of here, right now!”
“We haven’t even seen what we’re supposed to do, Cello. And, any way, who knows why these others were dragged here”, Chitkin said. “We have a plan and in a few months we’ll be back home, with lots of water and food. And we’ll be in the top tier, even higher than the Mandis!”
“I don’t know, Chitkin. See how everybody looks, and how they’re acting. And…”
I didn’t finish because both Chitkin and I were staring at the largest Mandi we’d ever seen. She was so big that you knew there was no going any where unless she said so.
Their full names are Mandibles because they have mandibles that were five times bigger and stronger than everybody else’s, and they are attached to a head that is bigger than an entire worker! The name Mandi seemed more polite and the Mandis didn’t mind. You wanted to be polite to these women and you sure didn’t want them to mind. Anything!
The Mandis didn’t have to do anything in particular to get everyone’s attention; when they showed up you started paying attention. They wanted us to get to our new homes but first we had to have a bath in the queen’s special wash so that we all would have the scent of the same family.
Chitkin nudged me when we started to follow the others over to the bath area, “Cello, this means we won’t have trouble from any outsiders because the guards will know when someone tries to get in and doesn’t have the queen’s scent.”
“I know, Chitkin, but how are we going to get our own scent back when it’s time to go home? Our families won’t know us and then what will happen?”
“Ocellus, don’t think about that. We’ll have our bath and look around our new place and get to know a few others. Everything’ll be just fine, four legs up, yours and mine.”
We were quite a large group and we were split up into about twenty per gallery. Fortunately, Chitkin and I were together as we went to have a look at our new set-up.
“Chitkin, these shouldn’t hold more than five of us, not twenty”, I whispered.
“Quiet! That’s what we want. Quiet! You can talk when I tell you to!”, growled our Mandi. Then she opened her mandibles, with all those razor-sharp teeth, just so we could have a good, trembling look at them, and then snapped them shut with a horrible crunching Gratch!
END CHAPTER #1