© Susan Dustin Hattan (nee Aldous) October 2018
I’m here today with thousands of others, no idea why, I can’t ever remember not being here! I’m trying to memorise everyone’s name, but they all look so alike! It’s incredibly crowded, everyone talking at once, I can barely hear myself think! Food is plentiful; it’s as if they don’t want us to stop eating, though it’s a bit boring and hard to pick up as it moves by so quickly. They look after our health and any time I see someone sick they are whisked away immediately, though I’ve never heard back from anyone as to what the hospital's like. We see the sun shining through when the big rusty doors open at the end, but it’s always over too quickly, and we all wonder what it’s like beyond those doors. We’re told that one day we’ll all be out of here, so we must be patient! We were chosen, apparently, because we were the fittest and a special day awaits us all, but it only comes around once a year. We never get any news from the outside world, just the occasional sparrow that drops in through the ceiling grid to steal our food, but they never stop to chat. A pigeon told us once that we’re in a sort of ‘holding camp,’ but he was too busy throwing bread over his head to elaborate. I’ve heard ‘holiday camp’ mentioned by the human called ‘vet,’ who said she was really looking forward to spending just two weeks in one; so that’s reassuring. The pigeon also mentioned ‘Christmas,’ a time when you get lots of presents and take part in a big feast, so I’m looking forward to that too; more variety than we’re eating now, surely? There are no toilets so the floor is a terrible mess, but every night this giant machine slowly screams along, spraying everywhere, picking up everything and dropping straw behind it. We all get so scared when it bunches us up at one end, then we have to jump over it, that’s how I know I can’t fly; we are more frightened of crushing each other than of the machine, which does leave the floor clean and more comfortable! Maybe we’re being punished for something terrible we did when we were too young to remember; there must be some purpose to all this! Every day seems like the last here and you lose track of time, wishing something different would happen, anything really! I believe in a beginning and an end, so this must be the middle, but I’m not sure how far we are from either end.