Ajar

Iy hid among the produce; it was the nicest spot. Iy loved the beautiful colours, textures, and smells. Some of the round red objects were a little squashy, and Iy managed to squeeze out some salty juice. However the long orange things were hard; Iy scraped his gums along one of them, but the surface was bitter and impenetrable. The long yellow objects were also hard, but he found one whose tip was a little soft. When he sat on it, brown mush squeezed out. It was the sweetest, most delicious thing he had ever eaten. He squeezed out as much as he could.

Iy reached up for an orange ball, but as soon as he grasped it, countless others fell and scattered. Some of them hit him on the head, but they weren’t too hard. They bounced away, leaving a fresh, tangy smell in the air. Iy squashed one between his hands, and more smell emanated from within. He felt intoxicated, almost like… when? He rested a while among green bushes.

Iy wandered into a cooler area. The closer he got, the colder it became. He saw round tubs of something, and also cartons. Most of them were white, with colourful letters and signs, and pictures of a thing with black and white patches. This thing was somehow familiar. Iy found himself saying “Oom!” He reached for a carton but it was too cold to hold for long.

Iy ended up in a horrible area. It smelled of death. He left it and returned to his most reliable source of nutrition – the long tubes that you pushed and out came food. He was still amazed by the variety of things within them. How did you remember? How did you choose? There were hard, oily things the size of his toes. And salty, crisp things like his fingers. Plump things that for some reason reminded him of “Oom!” And sweet, bright mixes that made his head spin.

Iy had been here for a week now. Where he came from, he didn’t know. Why he was here, he didn’t know either. But he knew that he must keep himself hidden, and keep moving around. This all seemed wrong somehow. He felt this wasn’t the right place for him at all. Iy wondered if one day he would find that place, and maybe there would find others Iy’s.

There were alternating seasons. The first one was when beings with trolleys came with boxes and put things on shelves. Then many beings came and took those things off the shelves. Then beings with loud machines went up and down the rows. Then the quiet time, when lights were dimmed, and everyone left, and Iy could emerge for adventures.

Sometimes Iy wondered whether to show himself, but a voice inside said that he should never do that; these beings were not his friends; they were nasty beings. And this was confirmed when he saw the situation of other beings resembling himself. These tiny creatures were imprisoned by the giant beings. They were strapped to the giant’s bodies, or pushed around in mobile prisons. He knew about those somehow… Some of the tiny beings were allowed to move independently but only on a leash. They were made to repeat whatever the giants said, and often made to cry.

Some of the tiny creatures sensed his presence. They communicated enthusiasm and goodwill, and tried to alert the giant beings. Were they traitors, he wondered? Or maybe jealous of his liberty? Luckily their communication skills were undeveloped, and they were unable to give him away.

The scariest moment was when a new kind of being caught his scent. It came right up to his hiding place behind the long tubes, and sniffed and woofed. This being was familiar. He said to himself, “God”. This being was kind, and realized that Iy should be left alone. The god retreated, pulling one of the giant beings behind him, who had big black eyes, and a long white finger that tapped the ground. Despite his being guided by the god, the giant was clumsy and collided with a trolley, causing a box to fall off.

Iy felt a surge of awareness. Something inside that box made him feel angry and happy and sad. These were the strangest feelings that he had ever experienced. He needed to know what was in that box. Iy considered crawling over immediately, but a giant being appeared, so he hid himself away.

When the being was gone, Iy couldn’t restrain himself. He crawled over to the box. He lifted himself high and peered over its edge. But the box was empty. The being had already put its contents up on the shelves.

When the quiet time came, and lights dimmed, Iy attempted an audacious adventure. He found a stack of blue cans on a row end, and climbed upon them, one at a time. He made it to a shelf near the top. But there was no easy way from there. Iy hauled himself up as best as he could, grasping plum sauce jars, and catching footholds on pickles. He peered over the edge of the next shelf up.

There were jars filled with tiny beings like himself, all sleeping, with smiling faces. Their labels said, “Happy Baby Brand – Genetically Modified Meat – Too Cute To Eat!” He had a brief moment of elation, when “Iy” became “Iy’s”, followed by horrific despair. Iy grasped two jars – he wasn’t really sure if for support, or to pull them off – and fell with them to the ground.

Next morning, workers cursed the mess. “Oh shit!” said one. “I was rushing yesterday. I had to play hockey. Maybe I didn’t stack them well. What’s the worst they’ll do? Take some jars off my wages? I’ve never been able to eat them myself. It almost seems like they’re alive.”

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