The guard threw me a new empty bag. The filled bags were taken to the truck at the edge of the field. As my empty stomach growled I opened a perion-seed pod that was a-food long. There were green seeds that were thrice larger than the peas in it. I ate them. They were sweet and nutty. I ate some more.
“Don’t eat the seeds, you pig!” the Makumban guard barked.
I fought not to pulverize him, for I knew the consequence of my action. I didn’t want to be killed and become a wandering ghost in this field. Stay alive, Marlon.
“Eat this,” #268 gave me his sandwich from the bag.
“Keep it for yourself.”
“Come here,” he whispered to me, moving toward a nearby shady area where several pickers were smoking. He rolled the dried perion leaves in a piece of paper, grabbed a dried stick of perion branch from the ground and rubbed it vigorously against the side of his metal ankle-cuff. A minute later the stick burst into a flame. He put it to the rolled cigaret and puffed. “Perion stick is the best,” he said. “Other sticks don’t burn easily.”
I bent to feel my ankle-cuff. It was hot, heated by the scorching sun. My socks protected my skins from getting burn.
He gave me the cigaret but I didn’t take it. Perion-cigaret was highly addictive, stronger than marijuana. I used to smoke marijuana when I was in high school and knew it made me lazy and unmotivated. I didn’t want that now. I must stay sober if I want to survive.
“This is how we cope with our misery,” #268 said.
(from THE SPACE HERMITS)