January 29, 2012
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The glass was the end of the world and its beginning. The yellow-white faces pressed up against it, merging with the reflection of our tiny colony. We could not see more than these faces, had never experienced sweeping landscapes or never-ending brightness. Of course, we had heard tales of a life outside the glass, from newcomers who still believed they would one day return. We listened with a child-like belief, but when the thread of the story thinned, we reverted back to sighing cynicism, shaking our heads when the newcomers organised escape plans and routes. When they finally wandered over to the corner, we passed grim looks between us like a bottle of beer, indulging in the knowing bitterness. We never thought a way out was possible. This is why, when one morning we found Kelly gone, we assumed it had been an illness. Mike was inconsolable, wandering around their usual standing spot, as if looking for some leftover heat, some print in the artificial snow that he could use as a shrine. We told him to be glad for his lover, as perhaps she had been taken to a different, better place. The young ones meant an enclosure, but we had a place of another kind in mind. We were standing around, observing Mike being consoled by Perry, who always seemed to be around whenever somebody was feeling needy. She stood slightly tuned away from us, and towards Mike, as if discussing a secret too important, too precious for our ears. Just as she was placing a protective flipper around his shoulder, Kyle spoke up.

“I don’t think she was sick.” His voice was small, he was unaccustomed to speaking. We turned our heads towards him, our gazes making him shrink back a little.

“I mean… She didn’t look sick to me. I think she.. I don’t think she was taken away by the people.”

Perry threw him a shrewd look. “Think before you speak, Kyle. Mike is obviously very upset right now, and he doesn’t need your crazy theories to deepen his worries.” She turned away, closing Mike off from the rest of us. Kyle shuffled away, looking at his feet. We edged over to him, and Reg whispered

“Well? What was it you had in mind, lad?”

Kyle seemed uncomfortable and looked around, as if to see if he was being spied on. “I saw shapes. Shapes going over the wall”

We exchanged looks.

“I think she was kidnapped.”
It hadn’t happened before, no, but was there not a first time that somebody had knocked on the glass, not a first time that the fish had been thrown? We nodded our heads thoughtfully. Reg was the first to speak up.

“I have heard….Stories” he shot a wild look around the circle “Of men who know what it is like in here. Of men who understand, who are planning…” he lowered his voice to a barely audible whisper. We leaned in. “They’re planning to get us out. To the ice. To our brothers. Back home.”
Like a long-ago played movie reel, the images flicked in front of us - whirlwind dances of snowflakes, the hues of the shell-blue ocean shifting beneath them, monolithic towers of ice piercing the sharp air with their resonating crack. The thunder of a hundred-strong colony, united in their march, their every step representing freedom. Then the reel slowed and distorted, eventually coming to a shuddering halt. We were cautious of hope. We stood there for a while, saying nothing.

“Of course, they are just stories.” Reg said finally. We nodded our agreement. Just stories. They’re all we seemed to have left. Only words that make up images of places we would never see.
Kelly returned. Mike was overjoyed, Perry seemed put off, even with all the fake smiling and laughing. We watched them from our corner. We had chosen this spot, because less faces appeared in this window, and if they did, they were hardly ever laughing. Today, a child came. He was an annoying type, knocking at the glass, encouraging us to do tricks, no doubt. He clutched a fluffy toy, a representation of a rather paunchy penguin who was smiling with his puma-black beak. Eventually, he gave up and wandered away to annoy another group.

“I think it’s colder today” Reg said
Nobody answered. The white door opened, and the colony rushed to the pool - it was feeding time. Our group stayed back for a few moments – we no longer cared about the best fish. Our muted reflections stared back at us, taking in the almost bare rocks, the tiny pool with its lukewarm water and the grey walls, tinged with water stains. We turned around and walked away, looking at the snow beneath our feet. Closing our eyes, we could almost pretend it was real.

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