He first scours the square for signs of birds, mice—for any creature
he might gather up and take with him back to his cell. He longs to care
for someone other than himself. Silence has taught him there’s nothing
more important he could hope to do.
Tu lis toujours ce livre the guard asks.
He feels mixed about speaking at all, but, having begun, it’s hard to
stop. Alone in his empire of silence, he ruled a universe of endless unfolding. Now the guard’s dyspeptic remarks infect his dreams. Because
they are the first words he’s heard in a long time (he has not yet found a
way to think without accommodating the vocabulary of measurement),
he keeps turning them over and over. The guard’s anger strikes like a
hammer against his calm.
The last shall be first, the prisoner replies, stopping in the center of the
yard. He’s spotted an ant crawling along the cement-and-gravel ground.
Could this be the creature he’s looking for? He squats down, places his
finger in its path. The ant’s antennae brush its tip, and it immediately
turns away, but he blocks it with his other hand. The ant reverses course
again, only to meet a drawbridge of three fingers.
Que faîtes-vous booms the guard, who has managed to walk up directly behind him without his hearing. The startled prisoner shoots up.
An ant. He points a finger at the ground, ashamed to have been
caught off guard.
Une fourmi The guard scans the area. Où?
He gazes down, as though he too has suddenly developed an en-tomologist’s curiosity. No ant anywhere to be seen. Then the prisoner
moves his foot: a black smudge that, on closer inspection, turns out to
be the ant.
Several hours later, the same guard enters the room carrying a gym bag.
He orders the prisoner to strip.
The prisoner is not surprised. He believes it is karmic reprisal for killing the ant. He knows the world will think him crazy for thinking this—
but it is the world that is mad. It is the world that has trained the guard.
Once he’s naked the guard makes him kneel on the floor with his
hands on the bed. He then handcuffs him to the bed and forces his
knees apart. The prisoner suspects what is coming. And he is correct:
he feels something stiff and hard forcing its way between his ass cheeks.
Whether it is a “toy” or the man himself is difficult to tell. Whatever it