My name is Loretta. I belong to the Onion Head. I call him the Onion Head because his appearance is that of a fresh picked onion hanging upside down – his round yellow head, the bulbous onion and its hollow green stem, his wrinkled coveralls. His pant legs chafe and swish as he robotically makes his rounds at the same monotonous pace with his hands in his pockets – no doubt fingering coins. When he arrives at camp, we skitter and cackle. It’s the only light we’ll see all day.
By we, I mean my sisters, and by camp, I mean our windowless prison that runs by remote control. We share a room. Or rather, a cell – eleven of us, counting me. We’re allotted space that’s standing room only, about the size of the Onion Head’s shoe. My sisters are Lulu, Lynnette, Lori, Leola, Lizzie, Lacy, Laura, Lenore, Louise and Louisa (twins), but to the Onion Head, we’re collectively cell seventeen. Our names begin with the same letter, so that we have a sense of who lives where. The M’s, Mary and Missy, live in the cells to our right, and the K’s, Kelly and Kendra, to our left. Our methods of communication are quite complex. When one of us cries out, Vicky for instance, we know that she’s ten cells down. Since we can’t see her, it provides us with a sense of space, a sense of peace. Ten houses down, so to speak.
Yesterday, the twins Louise and Louisa, had a terrible spat over nothing. They brought no harm to each other, thank God, since the Onion Head surgically removes a good portion of our mouths. We’re not fighters by nature, but anxiety screams for release when emotions are this pent up. Lock yourself in a bathroom with thirty-two Onion Heads elbow to elbow, and you’ll see what I mean. After months and years, you pray for a spot on the floor.
At night, we pass stories from cell to cell, fantasizing, as if someday we might escape. Prisoners running through waves of grass – we raise families, splash in puddles, and blink in the sun. The intellectuals among us scoff, saying such dreams are pointless, chalking the nonsense up to instinct. Especially old Sage, seven cells down.
I stay up most of the night talking to Sage when I feel sad.
“Someday, the Onion Heads will see,” she said.
“Before I’m old?” I asked.
“No. Each layer of the onion represents a phase of enlightenment. Each time they peel a layer they discover a deeper truth.”
“How long?” I asked. “Before they see what they’ve done?”
“That’s an age-old question. They’re only on the second or third layer. There’s a long way to go, I’m afraid.”
“In our lifetime?”
“It’s not our life to live. You should know that by now.”
“It’s so unfair.”
“Don’t complain,” said Sage. “After all, you’ve got a lot to be thankful for. Born male, you would’ve been thrown in the blender and ground alive.”
John Grabski is a runner, writer and poet that lives on a farm in New York. His work has appeared or is forthcoming at The Unbroken Journal, The Harpoon Review, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Eclectica Magazine and Cyclamens and Swords. You can read excerpts of his published work at www.GRABSKIworks.com or find him on Twitter at @GrabskiJohn.
**Single Chicken image credits to Curioso / Shutterstock.