Tuesday, December 14, 2010

the silence of the hens

[scene: in the dead of night, Ghazalrice Starling enters remote guest house room in rural Bariadi District, Tanzania, where she is doing a field visit. She lays her head down to sleep, and as she hovers the line between consciousness and dreaming, she’s jolted awake by a piercing cry. The excerpt below is an exchange between Ghazalrice and her antagonist]

Hannibal Lecter: I will listen now. After your posting to a remote area of Africa, you were lonely. You were thirty years old. You went to stay in a low-rate guest house in Bariadi. And...?

Ghazalrice Starling: [tears begin forming in her eyes] And one night, I just almost ran away.

Hannibal Lecter: No "just", Ghazalrice. What set you off? You started at what time?

Ghazalrice Starling: Early, still dark.

Hannibal Lecter: Then something woke you, didn't it? Was it a dream? What was it?

Ghazalrice Starling: I heard a strange noise.

Hannibal Lecter: What was it?

Ghazalrice Starling: It was... screaming. Some kind of screaming, like a child's voice.

Hannibal Lecter: What did you do?

Ghazalrice Starling: I went to the window, looked outside. I crept up to the curtain. I was so scared to peer outside, but I had to.

Hannibal Lecter: And what did you see, Ghazalrice? What did you see?

Ghazalrice Starling: Hens. The hens were screaming.

Hannibal Lecter: They were slaughtering the dinner hens?

Ghazalrice Starling: And they were screaming.

Hannibal Lecter: And you ran away?

Ghazalrice Starling: Um, no. First I tried to free them. I... I knocked on the window to distract the butcher, but they wouldn't run. They just stood there, confused. They wouldn't run.

Hannibal Lecter: But you could and you did, didn't you?

Ghazalrice Starling: Well, kinda. I took one look at the screaming hen, and I turned away as fast as I could.

Hannibal Lecter: Where were you going, Ghazalrice?

Ghazalrice Starling: I don't know. Back to my bed, I guess. I thought of leaving, but I didn't have any food, any water and it was very cold, very cold. I thought, I thought if I could save just one, but... I was so sleepy. So sleepy. I didn't get more than a few steps to the bed when I decided to call the guest house manager. The manager was so angry she sent me to live at the Lutheran orphanage in Bozeman. Actually, scratch that…she was pretty apologetic so she told the butcher to move his operations to the other side of the building.

Hannibal Lecter: What became of your hen, Ghazalrice?

Ghazalrice Starling: They killed him. And then I guess I ate him for lunch the next day.

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