Our Professor raised a hand to gesture, "now please step over to the glass tank. Walk around and observe the colony."
We all crowded round the large terrarium and peered inside.
"Now observe the social behaviour, what do you notice?"
I caught her eye, "dominant and submissive behaviour. Some fruit flies are stalking around a particular area on the Jackfruit, chasing off intruders. They're territorial."
"Edweena, Don't be so direct". the voice behind me whispered, "and use the correct terminology. It's Drosophila melanogaster and an Artocarpus heterophyllus fruiting body"
The professor seemed to ignore me, smiled and continued, "this is a natural situation with no external design of the habitat's parameters, no disturbance of circadian rhythm; exposure to natural sunlight which allows healthy photo-regulation of hormonal systems, a fresh, unadulterated food source as well as an unorganised social system (beyond instinctual behaviours) where individual interactions are unmanaged, valid and meaningful. The audio environment also remains unaltered. So what does this show us?"
The young blonde woman next to me turned to answer, "social organisation is spontaneous on a basic level as a response to competition for resources. But this is very different from the ant colony which we observed last week. That was much more developed."
"Complex, more concrete roles, naturally more organised."
"And was it more developed?"
The student paused to think, "no, because it still relied upon the principle of survival of the fittest. Darwinism stresses the survival of the colony and operates under the premise that most of the law is possession."
"Most of the law is possession", the professor nodded, "now let's make our way back to the laboratory for this afternoon's workshop."
"Please place your three woodlice into the container. You should observe the creatures migrate towards the section of the dish that is both dark and damp. With the correct temperature and a suitable food source they will remain in the container indefinitely, completely unaware that they are part of our experiment."
I looked down in horror at my apparatus as I noticed that one of insects had begun to scale the wall of the container.
"Professor", I cried, "Professor. It knows!"
She ignored my outburst as her hand slid smoothly under her desk. I may have been the only one who noticed that she'd pressed a button. A door at the side of the room opened and Si Tully Dunn, the laboratory assistant strode in, holding a yellow container. As he stood in front of my desk and opened the lid the acrid vapours hit me, and I held my breath to stem a coughing fit.
"What's in there?" I asked at last.
The question went unanswered as I noticed that the woodlouse had begun to walk in circles, at which point Dunn positioned his container in front of it. As it stepped inside he snapped the lid shut.
"Where are you taking it?" I pressed.
He met me with eagle-eyed glare so intense that it made me self-conscious.
"Environment Number Two", he hissed under his breath, then he turned and left through the same door.
When the workshop was over the room began to clear the professor caught my eye. Her gaze was not openly intense, but there was something alluring about it. It held me as my legs carried me over to her. We now stood in an empty room.
"What's your major Ms Snow?"
"Entomology and Management Dual Honours - it's a new course."
I stared blankly at her.
"Placements at this faculty are highly sought after. A little more discretion is required. After all most things, especially services, are... discretionary."
"And what have you got scheduled for the rest of the afternoon?"
"My independent research project."
"Ah, yes. Mr Scroojed has kindly volunteered his time, and specimen from his institution. The observation will also give you, the perfect opportunity to consider your privileges. Proceed to Surveillance Room Number 6. Remember to take full, detailed notes on all responses, as your qualitative analysis will be based upon them."
I nodded again and exited the room. My stomach turned. I couldn't deny that Mr Scroojed was a great man, highly successful and a renowned philanthropist. Despite this, there was something about him that unnerved me, although I could never quite put my finger on it...
...I took a seat in front of the wall of screens. The scene today was a dining room. The table was set for a grand Christmas dinner. Every delicacy imaginable, every morsel of luxury lay on that table. I resolved to sharpen my concentration, and ignore the feast that lay before me, as one ignores a mirage...
Pob Crotch-Hit followed behind a triumphant Mr Scroojed,
"Come in Pob, come in. I must show your our glory. You've got to see the club dinner spread before our members arrive."
Pob stepped into the dining room, "Now look at that Pob. Look at that big beautiful bird on the table! What would you give to have some of that eh? Would you like some?"
"Oh Mr Scroojed, that's really k..."
"Would you like some Pob, would you?"
"Well, yes, yes."
"And what about candy Pob? Wouldn't you like some of that too?"
"Yes Pob, Christmas candy. It's sweet and delicious. Just like children in Roald Dahl books. I bet your Kim John would like a taste."
"How is Kim John?"
"Oh well. Do they still call him Tiny Kim?"
"Yes, they do."
"You know if he ate like me they'd call him Big Kim. Can you imagine that?"
"No, I can't."
"Well, the members are arriving soon, so you only have a few minutes. But go ahead and share in the success, smell anything you like."
Mr Scroojed looked annoyed, "what kind of stupid name is that anyway? Explain to me how you got it!"
"Well you see my mother was a Johnny Cash fan. You know the song about the boy named Sue right? Anyway, she thought that it might help me get somewhere."
Mr Scroojed nodded thoughtfully, "might have worked, might have worked", then he began to laugh, "but it did work Pob."
"Remember to hold your head up high because you work for one of the richest and most successful men in the colony. You share in that success. And bearing that in mind it's time that you were on your way. Merry Christmas Pob."
I put down my notebook. It was almost full and my hand was aching.
Spare a thought for those who won't be going home to see their families this Christmas. Don't judge the homeless. You don't know the choices that they have faced. If want to know what it's really like then read George Orwell's 'Down and Out in London and Paris'. Like many other non-fiction writers, he died in poverty. But his word, and spirit lives on.
- Sir Duncan
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Like the spoilt child she is, she will not be happy till she destroys herself from within and breaks your heart.
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