The man is freshly arrived, freshly awake, not even hungry yet—not even aware of hunger yet—he surveys his new prison.
He meets Cheetah, who can tell him all about it, were he not so hungry himself. More
He sleeps in a small grass hut. Its floor is smooth ground, is hard dry mud trod and trod again by feet coming, going, coming, going, and sometimes staying.
The hut contains nothing but empty space and a yellow and green mat of woven grass, still fresh and with a scent of field, serving as his bed. This mat is light and easy to roll up and stow away or to carry. Although it is thin he sleeps well on it and he does not wake sore.
This morning was no exception: when he woke he felt well rested and much refreshed, if still somewhat dislocated.
It was the sun that woke him, this new sun. This white, new sun. The hut’s opening faced this sun’s rising above the mountain ridge on the far side of the valley below. As it climbed, it lit the sky above, shadowing the mountain below, and then entered first his hut and then his eyes even through closed lids. This is how he knew morning again, and this is what now woke him.
This is what marked the end of another darkness, of another inactivity so deep he could not remember doing this nothing. He welcomed this new sun, though, this warm sun, white and closer than he remembered any other sun.
Once awake, and once he had rolled up his grass-mat bed for the day, he crawled on knees and hands through the low opening and out into the pleasant and lighter still morning air.
He was tall and slender. He was black-skinned and strong. Once out of the hut he stood up and felt how good it was to stretch arms and legs and to fill lungs.
It is good here, he thought, wherever here was. The air is fresh, the view stretches wide and far under this closer sun.
His hut was built—though he does not remember building it—on the edge of a large plateau rising high above the valley floor. The plateau itself was a wide expanse of green now rippled by the morning winds. The man smiled as he held the air and watched the small, bright clouds overhead. This wasn’t so bad after all. Yes, things could definitely have been a lot worse.
A loud screech rose from the sea of grass to his left and a large many-colored bird took wide wing; rose higher, the screech trailing. He watched as the bird winged into the morning sky. Another screech, as in answer, reached him and with it another bird, a copy of the first, arose further still to his left and soon circled with its mate (he assumed) looking down at some shared annoyance.
He walked toward a movement in the grass to see what could have stirred those powerful wings. The movement at the same time parted the grass in his direction and they soon met. The shared annoyance was a large, beautiful cat. Not black, as cats should be, as he remembered them to be, but cat nonetheless, he was pretty sure. Green eyes and sharp teeth, long, pink tongue. A deep cat-voice spoke slowly and wondered who he was. He had not heard a voice like this, words like these, for…, for he could not remember when. Rumbling, whispering these cat words. While he wondered how the cat could speak so well with a long tongue like that, he answered him that he was not altogether sure exactly who he was, it was a bit of a blur, but he suspected, he said, that he had been sentenced not long ago, and that he was here, now, serving time.
At this the big cat sneezed and sat down on his hind legs and looked up at him long and hard. For what crime? he asked in the end. I don’t remember, he answered. And who are you? he asked of the cat. I am Cheetah, answered the cat.