The city was grey .Grey buildings; grey people; grey skies .Grey. One day –twelve years ago- I saw colour. A small green person hobbled about town in a big, heavy suit, weighing down on his thin shoulders. Then he came to my building. He asked me for a job (or at least what I thought he said – his American was very poor). I didn’t know what he was, so I didn’t give him a contract. I later regretted this as Cicada was an amazing worker.
17 YEARS LATER.
Cicada has been working for me seventeen years. He is a data entry clerk. He has never made a mistake nor had a sick day.
Cicada stared at the blank wall, plucking up the courage to show me his work. Terrified, he poked his small round head out of his (so-called) office, anxious to avoid the building bullies. He urged himself to believe that they appreciated him but how could he after they pound him with physical and verbal violence!
“Cicada go show boss work. Tok, Tok, Tok,” he muttered as he scuttled out of his cubicle and down the silent corridor. Into the room entered Cicada. The room – situated on the fourth floor of the stormy grey office block – had plaster peeling off the steel grey walls and an expensive desk dominated it. This was where I sat, in my plush leather armchair.
“What is it now Cicada?” I asked, my voice as sharp as a knife. Cicada felt like a nuisance. He asked this question every day, and he knew I was sick of it.
“Can Cicada have holiday?” he mumbled twiddling his fingers. He shifted awkwardly from foot to foot, awaiting an answer.
“I told you if you work here twenty years you will get a big payday. Nobody else has the rules bent, so why should you!” I had always spoken like this to workers; even so, this time, I felt awful.
“Have you done those twenty years?” I asked
“Cicada has not,”
“Have you done all of this week’s work?”
“Cicada has not,”
“Are you…” I paused. Was this the best thing to say?
“Are you human?”
Cicada felt tears prickling up against his eyes.
“Can Cicada have holiday?” Cicada wailed. I was shocked! No employee had ever spoken to me this way before. I decided to approach the situation calmly. I spun my chair and stood up to face the lone window.
“Oh Cicada,” I chuckled “You will wish for a holiday but you don’t have a contract so I can’t give you a holiday,” I said sympathetically.
Cicada scuttled out of my office. Was he really just a foreign bruise whose words could not persuade anyone to love him? Cicada walked out of the building. He was weary – he had had to use the stairs because he could not reach the button for the lift.
This had taken quite a while, and now Cicada was desperate for the loo. Knees buckled, Cicada tried to run down the road, but this failed with him toppling over several times. Finally, Cicada reached a greasy pub with a lazy owner. Cicada dashed behind the counter; to the toilets.
Cicada hurried back to the building, only to find that the day of work was over. I had docked his pay by ten dollars. I was curious to see Cicada swim upstream through the crowd of workers. I came out of my office and followed Cicada to a vent grate. Cicada crawled through.
I chose to forget about this, as it was too much to balance on my conscience. I saw him crawl out and walked out of the building, up to the forest. He pulled a knob of bark off a tree and let sap pour into a tiny tea pot he was holding. He walked back through the glaring lights of the city, enclosing the tea pot in his briefcase.
That’s when two figures jumped out of the shadows. Boris Hindrance and Graham Sacrifice. The building bullies. I closed the blind on my window as I would disgrace to see a fight.
At last I reopened the blind, I saw Cicada. Disappointed, Cicada began to retrieve the contents of his briefcase. The tea pot of sap was untouched, but the tea cup had been smashed to pieces. Tears stung his eyes, which clung to the sides of his face. The voids of unhappiness swallowed passers-by in darkness. His leaf green frown conveyed his sadness to the crumpled pile of teacup in his hands.
Boris and Graham weren’t even as bad as Cicadas colleagues. When together there were always whispers or awkward silences. They were embarrassed to be seen with him and half of the time, completely forgot about Cicadas existence. However much Boris and Graham harassed him, it the whispers of the people and environment around him was worst.
At first I thought I would never appreciate my working neighbour’s identity, but now, I miss him so!
Cicada`s produce of work was decreasing by the day. It came down to him just pressing a button (the space bar). Soon after I noticed this. I found a letter waiting for me on my desk. I grasped for my letter opener and cut the envelope open:
To whom it may concern,
As I am the leader of the National Workers Union, I am begging you to change your employment policy after one of your workers wrote to us. Our attention was drawn to his letter as it described his awful living conditions, sanitary difficulties and size issues. How would you suffer in his place?
The letter went on a bit about Cicada`s discomforts. When the day ended, I usually saw Cicada heading to the stair well: to the roof of the building.
I burst through the door onto the roof.
“Cicada, Cicada!” I shouted “I didn’t know. Cicada I`ll help you!” But I was too late. The sky was filled with vivid orange insects, illuminating the grey city.
Cicadas little green body was standing on the edge of the roof; he was split in half! I had lost Cicada to the forest but I hoped he was all right.
Two weeks later, Cicada died. In these two weeks Cicada found a mate, had some children and thought about the humans and I. The forest Cicada came to was green and beautiful. The lake flowed from the hill where the great oak sat. They say Cicadas find their mates there. Red roses bloom in the roots of the oak and lilies grow by the stream.
Large weeping willows reach their branches across the lake and Cicadas perch on them. Thousands of trees fill the forest and moss covers everything. Reeds’ heads poke out of the water. The stream spreads from the source like a hand clawing the ground.
It was luxury for Cicadas. Gorgeous pink sunsets filled the sky, casting a hazy glow on the summery forest. Cicada didn’t have to go anywhere to get sap as it was all in the oak they all called home.
I miss Cicada. I haven’t found another worker quite like him. The grey city is ever-more grey without the little glow of green Cicada gave off. I assume that I shall ever see a Cicada again, but next time, I will say goodbye.
This term, we will be studying some famous still lives and then creating our own based on a Roman feast.
For Home Learning this week, we would like you to draw or paint your own still life of fruit and vegetables and / or objects in your home. They could be things that are important or have some meaning for you.
Remember the key elements we have been focussing on in our drawing: form (shape), texture and pattern. Look closely at areas of light and shade on the objects you’re drawing.
Below are some examples of still lives by artists to give you some ideas:
Cicada’s ill-fitting, un-ironed shirt hung down his agonising chair. His trousers almost completely covered his generic black shoes. He reached for the next pile of data and sighed; seventeen years he had been working at Con Corp as a data entry clerk. He was probably the most experienced on the team and yet no promotion. He stood with a groan and grabbed the note sitting on top of the cabinet and trundled towards the H.R. Office.
Cicada stood in the office, his feeble legs – hidden by his ill-fitting trousers – struggled to keep him upright. Awkwardly, he shuffled towards the desk; he laid his note down on the clear cuboid of a table – the air became thick and heavy.
“Cicada ask promotion,” mumbled Cicada – his legs crumbled underneath him; he steadied himself on the desk. “Cicada tired of harass come from office neighbours,” he muttered the final words so quietly it was almost impossible to hear, “Cicada ask boss for same rights.”
The man’s sneer changed in an instant to an angered frown. “You asked for WHAT?” His temple bulged as he bellowed. “You believe that you deserve equal rights to your human co-workers! Ludicrous! Now remove your senseless body from my office this instant! Cicada reframed from crying as he trudged towards the lift; ready to go twelve blocks just to use the toilet.
The street outside the office was filled with workers, just like Cicada on their lunch break. He didn’t get a lunch break – nor did he get lunch. When he had got to the public toilets the lock on the cubical door had been broken (not that it would have mattered much as he would not have normally been able to reach it without standing on the toilet) and he had been shoved out of the way before he was able to relive himself. Slowly, Cicada plodded up the stairs only to find his office in ruins, his cabinet was on its side; its contents lay next to it. The clock was shattered – its arms bent in all directions. The only thing that wasn’t wrecked was his hidden pile of paper: four months of work remained untouched.
Swiftly, he waddled down the corridor, his trousers brushed the ground – sweeping the dust and dirt off the light grey carpet. In his four hands lay the spreadsheets that were previously hidden under his desk. The clicking of the keyboards in the other offices almost masked the sound of his co-workers footsteps creeping up behind him.
A blue arm shot over his shoulder, grabbing his papers and pulling away. The co-workers sneered as Cicada struggled against the strength of a human. Suddenly cicada fell to the floor as the men swiped at his legs.
Alarmed cicada let out a sudden scream as his co-workers foot plunged into his chest: a brown shoe print was left on cicada’s suit. “Cicada sorry…” Mumbled Cicada, his mandibles tucked back it his mouth. “Cicada do nothing!”
Laughing, the men returned to their desks; wishing the insect that was cicada wasn’t alive. “You little fly you is nuffink to no one!” shouted one of the men from his office. Putting his hands on his face, he cried.
His papers were strewn along the corridor each ripped multiple times. He didn’t bother to retrieve them on his way back home, he only shuffled past them, wiping away his tears with his sleeve.
In truth Cicada didn’t have a home – he lived in the office wall space. He had a makeshift clothes hanger (a power cable) and a coffee table (the power box). Rats occasionally scurried past his cubical and would eat away at his shoes. The pipes would rattle and hum all through the night; he wondered what they held. The dull-grey crumbling walls reflected his mood throughout the day. Tomorrow knew he had to make a change.
He returned to the H.R office – this time with an even simpler message – Cicada resign. He wasn’t at all nervous, what could the manager do to him after he leaves? But then it struck him like a bullet to the chest. He would have no home, no money and no job. He would be nothing. Nothing… he couldn’t take another day working there. He had to do it.
Cicada pushed the door open with all four hands and cautiously stepped inside. He swallowed the lump in this throat and spoke “C-c-cicada retire; cicada tired of unfair treatment, cicada stop work.” He turned to leave but a voice stopped him before he did.
“Clean your desk.” Cicada stumbled out of the door and headed for the top of the building. Time to say goodbye.
Cicada stared into the almost endless city. The grey buildings were almost indistinguishable to their shadows. He stepped closer to the edge and looked down. That’s where he will finish his life, exactly where he started.
Suddenly, he felt a sensation in the back of his head; it seemed to be spreading down his back and towards his forehead. His heart raced as his skin slipped over his eyes. His arms where a vibrant vivid red and he felt two strange cape like arms unfolding on his back. He jumped… the capes opened up and he soared above the buildings along with his thousands of brothers and sisters and back to the forest.
Cicada re-write by Gabriel cocks
Cicada sat at his cold steel desk, slowly rocking on his uncomfortable chair. He looked out of the tiny window placed awkwardly between the clock and the billboard; massive featureless buildings blocked out all sunlight, leaving the streets below dark and grimy only lit up by the occasional shop sign.
Cicada was called to the boss’s office on the loudspeaker, he walked into the dim damp office; pieces of plaster peeled of the walls revealing the copper pipes inside “Yes” said Cicada practically whispering “There’s no easy way to say this” said the boss masking his glee “your contract ends today, don’t come in tomorrow”
“But Cicada need home, Cicada need money”
“SILENCE” shouted the boss slamming his fist down on the table his knuckles white with rage “This is your last day!” and with that, Cicada left the room.
The whole office was staring at him, in a few seconds the whole office erupted into a cacophony of jeers and taunts he was being pushed from side to side having curses thrown at him, then, finally, he got to the safety of his desk but found his computer smashed and on the floor slowly he began to write spending the rest of his day scrawling the remaining information on some paper.
Cicada needed the toilet, he had tried to hold it in till the end of the day but he was desperate. Now standing by the lift (after having continuously tried to press the button) he waited for someone else to come in who could reach the button. Finally, someone came, an obviously well of woman who was quite important in the company’s hierarchy, she looked at him, disgusted, Cicada got this a lot, nobody thought he was worth anything let alone liked him.
Cicada waddled down the street before being whisked away by the constant flow of people. When he finally got to the closest place he hurried through the restaurant to a horrible freezing unhygienic place they called a toilet and did his business knowing that he’d have to wait even longer at the bottom, work would be finished by the time he would get his stuff meaning they could get him, they could hurt him and no one could stop them!
Cicada stood in the lift his body full of anticipation, would they be there? Would they hurt him? The lift doors opened… nobody, he slowly crept out towards his desk then suddenly he felt someone tackle him from one side, they were here! He felt a barrage of punches and kicks from all directions; Cicada curled himself up, hoping to protect himself from all their massive limbs: it didn’t work.
Tired and sad, Cicada limped up the seemingly never-ending stairs to the roof. “Time to say goodbye,” he thought as he stood on the edge of the building, his little green body fell of revealing a beautiful, crimson body matching the sunset as he flew of.
What happened to him, we will never know.