Returning to her work space, she discovered four strangers sitting around her table, eating. Her work was piled under the table. What was she to do now? In a few days, when she was used to the way things were done here, she'd know what to do. Right now, she was stymied. She couldn't ask them to leave. They might own the place for all she knew.
She looked around. Everybody was busy. No one seemed to notice her. If someone would just look up, she might ask them what she was to do, but no one did.
She looked at the opening in the wall where the supervisor had disappeared. She approached the wall. She was surprised to find bars across the opening. Looking through the bars, she saw someone sitting at a table at the far end of a long room bending over papers. "Hey!" she called out. The woman didn't look up. "Hey!" she called louder. No response.
With both hands on the bars, she pushed. The bars wouldn't give. She looked around the room she was in; a large rectangle, stark white, with windows too high to see through. Many people were sitting at tables, poring over something, papers, she thought. Some were sitting on the floor. No one was talking. The four at her table were the only ones eating.
Looking back through the bars, she called out again. No one seemed to hear her. She tried to think how she got here, what she was doing here. But, her mind seemed numb. She couldn't recall coming here. What kind of place was this anyway?
Just minutes ago, the supervisor had taken her to her work space and told her what to do. Funny. Now she couldn't remember what she was told to do. She didn't know where she'd been before coming back to her table. Now, she wasn't sure which table was hers. Oh, yes. The one where people were eating.
Humming softly, she sang the words in her mind, "I wish I was in the land a cotton; old times there are not forgotten. Look away! Look away!" On the third repeat of "Look away!" she thought she heard another voice.
She stood still, listening, for a minute. Nothing. She called out again. No response.
"In Dixieland, where I was bornin' early on a..." Forgetting the word "frosty" she muttered, "Sunday mornin', look away! Look away!" She was sure this time. There was another voice.
She looked around the room. No one was looking at her. All heads seemed bent over their work.
Looking back through the bars, she noted that no one had responded to her calls. She called again, "Hey!" No response this time either. Was she speaking? Did she just think she was speaking?
A male voice nearby sang, "I wish I was in Dixie. Hurray! Hurray!" She looked quickly over her shoulder. A young man in the first row was standing, looking directly at her. She began to sing again, "In Dixie Land I'll make my stand," At this point, the others were standing. All were singing, "To live and die in Dixie. Away, away, away down South in Dixie."
Feeling light headed and a bit off kilter, she leaned into the bars and sang, "Away, away, away down South in Dixie."
The young man came over to her, holding out his hand. "C'mon, honey," he said gently, "come away."
She tried to back away from him, but the bars stopped her. "No!" she said. "Who are you? What do you want?"
"It's Dan, honey. You remember me, don't you?"
She tried to think, but the numbness seemed to have overtaken her brain. Yes, she did remember. He's the one who was singing.
"How do you know my song?" she asked warily.
"I learned it from you, honey," he said, smiling. His eyes were filled with pity, though she didn't recognize that. "You've been standing at these bars singing that song every day for six months."