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They came for me in the night, evil shadows that chased away my dream.
The voice, cold and demanding, makes me open my eyes. Only I can’t see a thing because in that instant the beam of a flashlight hits my face. Before my fuzzy brain can figure out what to do I’m yanked out of bed. I shiver, less from the cold, but from the uneasy feeling that’s creeping up my spine.
Hushed sounds like suppressed grunts filter into the room. The corridor beyond is plunged into darkness. Heavy boots stomp around me. I search for a familiar face, someone I recognize, but the harsh light remains glued to my eyeballs. I’m about to shout, demand an explanation when they force back my arms and my shoulder blades begin to throb.
“Move.” The speaker’s voice sounds deliberately deeper, a bad actor’s attempt to disguise his identity.
My head and question disappear under a hood. I spit to keep the fabric from entering my mouth. It smells rancid as if someone has wiped their armpits with it. Gagging, I open my eyes wider… nothing.
My chest heaves as I suck hard to find enough oxygen under the cloth, and resist the dizziness that wants to engulf me. I urge my sluggish brain to come up with an idea when a shove sends me staggering forward into the hall. Too late.
I notice mumbling, suppressed groans and staggering feet. There are others like me. Someone squeezes my wrists and pushes me onward at the same time. It’s like a bad movie scene, except I’m in it. Suddenly I’m fuming mad, a burning in my stomach that works its way up to my throat. And there is a flicker of something else—fear.
“Walk!” comes the order from farther away. I twist my hands, but the iron grip holds. My body feels clumsy in the darkness. Now my wrists are being tied. Fingers made of steel clamp down on my biceps and guide me around a corner. I’m trapped.
I try remembering if I missed an announcement, something that would explain this bullshit. Nothing comes to mind. All I can think of is my heart pounding in my neck and the stinky cloth on my face.
“Stairs,” someone hisses.
I step down, feel the momentary void before my foot hits the next tread. The cover shifts and I can see my toes. Somehow it feels comforting. This whole thing reminds me of Boy Scouts when they led me into the forest to make a fire and find my way back. Except this—whatever this is—seems really hostile. The voice of dread inside me whispers louder.
Somewhere ahead a door bangs. We must be going outside. A moment later I feel gravel under my bare feet, shooting darts of pain up my calves. I stub my big toe and suppress a groan. I’m not the only once because cries and grunts erupt all around me. I’m confused and clueless, getting angrier by the second, imagining how I smack these guys in their fat noses.
We keep walking, turning corners until I lose all sense of direction. Since my arrival at the academy two weeks ago, I’ve learned to march everywhere. I was sort of proud of knowing my way around so quickly. Until now, when the stuffy blackness in front of my eyes is playing tricks as if my head is stuck in a barrel of ink.
How long have we been out here? Palmer’s campus spreads across hundreds of acres. I imagine being hauled into the woods and left to find my way back. Somehow that seems too easy.
By the time I’m yanked to a stop, my mouth is dry with a mix of panic and rage. Straining my ears I hear nothing but muffled whispers, impossible to understand or identify. Hundreds of cadets live here and I’ve got trouble just remembering the guys on my floor, Barracks B, one of six dorms. Not to mention the battalion and company officers who all look the same with their buzz cuts and uniforms. What a bunch of jerks. The voice of warning nags louder.
An arm wraps around my throat and forces me to the ground, followed by a blow to my stomach. Lights explode behind my eyelids. Struggling to breathe, I ignore the stinging in my ribs. I’m used to getting beat up in football, but this is cheap. This isn’t a fight, it’s slaughter.
Anger constricts my throat and makes it even harder to get air. Damn hood. Another punch lands, higher this time into the chest. Are they going to kill me? I didn’t ask to come to this stupid school in the first place. What if I pretend to pass out? But how would they know with your face covered up, the voice in my head gripes. They’ll simply pound you to mincemeat, conscious or not.
I’ve got only one choice, to stay calm and look for an opening. My fingers constrict as I receive another jab. More throbbing joins the angry burn in my gut. Think, I order myself. Concentrate. The cries around me are distracting. So is my aching body. I wait for another strike, but nothing happens. For a moment I feel suspended like I’m floating. It’s worse than the attack because now I hear the thump-thump of other guys being pummeled.
I manage to roll on my side and yank on my ropes. One hand comes free.hazing, Historisch, Internat, Militär, Mobbing, Mystery, Vietnam Krieg