Chapter 11: Devon Brown, #9280970
Devon Brown, now number 9280970, stood in line in his cohort. That’s what he’d learned to call his group. It was physical education time. PE the instructors called it. There was weightlifting, calisthenics and running. All out in the hot sun. He’d overheard two instructors talking in the first week and so knew he was in the mountains of North Carolina. So that was something, anyway. Not much other information came through. Not that he had time for it.
Instructor Orville called out for jumping jacks. “Begin!” he shouted.
Devon began to jump. Perfectly in sync with the rest of the cohort. The boys in his cohort had all arrived the same day, twenty of them. They’d learned fast that stragglers were punished. If the stragglers proved unfit, the entire cohort would be punished. Devon had experienced his share. He eyed the slim rod at the instructor’s waist. A cattle prod. His first time had been the first day.
He’d fallen asleep at the desk, hands folded in front of him. Instructor George had zapped him as he sat at the desk, and he woke, thrashing on the floor, blood pouring from a cut on his forehead from hitting the desk leg beside him. After much shouting about falling asleep in class, Instructor George had jerked him up from the floor by the front of his shirt and slammed him back into the chair.
Devon remembered lifting his hand to feel the cut when the instructor slapped the cattle prod on the desk making him jump. “Did I tell you to move!” he’d yelled.
“No, sir.” After that Devon let the blood run. When they were lined up to go to chow, Devon had been taken to a small clinic. A doctor had looked at the cut. Then cleaned and put a bandaid over it. No cleaning his face, no kind words. Just the basic medical care then sent back to his group, now eating dinner from trays in a cafeteria where there were a lot of other boys, not just his group.
No one looked around. He was seated at a table with his group. A tray of food already there.
“Eat,” Instructor George had told him.
Devon picked up a funny looking spoon with little points on the end and scooped up macaroni and cheese. It was cold and gross and he really wanted to spit it out. The boy across from him shook his head and scooped his food into his mouth, chewing then swallowing. Devon followed suit. He was very hungry. He’d not eaten since the picnic which already seemed years ago.
That was his introduction to what the boys were calling The Camp.
Instructor Orville shouted stop. And the boys came to attention. “Burpees!”
Devon hated burpees but he dutifully, and in sync, did them. He was going to be glad when the hour was over.
The day was filled. Up at six in the morning to an alarm bell. Rush to go to the bathroom, dress, make his bunk, and fall into formation in just fifteen minutes. March to breakfast, usually oatmeal and fruit but once in a while, eggs and toast, or once, pancakes with syrup and fruit. Then math, then English, then PE. Another class, Russian, then lunch. That was generally soup and sandwich and a piece of fruit. Apple, mostly, but there was a banana once and once a pear. Another class, science, then another PE session. After that was reading. Silently. The instructor assigned the book. A final class of the day, government. That was a strange one, as far as Devon was concerned. All about the glorious President for Life, and how the government was put together and worked. Then it was homework, still sitting in the classroom. That went on until they were marched to supper. This was the one meal with something different every night so far. Even with three meals a day, he was usually hungry. No seconds were ever offered.
Then they went back to the classroom and finished their homework. If they finished before the others, they could continue reading their book. At seven at night they were marched back to their dorms where they could shower, dress in their sleepwear, and take care of their shoes or other gear. Talking was permitted but quietly. No loud talking, laughing, and certainly no shouting or horseplay.
Bedtime was eight-thirty, sounded by the same alarm that woke them in the morning. Devon was ready for bed by then. The stress of the day, doing everything perfectly so that he wasn’t zapped, took a lot of energy. He didn’t have much time to think about her during the day but just before falling asleep, he thought about his sister, Caitlin. He hoped she was doing okay, that she wasn’t being punished too much. With the lights off, as long as he was quiet, tears could flow. He worried about his little sister. Was she doing the same thing he was? And what about his father? Where was he? And he missed his mother. What happened to her after they’d all been taken away? Did she know where he was? Would she try and call him? He didn’t know. None of the boys in his cohort had received any word from their families.
He sniffed and wiped his eyes with his sleeve. Devon fell asleep but generally woke several times a night from nightmares. Monsters, chasing him through the dark with electric claws.
Thank you for reading.