It's five minutes to Hell and I've got a song stuck in my head. I don't remember the lyrics but the melody's clear. Some lost fragment from a memory I no longer possess. I shake my head, trying to get it out. It's not working, though, I keep hearing the bars. Four beats, transferring to six, to eight, to four, to eight, and on and on and on. It's a piano, playing in my head and I can't get the damn thing out. I have this sudden urge to play the notes but I don't have an instrument with me. The instruments I play are too bulky to take on this sort of trip. Save for my guitar, but my father smashed it last week so I've got nothing. Not that I can play for long without experiencing pain in my right arm, but still. The notes won't stop! Just over and over and over and over. I find myself tapping my fingers on the side of the window to the beat, trying to keep up.
"Alec? Alec, we're here. You have to get out now." The escort's voice is calm but infuriating. He snaps me out of my trance, staring back at me with a concerned guise from his place in the driver's seat. I realize we've stopped. I don't move.
I hate that they had to send an escort for me. Because even this was too unimportant for my father's time. Aye, well, nothing I can do about it. He was able to find the time to whip me this morning, though. I said a couple things I figure were probably pretty stupid to say to a violent man and he forced me down. I had to take off my hoodie and shirt, then he whipped me with a strip of leather. He's a tailor. Brilliant, isn't it? He's never short on whipping-leather. So now, even after a three hour drive, my back still stings like hell. As the escort opens my door and tries to force me out, I can feel my shirt sticking to my back, dry blood having glued it there. I wince slightly, but don't betray how I'm really feeling. I really feel like I want to fall over and give up, but I don't. I never do.
The escort finally succeeds in getting me out of the car and he slams the door shut behind me. It would seem I've managed to push his buttons. I'm so very good at finding those. He grabs me by the arm but I immediately jump away. It isn't out of spite, just an automatic reflex. I can't help it. He doesn't know this, though, so he narrows his eyes and tries again, with a tighter grip this time. I grit my teeth, but allow him to lead me over to a slate grey building at the edge of the parking lot. A building marked "New Arrivals". I find it funny that I stand a full head above this escort, but I don't mention it. I let him take me where he needs to. What else can I do?
When we enter the building, I'm immediately greeted by a terrifying blond woman wearing enough make-up to cause a clown to blush. She's sitting at a white desk in the middle of a white room with white bookshelves and a white computer. The ceiling lights blare overhead, illuminating everything. I blink, preparing for the migraine I know this is going to cause me. It's way too bright in here, and the woman looks like she's either blissfully ignorant of the world, or secretly a serial killer. I'm not sure which is more likely. "Hi there!" she squeaks. "A new arrival?"
Well, that's what it says on your building, airhead, I think, but don't say. I've been trying to say less. It's a really hard thing for me to do.
"Yes. Alec Quinn," says the escort, glaring at me like he's just read my mind. I shrug in response.
The blond woman checks her computer, typing carefully with dainty fingers so as not to crack her dragon-lady nails. She bites her blood-red lower lip. "Um... oh! Oh, there you are! Heh, sorry, it's my first day." She smiles at the escort, looking up at him with giant blue eyes and a dopey expression.
You don't say. I roll my eyes, only to receive another glare.
"It's alright," he says. "Take your time."
She clacks at a few more keys, then looks up again. "Alright. Age?"
"Seventeen," the escort replies.
She nods and types some more. "Okay, good. Um, oh! Rules. Did you get a rule sheet?"
I shrug. An ambiguous answer. I like to be ambiguous.
The woman frowns. "Does that mean you understand everything?"
I nod. Might as well. I don't really know all the rules, but I figure it's all the same stuff as church. No fighting, swearing, making rude comments, gestures, etc.
She smiles, blond curls bouncing as she perks up. "Great! The cabins are at the end of the campus. You'll be escorted there later, after introduction and dinner. As well as your first campfire. Just go to the campus center near the flagpole. A counselor will brief you and the other new arrivals on what will happen next." She smiles again and gives an overly-enthusiastic wave as I start to exit. "Have fun!"
Yeah, sure. Fun. I'm certain it'll be a delight.
The escort leaves me then and I head over to the center of the campus. It's all too perfect here. With bushes and trees intricately arranged around delicate flowers and freshly-cut grass. It's a stark contrast to the dark woodland border that encircles the entire camp, with looming pines and dense brush. A bit unnerving, I'll admit. But not as unnerving as the idea of having a campfire later. Not looking forward to that one....