Morning starts early for us. I guess that’s for everyone, though I haven’t really ever understood why. It’s not like we’re better, fitter, smarter, or stronger when we’re sleep deprived, but I guess that’s not what they want from us anyway.
And it’s no earlier for us than the elites — the Scholars, who by status, money or talent, have skipped this part of training and gone right up into the game. Down here, you have to earn your place. I don’t want to sound bitter. I’ve heard of Scholars losing their place, if they were really a problem. Then they drop down into what’s called “the minors” although I don’t know why, since the majority of people end up there. My Grandma used to call it the “bush leagues” but she couldn’t explain that one, either. I still don’t know what a “bush” is.
Morning comes, we fall out, line up, go for a run, then calisthenics, take a class on field strategy, then they let us eat. First meal is always the biggest. We’re encouraged to load up our plates. They tell you to chew slowly, really taste the food, but we’re so hungry most of us wolf it down. I don’t know what I’m tasting anyway. It all tastes like salty and sweet to me, just with different textures. I like crunchy, I don’t like chewy, we all like soft. Cold, hot, soft and smooth is always the favorite. When we come back with jaws broken and throats swollen from the hits, soft and smooth is all we can tolerate, so it’s comfort to us.
After our first meal, we’re back outside doing exercises. We’re watched carefully, measured, timed. Folks who are at the top of the rankings get extra attention, but also more pressure. You run fast, they expect you to keep running fast. You’re strong, they give you pills and feed you a diet to make you stronger. We don’t really have much say in this.
When we finish training camp, we’re given arandar, a few days off, before the day we’re shipped out. The night before, I was called into the head office.
“You’re being moved up.” I was told. “You’ll be first-string when you ship out.” I was dismissed. I guess that was a promotion? I checked my accounts and saw a bonus, so roger that.
The next day, we got our orders. We were split up pretty well, sent to different parts of the country. We might not see each other again, but we knew that. We don’t really have much say in any of this.
It was my turn. An unremarkable suit propelled by a person who looked like everyone else in a suit walked over. Hand outstretched, I heard, “You’re part of the team, now.” I took the hand, and moved my lips away from my teeth. That seemed to satisfy them.
If we make the cut, we’re out on a grassy field, slamming our bodies against each other for entertainment. If we don’t, they hand us guns and send us out to kill each other.
They call it The Draft.
We don’t really have much say in this.