by Symon Pude
The journey begins
| Chapter 2 Departure
I opened my eyes. And there was light.
Shit, I overslept.
I was supposed to be at the chapel at dawn.
Then I thought it through a second time.
The army probably will not care if one person doesn't come. For sure they have a schedule to keep and don't wait for a single person.
If I am lucky, they will probably already have left and I was free to stay at home.
A loud knocking at the door diminished my hope.
I jumped up. I had slept in my clothes.
My mother also woke up from the loud noise and even my father made a notion.
I heard the door being violently opened and heavy steps come into our house.
Then there he stood again. The berserk from yesterday.
"I said at dawn at the chapel!"
"I'm flattered that you care so much about me."
My mother did a face palm. My behaviour was certain to get me hurt. I looked at her. She sneezed into her hand. A shame to leave right now. She seems to be getting sick.
The berserk entered the room and took me by my neck.
"We're going... Now!"
"Can I at least get my stuff first?"
I tried to push away his Hand. With no success.
"It would be faster if I was free"
He weakened his grip and I escaped to the kitchen. The rucksack was lying on the floor.
Fortunately there was a small piece of bread left from the old loaf. I also took that. It was going to be my breakfast.
The berserk watched my every move and made it clear that we don't have much time.
"You have everything, now let's go"
I ignored him. There's something left I had to do.
I went to my mother and hugged her fullheartily.
I felt tears in my eyes.
"I will come back"
"I will wait"
I didn't want the warm hug to end. The body of my mother in my arms. I felt safe. I could hear her every breath, feel her heart beating faster than usual. Â The berserk grunted.
As I opened my eyes I also saw tears rolling down from my mother's face.
Using all my willpower I was able to turn away.
It was sunny like the day before, although the air didn't seem as transparent. I was sure fog is going to obscure the landscape soon enough.
The berserk began to jog and I struggled to keep up behind him. My rucksack moved up and down at my back. Despite this, I devoured the piece of bread.
That speed was probably the reason why the berserk was told to pick me up: He was way faster than a normal human being.
Not too long and I fell behind. He didn't slow down. But I made no attempt in catching on. I wasn't too eager to get to our destination.
He suddenly stopped and waited for me. As I panted to him I realized that he hadn't even started to sweat.
"You first" he gestured me to get in front.
Taking a deep breath, I answered.
"I bet you just want to look at my ass. That's really gay"
Before I knew what happened his right backhand burned on my cheek and I fell to the ground.
My head was wobbly. I should have stopped, but I was on fire.
"Oh, so you like it rough"
He looked like was going to have a stroke from all the anger.
It would have been cool if that had happened.
Instead he crouched down, gripped his hand around my shirt and hooved me to my feet with one arm.
Following my respectless reply I felt a massive fist to my gut.
The impact caused me to gust out the air of my lungs. I tried not to puke.
Still holding me with his other hand he lifted me so I was looking straight in his eyes. He leaned in even further.
"If you go the wrong way, I'll tell you"
This "telling" he was talking about definitely means hurting me again. He seems happy to find any ever so small reason to punish me.
"If you were trying to make it romantic and then kiss me, you definitely really suck at that"
I hit the ground, accelerated by gravity as well as the berserk's sheer power.
I scrambled to my feet and did as he asked. As long as I was still able to.
I began to run in the direction of the town. Until now we were moving along the way I took the day before. We were almost upon the town.
Where did they go? I asked myself, always feeling the massive soldier behind me, racing me in a speed that I feel I could only hold for an hour if I put in all my energy.
As I went into the direction where I saw their camp, I went through every possibility.
Our farm was north of the town. They wouldn't have come that way, because then the whole army could have woken me. It was a similar thing with the road that left to the east. We could have taken a shortcut.
So there's only one other possibility: The road that left at the south end of the town.
When I was small, even before my sister was born, a friend of a father had a herd of sheep and I helped shepherding them. So I knew that this road bend west.
This makes sense. I personally never left the town, but my mother told me there was a bigger town this way. That's where my sister was denied treatment.
I snapped back to reality. Even now my heart was pounding and taking breaths became heavy. My follower showed no sign of slowing down.
I tried to concentrate on running. But my mind had other plans. I thought about my mother again. The breakup was way too fast. It is going to be hard not to think about her during my journey.
I forced myself to think about something else.
I still don't know why they cared so much about me that someone especially came back?
I could not find any not sarcastic answer to this question.
The road turned right. The running was torment. Being a farmer, you seldom need to run a few kilometres in a fast manner, so I struggled.
How far away were they?
Looking at the light spot in the ever more thick fog, I estimated they had a two hour head start. But I was pretty sure they were walking at a comfortable pace.
Speak of the devil. As I finished the thought I was able to make out dark figures in the mist, five hundred metres away.
I was relieved. I feel I would have died if I continued this pace for a few minutes more.
My companion apparently also had seen what I had seen.
And he became faster.
I was sure that it will definitely hurt if he caught me. So I grabbed the straps of my rucksack and started sprinting.
The berserk had no problem keeping up, but he didn't reach out to me.
The last men of the army looked back and saw what was going on and stopped in their tracks
After what seemed to be an eternity, I reached them.
I stopped and put the hands on my knees to catch my breath. My chest hurt like hell and my saliva had a taste of blood.
The men around me were laughing at me and carried on.
The berserk ignored them and took me by the neck.
"You think it's over now?" he asked.
I was too exhausted for a witty reply.
"It only just started. Take off your shoes"
"What?" I panted.
"Take off your shoes"
"You want me to undress myself? That's seems a little sudden"
He hated me anyway, so it really didn't matter at this point.
He tightened his grip around my neck.
"Do as I tell you"
"Okay, okay" I said, wincing of pain.
He released me
I took them off. They were old leather shoes, from even before I was born. I also took of my socks and put them in my shoes.
The floor was cold and the little stones felt like needles. I was used to walking barefoot in the summer, so I was able to ignore most of the pain. But I didn't say that. He probably thought his was very cruel punishment, although walking in wet socks would have been way worse.
The berserk took my shoes and went on. The army has moved hundred metres in the meantime.
I followed him. Trying to escape now would have been stupid.
I faked a mumbled cry every time I stepped down, so he would be content with his way of punishment.
When we caught up to the army, he spoke to the men that stopped before.
"He tried not to join the army. Make sure he doesn't run away."
The berserk went through the crowd. He was visible for a long time.
There go my shoes.
Two of the men were staring at me. Drunken by the power they were given over me.
One of them took of a package, which was attached diagonally at his back.
"Carry this", they ordered me.
"I'm not your donkey"
"We are now in charge of you. You are our donkey"
It was amazing how fast most people thought they were better than someone else.
"Wrong, you were ordered to prevent me from running. Nothing more"
I was sure this didn't matter, but they were simply wrong.
The one with the package bitch-slapped my right cheek. It was pathetic compared to the berserk's touch, but it still hurt.
If those punches kept up, I might get cornea in my face.
He threw me the package. The momentum caused me to catch it against my will.
"Who is going to help you, huh? You're garbage. They don't care about your wellbeing. You will do everything we tell you, not because they gave us that power, but because you can't do anything against it"
One sound of me would mean another slap. So I swallowed my reply and put the strap of my package around my shoulder.
"Wasn't this hard now, was it. I'm Virgil by the way. That right there is Situs"
He pointed at the other man.
"Thank you, but I didn't ask" I was probably going to forget those names anyway.
The other man slapped my left side. At least the cornea is going to be equally distributed on both sides.
This exchange took a few minutes and I realized the army has moved forward.
My two watchers started walking to catch up. I followed them.
The army paced slowly, so everybody could follow. Through the conversations of recruited farmers I could make out the beat of a drum. Virgil and What-was-his-fucking-name-again talked to each other. Nobody made any attempt to talk to me. I heard laughter of a few people around me. They certainly invented certain insults for me. I didn't realize whether they called them out to me. I took no interest in any of their conversations and all of the voices around melted together to unrecognizable sounds.
Every animal has a specific sound and this one definitely applies to the human race.
I didn't think too much throughout the rest of the walk.
Then the army suddenly stopped. Much sooner than I had expected. There was still an hour left before the sun set down. I was grateful. I didn't have much power left and my soles were hurting.
My first watcher (How is he called? Vi...?, Ah fuck this) ordered me:
"Give our tent back"
I was beat from this day, so I hadn't even intended this to be disrespectful.
Then I realized that he meant the package.
Too late. He was already coming towards me, hand raised for another bitch-slap.
Very imaginative with punishing methods.
Quickly, I took of the tent and threw it back to its owner.
It took him in surprise and he only managed to catch it with one hand. But he couldn't hold it, so it slumped... onto his foot.
His face reminded me of the berserk's.
"You'll pay for that!"
I will be dead before I even come near the battlefield.
I hadn't even noticed my other guardian to be dangerously close to me. I turned in the worst moment ever. I noticed the fist a centimetre in front of my face. The turn of my head even amplified the blow.
My sight went black.
I only must've been out a few seconds. I wish it could have been longer. As I came to, I was lying face down on the road. Weary, I noticed I was surrounded by four to five people.
They took turns in kicking me. And how they laughed. Like brats that hurt a loyal dog because their parents neither care to much about them nor ever have told them that this is just wrong.
That's a good metaphor.
It seemed like an eternity. My head hurt. I was struggling for air because of impacts to my ribcage. A kick to my gut caused me to gust out the contents of my stomach. It contained pieces of bread and souse. Some of the sauerkraut from yesterday hung like threats out of my mouth. They stepped back from my head so they didn't have to step into the yellow, sour smelling liquid. But the relentless streak of kicks kept up.
At this point I just waited to lose consciousness again so I don't have to feel the pain. Thing is, I probably will never attain it ever again.
That was okay. Even if there is a hell, it couldn't be much worse than my current situation.
I survived not even one day away from home.