You ever got so drunk that you can't remember your own name?
Me neither, but that must look a lot like the way I feel now; my head's spinning, and I can't see or hear anything.
I try to remember who I am and what happened to me, but trying to access my memories hurts.
Fuck, everything hurts.
I hear someone tell someone else to wake up.
Who am I?
I ignore the pain and try to push deeper in my brain.
Not the slippery kind of nothing, like when you try to remember a dream you just made, no:
A solid wall of emptiness, like my mind was a blank slate or stuff.
Then, I'm falling.
I don't know from where I'm falling, but it's not high as I hit the floor almost instantly.
It's so cold my malfunctioning mind thinks I landed on ice, but I know it's just steel.
"Listen up, troopers! We are the Union, and so are you now! Each of you will train to become a soldier; those too weak will die, only the strong survives, in the Union.
I get up on my feet and look around.
There are kids, most around seven years old and wearing gray jumpsuits, all scared and holding back tears.
Apparently, they were pushed off their beds, like me.
Beds… I look at mine.
It's all green, no sheets, no pillow, heck no mattress.
Over it is a metal plate with writings on it.
Black Company, E Division, 1st Recon Battalion, Tango Squad.
Ethan Black. I like it.
Of course, a little voice in the back of my brain tells me what I like doesn't really matter anymore.
Did it ever do?
Before I can question myself further, however, a bunch of angry looking mans in uniform push me and the others out of the room, giving a kick in the ribs of one kid that was too slow.
Once outside, I realize it was not a room but one of those buildings soldiers use in the movies… A barrack.
Next thing I realize is that the sun is not yet up.
There are many more buildings like that one all around and children are pouring out of each one.
I bump in something hard as a brick wall and have to blink twice for my eyes to focus on the face that's looking at me.
It's a she.
She's got a full two heads more than I do.
I smile awkwardly.
"Hiya! What's your name?"
… Too friendly, but at least she's not punching my face for bumping into her.
"Ethan, apparently… And you?"
"Naomie. Black Company, E Division, 1st Recon Battalion, Tango Squad… That's what the thing over my bed said anyway… You know what's going on?"
"If I do, I don't remember."
She seems to think for a second… Doesn't look easy.
"Hmm… Maybe we could watch over each others, you look smart and I'm tough, perfect combo!"
I nod slowly.
I'm smaller and younger than anyone else here, so I guess that makes me weak, and only the strong survive…
"Goodie, now what?"
"We wait and see what's next, then, we improvise."
"And try to find a way to stay warm if they keep us out here for too long."
Heck, it's so cold my feet are sticking to the asphalt
"I want every company to form into ten rows with ten recruits in each! NOW!"
I can't see who's talking, but I still take place behind one of the other kids, next to Naomie, holding her hand to avoid getting separated as other kids take their place in the ranks before getting beaten.
There is a lot of shouting and crying, but we finally get into a decent square formation.
I still don't let go of Naomie's hand.
"Alright," the same voice announces, "We are going to run around the complex until the sun is up. Stragglers will be beaten, to death if needed. The Union has no patience for weakness! Move out!"
And with that, we start running, fast.
To the older kids, it's just a jog, but I almost have to sprint.
Before ten minutes have passed, I'm out of breath, my legs are on fire, my ribs are killing me, so are my lungs and I threw up twice.
Well, at least I know my last meal had carrots in it.
I trip for the hundredth time, but Noemie keeps me on my feet.
Everyone is out of breath and limping along as best they can, but not her, she just keeps running like she was some kind of robot. From then, all I focus on is her, the way she takes a breath, hold it, release it… It's hypnotizing.
Then, before I know it, the man orders us to stop and head back to our barracks for breakfast.
I learn, a few hours later as we are eating some weird goo, that she's a ballerina since she's three.
I ask how she remembers and she gets a weird look.
"I don't know… I… It just came to me, like that, I knew it…"
I focus on that blank spot of my brain, scanning it, prodding it.
I feel like crying, but only babies cry.
Only the weak show their pain.
We spend the rest of the day in a dark room, watching war and horror movies.
I ask a man in uniform how it's supposed to make us better soldiers and he growl something about correct mind set.