I stand just slightly back from Madam Katelyn as I don’t want to give the impression that I’m annoyed at her pace. She leads me across the quiet compound, her eyes point ahead, sharp and ready--unlike the women that are around me. Most of the lines have vanished now, only a couple remain, as they tread their feet simultaneously behind their supervisors.
“Where are all the men?” I say.
I know this isn’t an all-women’s Academy, I remember the website advertising it for both genders.
“Women and men are separated,” she says. “The men’s camp is at the other side of the Academy.”
“The other side?” I mumble, trying to see past the many small buildings to catch a glimpse of further into this prison.
It must be much bigger than I thought.
“The women and men are separated into groups,” she explains. “Your group is C.”
“The groups are letters?”
“Ranked by what?”
I watch as she grins to herself, and she looks over her shoulder to meet my eyes before replying. “By behaviour.”
“So, my group, C,” I say. “The women aren’t compliant?”
“Well, are you compliant?”
“No,” I say.
“Then there’s your answer.”
“But the women in my group won’t all be new, will they?” I say. “So, even the ones that have been here who knows how long are still resistant.”
“That brain of yours is going to be my bane,” she says through clenched teeth. “The women in your group are compliant to a degree, but they are not ready to be promoted to B.”
“So, there’s only three groups?”
“No,” she says. “There are four.”
I think about that, scratching my chin as I consider it. If I am to be in group C, a group that fits me well considering I just insulted Duncan to a dangerous degree, then what could be worse than that?
“So, who is in group D?” I ask.
“Pray you never meet them,” she says.
That’s all she’s going to give me on the subject, so I remain silent, letting it go, as I follow her into an isolated, pebbled cabin with a dusty, grey door. The inside of the cabin is plain as can be--the walls are black, the floor is just a long strip of concrete, and it smells of damp crust, making my nostrils flare.
“This is your living quarters,” she says. “The entire group C sleep here. However, you will share a dorm with seven other members. I am the supervisor of your dorm.”
“But not the group,” I say.
“No, there are five of us.”
I do the math instantly. “So, if there are eight per dorm, that makes forty members.”
“Fifty-five,” she says, giving me a side-ways smirk of amusement. “We make adjustments when members are downgraded or upgraded.”
“And how many are in group D?”
She doesn’t answer that, angering me on purpose. She opens a door at the end of the long path, it creaks open--unleashing a dark, padded room that hosts exactly eight beds. Four against one wall, and four opposite. The beds are single, low and only have a thin piece of quilt that is spread over each bed perfectly with a flattened pillow at the top. I glance my eyes across the walls, searching for a window, but there isn’t one. It’s a box room, and the only light that is visible comes from three lit lanterns that are nailed to the walls.
Just like home, I think to myself. Although, at least at home I had electricity--this is genuine time-travel torture.
“Beds must be made every morning to my standard,” she says as she opens a drawer beside the furthest bed on the right. It’s the closest bed to the door, but farthest from the lanterns. “If it is not made to my standard, you will redo it until it is.”
I mentally make a note of all the beds at this moment in time so I’ll remember how to make it to her ‘standard’ in the morning.
“This one is yours,” she continues, pointing her eyes to the bed she is stood at. She holds a neatly folded uniform in her arms and walks over to me. “These are your clothes. You will find extras in your drawers. Each night you are to deliver them to the laundry room and those on duty will have them cleaned and put back in your drawers the next day. You will eat once a day, at breakfast, and you are required to tie your hair back.”
She throws the uniform into my stomach and I clench my teeth as I take them from her grasp. I begin to unfold them, rubbing my fingers idly along the soft cotton.
“Get changed,” she says. “You have two minutes.”
She just smiles at me, darkly and scarily.
“Right,” I whisper, turning away from her with a frown. “Work.”