Here is day seven of my NaNoWriMo novel. See this post for more details, and an index of all posts.
They are pulled back the next day. They hop on the truck and wait out the long drive, except this time they smell bad and they’re sick of each other. The open road is refreshing after the claustrophobic deep woods and trenches, but they are walled in by each other and that’s enough to set them on edge.
Charlie is looking out the back just outside Montreal when he sees a pack of wolves in the woods. Their proud bodies are pointed in his direction, and they seem to be seeing the soldiers out of their land. Charlie stares them back, and tries to look menacing. They are not afraid.
The truck rumbles onto the bridge. A salute from the gunners stationed there, and they’re ten metres above a sheet of solid ice. If the truck fell off the bridge, he’s not sure if they would plunge through the ice or just crack it enough to slowly sink in. He doesn’t like to think about the ice. Charlie, like most people who grew up in the compound, doesn’t know how to swim very well. The army makes everyone learn, but a pool isn’t the same thing as a river. And there isn’t a body of water around that’s swimmable, not since the war.
When they arrive at headquarters, Charlie showers with his fatigues on. They go into the big washing machine anyways, and it’s easier to peel out of them when they’re wet, strangely enough. It takes almost twenty minutes in the shower before all the caked-on dirt and grime is gone. You could grow a garden in the bottom of the shower by the time they’re done. They reluctantly scrape away the dirt with a dustpan; Captain Dave will be around in ten minutes to inspect.
The lights are back on, so when they finish cleaning up after themselves, they schlep back to the dev room. The time is 3pm, and half of them were in the middle of their builds. The combination of unfinished tasks and their glee at being able to sit down in padded office chairs puts them in the mood right away. Charlie has forgotten about the lump of charcoal in his belly, and the pain has faded. Right now, he’s distracted by Ekaterina and her stupid program. She’s so proud of it, it’s like she’s invented the algorithm. Charlie goes to bug someone else.
At 5pm, they disperse like flies from a fire. The H&R tower looks like it has coughed up a fur ball, which is now running in all directions to residences scattered about the old city.
Charlie pauses at a crosswalk and looks up at the tower. It’s old, but it’s more modern than any other building around it. Simple and box-like, it has sides that are plain, matte grey panels. It isn’t tall, but it is scary and imposing. Something about its blocky stature reminds Charlie of a schoolyard bully. Not the kind that you could outsmart, but the kind that could destroy your mind, your body, and your will. Charlie can’t shake the feeling of being watched as he navigates to a crumbling stone building. The building is ringed by a cast-iron fence with spear-tops. Next to the building’s door, there is an army helmet hanging on a spearhead. The helmet is worn and faded. Nothing binds it in place but gravity, but nothing has moved it in fifty years. Charlie gives it a casual salute before entering the building.