Friday, July 17, 2009


I added labels yesterday and it occurred to me an had only a single post that included content, and a DIFFERENT post that included a writing sample, so I decided to pull a piece in that was sort of exciting but didn't give much away. This is from Chapter 8. “Pledge, we have business with you!” Kurt yawned and said, “sir, yes sir.” It had taken a lot of pounding on his dormitory door to wake him. The pounding had entered his dreams and played a role until now. He had squinted at the clock, 5:30 a.m. They led him through his hall, clad only in boxer shorts and a t-shirt. Doors opened as his hall mates peeked out to see what the racket was about. He descended the stairs between four masked men, though he recognized it for hazing, so he wasn’t actually afraid. Outside, the cold cement nipped his bare feet and the hairs on his legs bristled, erect. He was pushed into a covered pick-up bed between three other bodies. They all lay face down as they’d been pushed in. The pick-up bed closed and the engine rumbled as somebody drove. “Who else is here?” He whispered. “Quiet Pledge!” Kurt cursed himself for his mistake. Apparently a senior member was riding in the back with them. He wouldn’t make the same mistake again. They drove on for a long time. The road wound slowly down a long hill then flattened as they drove in the winding darkness. As they climbed out, they were blindfolded. With difficulty, they were marched up a steep path. There was the unmistakable sound of a generator, masking the sound of water. Then they were corralled into something metal that didn’t feel particularly stable, but once inside, there were benches. Kurt kept bumping people as he found his place along the bench, the ground below him swayed uncomfortably and then there was a lurch. Movement in one direction was added to the swaying. Kurt decided they were in some sort of gondola. He thought of the ski lifts near his home, but this wasn’t rising quite that sharply and felt too rickety; it was definitely older. Then the gondola jerked to a stop and they were slowly herded out. The water sound here was louder away from the generator. Where he stood though, felt rocky. They followed a sandy path and then they were told to stop and stay still. What followed was a sweet, smoky smell that Kurt was relieved wasn’t marijuana. He’d hate to be a blind prisoner of a bunch of high people when they were apparently on rocks by a river. After a short while he felt himself herded into a stark coolness that allowed no light at all to filter under his blindfold. “Hold out your right arm and move until you feel the wall.” Kurt did as commanded. “Now walk until you are told to stop.” The wall was rock, unfinished rock. Kurt knew this was a cave. He liked caves, but he hoped his captors were familiar. Caves could hold undesirable surprises, and he didn’t want to meet one while he was blindfolded. They were told to stop about forty steps in and Kurt heard a scraping, like the sliding of wood against rock. They were then made to crawl through an area with a low ceiling, and finally they were told they could stand and take off their blindfold. Not that it helped. They were in pitch blackness. “Hold perfectly still.” There was a very faint whistle and then a rustling. It felt as if they were in the midst of an autumn storm, leaves whipping their faces. One of his fellow pledges screamed and thrashed at his head, an activity that apparently made things worse, as his screeching grew more frantic, but then it stopped and they walked again. They followed a complex system of turns and finally arrived at a dimly lit room with a cage. They heard another mechanical noise, so loud it nearly overwhelmed him. When a rudimentary lift arrived, Kurt understood. They all climbed on and descended the equivalent of several floors. Once they were off the lift, Kurt observed the white dripping walls. They walked down a tunnel and were forced into boats which crossed the strange, white lake that radiated cold much stronger than the cold of the cave. They got out of boats and went down a long, winding tunnel, until they came to a large open ‘room’. Masked faces stood about in a small circle and the pledges were moved inside the ring.
Kurt had to admit the effects were pretty wicked. Candles gave a flickering light that caused leaping shadows. The pledges were on their knees in a circle and in the center was a small urn of some sort with aromatic smoke seeping from small holes in the sides. A figure stepped forward in a horned mask. He seemed to glow. He asked each of them in turn, “why do you wish to pledge Kappa Upsilon?” He then began in a different place and asked each “what do you value most?” And finally he asked, “What is your greatest weakness?” This last was asked with a menacing voice and Kurt, transfixed but unbelieving, said, ‘Cynicism.” Another figure then stepped forward with a small ceramic bowl full of some paste. He smeared some under each of their noses and Kurt felt immediately light headed.
The figure who had stood at the front of the room, completely still, began to speak in another language. Kurt thought it might be Greek, but he wasn’t sure. Then another figure stepped forward and put a card face down in front of each of them.
He told them all to turn their cards over. Kurt saw it was a tarot card, the hanged man. He was still questioning the meaning when all went black.

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