Chapter 20 – Immersion
In his ears came a cacophony of chirping, it was like he was sitting in the airport outside the coffee house, and the deafening noise launched a deadly attack one after another, Renly subconsciously waved his hand, trying to drive away that irritation, but found that his muscles were stiff and could not move at all, which made him panic a little. But no matter how hard he tried and how hard he struggled, he just couldn’t move, he couldn’t even move a little finger, as if he was being pressed into bed by a ghost.
“Get up! Gather!”
The thunderous sound exploded in his ears, and Renly sat up straight, his eyes only slightly open, the piercing light burst in, stinging his pupils. When he closed his eyes and opened them again, they finally adjusted to the light, and several soldiers appeared in front of him, roughly lifting the covers off each of them and yelling, “Gather! Gather!”.
Not waiting for them to come over, Renly quickly got out of bed, the pain coming from his thighs and arms almost made him suffocate, clenching his teeth in order not to cry out, as quickly as possible he took his socks to put them on and after some thought, he simply put both pairs of socks on so that at least there would be a little less friction, and then he put his boots on and got up while fumbling.
Glancing behind him, Rami was also lacing up his shoes, and James on the other side of the room had also stood up, but the two large suitcases occupied the aisle, so he stood up in a really funny way. James and Renly exchanged a look, and he showed a helpless smile, “I think I will not be able to survive till the last day.”
Renly couldn’t help but smirk, “It’s only your first day.”
Several people quickly scattered outside the barrack at a fast pace, hearing the shouting getting harsher and more ferocious, without the slightest sign of relenting, Renly only had time to use his vision to quickly scan around, Richard was lying on the bedpan like a real corpse, without any movement. However, at this time, Renly had no time and no energy to worry about the others, withdrawing his gaze, he quickly ran out.
The world outside is still dark, the sky is full of stars sprinkled throughout the sky, it is so cold that people cannot help but shiver, it is still summertime, but they felt that the winter came early.
It was around 2:00 or 3:00 am currently, which was far from 6:00 am, that was supposed to be the time when the training would start, therefore, Renly could not help but remember Tim’s advice. Sure enough, Tim was not talking about the next nine days of the program, the first day is not even over, the long first day, as if there was no end in sight.
At 3:00 am., a four-mile off-road run with weights started, Renly didn’t even know if he had a gun or a rock in his backpack, and even the water bottle he carried with him felt like a burden – but luckily, he kept his reason and didn’t throw it away, though he also consistently felt that he didn’t even have the strength to throw it away.
He didn’t know if it was because his muscles had gone completely numb and lost the sense of pain, or because after the previous drills, he had begun to initially adapt to such intensity, but his mind slowly began to function again.
Renly knew that what they were experiencing right now was just a drop in the ocean compared to those soldiers who had actually experienced war, and even for a ten-day boot camp, this was just the beginning; but he couldn’t help but ponder whether the shock of seeing the inhumane hell on earth after Eugene had walked onto the battlefield with a passionate heart was like this: from shock to revulsion, to fear, to numbness, and finally to confusion.
It’s like when he saw Richard just now.
Leaving aside his little conflict with Richard, which was not worth mentioning, after his mental exhaustion reached its extreme, he gradually began to lose the ability to feel his surroundings, perhaps, at first he lost only fear, just like a forensic scientist or a police officer, where death is commonplace; but slowly, those emotions that define humanity also began to fade away, he had no way to perceive pain, he had no way to feel compassion, he had no way to remain firm in his beliefs, he began to become indifferent, becoming wooden, and he started taking things for granted.
Renly clearly remembered a scene in “The Pacific”: Eugene pried open the mouth of a dead man to dig out the gold teeth in the mouth of the Japanese soldier.
Before that, Eugene always refused to do so, and even felt sick to his stomach from the anguish, which went against his beliefs: the dead had passed away, at least give enough respect to the dead, there is no need to show the most vile, greedy, ugly face of human nature for a little gold. This also made him at the very beginning, very repulsed by the indifferent Merriell Shelton, and the relationship between the two people was far from friendly.
However, that day, Eugene’s world finally collapsed, and after the Japanese soldiers used a civilian pregnant woman as a human bomb, he seemed like he lost his sanity, uncaringly trying to pry open a corpse that had been dead for a long time and whose flesh and blood had begun to decay and dig out the gold teeth inside. The madness and paranoia of that moment was completely out of control.
At this moment, Renly for the first time felt the deep struggle and collapse of Eugene’s heart, as if his soul had been torn apart rigidly. However, this was only a tiny sensation, it is difficult to accurately describe it in words, or rather, people who have not really experienced the battlefield, cannot really experience the despair of falling apart, how painful this transformation is actually, while the surface of the wind and waves is calm, you cannot see the inner changes of the sea. His heart sank a bit.
Renly could not help but think of Tim, perhaps, they can become friends, they could also interact. Tim can help him to understand the reality of the battlefield, the difference between the reality and books and movies.
Looking over at Rami and James who were persevering beside him side by side, unaware that they were becoming companions to each other. James grinned, saying out of breath, “I know I’m attractive, but I’m not interested in men.” That line of banter caused both Renly and Rami to laugh out loud, and even a small circle of people next to them followed with light laughter, with another person behind them saying playfully, “Unfortunately, men aren’t interested in you either.” At this point, everyone burst out laughing.
Apart from introducing themselves, they didn’t have time to talk at all, but the familiarity between them slowly grew in the air.
At least for one thing, Renly was right. After the four-mile run, they only got a two-hour break before they resumed their training, with Renly not even remembering what he ate for breakfast, he just gobbled it all down.
During the meal, Renly heard that the entire camp did not have dinner last night, and everyone slept hungry through the night. He thought he was the only one unlucky enough to miss dinner because he had passed out, but after hearing this news he felt alleviated, “At least I got a good night’s sleep last night”.
James, who was sitting across the table, rolled his eyes.
The next day’s training was another lengthy one. In addition to the previous basic training, they also had a real battlefield simulation – the same as a field game with a paintball gun, except instead of a paintball gun, they were armed with blanks*, which don’t hurt when they hit, but the hammer-like impact is enough to bring people down.
What’s even more frightening is that, because it was the first time they trained for real combat, not only did everyone have no tacit understanding, as they were in separate formations, and there were really no tactics to speak of. Facing an enemy team made up of real soldiers, they were all wiped out in just under fifteen minutes, while only two from the other team were injured.
Before the second round of training began, the Lieutenant leading the team formally explained tactics to them, including analysis of the terrain, analysis of the enemy’s formation, and the distribution of guns and ammunition, each according to their positions in the episode to match it. This round of training still ended with the entire team of actors losing, but they lasted thirty-five minutes and managed to take down three people from the opposing camp.
It was an improvement, though very small one.
In the evening, after finishing the 800-meter off-road obstacle run training, they were finally able to get some time off. From yesterday’s admission to the barracks, there was hardly any chance to rest peacefully in twenty-four hours, so most of the actors thought that there would be no more training tonight. But for this, Renly had some reservations.
Three hours later, the folks of Barracks Three were lying in pieces with their limbs scattered in a crumbling wasteland, surrounded entirely by wilderness, having just marched all the way through the darkness, not knowing the direction or the time, and with nothing but a compass to tell the direction.
The Lieutenant explained that a night attack would be carried out in forty-five minutes.
Renly tried to stretch his jacket, but it didn’t work at all, this ruin was full of wind holes on all sides, it looked like a sieve, the biting cold wind was everywhere, he was wearing a close-fitting underwear, a shirt and a jacket, which couldn’t resist the cold at all, but the absurd thing is that it’s only July, how ironic.
Turning his head, he looked at Rami, who was cowering in the corner, hugging his backpack in his arms, curled up like a koala, keeping himself as warm as possible; James, who was sitting next to him, looked not much better, taking off his socks and then using them as gloves on his hands, examining the way in which he was supposed to shrink his hands into the cuffs.
Renly shook his head speechlessly, then took off his boots, took off a pair of socks, and handed them over. Seeing James’ puzzled look, he explained, “Before we left, I put on two pairs of socks.”
James immediately widened his eyes in surprise, and that expression looked a little funny in the midst of the moonlight, “Man, you’re a real lifesaver.”
“Two cigarettes”, Renly said, looking at James outstretched hand, putting his socks back for a while. On the real battlefield, it is normal for comrades to help each-other, and the only thing they can circulate are cigarettes, which is a luxury. Now, Renly brought this custom over with him.
James grinded his teeth, snatched a pair of socks, then stuffed one into Rami’s arms, “one cigarette.” Then he rolled up the remaining sock and stuffed it into his back pocket, and finally shoved his feet directly into it, which looked so comical that even Rami couldn’t help but stare at him.
In the cold wind, they were like the dead leaves hanging on top of the branches at the end of autumn, shivering but still unwilling to fall. This, indeed, feels a bit like a real battlefield.