Julie's voice hit his ears first playing a sour note in his noggin, “Bryson, please speak to me, we really need to talk.”
No. The word popped into his head, but never issued from his lips.
“Come on, man, it's not what you think,” came Ian's voice through the window.
I'm sorry, the dagger in my back will not allow me to comply.
“We're not going to give up until you come out and talk to us,” Julie reported.
Give up trying to talk to me, or give up humping each other’s brains out.
“Will you please just come out and talk to us?” Ian pleaded.
Nevermore, quoth the raven.
They issued a few more pleas, but with pillows over ears, Bryson refused to hear them. Not only that, but he seemed to have fallen asleep during the barrage, after all heartbreak can take a lot out of a man. In his twisted dreams toy soldiers blasted the hell out of invisible aliens, cheating girlfriends, and conniving best friends. When he woke up three hours later to the DVD menu for Predator he knew what he would do: join the military.
Of course, it wouldn't be that easy; for a freshly graduated former high school student he was grossly out of shape. Besides his short stint in sports, what little physical education he had to take during high school he never took seriously. So to make boot camp easier he started getting up in the mornings to walk, run, or bike. It was the only time he'd leave the house, and he made sure to go as early as possible to keep from running into either of “them” which is how he started referring to Ian and Julie a few days after the incident. Dehumanization was his friend.
During the day he remained in his room except to eat and use the bathroom. His parents wondered what was up with him, but he refused to answer any questions, after all, he knew they would just think he was overreacting and that this was just a phase. While he was in his room he watched movies and researched the military on the net to determine what field would be the best for him. The Air Force would be easy, but it would be far too easy for a guy who wanted to kick his life into high gear, and he didn't want to go into the Navy because he knew he didn't want to ever be referred to as a “Seamen.” The Army was a viable choice, but most people chose to go into the Army, it was the biggest branch of the military after all. He wanted a challenge and to become a badass, so the only choice was the United States Marine Corp.
For a month straight he kept up his routine, and “they” kept their routine as well. Every day like clockwork Bryson's mother would come to his door telling him that “they” wanted to talk to him, and every day he would tell his mom that he didn't want to speak to “them”. Every day after the rejection “they” would appear at his window pleading to speak to him, and he would remain as quiet as a church mouse until “they” left. By the end of that month since the incident he had steeled himself against the attack so that he was able to keep his functionality, he would even routinely do sit-ups or pushups as “they” shouted through the window.
When that month was up he knew his next course of action. After he finished with his run that morning he ran a little further right down to the Marine recruiter's office. When he walked through the door he was nearly blown back outside by the excellence and honor that exuded from the office. Marine Corp decor littered the walls, as well as motivational posters that weren't cheesy but instead badass, and he never thought that was possible. The recruiter behind the desk made him think of the Spartans of old, he exuded a confidence that didn't feel like it derived from an ego in the least bit. At the same time Bryson felt both at home and proud that he made the right decision and slightly intimidated by this gladiator sitting behind his desk.
He proceeded to step in before the recruiter and made no bones about what he wanted, he wanted to join up and ship out as soon as was humanly possible. Staff Sergeant Blake smiled and told him that there was an Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test available today, or he could schedule one for next week if he wanted to study. When he told Blake that he wanted to take the test today, the recruiter gave him a look of incredulity and told him testing starts in an hour. S. Sgt. Blake reached into a drawer in the desk that stood between them, and pulled out a book and handed it to Bryson, “I recommend you give this a once over before the test starts.”
Bryson took the book and sat down in a chair across the room and began to look through it, but wasn't really taking much in. For one thing the intimidation of the warrior sitting across the room coupled with the thought that in a few hours his life would probably be changed forever stalled his mental progress. On top of that the other testers were starting to file into the office taking seats next to him. Increasing his nervousness was the fact that a few of them had gone to school with him, but luckily he didn't know any of them closer than a fleeting glance here and there.
The hour passed fitfully slow, and then the recruiter called them all into the back room where they were to all take the computer test together. After they finished the preliminaries, Bryson felt at ease once he started taking the actual test. He scored high on the SAT and the ACT so he knew he'd ace an aptitude test to enter the military no problem. He was the first finished, and when the score was tabulated by the computer he had achieved an overall score of 77, allowing him his pick of any job he wanted in the military. He already knew he was going to pick Intelligence, but he still had another obstacle to overcome before he could say he was ready for boot: Medical Expenditure Panel Survey or MEPS. He had to pass the physical to get into the military and before he could choose his Military Occupation Specialty.
Here in the MEPS office he sat waiting for the trip out to Paris Island. He had been sworn in, he had passed his physicals, he had filled out all the paperwork, and he had picked his occupational specialty. He didn’t get Intel though; his choice to leave earlier didn’t coincide with the dates of Intelligence training. Instead he was going to be working Motor Transport which Sgt. Thompson jokingly referred to as “Grunts on Wheels”. While Bryson was a little disappointed by the job change he took it willingly to be rid of the history of this place, to be rid of “them”.
One month ago everything had changed. All it took was one moment to determine a course for the rest of his life. Now, here he stood waiting to board a van that would take him up the east coast to the Marine Corp training facility in Paris Island, SC. Where he would go after that he did not know, he just knew it would be far away from “them”.
He found a spot in the back of the van, and looked around at all the families with freshly minted recruits about to board the van and leave on their way to a life of bravery and American tradition. As he looked out the window behind him he thought he saw Ian in the parking lot looking directly at him. He turned and looked the other way and never looked back. This was a time for moving forward, he could never turn back.