CHAPTER TWELVE: WARD (1/4)

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"How f-far?" Cef asked

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"How f-far?" Cef asked.

"Not far," Sol said, though he wasn't sure himself. He couldn't recall ever being so cold. Every part of him ached with it. He'd hoped the two-mile hike to camp would warm his frozen feet, but every step on the frosted ground only seemed to beat the cold deeper into them.

"Does the sun ever rise in this country?" Archie asked, his voice trembling. "I feel like it's been night forever. What time it is, anyway?"

"Sometime after four, I think," Sol said.

"Only four? Damn. I thought it was cold on the train. I hope they got beds at camp."

"Me too; I'm not sleeping on straw again. I'm gonna stink like horse for the rest of the week."

He was only half kidding; the train that had shuttled them there had been a cattle transport. He and two-thousand other men had been herded into boxcars like sheep with nothing to sit or sleep on for fifteen hours but hard straw. Sleep was all but impossible since it was too crowded to lie down. Fortunately, the sights of the passing towns kept them entertained for much of the journey, but as the night thickened and the cold set in, the last few hours had dragged terribly.

"Hey!" Archie said. "Is that it?"

Sol looked ahead and spied the dim lights of a camp looming. The sight gave the marching men a much needed boost as they picked up their pace for the last quarter-mile.

Upon reaching the camp, the men were rewarded with steaming cups of coffee which they cheered to receive. Sol let his cup warm his hands for several minutes before gulping it all down in one go. He'd been put off coffee back in the American camps where a rumour spread that it was laced with some chemical designed to subdue their libidos, but he was so cold that he would have drank river water if it had been hot enough.

"Once you've finished your coffee, make your way to your assigned barracks to sleep!" an officer shouted over their heads.

"Sleep?" Ceferino said.

"Sleep," Sol confirmed. "Come on, let's go find our barracks."

"You reckon there's any chance of getting a hot bath?" Archie muttered to Sol as they walked.

Sol smiled. "Somehow I doubt it."

They soon reached their barracks where the reality of their new life began to dawn on them.

"Where beds?" Ceferino said, looking around the bare room.

Sol slipped his backpack from his shoulders and took out his blanket. "I don't think there are any."

Archie and Cef swore.

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