We reached at midnight. Well, 11 o'clock, if you care that much, but anyway. The bus came to a slow and gradual halt, backed & jumped forward, backed again and, basically went on like that for an unnecessary while, as if panting after the winding road here. A loud "Ppsshhhttt!!" from yonder and the doors opened, releasing us into the dark wilderness.
We have been given a room. Three of us in here, well stocked with food supplies and mandatory furniture. Every morning, waking early, we see the sun rise from behind the hills in the distant horizon. The fog lifts gently, up over the thickly set trees. The sun puts the sky in an orange hue, the fog fluffs are white-grey and the trees are a deep, dense green - the scenery is breathtaking. We sit on our beds and look outside at the valley glistening in the morning sun, through our mosquito netted windows.
The day is spent mostly in learning to do our own laundry, maintaining our room and getting to know the new neighbours. We dont go out much. Occasionally, we must step out for gentle exercise and the fresh air. But never too often, or for too long. Outside is their territory. Humanity only reigns till the bounds of our settlement here.
I have heard tales - of horror, of fear, of shock and of awe - from fellow inmates. They are the survivors, the ones who returned. In hushed tones, they tell their stories. Some assume a false bravado, while most speak stoically as if struggling to rein their prevalent emotions. All look of them constantly glance around, fearfully, jumping at sudden noises. Its their eyes that tell the real tales - looking around furtively, as if in a constant attempt to watch everything at once.
As the evening sets in. we descend to our dinner shack below. Meals are all eaten in the false optimism and cheerfulness that a large group ensures. The bravado of boys who would be men now. Its the evenings that are most dangerous. None step out after dark. Perhaps a few in the late morning or the afternoon, but never the evening. This is their time. They prowl outside our settlement in packs, looking for strays from amongst us. They look at us with their glowing eyes, promising encounters soon. Very soon.
The nights are very quiet. We lie down to sleep in safety, but also in constant awareness of what awaits us outside, once classes begin. The distant howls of nocturnal creatures conjoin with their sounds of revelry. The sounds seem more ominous each time, as each day counts down to that day. I can almost see them now, pointing at me. The red eyes. And on those blood-stained lips the cry - "Oi! Freshies!!"
They come. They come.