The Recruiter

You know how the recruiter came among us: she sidled up. She stood behind our line. Until then, we’d admired the ease with which we could form it, after evenings of rehearsal. When Micah called “Break!” we rushed outside, eagerly into the field, our cleats churning the mud. We squeezed together, our elbows pressed into our ribs while dusk cooled.

Then the recruiter appeared, on the sidelines. Undaunted, we went through our maneuvers. Micah called “Strike!” and we closed ranks. We instinctively formed a ring and tried to dissuade her.

She slipped right through, though; she appeared on the other side. Trapped within, she worked to entice us. She approached each one in turn, whispering lies. She’d been an only child, and nearly a stillbirth. She grew up the lonely plaything of idle rich.

We parted shoulders, just enough. Our arms fell loose to our sides, our hands unclasping for an instant. She slipped outside, dragging Alp. He came free with a tug. It was either that, or pull his arm out of the socket—she was a twisty one. Sprinting, she guided our line-mate directly across the field.

The morning fog steamed forth, billowing out of the holes that our practice had bored in the earth. Micah called “Peak!” and our line reformed, though less eagerly than before.

By the time the fog had burned off, the recruiter returned. She came inside again and stepped straight toward me, unblinking. Her mouth was set in a hard, bloodless slit, turned neither up nor down.

Our formation shuddered. I found my hand suddenly empty. At once, the recruiter’s was there to fill it. “Hello,” she said.

This time, the line easily parted.

The recruiter led me across the field, her palm warm and damp. The dewy grass still bore Alp’s prints, leading through the sections our practice had destroyed.

I didn’t ask where we were going; I knew the recruiter would never answer. Nonetheless she whispered, her breath in my ear, “You’ll like it there. Whatever you do, don’t look back.”

You know—I did and I didn’t.