“Make the call.” He growled at no one in particular, before stomping over to the phone in uneven, sleep-deprived steps. I felt like I should say something, do something to stop the horror that was unfolding. But I didn’t. I had only slept in bits and snippets over the last forty-eight hours, and I was simply too apathetic to really care.
The day before, my alarm had rang and rang in banshee style at four thirty in the morning. At first, I thought it was a cruel prank or ugly dream. I groggily checked my watch. I had gone to bed at two-thirty, and slept for a monstrous two hours. Dimly, I thought about how I had classes that lasted longer than two hours. I was utterly drained. But the new routine did seem to have promise. My alarm was still shrieking, and Longhorn was writhing in angry discontent. Every easy aspect of life was trouble. I was able to get dressed, barely, but shoe tying was a six minute struggle. Finally, I trudged over to the back of the cafeteria. I was certain that no one would be standing there, and that it was all an elaborate hoax.
But, in the early morning gloam, exhaust writhed around too-bright tailpipes, and everyone was there, gloomily rubbing appendages and looking around blankly. We boarded the vans were like the undead. Rigidly, with unseeing eyes, we rode to the lake in even rows, with the bumps and permutations of the road causing people to twitch and jerk awake. Then, we rowed, cold brown water sloughing over into the boats, and onto pale flesh in the early morning. I couldn’t conceive of why I had signed up for this fun voluntarily. At a quarter to seven, I was back at my room. I had Acting at 9. I could sleep for two more hours, and get four hours, if two and two doubled still meant four. At 8:30, I turned the alarm off and skipped class, calmly sleeping until noon.
Things were exactly the same at the present. I had again foolishly stayed up inordinately late. I had slept for two hours. I had let my alarm ring extra to annoy Longhorn. The shoes were easier to solve, because I had laced them loose the night before, and merely slipped them on. However, most of the team had been missing at the pickup. Instead of simply boarding the vans with what remnant he had, the Coach had decided to call each person who was not there. Crabby roommates answered phones, woke the appropriate parties, and in a short while, disheveled parties straggled out, and in a haze, all three-quarters of the original team made the trip to the lake.
Weeks blurred. Even though I had the best intentions of getting into bed early, and sleeping, dorm life precluded that. In retaliation for my early mornings, Longhorn would open and close the door loudly, and tramp in and out, often with guests when I was sleeping at my odd times. I then refused to answer my name at roll-call one morning, causing the Coach to call my half-empty room and wake Longhorn a half hour after I had already left. Life was becoming difficult. I was misplacing things, forgetting others, and speaking in simple one syllable words. I had also taken all of my semester absences from Acting in a two week span, and been caught sleeping in another course four times.
Occasionally, Party and I would agree to skip practice. The night before, we would unhook our phones, and rest peacefully. Unfortunately, every action has a reaction. After a couple absences, the Coach sent people into our dorm to bang on our doors to wake us. I appreciated the effect this had on Longhorn, and his overall persistence. But it was still a dastardly thing to do. But, Coach had to be desperate and innovative.
When practices had started, we had enough men and women to crew eight full eight person boats. After four weeks, there were only twenty-eight survivors left. The lure of the drug of sleep was a real force that led to serious attrition. Yet, Party and I, and the remnants stayed. We didn’t know why we stayed. It wasn’t because of skill, because we could tell that we had next to none. It wasn’t because we loved rowing. We stayed, because our brains were mush from a lack of sleep and susceptible. We stayed, because despite our best efforts to avoid one, we were now members of a campus cult