The next few months passed by without a visit from Dr. Karon, and Minubar kept her distance. Since school and wife-training classes were seen as unnecessary for the girls of A building, they were idle and unfocused and tended to get into trouble. They got into frequent fights with one another or caused mischief in the compound by making bombs from sacks of flour and javelins from clothesline poles. It took a special occasion to get the girls to work together. One such morning, Sevara entered A building’s main hall to the sounds chair legs scraping across the hard floor. Girls ran back and forth, carrying supplies. Orly shouted instructions.
“Put that mattress on top of the other one! Good, now take those beds apart. Oh good, Sevara’s here.”
Sevara stowed her school things in her room and joined the others. Another auction had just finished. A small gathering of grooms had shown up and purchased some girls from E, F and G buildings. The girls from A building watched form the window as the sedans were pulled away. One girl from B building wasn’t sold. Now she was an Unwanted, just like Sevara, Orly, Tanner, and the others.
“Reeder’s coming soon, we’ve got to get ready for the Humilitorium,” said Tanner, and they all scrambled to the broom closets and secret storerooms to get supplies. Orly produced the skull masks and robes from a compartment under her bed. The long hemp rope for the noose was kept in spot, hidden behind an air vent. The other girls got the candles in place and arranged the furniture. The coffin was being put together by attaching pieces of wooden bed frames together. Inside the coffin were several mattresses and about a dozen pillows to fill in all the cracks and make it safe. Overhead, someone had already hung the hangman’s rope, but it wasn’t attached to the rafters. One girl would hold the other end, just to make sure that no one got hung for real.
“How do you make the spikes?” said Sevara.
“Oh, that’s easy. Look, you take the cardboard mold and you wrap toilet paper around it gently. Then you come over here.” They both went to the courtyard where a makeshift air paint station was set up.
“Just spray it with the silver paint. Don’t get any on your clothes, it’ll never come out. Perfect. In a few minutes it’ll dry, and you can pull out the cardboard mold. It’ll be soft as a feather pillow. Put it over there, we still need a few more.”
They worked on spikes while the other girls got the room ready.
“Now, remember, we need about eight girls holding her legs as she falls into the coffin. It needs to feel like it’s happening in slow motion. And make sure to tickle her armpits if she tries to hold on to the noose, we don’t want her to pull it down. Let’s do a few practice runs before we put those spikes in.”
They ran through the entire initiation ceremony, with Orly directing the ritual and the other girls playing their parts. Sevara remembered Reeder. She was a few months younger and not particularly bright. She was quiet and easy to influence, going along with what the other girls did without questioning as to whether or not it was right. She was pleasant to be around, though, and Sevara was glad to have her old friend with her in A building.
Tanner stood on the chair this time, and Sevara and the other girls lifted her by only holding her thighs, calves and ankles. It took some practice to get the balance just right. They picked her up, let her fall suddenly, then stopped in midair and put her gently onto the mattress coffin.
“That time was perfect, yes!” said Orly, looking around at the entire production. “Okay, get the spikes and put them on top. Make sure there’s no cardboard inside the tissue. And make sure that rope isn’t caught on anything, it has to be free or else someone’s going to get killed. Okay, more pillows on the side just in case she misses the mattresses. If she is falling outside the coffin, just lift her back onto the chair, yes, put her back up there. If she starts to cry, just repeat that chant over and over to calm her a bit. Go easy on her, she’s one of us now, and make sure the plum milk is ready. Is her room ready? Good. Clean sheets? Good.”
There was some noise outside as the custodians brought Reeder and her things to the A building lobby, and the girls got their costumes on. Tanner switched off the main lights. Sevara cracked the door and told Reeder to close her eyes and enter. Another girl came up behind her and put the blindfold on. The blood rushed from Reeder’s face as she took a hesitant step forward. The girls of A building tried to contain their excitement until Orly shouted, “Welcome to the Humilitorium!”
The whole ceremony only took ten minutes, as they prodded Reeder forward, poking her and spinning her, forcing her onto the chair and then finally guiding her down onto the soft spikes. But after the initiation, Reeder refused to calm down. The shock of the ordeal had broken open all her anxieties, and she wept, repeating, “If I’m not married then what am I? Who am I?” Then she went into a cold shock, muttering about what would happen to her if they sent her to the front to fight the Chinnai. She continued to weep for hours, even after the girls had snuck out into the city and bought her candies and fizz. In the darkened dormitory, the girls could hear her sobs echoing off the wooden floorboards well into the night.
Sevara went to Reeder’s room and tried to console her, but it was no use. She lay in her bed, her hands covering her tear-soaked face, and refused to uncurl from the fetal position. It was when Sevara was making her way back to her room that Minubar lunged from a dark corner. Sevara was ready this time and drove her bolo sticks hard into the larger girl’s meaty stomach. Then she tried a few quick swings to the forehead and knuckles, hoping to peel back the skin enough to get her to stop fighting. Minubar roared in pain but drove forward, grabbing Sevara around the waist with both hands while Sevara pummeled her spine with the heavy bolo sticks. Sevara felt the wind knocked out of her as she was crushed against the wall behind her, and she blacked out for a moment. When she could see again, she saw that she had kicked Minubar in the eye and the hulk of a girl had staggered back. She rolled forward and delivered a few blows to her leg and neck that put Minubar in the infirmary.