Well before dawn the dreadful recording of the reveler pierced the air, jerking the students from their light sleep. They sprung from their palates to throw themselves together, awaiting the rattle of the knob.
They didn't hear it, however. It was a gentle slide of metal, followed by a small creak. Eyebrows were raised as a lanky frame was silhouetted in the barrack door. The figure wandered in, a small knapsack in one hand and, oddly, an instrument case in the other.
"G'mornin' all," the figure called in greeting. The students, skeptical as they were, nodded out of manners. Footsteps thundered outside, and the imposing figure of Miz stormed in.
"This here's Peta!" she barked. "You're to make'm a student, here?" There was a sharp nod in response. She turned on heel and stormed out.
As soon as the door slammed and allowing a safe amount time to lapse before the students swarmed around Peta, bombarding him with questions.
"Where you from?"
"What'cha got there?"
"How old are you?"
"Where'd you go to school?"
"Enough!" James thundered, holding up his hands for immediate silence. "We all know what's first off, before any of this question business. We have to go though the possessions." He turned to Peta, who happened to be studying the ceiling corners.
"Acoustics in here are great," he mused, pointing to the corners.
"Right... so you sleep there," James directed as he reached for the knapsack. Peta watched, mildly interested, as his meager possessions were emptied onto the bed. Eyebrows were raised as the surrounding students beheld a battered harmonica, a sketchbook, and an old 35-mm camera among the usual array of clothes and essentials. James' eyes narrowed as he pulled these aside. He started flipping roughly through the sketchbook.
"Y'might wanna be careful with that," Peta admonished. Fleeting but stunning graphite renditions of leaves, flowers, trees, and mountains flitted before their eyes.
He thrust down the book, snatching the instrument case. All took a collective gasp of awe and shock as a brilliant trumpet was lifted from the case. It shone in the early dawn light, but they could tell it was far from new. It glistened with a sheen of care and of use.
"What's the meaning of this?" James cried in Peta's face, thrusting the instrument back in the case. The newcomer's face was firmly set as he faced the imposing leader. "Did you not get any letters telling what can and can't bring?"
"I did," came the easy answer.
"Did you not see instruments on the 'can't bring' list?"
James was taken aback by the unruffled demeanor. He didn't like that. "I'm afraid I'll have to confiscate this." He motioned to the trumpet.
All was silent.
"I'm... I'm sorry?"
"I can't let you do that." His voice had no trace of malice, no sign of hate.
"And what's stopping me?" James threatened, fighting a smirk. The newcomer reached into his pocket, then handing the shocked leader a small handgun.
"You want to get rid of the trumpet? Fine. You have to shoot me first."
What is up with this guy? was the collective thought of the group as they looked in dead silence between the leader and the newcomer.
"I'm only here because I have to be, I was forced to be here. I must let go of parts of myself, I understand. I don't want to, but I understand it. You can burn the sketchbook, but I'll draw in the dirt, with anything. You can smash the camera, I'll remember the images I want to remember. You can melt the harmonica, I can hum to myself. But that trumpet is my heart and soul. You can get rid of it, only if you get rid of me."
No one had ever seen James look afraid before. After an eternal minute he dropped the gun. Peta picked it up, put on the safety, and slipped it back into his pocket with a small smile.
"Thank you." He extended his hand to James. He took it tentatively. "Now, my first question: does that reveler always sound that bad?"
"Well!" Peta clapped his hands with an excited smirk. "That'll have to change."
The students exchanged worried glances.