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They were brought in by train, packed into cattle trucks without food, water, or even fresh air.

He whistled a cheerful song as they rattled along. He was still whistling when the train stopped and they were unloaded at gunpoint.

The dormitory hut he was escorted to was cold, dirty and drafty. Bunk beds were crammed in close to each other, with lumpy mattresses that were more uncomfortable than the boards below them and threadbare blankets that were both too thin and too short.

He grinned and stretched out on his bunk as if it were a king sized bed in a five star hotel room.

“You’ll stop smiling soon,” said one of the older inmates. “This place breaks everyone before long.”

He laughed and shook his head. “Not me,” he said with a wink. “I won’t be here long enough for anything to break.”

The old timers laughed then, laughed at his bravado, laughed at his naivity.

“You’re not getting out,” they told him. “This is a life sentence. When you die, your body will be dumped up on that hill over there. If we like you, maybe one of us will bury you. Nobody gets out. Dead or alive.”

He cracked his knuckles and grinned even wider. “You only say that because nobody ever has.”

© Kari Fay