I was nervous. Here I was a monster sharing a room with a military scientist. I decided getting the basics out would be a good way to start. “Do you speak English?” I asked.
“Yes. May I ask who you are and why Lance Corporal Larson only gave me two hours’ notice that I was going to have a roommate?” He replied.
I was even more nervous now. “I came here as an injured man but the military officers saw me as something more, they wanted me to join, and I didn’t know that I would be intruding on your space so suddenly.” I honestly answered.
“You just suddenly joined? No training? No boot camp? No prior experience?” He inquired.
“I have prior experience as a scientist and doctor.” I said.
“I see. You may pick the second bed closest to the door. I will be back soon. Your key is on my desk.” He said before walking out. I walked over to his desk and picked up the key. I felt so alone and nervous. I didn’t want to continue being hunted down by Ross but my previous experience had lead me to being very distrustful of anyone wearing a uniform and the way my new roommate had talked to me I was thinking that I might not be as safe as Mara had told me I would be. I sat on the edge of my bed and thought about what I would do. I was trapped; if I ran away both the Norwegian military and General Ross would be after me. If I stayed here Ross wouldn’t be able to get me but there was no guarantee that this military wouldn’t be after the monster as well. I lay down and closed my eyes; maybe I would feel better once I saw Mara again. There was something about her kind and open personality that made me feel calm and wanted. It made me feel like I wasn’t a monster.
I opened my eyes and looked at my watch. I was expected to meet Mara in the mess hall in half an hour. I looked around the room, the nameless roommate was nowhere to be found, and I decided it was up to me to find this mess hall on my own. I had no map of the military base but I suspected that the mess hall would be in a building separate from the barracks. I slipped my key into my pocket and set about find the building. As soon as I stepped out into the cold wind I wished that I had a jacket to wear. I looked around, the snow made it hard to see but next to the barracks was a larger building. I walked up to the glass doors and peered in. It looked to be a library. I shrugged my shoulders and kept moving. After squinting I found a pathway, although it was covered in snow I was able to follow it. It passed by the barracks, through an obstacle course, past an empty field, and finally to a building. I opened the heavy door and stepped in. I saw a line of people standing outside two interior glass doors, I glanced at what laid beyond the doors and I saw several tables and chairs. I presumed this was the mess hall. I got to the back of the line, trying to ignore the people staring at me. I looked at my watch; Mara said she would meet me here in eight more minutes. I stood waiting while other people lined up behind me. I had never felt more nervous but as soon as I saw Mara walk through the doors every negative feeling faded away. I gave her a wave and she smiled at me. She hooked her around mine and led me to the back of the line.
“I’m glad to see you got here, did Blake help you find it?” She asked.
“I found it myself. Blake, is that my roommate? I wasn’t able to ask his name before he left.” I responded.
“You’re wet. Did you walk here without a winter coat? As for Blake, he’s like most Norwegians; he doesn’t talk much and takes some time to warm up to.” She said.
The glass doors opened and the line started to move forward. “I didn’t have a winter jacket but I was fine. Are you saying all Norwegians are cold?” I said.
“You’ll have to buy a new coat as soon as you get the chance. I don’t want you walking outside in just a shirt when the temperature is twenty-six below zero. As for most Norwegians, it just takes time for them to become as friendly as me.” She turned around and gave me a smile. “Try not to worry about it too much; he’ll warm up to you eventually. Just give it time. And even if he doesn’t warm up to you I’ll always be your friend.”
I felt my heart speed up but this time it wasn’t terrifying, it felt…pleasant. I followed behind Mara absent mindedly. Was this what having friends felt like? It had been so long that I had forgotten. I snapped myself back to reality. The line was just like the cafeterias back in school. Grab a tray, let them fill it with food, and try to find a seat.
I had managed to navigate the food line with minimal difficulty, only needed Mara to translate for me three times. I followed behind her and we sat down at a table with a four other women and one man.
“Hvem er han?” A woman with red hair said.
“Og hvorfor er han ikke i uniform?” A dark skinned woman added.
Mara smiled and replied, “Dette er Bruce Banner, og han er helt ny. Han har ikke en uniform ennå. Også gjør han ikke snakker norsk.”
There was a gasp from all of them. “Tar vi rekrutterer i midten av januar?” The man said.
Although Mara was next to me I felt left out and isolated. I needed to learn Norwegian I decided to focus more on eating my dinner than trying to understand a conversation in a foreign language. The food was slightly better than what I had been able to eat in the infirmary. It wasn’t the American food I was used to but it was better than nothing. I might as well get used to it if I planned to live here for a while. The rest of dinner passed by quickly or perhaps it just seemed to pass by quickly since I was focused on the food instead of the conversation. As soon as we had gotten done with dinner and started walking back to the barracks Mara handed me her jacket.
“My army uniform is warm enough without it.” She explained.
I hesitantly put it on. And walked with her and the group we had sat with at dinner.
“Mara, I was wondering if the building next to the barracks is a library.” I recalled.
“More like a database. You’ll be spending a lot of time in there now that you’re one of us. Oh wait! I just remembered! I we’ve got to get you your I.D. card!” She exclaimed.
She said something to the group and they waved as we started to walk back to the mess hall.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“You need your military I.D.” She explained “The clerical building is near the mess hall.”
“Oh, okay.” I mumbled.
We walked into a small building with wide hallways. I followed her up to the second floor and into a room where a woman with short blonde hair sat.
Mara said something in Norwegian. The conversation went back and forth between them until Mara finally turned to me and said, “Sit down in the chair, we need to take your picture.”
I sat down and tried not to scowl, I still enjoyed Mara’s company but my lack of understanding was irritating. The camera snapped my picture and a plastic I.D. card was printed along with a small piece of paper. Mara handed me both and as we walked out she explained, “The piece of paper is a list of everything you’ll need to work in the laboratory, we’ll have to go to the military dispensary tomorrow since it’s closed for tonight. We’ll have to go early since your first shift begins at 8:00 A.M. I’ll be by your room to walk you there.”
“Is that all?” I asked.
“What else were you expecting?” She replied.
“Nothing, I guess. That library you have, would there be a book to help me learn Norwegian in there?” I inquired.
She pursed her lips. “I don’t think so but we could always ask.” We kept walking in silence. “How long will it take you to learn Norwegian?”
“Depends on how hard the language is. I suspect it will take at least two weeks.” I said.
“I see. I know this is hard on you, being thrown into a situation that is completely alien to you but I’m glad you’re putting effort in and if it makes you feel better most of the scientists you’ll be working with speak English.” She assured. “Also, my door is always open to you. My room is number twenty-six in the basement.”
I smiled and nodded. Mara was a ray of sunlight in my dark life. “Does it ever stop snowing?” I joked as I handed her jacket back.
She giggled “No, keep it. I can handle the cold for the next few meters. I wouldn’t be surprised if it snowed like this for a week. You get used to the gloom.”
“Sounds depressing.” I observed.
“It can be if you don’t have people to make it bright.” She retorted.
I followed her back into the barracks. “Do you remember where your room is?” She asked.
“Yes, the barracks aren’t that confusing.” I answered.
“Then I’ll see you tomorrow at 7:00. Try to be ready by then.” She said with a smile as we went our separate ways.
As I entered my room I felt better. I didn’t even notice that Blake was still gone. Maybe my new life in Norway would be bearable.
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