“Alright guys, these are gonna be your little home bases for the next month or so. The comfort will quickly go away after that, so I say make the most of them while you can.” The instructor pointed to a series of ten log cabins behind him, which themselves were situated in front of a thick, mossy forest. They looked pretty tiny, no bigger than probably most hotel rooms. “Two of you will be going in each one. And no, you don’t get to decide who you sleep with. In fact, we have long prepared the sleeping arrangements for you guys!” The instructor held out his clipboard to the students, showing what they presumed to be said sleeping arrangements. “So! I’m just gonna go ahead and get started on this. Pack your stuff and get in as quickly as you can when I call your name. I’ll give y’all a bit of time to yourselves to get to know each other, then I’ll call out to you when dinner is ready.” The instructor cleared his throat, put the end of his clipboard to his stomach, and went ahead.
“Alright. Ester and Allison, you’re in cabin one. Shay and Zephyr, get in two. Tess and Erik, head on over to three. Sebastian and Jeremy, you’re in four.”
Seb didn’t look at whoever Jeremy was. Cats were not supposed to look at others. An incidental glance that came from casual observational was acceptable, but not looking at someone. The only time you looked at someone was if they demanded direct attention from you, such as if they came near your territory and appeared in your vicinity completely unexpected. Otherwise, just look ahead and keep walking.
Seb simply grabbed his backpack and suitcase, took the key from the instructor without a word or a glance, and marched on over to cabin four, which had a big number four sign out front just for extra emphasis. He walked up the cabin porch, unlocked the door and stepped inside. He was greeted by a small but well-lit room, with two beds to the left, a dresser to the right, and a bathroom straight ahead.
Seb put his suitcase next to the dresser and threw his backpack on the bed closer to the bathroom, marking his territory. Whoever this Jeremy was - he suspected they were a roach, judging by the “long arranged” part the instructor stressed - they were going to know their place right away. He plopped himself down on the bed, took out his phone and tried to find a signal. There was none. Luckily, he had thought of this and had downloaded pretty much every funny YouTube video, Spotify song and Apexist reading list he could think of, so he was all set either way. He took out his headphones, opened his downloads folder and put on some heavy feline metal, which he had to pirate off another site since that stuff was banned off Spotify. For a minute, he actually felt good about this whole thing.
But as he put the phone on his stomach and glanced about the room, something quite unexpected caught his eye.
A Siberian tiger, with the whitest fur coat any Siberian could have, stood at the entrance of the cabin, looking straight at Seb. The two felines locked eyes for a few moments, sharing poker faces. The tiger eventually looked away and proceeded to take in the layout of the cabin himself. He had two big duffle bags with him, which he plopped right in the middle of the floor. He then went over to the bed near the window and threw himself back-first onto it, resting his head on his hands. He hadn’t said a word yet, but Seb felt easier knowing he at least got the drift of whose bed was whose.
The two had on matching red sweatshirts and were both lying down on their respective beds, creating a sense of symmetry between the two that Seb didn’t like. He sat up and took out his headphones, searching for a video or something to take his mind off it. The tiger looked over at him and rubbed his eyes as he said, “I should’ve thought of that.”
Being a carnivore and a feline like him, Seb felt comfortable enough trying to humour him. “What do you mean?”
“Well there’s no signal out here so I’m assuming you’re looking at stuff you’ve saved. And I’m just saying I should’ve thought of that!” The tiger snickered. “I ain’t got nothing on my phone.”
Seb decided he needed to know the truth. “You are Jeremy, right?”
“Yeah I’m Jeremy. Who did you think I was?”
If this was true, Seb couldn’t have felt more relieved. But this relief was quickly overshadowed by the realisation of how weird it was, that they decided to pair him up with a tiger of all animals. The staff had to have known the reason he was here, so him staying with another carnivore should’ve been the opposite of anything they wanted for him. Maybe, then, Jeremy himself was a plot of some kind. To teach him to be a subservient, plant-eating carnivore by having another carnivore persuade him to be. There had to be some catch here.
“And you’re sure that you’re Sebastian, right?” Jeremy interrupted his thoughts with a joke that just ticked him off even more.
“I’d rather you call me Seb, Jeremy.”
Jeremy tisked and looked away. “Alright then.”
Seb got up and walked over to the dresser. Three drawers. He decided to pack all his stuff into the top one. He didn’t even want to think about what might be in Jeremy’s bags and he wanted to keep all his stuff as tucked away from it as possible. He put his suitcase on its side, unzipped it and started transferring his folded clothes, bathroom utensils and survival gear his mom made him bring into the top drawer. He didn’t actually really feel the need to be doing this, but his mother told him point blank to pack his stuff into a drawer if he found one, and he wanted to respect her wishes.
As he unpacked, Jeremy sat up on the edge of his bed. “You’re a ginger, I’m guessing.”
He didn’t exactly have to guess. The pure orange coat spoke for itself. “Yep, that’s me,” Seb muttered, pulling a toothbrush out of the side pocket of his backpack.
“Cool! I’m a Siberian dude, as you can probably tell.” Jeremy laughed. He definitely was not the ideal carnivore Seb knew of. Carnivores never laughed; they were supposed to contain their emotions and be cold almost at all times. Maybe a chuckle or a snicker, but that was it. Laughing was something the herbivores and roaches did.
Jeremy either didn’t catch on to Seb’s silence or he just didn’t care, as he kept going. “So… what exactly made you wanna do this thing?”
Seb had already prepared for someone to ask him this question. He swiftly turned around to face Jeremy and said, “I’m doing this as a spiritual getaway, basically. I’ve just been really confused about stuff lately, and I think doing this whole ‘getting back in touch with your natural urges’ thing might help with it.”
Jeremy’s eyes widened, and he nodded acceptingly. “Damn, that’s cool man.” He scratched his forehead. “Well man… I’m just here because my grades are shitty.” He giggled again. “Guess I should’ve never taken calculus and chemistry together, huh?” He shrugged. “But hey, this should be fun! I’ve always kinda wanted to do something like this too, so we should be good roommates!” He reached out his fist for a bump.
Seb thought about it for a minute, before he decided to just return the favour. He couldn’t be bothered wasting any more of his time trying to analyse Jeremy. Truth be told, he just wanted to get into bed. He had only gotten 10 hours of sleep last night, not very much for any cat. He could barely keep his eyes open at this point.
Jeremy made a little fake explosion with his hand as their fists bumped. Seb returned to his unpacking without another word. Jeremy was not going to be his friend. He was just like Ester, the way he was so overly friendly and giggly. His hypothesis was correct; this guy, a “fellow predator”, was going to be his mentor who taught him why being a predator was wrong. But he wasn’t going to let this happen. With gigabytes of Apexist literature and podcasts downloaded onto his trusty android, he would always have a base of rationality to return to, at least for the next month or so.
And Jeremy was not the reason he agreed to this anyway. Seb agreed to this because of the last month of the program, when he wouldn’t even be in this stupid cabin anymore and he would truly be out in nature itself. He was going to become an even stronger predator than before. And then he could turn around and say that the school system bred the very thing it swore to destroy. He would game society, and create a new one in its ashes.
It really did feel good to be an Apex Predator.