Oatmeal

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Klaus stares blankly at the bowl of oatmeal in front of him, wondering where he went wrong in life. His wig-adorned head itches madly but he dares not scratch it anymore. The past couple days after getting separated from the others went by in a blur of uniformed women, paperwork, psychological tests, and dirty blonde braids. The latter annoyance can be attributed to the dim-witted girl sitting next to him, who delicately laps up oatmeal from her spoon like a cat before scooping it back into the bowl to repeat the process. Not too keen on trying the stuff after witnessing that, Klaus instead pops a disappointingly flavorless red grape from the light blue tray to his mouth. He also contemplates the pathetic little sausage to the other side of his milk (vitamin fortified!) but decides against it for the moment.

To think this woman is going to be my roommate... he thinks, eyeing up the girl, who was introduced to him as Heidi. He still doesn’t quite get why he was allowed to room with a girl, and his boss, formally titled Unit Leader Funk, didn’t seem to have a resolute answer either.

“Well, the law states that every priestess must have access to equal housing. ...I don’t like it, but it’s a tough situation,” the massive woman had said with a determined looking smile as she unlocked the door to a small concrete building identical to the ones left, right, front and back of it which spanned as far as the eye can see. She tosses one of her golden braids behind her before opening the door. “Well, Heidi’s not the type of girl to let you push her around, and you look pretty scrawny anyway, so there probably shouldn’t be a problem!”

Their housing had appeared comfortable enough, although privacy seemed a little lacking, considering their two beds were separated only by a nightstand. Besides the beds, a couple dressers,a fridge, sink, low table, closet, and bathroom.

I guess I’m a priestess now, whatever that means, he had thought as he sat on his new bed that first night after registering, listening to Funk detail what their responsibilities would be moving forward. The term "priestess" had given him a superstitious vibe at first, but what he had seen so far seemed far more bureaucratic than mystical, to his relief. He glances over to his new roommate, who is bouncing on the bed idly and doesn’t seem to be listening to a word of what her unit leader is saying. Although the Pakapontan government allows nearly every female who registers into the society to be a priestess, Heidi had either chosen not to or hadn’t qualified to do so. Funk had decided now was the time to “put things right” though, as she had said it. So as one secretary was explaining to Klaus the experimental new program of the district to bolster the military prowess of the government by allowing some males to register as priestesses, another was busy transferring over Heidi’s information in a computer and printing an updated ID card for her.

That was a couple days ago. Yesterday the two got busy shopping for new clothes with the special cards given to them along with an ID and wallet to store the former two in.

“We used to just give people cash, but that lent itself to a lot of fraud. If you go to the consignment store on Fats Street, you can just give one of the workers the card and then you can either pick out your own clothes or you can fill out a form and they’ll pick out a wardrobe for you, which is generally a lot cheaper!” Funk had explained chipperly. The two had both opted for the latter, and although Klaus was sure he’d come to regret it he was pleasantly surprised at what he received.

Along with a list of clothes in which one would tick whatever articles they were interested in there was also a box at the bottom that had asked to elaborate on their general style. Klaus had assumed this would go ignored as it seemed they had many drawers of clothes that had been there for who knows how long and that they were probably itching to get rid of, but he had gotten several perfectly serviceable articles that closely resembled his wardrobe back at home. Upon leaving the dimly lit fluorescence of the musty store, he had had an extra bounce in his step, thinking perhaps things wouldn’t be awful.

That was until yesterday evening when they had received their uniforms, navy blue dresses with black hats and dress shirts. Klaus had also gotten a shoulder length blonde wig to wear while on duty, “just to keep up appearances” as Funk had said it.

“...You mean I have to dress like a girl?” He had dared to ask. “Wait, which bathroom am I supposed to use?”

“Don’t worry! I’ve already informed everyone about you, so everyone will know you’re not really a girl!” Funk had chirped, seemingly unaware of the sudden mortification she was putting Klaus in. “You can just use the boys room!” She yelled back as she parted, her delivery complete.

Now he sits in his new uniform and wig, feeling as though ants are crawling all over him. The wool of the dress is uncomfortable on his bare thighs, and although earlier he would have cringed at the thought of buying tights or stockings, now he wonders if it would be easier to just bite the bullet in order to spare his legs the textile discomfort. He contemplates his oatmeal once again, figuring he should eat something substantial before his first day of work. It looks just as bland as before, except now he can see a little hair floating around in it; from where, he couldn’t guess.

There is a table at the other end of the cafeteria which holds sugar packets, shakers of cinnamon, salt, and pepper, along with other goodies like syrups and spices that could make this main course more appetizing but there always seems to be a swarm of men around it at all times and Klaus hasn’t quite worked up the courage to try and push through it. He’s equal parts glad and unnerved that he was forced to sit in the men’s cafeteria— a guard had informed him of this before he could try to enter the female one yesterday, causing much humiliation on Klaus’s end.

For some reason, Heidi had decided to follow him into the male cafeteria. The girl had stuck by his side for breakfast, lunch, and dinner yesterday, and now again today at breakfast. Although he was a little off-put by her insistence on sitting next to him, mostly because he had never really been so close to a girl for so long, he couldn’t help but feel grateful that at least he wasn’t the only freak of the situation.

And what a freak I am to the others! He thinks. At every meal invariably the other males and even some priestesses would glance over in curiosity, disgust, amusement, and other emotions Klaus couldn’t quite decipher. Despite the buzz around Klaus, no one had spoken directly to him so far, for which he breathed a sigh of relief. He looks over to the condiment table for what must be the hundredth time this morning. Steeling himself, he stands from his bench to make his way over there, but is interrupted by a friendly voice.

“Hey!”

Klaus shoots a glance in the direction of the voice and sees a brown haired boy roughly around his age although more well built than him standing next to a thicker young man with a cigarette hanging from his mouth, perhaps in his twenties. Both are dressed in the tan jumpsuit of the Pakapontan worker class. Judging by their appearances, Klaus assumes it was the boy who had spoken up.

“Uh...” Klaus starts stupidly, half standing from his seat.

“O-oh, sorry! Were you going to—?” The boy points to the table and back to Klaus in quick succession.

“Oh, uh... n-no, not really...” Klaus stutters, slowly sitting back down.

“Oh, okay!” The boy laughs, mock wiping sweat from his forehead in relief with an exaggerated “whew!”. “You’re the male priestess, right?”

This question annoys Klaus somewhat. Is it really that hard to tell? He thinks, but instead puts on what he hopes is a diplomatic looking smile and says—

“Y-yes! My name’s Schultheiss.” He says, standing back up again and holding out an arm. After a beat too long, he adds, “and you?”

The boy returns his no doubt clammy handshake with a strong, firm grip.

“Witt. You can just call me Franz if you want though,” He says with a warm smile. The other man introduces himself as Heinrich Gauss, Franz’s roommate. Once again Klaus is emasculated with a strong handshake.

“I guess you’ve met Heidi,” Franz nods towards the girl. “We used to sit together when she was a worker like us.” Klaus looks over to her as well. She doesn’t seem to be paying attention to any of them in the slightest, appearing more interested in cutting her sausage into as small of pieces as possible. This irritates Klaus greatly but he bites his tongue.

Sensing the budding awkwardness, Franz finishes, “Well, feel free to say hi whenever!” And the two walk back toward their own table. Klaus stares at his tray blankly, already picking apart the conversation in his head. The end of breakfast is called. Klaus sighs, picking up his tray. He had managed to choke down the grapes, sausage, milk, and a surprisingly decent bread roll but couldn’t get himself to try the oatmeal. As he tips the untouched bowl into the trash, he is struck by a feeling reminiscent of his school days: that of wanting the day to be over when it’s scarcely begun.

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