Patrick cried the first time he was beaten, great hacking sobs of anger and pain and humiliation released into the darkness of his room like so many soap bubbles, hating himself for crying, but hating the others more for making him. –I wish they were all dead, he thought, and hated himself again for thinking that, but he kept thinking it anyway.
The beatings came regular as clockwork, every Tuesday; five or six of the others would hem him in and push him from hand to hand until his head buzzed like a kazoo and he couldn’t avoid the foot that came out to trip him. Once he was down on the ground they kicked him mechanically until they grew tired of it. The worst part was the silence and the melancholy on their faces as their feet crashed into him. It would have been easier if they’d laughed, if they’d mocked him for his helplessness, but they never did. They weren’t angry; they weren’t malicious. On other days they were even friendly. In time he started to think of the beatings as part of the curriculum, as impersonal as an essay, as abstract as a Riemann sum.