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Spies never tell, the boy with pale green eyes said before prying out the rusty-looking blade of his pocket knife. He had led his blue-eyed brother past the water tower, through a field of dead yellow grass, down the steepest hill he’d ever seen and finally, in through the hollowed out mouth of the woods.


Eventually Green spat, said shut those eyes and hold out that hand, initiate. Now repeat:


I, initiate, hereby swear to follow the orders of the brotherhood of spies…

I, initiate, solemnly swear never to tell what I see here and risk exposing the secrets of the brotherhood…

I, initiate, will be disavowed if I break these vows of mine...


As Blue repeated along he felt the blade race across his palm, wet raising from the gash, biting his tongue numb.


Then he watched as Green patiently carved an ‘X’ into his own hand, not making a fuss as he did, only gritting some teeth, swallowing it back like bad tasting medicine he knew, ultimately, was good for him.


Finally, when the ceremony was concluded, the pact sealed as both boys each squeezed a fistful of blood into the dirt, Green parted the thorny thicket and motioned for Blue to step on through, which he did, emerging on the other side to the sore sight of a mangy dog chained up to a big leathery tree trunk, one eye burned shut.


OK initiate: This here is the traitor, and it's our job to find out what he knows.


Politely asked the name of the poor creature, Green would answer - slightly ticked - while lobbing Dr. Pepper bottles at its tail from afar: Name? You don't give prisoners names. You call them numbers or something.


I guess we could call him #5-3-5.


Prisoner #535 would not break that day, nor would Blue break his oath, though he would be made to repeat it while Green carved both of their initials in the table with his knife, happily whistling while dusk fell slow over the trees like a star-stained blanket.

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