Code Red River | Chapter 4: Punishment

Written by: Kevin Gatti

Jeff and I followed Gloria into an empty conference room at the ranch in Wyoming. She told us to sit and be quiet as she exited the room. I was becoming scared for the first time since joining the Love Thy Self People. I looked over at Jeff. His facial expression appeared as if he was scared too, but I didn’t know for sure, and I was too scared to ask or say anything at all.

Jeff sat there silently as well. He didn’t utter a word. He barely looked my way as well.

After sitting there for a good ten minutes or so, Gloria came back with another girl living at the ranch that I had met once. Her name was Sandy. She was also in her twenties, just like most of us there. She was tall, blonde and didn’t say a whole lot. I remember her always saying what she had to say and that was it. She was good at following orders and was known to be very loyal to Mick.

“Alright, both of you get up. Let’s go!” Gloria said abruptly as she came back in the room. Jeff and I quickly got up and followed her out as Sandy followed behind.

I don’t know what I was thinking at that moment, but I suddenly blurted out what I was thinking. “I thought we were going to see Mick?”

Gloria immediately froze and appeared shocked that I would question what we were doing. She turned to me and replied, “We are. He ordered a fair punishment. We’re headed there now.”

“And what is that?” Jeff suddenly asked.

I was shocked. At that moment, I realized that Jeff wasn’t scared. Instead, he seemed annoyed that they were taking issue to us drinking.

Jeff continued, “I mean, we just had a few drinks. What’s the big deal?”

Gloria became even more upset. “We have rules here and you broke them! There are consequences for that!”

Jeff didn’t say another word. I think he realized that there was no point arguing.

I remember looking over at Sandy and she was staring both Jeff and I down like we were serious troublemakers. She didn’t say a word. She just kept her eyes on us in anticipation of us acting out of line again so that she could quickly step in.

We entered the back door behind the stage of a large auditorium on the ranch. Immediately, I could hear a large crowd in the auditorium cheering. It sounded like they were having a pep rally or something exciting. I was confused. I thought for a moment that maybe we were being pranked. They were going to bring us out on stage, and we would all laugh about this. 

When we got to the side of the stage, I could see Mick with a microphone speaking to everyone. I remember asking myself if there was an event that night that I had forgotten about. I couldn’t recall. I was still relatively new to the ranch and was still learning how things worked. I later learned that this was called a Sudden Celebration for the residents of the ranch, to surprise them with a celebration and rally. To the people close to Mick, this was referred to as a loyalty test.

As we watched Mick speak, he suddenly changed his tone from energetic and excited to serious and disappointed. “Everyone, we have an unfortunate, but necessary issue to address.” He stated.

My heart felt like it dropped to the floor. I knew he was talking about us. The idea of this being a prank quickly exiting my mind. I knew exactly what they were going to do. They were about to humiliate us in front of everyone.

Mick continued to speak, “Someone broke the rules.”

Immediately, everyone in the audience started to boo loudly.

“Yes, I know. Keep booing. They deserve it. Hopefully they learn and do better.” Mick said with disappointment in his voice. He then paused to allow everyone to get fired up by continuing to boo. He then stated Jeff’s name and asked him to come up on stage.

Suddenly, Sandy came up behind Jeff and aggressively shoved him towards the steps of the stage. He stumbled a little and then walked up the stairs. The moment he appeared on stage the boos from the audience roared even louder. I could hear them call Jeff mean things, including a clown and a fool. They were also demanding for Mick to give him the maximum punishment. What was horrifying about this was that no one in the audience even knew what Jeff did.

Mick continue to speak to the audience to get them fired up. “I could tell you what he did, but he knows what he did. There’s no need to explain. What kind of punishment do you think he should get?”

I remember hearing clearly at this moment someone in the audience yelling very loudly, “START WITH BEATING HIS ASS!” I felt terrified and helpless. I knew the same was about to happen to me at any second.

Gloria then came out on stage to many cheers as she brought out a large paddle and handed it to Mick.

“I think this will do.” Mick said has he held the paddle in his hand.

The audience continued to angrily yell at Jeff as Gloria instructed him to get on his knees and bend over. Jeff did as he was told. I felt awful. He looked so lost and scared.

“ARE YOU READY?!” Mick yelled.

The audience yelled loud with cheers and applause. At this moment, I noticed something strange. While the crowd roared, Sandy and other members close to Mick were emotionless. They were standing around with note pads taking notes. It stood out to me because it looked so odd. I later learned that they were grading everyone in the auditorium on loyalty, which was based on what they said and their level of enthusiasm.

Suddenly, without much warning, Mick started to whack Jeff’s behind with the paddle. I don’t know how many times he hit Jeff, but it was at least five times. The audience cheered venomously and continuously the entire time.

After Mick appeared to have finished whacking Jeff with the paddle I started to really panic. I knew it was my turn. I tried to keep it cool on the outside, but on the inside, I was a mess.

Gloria made Jeff get up. I could see Jeff was crying. I had never seen him cry before. She rushed him off the stage. Sandy walked over to quickly grab him. She then rushed him out of the auditorium. He didn’t look at me once as he was rushed out. He was completely broken, and I felt completely sick. I knew that was about to be me.

Then something even more surprising happened.

Mick handed the paddle back to Gloria and thanked her. As she walked off the stage with the paddle he turned to the audience and thanked them all for coming and wished them all a good night.

I was stunned and confused. I wondered if Jeff was the only one getting punished.

As the audience started to leave, Mick exited the stage on the opposite side from me. My confusion grew as no one was coming up to me or saying anything to me. It was as if they had completely forgotten about me.

After a couple minutes, Sandy reentered the auditorium after rushing Jeff out. She walked firmly up to me and said, “Come with me.”

I followed her without saying a word. I thought she was taking me to where Jeff was as we exited the auditorium. That wasn’t the case. Instead, we entered a small room that appeared like a lounge. There were two couches and a couple comfortable chairs. What surprised me the most was that Mick was in the room. He was the only one in the room.

“Thank you, Sandy. You can leave us alone.” Mick said to Sandy as she left the room without saying a word.

It was now just Mick and I in the room alone. This was the very first time this had ever happened, and I couldn’t have been more frighten.

Mick quicky began to speak, “Hi Simon. I hear you’re a very special person. You can be of great use to us here at the Love Thy Self People. I think I like you. Let’s get to know each other.”

I said nothing back as Mick leaned in towards me and started to kiss me on the lips.

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