The Sacrificed

I finished the draft for The Sacrificed just over a year ago. Since then, it’s been revised, restructured, revised and revised some more. I don’t want to rush this. I don’t see the point in haste.

So, here is the start. The first couple of pages. Maybe I will release it in the coming months. Maybe not for another year or two. I don’t know. It’s been a long time since I felt so comfortable letting something sit and wait. I guess I’m getting old.

Pri sat against a wall of rock and clay, the room a narrow rectangle, wooden joists and floorboards above exposed.  If she stood tall, her head would hit the ceiling.  If she stretched out her legs, her toes could reach the opposite wall.  She could see nothing aside from a dull point of light, too meagre a source to illuminate any details.  Her bare feet pressed against the dirt floor, moist from a trickling stream that dribbled down the opposite wall.  Her right ankle and wrist still throbbed; she massaged her arm while leaving one leg outstretched.  Hasan’s words were still clear in her memory, his voice assured, steady, blinding her with a flashlight mere inches from her face.  If she yelled, he would cut her throat.  If she tried to run, he would cut her throat.  She called for Jaz with a whisper and the next moment the cool pinch of a metal blade pressed against her neck.  At the time there was no deliberating the possibility that this might have been a butter knife.  A piece of scrap metal.  At the time, she did what he said.  He then pushed her, told her to walk, reminded her to stay silent while keeping a tight grip around her arm.  She was barefoot, without her coat or belongings, and remembered climbing slick steps, the frigid rain falling into her hair and shoulders as if she’d been forced into a cold shower.  She did not want to whimper; she did not want Hasan to view her as meek.  She recalled a perverse emotional numbness—her heart raced, her hands quivered, but she walked, she breathed, listening for other footsteps.  This is happening, she thought to herself, not daring to say a word out loud.  This is happening.  It felt like they walked for more than twenty minutes through the Jungle, her toes stubbing uneven rocks in the roads, her heels pressing onto plastic wrappers, cables.  Wafts of sewage drifted through the lingering, acrid exhaust from generators. Hasan didn’t speak and his grip never relented.  He directed her with jostling tugs and she figured that he expected her to shriek.  But somehow it was easy to remain calm, or at least remain quiet.  He then told her to take a step and thrust her thorough a doorway.  She felt plywood beneath her feet, then a rug or carpet.  He let go of her arm and told her she was going to fall.  Her wrist struck the opening as she tumbled, her ankle twisting upon impact.  He then closed the door above her and locked it shut.  She struggled to untie the blindfold—the knots multiple, tight and wet.  And when she removed it, she was here, in the dark, in the mud, alone.

Since then, there had been no contact with anyone.  There were footsteps above, muffled voices of men, but the trap door remained shut.  All she had were the clothes on her body, still wet from her forced march through the rain, and a single blanket that she wrapped around her shoulders and thighs, the material synthetic and coarse, stinking of smoke.  She assumed that someone would come down to speak with her, demand a ransom, something.  Hasan kidnapped Pri in the middle of the night and now appeared content to let her remain indefinitely.  Her bottle of Stasi was still in her bag.  Hasan must have taken her belongings.  The medication had no value to anyone else.  As soon as she had a chance, she would plead for her bag, or just her medication.

Pri stood, keeping her weight on one leg, hunched over and running her fingers along the underside of the floorboards, sheets of plywood, a few small squares, mostly long rectangles.  She felt the grain of the wood, some with splinters like baby hairs against her skin, others flush, perhaps coated in paint.  The corner of one floorboard was soft, the wood rotten, she could scrape away fibers with her fingernails.  Four joists spanned the length of the ceiling, each a different thickness.  Even when hunched over, she had to mind these beams to avoid scraping her forehead.  She felt the square seam of the trap door, the tips of nails clustered in pairs to secure the hinges on the other side.  She brushed her fingers along the perimeter of the ceiling, where floorboards rested atop dirt, dry to the touch except for a section through which rainwater dribbled, the surrounding wall moist.  A hole no wider than her index finger let through a muted circle of daylight.  She could pry apart the dirt around it, pebbles clattering to the ground, rainwater clinging down into her armpit.

Someone entered the structure above, footsteps thumping along the floorboards.  At least two people walked, both shuffling steps, ambling, perhaps pacing.  Pri tried to follow their locations, her hands up against the ceiling, felt it sink into her fingertips as someone plodded above.  She couldn’t hear any voices.  One set then strode towards the trap door and Pri scuttled back against one corner, expecting it to open, pulling the blanket up around her folded knees. 

The footsteps ceased.  She had no reason to remain in the corner, but she had no reason to stand up.  She kept the blanket around her, watched the dot of light across the room, and then closed her eyes.

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