Moher cliff? That had to be at least a day or more’s travel from where I had first surrendered myself. Had we really been traveling that long? Yet, the pungent smell of body odor and human waste told me that indeed a great amount of time had passed.
“How do you know all this?” The rasp in my voice and the lack of saliva in my mouth had me desperate for a drink of water. Although it wouldn’t be the first time in my life I had a thirst that would not be quenched any time soon.
“I was already one of his captives. I escaped and tried my best to hide from Pike and his army.” The woman paused. “I don’t know what he will do to me when I return.”
“No, my trainer. Pike rarely doles out the punishment. He just commands it. Whatever Pike says, the trainer is the one to do it. Each beauty has one.”
“Yes. Pike has too many beauties to care for or pay attention to. But he wants each one ready in case he decides to pluck her from the hundred or so imprisoned women. Your trainer will own you. It is his job to groom you into the perfect beauty for Pike’s collection. And trust me, do not push or go against your trainer. When I return to mine, he may simply kill me, but I have a feeling his wrath will be far worse than death.”
“How did you escape?” An odd sensation filled me. Hope? Was there a way out of this nightmare? Could I possibly escape as well, but not get caught like this poor woman in the corner awaiting to be delivered to her death?
“There is no escape. Get that foolish thought out of your mind. I’m proof of that. The best thing for you to do is submit. Do not resist. Don’t fight. If you do, it will only be worse. So much worse.”
“Do what? Submit to what?”
The woman huffed. “Whatever your trainer demands. And trust me, you will be asked to do things, to endure acts you can’t even imagine. But if you don’t, they will beat you, or torture you, and when they are done, they will still expect you to do whatever they asked to begin with. I’ve seen them execute women for resisting. It’s all pointless.”
The carriage slowed down and eventually came to a stop. I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep as the woman advised, trying hard not to panic and give away anything. Everything she had said about death, punishment, submitting… I was doomed.
The crunch of rock beneath the approaching men’s boots, and then the opening of the prison door caused me to flinch and breathe heavily. They would know I wasn’t really asleep if I didn’t calm down.
Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out.
“Some of them are stirring,” one soldier said. “Hurry up and carry them to the shower room before we have them waking up, panicking, and then trying to flee out of here. I’m not in the mood for a run.”
The shift of bodies told me that the other soldiers were following the command. Focusing on my breathing, I struggled not to flinch when my naked body was pulled harshly from the wagon and flung over someone’s shoulder. I remained as limp and still as I could, even though every step the man took had his bony shoulder jabbing into my stomach. If I hadn’t been starving and hadn’t had food in my stomach for days, I would have surely thrown up with the amount of pressure being applied to my empty gut. Resisting the urge to peek and look around, I tried to focus on the noises around me instead. The only thing I could hear was the sound of the man’s heavy steps carrying me, and the voices of several men all around, each mumbling about the stench or the weight of the woman they carried.
When the sound of the gravel beneath the boots of my carrier changed to the click of soles against solid floor, my body was soon tossed to the hard, cold ground. I managed to not cry out in pain as my body hit the floor with enough force to knock the wind out of me. My head hit the back of a wall hard enough for my ears to ring. The sound of groans and whimpers of the women all around me was my cue that I, too, could stir awake. Keeping my ruse up, I also slowly opened my eyes with tiny moans and an added whimper or two for effect.
Looking around, I could see that all of the captured women were cast around in one big room, with no windows and tiles from floor to ceiling. The stark white color made the room appear almost metallic in nature. Showerheads were lined up along all four walls, and there were several metal drains scattered around the floor. We had been delivered to the shower room, and although I fought back the madness of being more terrified than I had ever been in my entire life, the thought of taking a shower and having actual running water on my body delighted me.