My boiling blood cooled rapidly and my previously unshakable faith cracked like ice on a winter lake. “May God strike Prophet David down and may he burn in hell for all eternity! I believe in good, not sacrifice. I believe in forgiveness, not revenge. The Lord I believe in is compassionate and good. I see none of that in the prophet or the disciples. Where was forgiveness with my sister? Where was compassion with the sisters all of our lives? I am through with this miserable life! This cannot be God’s way; I refuse to believe it any longer. Prophet David has bastardized a pure faith. I no longer believe in anything he and his loyal disciples say!”
Delilah gasped and backed away. “You blaspheme, Salome.”
“I DO NOT CARE!” I screamed, my eyes darting around to check I had not been heard. Delilah was watching me with tears falling down her cheeks, the rise and fall of her chest betraying her fear.
Pushing my hands out in surrender, I begged, “Please, Delilah, escape, come with me. There must be more to life than this. For us all.”
Her head shook back and forth. “No, outside is evil. Evil stalks. It waits for us to be weak—you know the teachings, the warnings. You will be in danger outside. You will be swayed from the righteous path. And Maddie… Maddie will not go with you either. She does not even like to leave our quarters, never mind go out there!”
She was plain wrong about outside. Had to be. There was no righteous path to be found here. I will take my chances out there, outside the fence.
“I must go. Do not tell anyone you saw me, please.”
“Salome, I cannot lie. It is a sin. I will be punished.”
She was right, of course.
“Then disappear for a while. Give me time to get free, anything.”
“The fence is too high. They will not allow you to leave. You will have to pass over miles of harsh land, and then where will you go? We have never been outside, Salome. We do not know what is out there. The disciples will find you. They always find those who try to break free.” Her breath hitched. “You know how they treat deserters, Mae. I… I cannot lose you too…”
“That may all be true, but I will try regardless. Go back to your room and stay hidden. If they find you, do not lie about what I have done. Protect yourself first. Protect Maddie.” I moved toward my closest friend and held her tightly in my arms, memorizing her comforting embrace, then whispered sadly, “I will pray for you every day. You will see me again, Lilah… Tell Maddie… Someday, I you will see you both again…”
I withdrew. Delilah backed away in the direction of the Cursed quarters and shock, fear and sadness contorted her face. I lifted my bare feet and ran toward the perimeter of the fence.
I had to leave.
I told myself to run… run … just keep running…
Letting out a sharp gasp, my eyes sprang open and fixed on a dark wooden sky above me. My vision pulsed around the edges.
It was a dream. It was only a dream…
My momentary feeling of peace quickly evaporated as I stared at the strange ceiling and I stiffened as I realized I did not recognize my surroundings.
The room was dark and smelled different from anything I had known. Hmm? Perhaps leather and an oil of some description?
Glancing to the right, barely opening my eyelids, I noticed a man stood at a long table. He had long brown hair and he was taking instruments or pills from a black bag. His back was turned away from me and there was a picture on the back of his leather vest. For several seconds I struggled to make out the image, but then my stomach fell as recognition hit—Satan!
I controlled my breathing, striving to keep calm, trying to focus my fuzzy mind. Thankful for small mercies, I rejoiced that he had not noticed I was awake. But then he turned to face me and his short brown beard came into view.
My mind was a foggy mess as I tried to remember why I was in such a strange place. It had been the day of my twenty-third birthday… my wedding day to Prophet David… but… but… something happened to make me run. My heart pumped my blood like white rapids within my chest, the currents burning under my skin. What was it? What did I see…? A gate… a body… my… No!
Bella… in that cell… dying in the cell… beaten, bloodied… neglected. She had told me to run as she took her last breath. I could not save her. I ran… but… but… I could not remember the rest.
My breaths came in short, sharp pants and I tried to move my hand, but something was poking into my flesh.
My fingers began tapping nervously. I could not remember what had happened to me, what led me to this bed, unconscious, but I knew I must leave, flee this place.
I began counting. One… two… three… four… five… and inched my fingers to the sheets blanketing my body. I was wearing some form of robe. Six… seven… eight… nine… I took a deep breath.
Finally reaching ten, I slowly lifted my body, my limbs feeling too heavy. Kicking my legs over the side of the bed, I pulled the robe tight around my waist to protect my modesty and landed on shaky feet, a sharp pain ripping up my left calf.
Abruptly, the strange man spun around; my sudden movement obviously shocked him. He dropped whatever was in his hands and he inched forward, palms thrust out, surprise clear on his face. My eyes darted around the room: a large set of wooden drawers, one single black leather chair, black painted walls, washroom, bed.
Feeling a sting, I glanced down and noticed something was in the back of my hand, a wire attached to a strange clear bag hanging from the bedpost.