Louis found a way out. He always did. He'd been finding them since he was four. He might have been doing it before then, but that was as far back as he remembered getting in trouble for it. He sort of felt sorry for the Taylors. They were really nice people, which was why he'd gotten out fast. He'd known they were just too nice to get stuck with him as soon as he'd seen them, but Social Services wouldn't waste a good foster home. This one was so good he'd done something he'd never done before. He'd left a note. The Taylors would find it first thing in the morning. He'd stuck it in the coffee pot.
It wasn't that he didn't appreciate a warm house, good food, clean clothes and the rest. He did. He just knew he didn't deserve them. He was no good and would never amount to anything. People like the Taylors didn't understand. He'd had to get out before he messed up their lives.
Louis had been in foster care since he was a toddler. He couldn't remember anything else, so he thought of it as "always." Most of the homes had been nice. A couple had been terrible. He'd sent letters to Juvenile Services about two of them after he got out. He didn't want some poor kid ending up in either of them. In one, the woman had locked him outside in the yard after breakfast and let him in just before her husband came home for dinner. She'd used a wooden spoon to teach him not to beg to be let in if it rained or snowed. The second letter had been easier. He was older and could write better. It was short too, but he'd had to find somebody to spell pervert for him. It had never occurred to him to complain about the ones who'd screamed he was no good. They were right.
In all, Louis had been in thirteen foster homes, four group homes, and juvenile detention twice. He'd got caught stealing food the first time. That had only been for two days. It was just to teach him he didn't want to end up there. He'd been eight. The lesson had been learned. The second time, he'd just been in the wrong place at the right time and gotten grabbed along with a bunch who'd been slashing tires and breaking antennas. The cop had laughed when he'd said he wasn't with them and shoved him in the cop car. He'd spent ninety-seven days before one of the slashers had told someone he hadn't been one of them. He'd heard a guard comment to another he'd probably done something else to deserve it the day they'd let him out. The other guard had agreed and said he was no good.
Louis had a last name. They'd stuck one on him. He didn't use it much. Once he'd wondered if his life would have been different if they'd called him Robert Louis instead of Louis Roberts. He hadn't wondered very long. He was no good and most people knew it, even if they didn't realize they did. It was why he hadn't been adopted.
Louis was "odd that way." He was fair-skinned, blue-eyed and he'd had soft blond curls when he was little. He was the 'type' who got adopted fast, but he hadn't. The people who wanted a child to be their own had all somehow known he was no good. He'd learned they were right.
He'd gotten drunk the first time when he was nine. It hadn't been his idea. The pervert hadn't wanted him to remember what happened good enough to tell anybody. He got drunk every night the pervert's wife played cards until he found a way out.
Louis had learned not to take off from school. The cops watched them. He could understand why. There were a lot of perverts. He didn't go to school much, but he always went back to the house in the afternoon if he'd left for school in the morning. At thirteen he'd gotten into a routine.
It wasn't hard to find a drink at night, or anything else, but crack and pot didn't really interest him. He'd had both. Pot helped if he couldn't find a drink. He'd never get enough money together for crack without stealing or sucking dick and he didn't like it enough to do either. He'd begun prowling the streets at night and curling up somewhere to read and sleep during the day when he was thirteen. He was hard experience wise about the hopeless shades who wandered the night; bodies still alive, souls already dead.
It was getting colder. Louis thought wistfully of the new winter coat Mom Taylor had been so pleased to lay on 'his' bed that day. He'd left the tags on and hadn't worn it. He hoped she could take it back. He shivered and pulled his jacket collar around his neck tighter. He needed a drink and heat. Ideal would be a couple girls with a car and a half rack. Ideal would be a girl with a job and a place who'd buy him booze and feed him to fuck him. He looked old enough to get away with it. Nobody would give her shit.
He put the fantasy away. Reality was a woman might decide he was pretty enough to play with someday. Of course, he'd have to be somewhere a woman who didn't smell would notice him first. The ones who were the places he hung around only noticed long enough to figure out he wasn't competition. A couple had told him he could make "good money in a nice neighborhood." He'd declined an invitation to meet the guy who'd know the right one.
Louis didn't think he was an alcoholic. His need for booze was all in his head. He could stop with one beer easy when necessary. He could go without and not get shakes. He never craved a drink really. He craved the oblivion enough of them brought and he didn't do it every night. That had to wait. They'd see it and put him in rehab. He'd keep it to a couple nights a week until he was eighteen. It was better than three months of not being able to drink at all. He figured he looked old enough he was out for good this time, but he wasn't going to take the chance. It wasn't that much longer.
The wind gusted from the north and blew grit from the low rent business district street into his face. He figured the temp was around twenty-five and still headed down. He spotted a nice piece of cardboard. Now all he needed was a bottle. He turned west at the corner. The best place to look for somebody willing to give him one was around a liquor store in an area just like this. He'd seen a truck unloading lots of cheap wine by the back door of one a couple days before. It had been exactly what he was looking for. New part of the city, but the neighborhood was the same.
Louis almost tripped over the leg sticking out of the alley. He saw opportunity. Old drunks shared when they got drunk enough, sometimes. He looked into the shadows and saw the guy was laying on his side with a half bottle of vodka in his hand.
Slowly Louis realized something was odd, but it took him a minute to figure out what it was. The guy wasn't breathing. He was dead. Louis reached down and slid the bottle out of cold fingers. He didn't take anything else, even if the coat did look warm. That would be different. He lifted the bottle toward the dead guy in toast and took a swallow.
"You got all the way there this time. Thanks for the drink. I figure freezing is how I'll go, but I'm in no hurry. I'm not tired of waking up yet. You look like you were."
Louis realized the guy had a stash when he looked around for the bottle cap. Tucked behind a rock by the wall was a 'pint' of grain alcohol. He put it in his pocket and thanked the dead man again. He was too cold to keep looking for the cap. He'd just have to be careful not to be seen carrying the bottle. He needed to get to his piece of cardboard before someone else found it.
He hit another bonus when he got back to it. He dragged it down the cul-de-sac by the loading dock and spotted the perfect place. He pulled it down the steps and into a roll around him, then arranged the ends to direct the heat coming through the big gap under the door into his shelter. He even had light. The light coming through the frosted glass in the upper part of the door was enough to read by. He arranged himself and his cardboard perfectly in the three and a half foot square at the bottom of the four steps and settled down with his bottle and his book. Tomorrow was Sunday. There shouldn't be anyone around until he was gone.
The book was the only thing he'd taken from the Taylors'. He'd thanked her for buying it for him in the note. He'd taken it because he didn't figure either of them would ever read a paperback, especially the science fiction/fantasy stuff he liked. This was a new series and, from the blurb on the back, might be just the kind of mixture of them he liked best. He took a swallow of vodka and started reading. If the book was good, he'd finish it before he got too drunk to read. He read pretty fast. It started good. The kid was his age, had "dishwater blond" hair like him and was just about six foot. The difference, of course, was he was an exiled prince and a hero. Louis took a swallow and lost himself in the exploits of somebody who he could pretend to be, at least until he finished the book or got too drunk to read.
Louis woke up slowly. He was in no hurry to see how bad the hangover was. It was about a minute before it hit him something wasn't right. He wasn't cold. He was hot. He worked at remembering. He should be wrapped in cardboard with concrete underneath and cold. He was laying bare on dirt and was hot. "Bare" suddenly hit him. His clothes were gone. He got awake fast after that. He was into something weird.
Louis got really scared when he sat up. He was in a cage. He could barely sit up all the way and it was just long and wide enough for him to lay down. He thought "wire coffin" and wished he hadn't. The light was dim, but he could see more cages like the one he was in. He wanted to scream at someone to open the latch he couldn't reach, but kept quiet. People who put kids in cages naked were real unlikely to appreciate them yelling to get out.
He tried to count the cages, but settled for an estimate of about seventy. There wasn't anyone in the cages close to him, but he was sure he saw people in some of the ones farther away. He wiped sweat out of his eyes and wondered if they'd be cooked when someone came for them. The metal barn-like building was becoming an oven. He figured it was because the sun was shining on the roof. He tried to brush some of the dirt off and left a smear down his side. He figured it had to be a hundred ten at least.
Louis got thirstier as time passed. He'd found the cage was all the way around when he'd dug into the dirt about a half inch. He thinned that some covering the shit he'd had to take. He didn't piss much. He figured he was getting pretty dehydrated. He wasn't sweating as much and he knew it wasn't getting cooler. He told himself somebody had stuck him in the cage and had to have a reason, so they probably wouldn't let him die. He smiled ironically. The thought wasn't exactly cheering.
Louis realized it was getting cooler. He'd been 'in and out' all day. He thought he remembered hallucinations at one point. He remembered something he'd read and hunted a pebble to suck on. It was supposed to make you have saliva so your mouth wasn't so dry and you didn't feel so thirsty. He didn't find one. The dirt was just dirt.
The light got dimmer as it got cooler. Louis began to shiver. He drew himself into as tight a ball as he could. The temperature change said "desert." If he was right, it could be freezing before morning, then broiling again by midday. He was beginning to look forward to it.
By the time it began to cool off the next night, Louis didn't know it. He'd passed out from the heat and lack of water an hour before. He didn't hear the helicopter, or see the middle of the roof slide back. He didn't see the cable with the questing claw that, one by one, caught and lifted the cages through the roof. He didn't know he'd passed a test. He was still alive. He was strong enough to be useful.
Louis was surprised to wake up. The sound of trickling water led him to the pipe sticking out of the rock wall and he drank thirstily. The smell from the hole in the lower end of the trough the water ran into told him what it was for, but he didn't need it. He looked around the about seven foot cube of gray rock wall and floor of the cell. The rock was the same everywhere except for where a metal grate about two and a half feet square was set into one wall at floor level.
He couldn't figure out where the dim light was coming from at first, then he reached up to check his estimate of the height of the cell and realized there was a fungus on the ceiling and it glowed. It suddenly hit him the grate was the door. He sat down on the shelf where he'd been when he awakened. He suddenly had the image of the cell, shelf, trough on the wall opposite and the grate being the only things in existence.
He got down and looked through the grate. There was nothing to see but a stone corridor about four feet wide. He decided the slot in the bottom of the grate was to push a plate of food through, then it dawned on him he wasn't very hungry, or thirsty, not like he should have been, and he should be real weak, or thought he should be. He rubbed his face and stopped in surprise. He didn't have any stubble, not even the feel of fresh shaved. His face was just plain smooth. When he found the puncture mark in his arm, he giggled. IV feeding just didn't go with the cell at all.
Louis had no way to tell time. Three times he heard a flat bowl slid under the grate, but all he could see when he got there was corridor. The food reminded him of congealed oatmeal, but he ate it with his fingers and pushed the bowl through the grate when he was done. He'd learned that fast. The first time he'd kept the bowl. He'd gotten real hungry before he thought of pushing it out. Food had been pushed through the slot not long afterward. He jumped up when he heard a clank. The grate was opening.
Louis realized nothing else was going to happen after a couple minutes. He looked out to see if the corridor was empty, then quickly scooted through the opening. He was pretty sure that was what someone wanted him to do, but he wanted out of the cell more than he wanted to aggravate "somebody." He got up fast and looked both ways. The corridor ended in a stone wall about twelve feet away one direction. The other way turned a corner in about eight. He cautiously headed for the corner and peeked around it. There was another corridor and another corner.
He'd rounded five corners into empty corridors, without even grates, when he began to hear a murmur of sound. After the sixth, he decided it was voices. They got loud enough to hear they weren't speaking any language he recognized before he got to the next corner. He was careful. He peeked around the corner, then pulled back to think.
There were heavy drapes around a little balcony of some type. There wasn't a rail around it, but the drapes hung below the obvious edge. The voices were coming from the other side of the drapes. He didn't trust it, but he needed to at least peek through them. He moved very cautiously onto the little balcony.
He spun when bars shot across the opening behind him, then turned back fast. The drapes had just dropped. He was on the narrow balcony and there were hundreds of people looking up at him from the square below. A robed man was standing on a platform slightly below him and talking to the crowd through a megaphone. Louis got ready to attempt to jump down from the about fifteen foot height and run for it, but stopped fast. Jagged edged glass was rising around the balcony, all around it.
When the glass got to about his height, the balcony, or platform, started to sink. He was in a glass cage barely big enough to turn around in. When it touched the ground it started to move out from the wall and slowly rotated. Louis suddenly realized he was hearing an auction and he was what was being sold. He kept quiet, but he couldn't quite stop the single tear that ran down his cheek. He didn't figure anyone would notice or care. His face wasn't what the robed people were looking at; robed men, swarthy and heavily bearded.
Louis didn't know if he brought a good price, but the bidding had gone on for awhile. When it was over, the glass cage moved along some kind of track nearly a hundred feet through the leering faces of the crowd. It stopped under a walkway against the opposite wall from where it had come down. He looked up when the volume of the crowd noise suddenly rose and saw drapes fall. Another kid was on a platform that was fast becoming a glass cage. He looked Arabic, or maybe Hispanic. Louis wondered if he understood the language, or that he was being auctioned.
A rattle attracted Louis' attention and he looked directly up. An ugly, thick-bodied, bearded man was lowering chains into the glass cage/case. He said something and Louis just looked at him. The man pantomimed putting something around his ankles, wrists and neck. Louis stared at him, then looked at the chains. There were wide and open manacles hanging from them and one that was too big to be for anything but his neck. The man shouted, pulled some kind of black rod from the wide cloth wrapped around his waist and touched Louis' head with it.
Louis screamed in pain at the touch. The jolt collapsed him against the wall of the case, but it was too narrow to slide down. The man rattled the chains, then reached down with the rod. Louis took hold of the chains. He took another jolt before he found a way to get his foot high enough to get the shackle around his ankle, then another because he didn't push the one on his wrist closed all the way. He got a fourth jolt, a much stronger one, when he didn't know what to do with the end of the chain lowered to him. The man didn't pantomime putting it through the ring on the collar and holding the end up until after he'd given it to him. It was intentional. He liked to hurt people. He seemed to be disappointed Louis had only screamed once.
The glass sides went down and the man pulled Louis off the platform in the alcove and along the wall. Louis was on his toes and still choking. A hand snaked out of the darkness of an arch in the wall and snapped another chain on the chain that ran from the shackles, through the manacles and to his neck. Louis had noticed the ring just above the manacles. Now he knew what it was used for. He felt the other chain slide out of the neck ring as he was pulled into the dim corridor. He felt hands and another chain sliding through the ring on the collar before his eyes adjusted to the change from bright sun to shadow. A man wrapped his hands around each of the manacles on his wrists and ankles and then the collar around his neck. He couldn't see what he did, but all were tighter.
As Louis' eyes adjusted to the dimness, he realized he was hooked to a line of naked men chained just as he was at ankle and throat. He saw one turn around slightly and one of several robed men with rods in their hands touch him and send him screaming to his knees. He stood very still. There were several coffles being made up in the long wide area entered by the narrow arches at either end. Anything more than a slight shuffle in place brought a touch with a rod.
As far as Louis could see, there were no women in the about one hundred by sixty foot area. The big stone support pillars and dimness toward the ends of the wide chamber might have hidden them, but he didn't think so. He hadn't seen any in the large square of the market with its wide arched entrance on one side and sale stage on the other. The two side walls were just alike. Perhaps women went to the other side. Perhaps they weren't sold.
He almost laughed when the stray thought crossed his mind he could have picked a better fantasy to step into. He sobered quickly. Whatever he'd stepped into, it was far too real and his chances of surviving it were not good. He began watching and listening. Any word he could learn might help keep him alive and he did not intend to die before he found out what the hell was going on.
Louis noticed most of the men in his line were big and heavily muscled. He suddenly realized all the men were. One who looked like he'd been half starved had muscle. He sighed. He really didn't like heavy labor. He had muscle, but most of it had come from the genes of his unknown parents, his age and walking a lot. He also didn't have their kind of muscle.
The next sudden realization was almost a shock. He'd overlooked something extremely obvious. Every man in a robe had a beard. None of the naked men he could see far enough to distinguish even had a shadow and they should. Most of them were of what he thought of as Arabic appearance and should have had thick curling beards like the men in robes. He saw no one else as fair as he was, nor any that he'd call black. All around him looked older than he was and even the one kid he'd seen being auctioned had looked older. He hadn't had a beard either. Slaves had no beards and that was all the identification mark needed. He wondered if it was permanent or had to be done again once in awhile. If it was permanent, so was slavery. He didn't like that idea at all.
Louis didn't realize he'd made three decisions. He'd decided to live, to find out what was going on and he didn't intend to be somebody's slave his whole life, or even very long.
The chamber began to clear as coffles of men were led through the narrow arch opposite the one Louis had been pulled through. The light seemed to be lessening and he thought the sun was starting to go down. In what he guessed to be about four hours, he'd picked up about four words he was pretty sure he had right; move, chain, faster and slave. He had about a half dozen others, but he wasn't sure about them. His legs ached and he had to piss so bad it hurt, but he stood still. The robed men had fewer to watch and they needed very little reason to use their rods.
Louis wondered if the rods were cattle prods. He'd never seen one and they might be, maybe with extra batteries to give a bigger jolt. He'd heard there were places in Asia where slavery was still practiced. The IV might have contained a drug to keep him asleep, but why him? Why grab a kid off the street of an American city and take him halfway around the world, then chain him to a labor gang? It didn't make sense.
The beard really bothered him. He wouldn't have expected it would. He hated to shave and he really didn't like beards, especially his. It had been thick places, thin places and had blond, red and dark patches. His hair was about the same, but the red and light blond weren't as obvious in the dishwater as they were in his predominantly dark beard. He didn't know much about permanent hair removal except it was done, but he thought it took awhile and had to be one hair at a time. He resisted the impulse to feel for stubble again. The thought hadn't been comforting.
The chains through the rings on Louis' neck and between his feet moved. He'd decided that meant some other poor sucker had been hooked on. He heard the word for move and realized this time they meant his line. He'd watched other men when they were moved and seen how they walked in the shackles. He'd also seen tripping nearly strangled you and pulling others down if you fell got you hit with a rod. He was ready when the man in front of him started moving. His only hope at that moment was they'd let him take a piss soon.
They went through the arch and out of the building. A huge trampled area split into paths around its ragged edges. He could see at least two of them joined roads close by. Road being a wide trail of packed earth instead of a narrow one. Louis' group veered slightly left and took a path that wasn't one of those he could see joined a road.
He had to take a piss so bad what he was seeing didn't register for awhile. The grass was late spring and the trees had new leaves. That put him in the southern hemisphere. It was late fall in the northern. He tried to remember his geography and what he knew about Africa and South America. He dropped South America. The people looked wrong and so did the greening fields on the low rolling hills around them. He remembered waking up with a piss hard-on and nearly prayed it couldn't happen when he was awake.
One prayer was answered. He even managed to get stopped and turned toward the ravine without getting a jolt. When the men on both sides of him let go, he sighed in relief. He learned to keep the chain out of the stream fast. He wondered if the robed men somewhere behind the line had deliberately waited until the wind freshened and would blow toward them when they pissed. The ravine had been alongside awhile.
They kept going when the sun went down. Louis almost sighed in relief when the moon rose, then laughed at himself. This was reality, not some book. The moon was the moon and this was Earth. Somewhere was an embassy and a jet home to America. He might feel like he was on an alien world, but he had to be in Africa on Earth. He had no doubt this was no fantasy.
The shackles were hobbling misery and his ankles were rubbed raw before Louis adjusted to the length of step he could take. The walking itself kept him warm as the night got cooler. He was getting very tired and thirst and hunger were becoming things he couldn't ignore. Like the constant rub of the shackles and the stone bruises on feet that had always known shoes, they could only be endured.
A man behind Louis fell and the strangling collar pulled him to his knees. He struggled to get up but knew better than to move closer to the man in front of him in the coffle to stand. Spacing violations always got you a prod. This might not. He didn't know what was going on behind him, but somebody yelled and everybody in front of him just dropped where they were and laid on the verge of the path with their chained feet in it. They faced the same way as when traveling. The coffle kept them from even turning their heads in seconds. Louis was pulled to the ground as the throat and ankle chains grew taut. He heard pounding and felt a faint vibration in the ground. They were being staked down for the night.
Louis was jerked awake and to his feet. Cold spray hit him before he got his eyes open. He closed them quickly. He was being doused with a bucket of dust. A hand grabbed his hair and yanked his head back, then another gently cleaned his eyes. The gentle touch shocked him. He opened his eyes to look into a pair with no concern in them at all. The gentle touch was only slaves cost money and eyes were delicate. The total unconcern was more appropriate and he'd seen it many times before.
Before long, Louis figured out what the sticky spray and dust were for. He was coated in it. His sweat turned the dust dark, but it didn't come off. It was sun screen. He'd have been fried in an hour. He heard the word he'd decided meant stop and carefully watched the man in front of him.
An old man in hobbles came down the line and Louis realized they were being given water. The old man dipped a long handled ladle into a bucket and the man in front of Louis tilted his head back. The water was poured into his mouth. The ladle never touched him. Louis set himself to lean back as the man had done. He didn't know how hard it would be to drink that way. He managed to keep from choking and didn't lose any, but he got his head up fast when the man stopped pouring. He hadn't even thought about how hard it was to swallow with your head back, just how much he'd wanted the water.
Another old man came by and shoved something like a potato into Louis' manacled hands. It had to be food. Louis could get his hands just close enough to his mouth to eat it. He thought the thing was what the oatmealy stuff had been made from. It had even less taste raw. It might have been recognizable if it wasn't dried out and wrinkled up, but at least it didn't have dirt on its yellowish-brown skin, or rotten spots inside.
It became routine. They stopped twice a day for a piss. You took a shit with the one in the morning or you didn't get a chance. They stopped four times a day for water and were given one of the potato things two of them. They stopped for the night when someone fell and a touch of the rod brought no response. Louis was ironically pleased it was never him.
Slaves were expensive. His ankles got attention. Something that burned like hellfire was poured under the shackles each night after the second. It left a greasy feel. The fourth day after the treatment began, Louis realized they were healing fast.
The countryside around them began to change and he got nervous again. He'd never heard of pine forests in Africa. Hills got steeper after they joined a road. Louis figured that was why they were on it. They'd been moving almost due south and the road ran southwest. They'd been moving eight days. Even at their pace, they'd covered a lot of ground. In all that time, he hadn't seen an animal or tractor in a field, or heard a rooster crow. The few buildings he saw were stone, from what he could see. They were all distant. He'd seen no people either, but that didn't bother him as much as that he'd seen no cows or goats, or heard any dogs. Africa had them.
They traveled the road four days through low mountains. Louis itched everywhere. The dust was still stuck to him and he stank. They turned left onto another road, then onto a well trod path. To his amazement, they were walked under a waterfall and told to stop.
The water beating down was icy cold. The fall wasn't much higher than his head, or the river much deeper than his ankles, but there was a great deal of water coming over the wide ledge the coffle stood beneath. He used it to get as clean as he could, even managed to get his elbows up enough to rinse under his arms, but that was after he used his hands to divert water to his crotch. He didn't know how long he'd have and that was first. But he was still so relieved to be getting the dust off, he almost missed the call to move.
The path from the waterfall led diagonally up the riverbank and back to the road. When they turned a curve in it, Louis nearly stopped in shock. Castles didn't belong in Africa, not that kind anyway. Or at least he was pretty sure they didn't. Then he realized it sat on an island in a river and they were veering to the right. They weren't going to the huge edifice with pennons flying above high stone walls.
About an hour later, they crowded onto a raft and it was pulled across the wide river, along a thick rope through rings on its side. None of the robed men were with them. Ahead, Louis saw men pulling the ferry with a thick rope attached to the front of it. There were several robed men with rods in their hands watching. The men with the rope walked straight into a tunnel into the cliff twenty meters back from the river. Louis managed to get off the raft and up on the riverbank without mishap and followed his man into the black hole.
They were given time to let their eyes adjust, then led deeper into the cave. When they passed from cave to mine, it was obvious. Louis fought claustrophobia in the seven foot by five foot tunnel supported by rough hewn beams and lit by flickering oil lamps hung on spikes driven into the walls about every thirty feet.
When the tunnel opened into a large chamber, they were led down a winding descent to its floor. They walked straight across the underground chamber and Louis tried to estimate its size and the number of men chained around its perimeter. They were traveling down another tunnel before he could get farther than "big and many." All the men had been laying down. He wondered if that was where they slept. They were stopped and Louis heard chains rattling behind him. It happened twice more, then he learned what the rattle was. A chain was hooked to each of his wrist manacles.
He didn't see what was done, but suddenly Louis' wrists dropped apart and away from the chain that ran from his throat to his ankles. A chain was clipped to the neck ring and he was pulled off the coffle. He was pulled into an alcove and his feet pulled out from under him by the shackle chain. When he pushed himself up, the men were gone and he was chained by his neck to a thick ring set in the roof of the alcove about two feet above his head.
Louis recognized the dim light as the luminescent fungus. The back wall didn't have it and at its base lay a pick. He noticed the odd shape in one corner had small wheels and decided it must be where he put what he dug out. He didn't know what he was digging for, or how to use the pick for that matter, but he had a suspicion he'd better learn fast.
Routine began. Louis learned, if his cart wasn't full, he didn't get fed. He worked til he dropped. What he thought of as the sixth day, he didn't get bypassed for any meals. He'd learned he got a large bucket of water every four carts he filled. He learned to shit and piss when the reeking container with a seat was shoved into the front of his alcove and wipe with the few leaves on the shelf on its side. But he didn't learn any more words. And he didn't learn where he was.
Louis decided he was being fed more often. Either that or he needed less food, but he didn't think so. He was getting good with the pick. A time came when he just couldn't do any more. His neck chain stopped him. He couldn't reach any part of the wall to knock loose more than a bit of rubble with his pick. He laid it as close to the wall as he could reach and sat down as close to the front of his alcove as he could.
Louis got two jolts from a rod before he got through he couldn't reach the wall. He got two more before he was dragged from his alcove by his neck chain. He didn't know what the three men wanted him to do. He screamed he didn't when another one of the robed men said something, then jolted him. The man looked surprised and said something else. Louis looked at him a second, then tried.
"I don't know what you're saying."
The man turned to another and Louis' neck chain was tugged. He got the idea of what he was supposed to do when he saw the water. He waded down into the chest deep pool and cleaned himself as best he could without soap. The chance to get clean was worth the chill of the water. A tug came before he felt really clean, but he scrambled out as the slack in the chain was taken up by the man leading him.
He didn't know where he was going, but he was pretty sure it wasn't back to the chamber where the men had been chained. The pool hadn't been on their route before and they were going up a steeper slope than they'd gone down. The ring of picks began to fade as they climbed. It seemed odd not to hear them. Louis walked carefully and didn't look around. Murmurs behind him said there were at least two following him. Three seemed a bit many just to take one slave somewhere, but he wasn't really sure that's why they were behind him.
Louis smelled 'green' and saw daylight ahead. He didn't know how desperately he'd wanted it until that moment. It blinded him when he reached it. He stopped on command and was suddenly jolted and yelled at.
"A few words! Ha'av! Tov! Borv! Fla'av! That's all! That's all I know!"
"Jid siv ha'av tookaso'ov dod tov."
"Ha'av and tov. Slave and stop."
Louis sighed in relief when the man tugged him forward into a garden, or maybe a park. They wound between flowering hedges and past fountains, flower beds and statuary. The statuary made Louis nervous. It was all of nude males. They came out of the garden and onto lawn. He saw high stone walls on either side and wondered if they'd come into the grounds of the castle he'd seen from the back. The stone wall in front of him had an opening and that's where they seemed to be headed.
Copyright © 1999 Sharon L 'Spinner' Reddy
All Rights Reserved