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Awake

The blackness slowly fades until I am conscious of the hard, stone floor beneath me, slowly ebbing away all my body heat. I carefully lift my head a few inches, and blearily open my eyes. Sharp pain shoots through my body at this small effort, so I carefully lower my head and once again surrender to sleep.

The second time I open my eyes, I feel more awake, more aware of my surroundings. I hear heavy breathing all around me, and I feel pure panic, as the noises bring back the memories. Of my capture.

I had been walking up the dirt road towards my home, with a letter in my hand. It had been pressed into my hands by a dirty stranger, who fled before I could give it back. The thick snowflakes prevented me from opening it then and there, but I had every intention of doing so upon entering my little house. After starting a good, warm fire, of course.

I never had the chance. One moment I was walking along, humming under my breath, and taking in the decadent scenery. The next, I was picked up from behind and a burlap sack was thrown over my head. I felt the envelope being ripped from my clenched fist, and I fought. Oh, how I had fought. I remember kicking at everything in sight, feeling satisfaction when I finally connected with something. The satisfaction did not last long. I was thrown to the ground, and received a few brutal blows. The last was a kick to the head, because I wasn't fighting after that one.

I am returned to the present by a shuffling to my left. I cautiously turn my head towards the noise, and a man, beaten badly, lays less than two feet from me. I shoot into a sitting position, and try to scoot backwards, but I can't. A desperate keening noise begins in the back of my throat as I look around and take in the vast amount of bodies surrounding me, all chained to the stone floor. Unwanted realization sets in, and I look to the reason why I can't get up and run from this horrific scene. Chains. Heavy and menacing, they encircle my ankles, preventing me from standing. From fleeing.

Desperation heightens, and I immediately begin to pull at the chains, trying to remove them from my feet, or unbolt them from the floor. I claw and claw, breath hitching into silent sobs as I attack, fingers turning into a bloody pulp as I scratch and pull. I continue until I can no longer, then I fall into a heap and my cries reach a loud volume, joining the chorus of the others. I cannot understand where I am, or even begin to fathom who would chain all these poor souls, these beaten and miserable beings. All I know is that my entire body is filled with dread, and I do not want to know the answers to my questions.

I curl onto my side, in a hopeless ball, and see the eyes of the hairy, beaten man beside me, who is now awake. I take in his cruel grin, hear his insane laughter. I try to inch as far away from him as my chains will allow, but I cannot escape his breathless voice, full of the smell of death and decay.

“They're coming.”

He wheezes and cackles some more, but I can still hear it over his insanity. The footsteps. The sound of an entire army marching towards its goal, purposeful in its desire for death and destruction. The moaning and screams of the chained escalate, but they are not enough to drown out the sounds of the approaching army.

I join them.

I scream myself awake.



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