I woke up disoriented and scared. I had something in my throat, choking me, I panicked and tried to pull it out.
“Try to calm down,” said a woman, “we had to put a tube on your throat to help you breath” the woman reached my side and I could see her. “Just give me a second and I will take it out.”
She was an old woman, at least much older than me, her skin was scarred and she had an ugly burn mark on her cheek. She took the tube out and I felt more at ease, but breathing proved to be difficult. My body was numb, but sore.
“Thanks,” I managed to say, but it was a painful effort. “What happened?”
“Don’t you remember?” she looked at me with pity. “Maybe is better if you don’t.” But I did, I remembered Agmong and the others. I felt the tears running down my face. “Easy, easy,” the woman took my hand in hers, “you need to calm down. You were badly hurt and you will be here for a while,” she smiled at me, “you will be safe here.”
“I want to go. I don’t belong here” it was difficult to speak, my voice as raspy and hollow.
“You belong here now,” she adjusted something on the IV in my arm, “you will have to stay here. The most I can do for you is to give you some advice. Next time, don’t try to resist, you have to obey your superiors, no matter what they demand of you.”
Next time? No, no! I didn’t want it to happen again, I just wanted to go away, but I couldn’t move, couldn’t escape. I was tired and was feeling drowsy, before the woman left the room I was already sleep.
I felt an intense pain, like a cramp in my leg and woke up. In front of me, holding me by my ankle was Agmong.
“Are you going to be sleeping the rest of your life?” he asked.
“I…” I was afraid, having Agmong in front of me, staring at me was terrifying. I didn’t like the sensation and I was mad that I was feeling it, but couldn’t help it.
“I came to see how you were doing,” he didn’t seem concerned about my well being, he was the one who had sent me there after all, “and to tell you that I don’t like my underlings being so… lazy. You have been resting for far too long and I want you back as soon as possible. You have until tomorrow morning to go back to the barracks or I will come for you, understood?”
I couldn’t speak, so I just nodded. Agmong left the room and I let go the breath I didn’t realize I was holding. I couldn’t understand my reaction, I knew I was stronger than that, wasn’t I? I tried again to remember my life before meeting Agmong, but my mind was blank. The headache was coming back, making it difficult to even think.
I spent the day thinking about Agmong’s threat. I didn’t know what he would do if I didn’t go, but I was afraid to find out. The next day I was discharged and despite being sore and tired I went looking for Agmong.
I arrived at the barracks and stayed at the door, afraid of going inside, but the door opened before I had the chance to change my mind about it. A young man with vacant eyes was on the other side of the door. I noticed a burn mark on his face, I realized it was the same I had on my own face.
“I see you decided to show up,” said Agmong from behind the young man, “I thought that I would have to go look for you.”
The young man stepped outside and I was free to step inside. Agmong’s stare was making me nervous, but I tried not to let it show. The place looked familiar, the barracks consisted of a common area at the front followed by two rows of beds, one in front of the other and at the end there was a door to what I assumed was the sergeant’s room.
“I hope you are not hungry because breakfast time is over” said Agmong. “The last bed on the left row is yours, the closest one to my room” I tried to ignore the fact that we were going to be so close, “in the trunk at the end of your bed you will find your weapons and other instruments. Go pick them up, you will need them for training and shooting practice.”
I started my trip across the barracks and could feel people staring at me. It took all of my self-control not to start running. I arrived at my bed and opened the trunk. I took a crossbow and a fire gun. As I held them in my hands, I felt a certain familiarity with them that I couldn’t understand. Both weapons felt like a natural extension of my arm, their weight and their feel were comforting. I tried to remember using them, but once again, I was just drawing blanks and worse, the headache was getting back. I was getting more frustrated by the minute, no matter how much I tried I couldn’t remember anything. The only memories I held were those of my education at the Burrow and then arriving at sector 32.
Our first stop was at the training camps where we were paired up. At first I was intimidated by my opponent, I remembered his face, he had been part of my nightmares the last few nights. Once we started fighting I realized that I had a chance of winning and the fear evaporated. My body was moving almost by itself, I realized that if kept my mind blank and just let myself react I could put up a good fight. Once I saw what I was capable of, I started attacking, I wanted him to pay back for being a part of my humiliation and I was doing a good job until Agmong noticed it. We were ordered to pick new partners.
My next opponent wasn’t easy, he was faster than me and my body wasn’t reacting fast enough to stop him. I needed a plan if I wanted to win, I needed to find the best way of fighting him, but as I tried to think of one the pain in my head became unbearable.
After that we had shooting practice, it started as something fun. I found that shooting was natural to me and my aim was far better than that of the rest of the unit. Shot after shot my aim was perfect. I felt exhilarated to find that I was good at something, better than anyone else, I was even better than Agmong. I started thinking… how many bullets would I need to end him? Could I be fast enough to kill him? But I just thought about it, I couldn’t do it. Attacking a superior officer, if he was one, would just cause me trouble, it could even mean death.
“Is this too easy for you?” asked Agmong after a series of shooting that had gone exceptionally well. My confidence was coming back and I was enjoying the exercise. “If this task is beneath you, maybe we can find some other way for you to help the rest of the squad.”
“I’m just practicing, like everyone else” I was scared again, something in his face told me that I was in trouble.
“Come with me,” he said and I did.
He guided me to the extreme of the field, close to where the targets were placed, we stopped in front of a wall that was filled with shooting marks. Once close to it, I noticed something weird, there were some cuffs embedded in the wall, too late I realized what it meant. Agmong grabbed me by the neck and pushed me to the wall.
“No, please, don’t,” I begged imagining what he intended.
“You are obviously too good for this exercise, you will be more useful as a target. Usually we use this scenario to practice how to incapacitate a person without killing her, we use it to find how to maximize the pain” the crooked grin on Agmong’s face was frightening, he was enjoying my fear, “but don’t worry, today we are not going to practice that, we will see how close we can get without hurting you.” He turned and started walking away as I tried to get free. “I almost forgot,” he said as he walked back to me and took a piece of fabric out of his belt. “This is to ensure you don’t cheat,” he blindfolded me. “Try not to move, we don’t want to make it more difficult for the rest of the team to aim, do we?”
I heard him walking away and I tried to hear what was happening, but they were too far away and I couldn’t. The waiting was driving me crazy. The first shot hit the wall beside my face. I felt it close, so close that the debris from the impact on the wall hit my face. Once again silence took hold and for a moment I thought that maybe it was just a cruel joke, that nothing was going to happen, but then there was another shot, that one impacting next to my arm. Suddenly bullets started hitting the wall one after another, some were far away, some so close that they tore at my clothes and flesh.
The shooting stopped for a few minutes and then started again, after a while my body was covered with scratches mostly caused by the chunks of wall flying because of the bullet impacts. The smell of blood was getting stronger and I felt dizzy. An eternity later the shooting finally stopped. I felt my hands being freed and the first thing I did was taking the blindfold off.
“Gather your things and follow me,” ordered Agmong.
My arms and legs were stiff after being tense for so long. I was weak and exhausted after the nightmarish morning I had. The lack of breakfast, the fighting and then having been used as a human target had put me on the edge, I had no energy left. They guided me to the dining hall and I made a beeline to the queue where I was given a meager food ration. I found a seat in a hidden table and hoped nobody saw me, but a woman sat in front of me.
“Agmong doesn’t like anyone being better than him at anything,” she told me. I noticed a mark on her face, the same as the young man from the morning, the same as mine. “You are a better shooter than him, that’s why he punished you. I have seen it before, he won’t stop until you are so afraid of holding a weapon that your hand will be shaking in fear.”
“That’s stupid,” I said without thinking, “a leader should seek his underlings improvement, what good does it do to have a squad filled with worthless soldiers?”
“He doesn’t care about that kind of things” I noticed she was glancing around nervously and her voice was lower. “Agmong is known as a cruel leader, he is one of the worst sergeants on the Empire. He has two kinds of underlings, his favorites and his toys, and his toys are totally replaceable, everyone knows that, anyone can do what he wants with them. If you keep pushing him and defying him you won’t last long. If you want to survive here you will have to learn to obey him.”
“How long have you been here?” I asked. I noticed how she was touching the mark on her face, but she didn’t seem to noticed she was doing it.
“Too long” she said grimly. “I learned early on that the best way to survive is to keep your head down and do what you are told. It’s in your hands to do this bearable or a living hell.”
We spent the rest of the meal in silence. There was nothing else to say, asking was frightening. I didn’t want to know more.
After eating, we took our work shift patrolling the fringe of the inner territory. I noticed a few soldiers with the same mark on their faces, but most didn’t have any. Those who had it also had dead eyes and moved like if they were being controlled, like someone had messed with their heads, maybe someone had. I wondered if that would also going to happen to me.
Finally the day finished and I found myself exhausted, both physically and mentally. I was nervous and restless when night arrived, I couldn’t even eat. All day I had tried to ignore the crude words of my fellow soldiers and I had kept enough distance to avoid their touch, but once on the barracks it would be harder to do it, I would have nowhere to run too and I didn’t want a repetition of my first day there.
I entered the barracks and made a beeline to my bed, I felt people staring at me and did my best to ignore them. Once I arrived to my bed, I just stood there not knowing what to do. I knew I had to take my clothes off and get to bed, but a fear I didn’t fully understand took hold of me.
“Come with me,” ordered Agmong as he walked past my bed. I hesitated and he stopped by his bedroom door. “Now!”
I walked to him, he opened the door and made a gesture with his head telling me to go inside and I did. I walked into the room guided only by the light from outside, then Agmong switched the lights on and I could finally see the horrors hiding in the room. I didn’t know if I should have been surprised or if I should have expected what I found. The walls were full with a few riding crops, a large collection of whips and chains. Next to his bed was a huge wooden X with cuffs on the extremes. I walked back, I tried to get out of there, but Agmong was blocking the exit. He locked the door with exaggerated gestures and put the key in his belt. There was no way out of there.
“I realize that you have a severe attitude problem, you lack discipline, so we are going to work on improving your obedience. Let’s start with something simple; strip.” I heard Agmong’s order, but I couldn’t obey, I didn’t want to. “I’ll just repeat it one more time,” he said as he took the whip out of his belt, “strip! Disobeying a superior is a grave offense, don’t make me repeat myself or it will just get worse.”
I don’t know what I was thinking, I pushed Agmong away using my mind as I ran towards the door and tried to open it. Agmong was furious, he grabbed my hair and using it as a hold he beat my head on the wall.
“We can do this two ways,” he whispered in my ear, “the easy way or the fun way.” He put some kind of hood on my head blocking my eyesight, I could barely breathe with it on.
I felt an electric shock, it totally paralyzed me. I could feel him undressing me, but I couldn’t move to stop him.
“When I’m finished with you,” he said as he dragged me across the room, “you will be an obedient, submissive girl. When I give an order I expect obedience, I will teach you to obey me, you will learn that it is your only option. Disobedience will be severely punished. You have disobeyed me and I will enjoy punishing you.”
He lifted me and cuffed my wrists to the wall, I imagined that it was to the wooden X I had seen besides his bed, then he did the same to my ankles. I heard him moving around the room, I was getting more afraid every passing second; I could only imagine what he was doing.
I wasn’t expecting the blow and it was even worse because of the surprise, I cried before I could think of resisting.
“That’s it Sklave, scream,” he ordered as he hit me again with a whip, “scream for me Sklave.”
It was going to be a long night, and with terror I realized that it was just the first of many.
Copyright © 2014 | Kaiserin Novel