A Meeting of Souls – Installment #4
This is the fourth installment of A Meeting of Souls – A Tale from the Wasteland. The read the story from the beginning, start here.
If you enjoy this story and would like to own a copy of your very own, you can purchase it from Amazon/Kindle here and Barnes & Noble/Nook here. The e-book includes a full-color cover and a special, steamy, NSFW bonus chapter at the end of the story that won’t be included on the blog. Every romance needs a “happy ending,” right?
The acrid odor of truck exhaust woke Zinara up. At first, she couldn’t understand why the world was tilted sideways, but then she realized that she was lying down. She sat up and blinked a few times, grimacing through a skull-crushing headache and dry, cracked lips. A few deep breaths cleared her vision somewhat and she looked around, noticing the other men and women near her for the first time. They were all in a cage in the back of an idling truck, and for a moment, Zinara couldn’t remember how she’d come to be there, but as a smallish man with long, greasy hair leered at her through the chain link, the events of the previous night came back to her.
“Mornin’, sunshine! How’s yer head?”
“Fuck you! Let me out of here, you creep!”
“Sorry, no can do. You signed a contract. You belong to us fer the next year and a day.”
“That’s bullshit and you know it. You kidnapped me!” She gave the cage door an experimental shake, but it was secure.
“No, I’ve got yer contract right here.” He unfolded a grungy square of paper from the pocket of his overcoat and held it up just far enough away that Zinara couldn’t read it. “‘Course, you were pretty wasted last night.”
“You drugged me!”
He licked his lips and stepped closer to the cage, his body practically pressed against hers through the chain link. “You were doin’ all sorts of things last night. It’s a shame you can’t remember ‘em. I do.”
Zinara drew back from the cage in disgust and looked down. Her clothes and boots were gone, replaced with a brightly-colored shawl tied around her waist and another, smaller one around her chest. She shuddered and looked back at the man, who just threw back his head with a barking laugh and then turned his attention to the other slaves in the truck.
“Alright, you know the drill. Let’s go drum up some business.” As he stepped away from the truck’s bumper, Zinara lunged forward, reaching through a gap in the cage door to grab the lapel of his overcoat.
“Unlock this goddamn cage and let me out right now!” she said through gritted teeth, just as she felt the cold, sharp prick of a knifepoint under the curve of her breast.
“I’d let go, if I were you. Damaged goods’ll still sell. We just don’t get as good a price for ‘em.” His face was so close to her she couldn’t read his expression, but when he pressed the knife tip forward slightly for emphasis, she gasped and let him go, pressing her hand under her breast. He slapped the side of the truck as he climbed into the cab, and after a moment it lurched forward, jostling the slaves in the back.
Zinara moved to the back corner of the cage and turned her attention to the others. They were all in various states of undress and they started calling out as the truck wound its way through the City. Some of them seemed genuinely terrified, but most seemed almost bored as they melodramatically reached through the cage and tried to get the attention of the people walking by.
“Where is he taking us?” she asked the woman crouched nearest to her.
“Slaver camp.” A busty woman with elaborate henna decorations on her skin, she looked Zinara up and down as if to size up her competition. “First time? It ain’t that bad, really, if you do what they say and don’t cause no trouble. It’s only a year and a day, and if you’re lucky you’ll get bought by someone who ain’t too mean.”
“You sound like you know what you’re talking about.”
“Yeah, I got bought by a real nice lady last year. We was gettin’ close, too, if you know what I mean, but her husband caught us and beat her to death over it. He was a real jealous type.”
“Oh, my God, is that why you’re back in here?”
“Well, yeah, I wasn’t going to hang around with him, that’s for sure! I’ll take my chances with a new master.” The woman turned her attention back to shaking the cage door and calling out.
As the truck rolled up to the main gate, Zinara looked out from her corner of the cage, trying to come up with a plan. She’d tried calling for help as the truck drove through town, but none of the people they’d passed on the roads seemed to pay much attention to the fact that a truckload of slaves was being hauled through the City, and that scared her. The truck inched forward, clearing the gates, and came to a stop just outside them. Zinara looked at the Guard standing there and her heart leaped. It was him, the Guard she’d noticed before! Would he help her? It was worth a try. She started to call out to him, but hesitated. The tiny knife wound under her breast hinted at what the slaver might do to her if he caught her. She moved to the other side of the cage, nearest the Guard, and kept her eyes focused on him, willing him to notice her. He seemed to feel the pull of her gaze and as their eyes met, the whole world dropped away and a million words passed unspoken between them.
“Help me!” she mouthed, pleading with her eyes.
When he answered her with “I want to help you,” she could’ve cried with relief, but then the truck lurched forward again. He sprang into action, moving to confront the slaver, and she knew she’d soon be rescued, but the sound of gunfire caught her completely off guard, making her yelp and jump. She didn’t realize he’d been shot until the truck sped away from the gates and she saw him lying in the road, struggling to get up. She kept her eyes fixed on him, reaching toward him through the cage until he was no longer in sight.