i am so shocked, so scared, i start shaking, my heart’s racing, and i think i’m gonna die, right there. i can’t believe this is happening ~ whatever this is ~ i don’t know who or why, and omigod, am i in trouble?
Someone’s hands tug at the mask that blinds me, other hands push them away, Master’s voice breaks through the babble of voices around me. “Easy,” he says, “easy, it’s ok. Let me wrap you up here,” and the blanket is draped around me, he releases my arms, and helps me sit up.
i sit, my feet dangling over the edge of the platform, pressed close to his body, then he removes the mask. He is standing in front of me, so all i can see is his shirt, and i’m ok with that. The voices around me fall silent.
Then i peek to one side and omg ~ it’s that man ~ the one who sold me the chance on a new life, the one who showed up in my bedroom to whisk me away. What. the Fuck. What now??
He bows to me, just a half-bow, and says, “I’m so sorry ~ I didn’t want to do this like this ~ so abruptly ~ but he left me no choice, this one didn’t,” and he nods to Master.
“And I’m sorry too,” says Master, who stands so close, i can see his chest rise and fall with his breath. “I thought I had time, I didn’t think it would happen this fast.”
“What?!” i say. “WHAT are you talking about?” i realize that i’m talking, and hold my breath for a second, expecting the wrath of Master to fall on me. When nothing happens, i’m even more confused, and angry. i’ve been snatched from my home and spent time in some ~ some ~ i don’t even know what it was ~ some kind of harem ~ and then i get brought here and ~ and ~
“WHAT?” i say, “What are you doing? What have you done to me?” And i burst into tears.
i cry for a long time, someone brings me Kleenex and Master wipes my eyes. i cry some more. Finally, with a last sob, i manage to stop. i wipe at my face with the stupid mitten things on my hands, and he holds the kleenex so i can i blow my nose.
He’s still patting me too. As if that can help. i’ve never felt so lost and miserable and alone ever before.
i push him away, and he lets me. i try to wrap the blanket around me, but i can’t do anything with the mittens on. i’m about to start crying again when he realizes the problem, and unties the little strings to take the mittens off me. i clasp the blanket tightly.
i take a deep breath. Another. And look around.
Men. And women. Nelda and Joy, and men i don’t know. Master. And the man who made all this happen. i look at him. “Why is this happening?” i ask. “Please ~ i don’t understand any of it.”
“It’s hard to explain,” he says, “but I’ll try. My name is Qadar.” i don’t really understand ~ “Cutter?’ i say, “That’s your name?”
He nods and smiles, “That’s close. Some people say it more like, “Gutter,” but you’re close enough. And my name doesn’t matter. You may remember me ~”
And i interrupt him, angry all over again, “O, yes,” i say, “i remember you. You sold me a chance on a new life. i thought you just needed money and had made up a funny way to ask for a hand-out. That’s what i thought. Next thing i know…” i shake my head. “This makes no sense.”
“No,” he says, “Of course it doesn’t. Let me try to explain. My job is to find people who are not living the life that suits them. The life you had ~ it wasn’t right for you. You have gifts that were not being used, you were not appreciated by the people around you, and you had little hope and few resources to make it different. You remember, don’t you?”
i’m quiet for a minute, really looking back. So much has happened so quickly that my “real” life seems far away and long ago. i had been lonesome, dreadfully lonesome, and sad. For a long time. When i bought that chance on a new life, i really did want one.
Then i’m ashamed, ashamed that my life was so pitiful that i was ready to throw it away without knowing what was in store for me. But Qadar says, “No, no, little one, it was not your fault, you were in the wrong place. That’s why i was sent to you, you needed to leave.”
“Okay,” i say slowly, “okay, maybe i was. But even then, that doesn’t explain what’s happening now. You sent me here, now you want to take me away again?”
He nods, slowly and sadly. “And for this, I am so very sorry. I learned, after you had landed here, I learned that you were supposed to have gone to a different life. This is not where you were supposed to go.”
“O.” i am surprised. Taken aback. “But why not just say so? Why go through all this ~ this drama?”
“Yeah, that’s my fault,” says Master. “He told me you weren’t supposed to be here, but I didn’t believe him. Still don’t. I’ve trained a lot of slaves, that’s what I know about. And you have the heart of a slave, you’re born for service. I was telling the truth earlier. You need to offer service like other people need to eat and sleep. And I can train you to do that in ways that will be more satisfying and fulfilling than you can imagine.”
“But ~” i turn toward Qadar, who is shaking his head solemnly.
“That is why I had to go get the order,” he says. “I knew that was the only way to stop him. And I had to stop him.” He glares at Jon when he says this, and Jon glares back. “So now,” Qadar adds, “It’s up to you. I’m supposed to move you to a different life, the one that was meant for you in the beginning.”
“But I think you should stay here,” says Master.
i ignore Master ~ and is he even Master anymore?
“Where will you take me?” i ask Qadar.
“Another life,” he says, and before i can ask him more, he says, “No, that’s all I can tell you. I’m so sorry, that’s all I can tell you about another life.”
“Wait ~ no, you’re kidding me, right? i can pick whether or not i want to stay here, but you won’t tell me what the other option is?”
“I’m so sorry, but no, I can’t tell you. And now, because he” (glaring at Master) “has started to bond with you, you have to choose. I can’t just take you away like I did the first time.”
“Omg, you have GOT TO be frigging kidding me! i have to choose between an unknown life and this?”
“Yes,” Qadar nods solemnly. Master is nodding too.
“But ~ when do i have to decide?”
“Well, pretty much now,” Qadar says. “If not, I will have to send you back to your former life and that would be a tragic waste. Even staying here would be better than that. So, it is up to you. But it’s midnight now, you must decide before sunrise.”
This story has been passed from slave to slave, handed down through the centuries, but the ending was lost ages ago. No one knows if slave girl 248 was allowed to ask any other questions before making her decision, or what she decided, or whether she lived happily ever after ~ or not. For all i know, she couldn’t decide at all, and was sent back to her miserable little first life, although I don’t like to think that could have happened.
No, I have my own ideas about what might have happened, but i want to ask you ~ what do you think she chose? What would you choose?