By James Courtney and Kaisy Wilkerson-Mills
Rebecca’s knees hit the cold, hard floor of the dungeon. Her breath was hot against her face; she inhaled sweat and few strands of her tangled, matted hair. A black hood covered her head; she could not see her surroundings. But her instincts, and the few conversations she heard from her captors, indicated that she was on Layer Five, the most desolate, barbaric, and insidious location in all of City-State.
“Where are you taking me?” Rebecca cried. Her voice was muffled by the bag.
“Shut up, S-Classer!” echoed one of her captor’s voices.
Rebecca suddenly heard a second voice, “Shut up! Silence in the Temple of Ultros!”
“Bean… come on!” chastised the first captor. “Prisoners for sacrifice must not know where they are!”
“At this point, what difference does it make, Robert?” countered Bean. “She’s going to be killed, and there is no hope for her!”
Rebecca felt the cold hands of fear grasp her beaten, filthy, bloody body. Momentarily, she fell still. This was the end.
“You heard that, right?” asked Robert. Rebecca knew he was satisfied; she did not have to remove the black hood to see his wicked, destructive smile.
“You like that? You’re gonna die,” added Bean in an insecure, somewhat somber tone.
“W… W… why?” whispered Rebecca.
Abruptly, the hood was torn from her head. Sweat and loose stands of hair trickled down her shoulders onto her ceremonious garb – a torn gray robe with old, dark blood stains. Her hands and feet were bound; the ropes irritated her soft skin. She spied two men in brown robes who towered over her. The dungeon: a dirty, stone room with poor electric lighting.
“Why?” mocked Bean. “Why? Why were you chosen? Well… that’s all you’re good for.” He looked to his counterpart for approval.
“You are the sacrifice,” informed Robert. “We are acolytes; we collect the sacrifice. It’s for the good of City-State.”
Rebecca’s head reeled, but she kept herself poised. Her over-active mind raced with questions. She wanted answers. But she forced herself to focus on one vital task: survival.
“I’m S-Class!” offered Rebecca. “City-State needs me. I am a mathematical genius! So killing me is not…”
“No more of the government’s lies!” Robert interrupted. “The Cult of Ultros does not recognize the legitimacy of the current government or the morality of allowing S-Classers displace The Builders!”
“Displacing The Builders?” Rebecca dizzily queried. “S-Classers would never try to displace anyone… especially The Builders!”
“S-Classers are not superior to The Builders! Your super-intelligence and extraordinary talents are nothing compared to The Builders! They constructed this entire city – not you!” Robert snarled.
Rebecca widened her eyes and noticed her captors’ attire. The acolytes’ brown robes were covered in dried blood – her robe was stained in old blood. She fell onto her back in horror. “You really mean to kill me?”
“Of course, S-Classer,” Bean stated plainly. His heart sank.
“The Builders are dead! They’re not deities! They can’t be offended…” Rebecca tried to reason with her captors.
“Don’t blaspheme against The Builders – do not curse Ishmael!” Robert bellowed, stepping forward. His closed fist connected with Rebecca’s left cheek.
She fell; she could not make her body sit upright. Her lips touched the soiled, stone floor. But Rebecca had nothing to lose by talking to these vile murderers. She turned her head toward her aggressors.
“My life is my own!” spat Rebecca, finding the strength to sit upright again. “I was an engineer! I built two-hundred story buildings on Layer Seven. My life’s work is in the beauty of City-State’s landscape! The Builders inspired my designs! I have no hatred toward them!”
“Shut up!” Robert shouted.
Rebecca struggled with her restraints. “What are you going to do? Arrest me after I’ve been sacrificed?” Rebecca laughed out loud. “What is the purpose of this… of sacrifice?”
Bean knelt down to Rebecca’s level. He tried to look stern, but his eyes betrayed him.
But he had to obey his master. “It is symbolic of shared destiny. We belong to The Builders,” Bean’s eyes filled with tears.
“The Builders did not create a prison! Damn you!” countered Rebecca.
Bean fell back in shocked awe. Robert grew incredibly irate and frustrated. Bean attempted to hide his tears.
Robert regained his poise, “You deserve to die. As it was with Ishmael, the city of Babylon will fall if we do not eliminate the filthy S-Classers who build it!
“I deserve to live,” answered Rebecca flatly. She sighed; tears streamed from her eyes.
“Life isn’t about cowering in fear,” she continued as the tears rolled off her cheeks. “It’s about progression and making this place – City-State – a wonderful, peaceful nation. You can’t be ruled by men – The Builders – who perished a thousand years ago. They did not desire godly worship! They wanted peace, not barbarism!”
Bean’s tough exterior broke. He could watch this woman suffer. “Robert?”
“Pull it together, Bean! She dies tonight! Nothing can stop it!”
“You can,” offered Rebecca. “You can let me go.”
“No!” sneered Robert. His voice echoed off the stone walls of the cell. “They would find us…” Robert shook his head in defiance. “No! You’re an S-Classer! This is a trick!”
“They won’t find us; I know a place we can hide,” Rebecca replied, sobbing.
Robert crossed his arms and glared at Rebecca. “No. You are marked. You will die for the good of City-State.”
Suddenly, Bean jumped at Robert; both men fell to the floor. Bean staunchly maneuvered himself on top of his fellow acolyte. Robert gagged as Bean closed his large hands around Robert’s throat.
The attack was eerily silent. Rebecca watched in horror and triumph.
Robert stopped moving. Bean jumped back. He gasped for breath. “What did I do…?”
Moments passed. Bean approached Rebecca. He softly touched her arm. “Let’s go,” he whispered.
Bean gently released Rebecca from her bonds. She looked at him tenderly, touched his shoulder, and whispered, “Your life begins today.”
© 2014 All Rights Reserved
More about our Guest Bloggers:
James Courtney is a science-fiction and dystopian author and US Navy Veteran who served in the Global War on Terrorism. He specialized in cryptology and information warfare. He has a Bachelors degree in Intelligence Studies and a Masters degree in Security Management. James currently lives in Loveland, Colorado, with his wife, Kelly, and he works for a federal contractor specializing in background investigations.
Kaisy Wilkerson-Mills is an author, editor, and full-time English Instructor at Craven Community College. She has been teaching for twelve years and lives in New Bern, North Carolina. She obtained her undergraduate degree in English Communications from Mount Olive College, and she obtained her graduate degree in English Literature from North Carolina Central University. She lives with her husband, Randy, her dog, Molly, and her cat, Amaya.
You can find City State Writings here:
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Twitter: Kaisy – SciFiWriter @KaisyWMills
James – Dystopian_Scifi @jamesacourtney