Mar clutched at herself. She weeped until no tears were left. Her mouth felt like she had been eating dirt. The few rags of clothes that hadn’t been torn off her did little to keep her warm. She couldn’t remember the last time she felt cold, but for some reason the dark square into which she found herself imprisoned had a dank chill.
Footsteps could be heard and she wished she had something to cling to—some hope that they wouldn’t be coming to her cell. With her finger she traced words into the dust.
Abandoned Yee All Hope Who Enter…
She never got to finish. The steps had stopped outside of her cell. She traced a quick symbol of a lightning bolt as her door opened. A heavy boot crushed the drawing two seconds later. Instead of looking up, she looked down. A pair polished black shoes, which looked like they were fresh off the rack, had disturbed her writing. It now said Abandon Hope.
Her gaze traveled up and took in the face of a wizened man. Tall, yet impossibility thin, the man dominated the room to the point where the two guards with him were barely noticed. Mar crouched back, her eyes refusing to leave the man’s glare. Something looked wrong with his face, like a man with some kind of disease or had perhaps aged prematurely. Wrinkles the width of her fingers hung in loose sacks. Like flaccid waves of flesh, they crossed every inch of his face.
She tried to cover her gasp with her filthy hands, but couldn’t quite pull it off.
He smiled, while his grey eyes bored into hers. “What is your name, lost child?” When she words wouldn’t come, he spoke again. “Come now, you haven’t degenerated to the point where you can no longer speak, have you?”
“I’m Mar.” She whispered slowly, as her eyes found the floor.
“Strange name, but now at least we are getting somewhere.” He pressed his spidery ivory fingers against his own chest. “I am Father Lynn. I am the leader of these good decent folk. Welcome to Alltown, the only true,” as if noticing the words on the floor for the first time, his left foot ground them back into the dust, “Hope that the people of God’s world have.”
“People think that God is punishing us, but this is wrong.” His clawish hand grabbed her chin painfully and forced her eyes back up to his. “Are you listening whelp? God is not punishing us, he is testing us! Giving us a chance to once and for all purge these lands of evil. Why are the dead walking, because each of them is filled with sin. Everyone was living in sin and our only chance is to purge ourselves and purge the world!”
Releasing her chin, he resumed his full height. “Now, little Mar, I’m going to bless you with the opportunity to confess your sins. How long has it been since your last confession?”
I’m a pagan you prick, was what she wanted to say, but instead she said, “I can’t remember.”
“Tell me your sins.”
The room hushed. In the distance she heard the slow drip of water. Looking up at him, her eyes turned dark in the shadows. “I had promised that I would kill myself before I allowed anyone to rape me again and I didn’t do it. I hate myself for that.”
“That is no sin. You are a fool.” Suddenly his hand lashed out and grabbed a handful of her hair and she screamed. “I’ll tell you your sins, little whore. Sleeping with a man, a black man no less, out of wedlock. We could start there, which in my camp is enough to send you over the walls into the hungry hands of Satan that lurk below.”
She grabbed at his wrists, but he slapped her down. She began to thrash despite the pain this caused her scalp. She screamed up at him, “Then kill your men who raped me, because we certainly weren’t fucking married!”
He released her. Mar crumpled into a ball as his laughter filled the room. “That’s where you are wrong. Those rules only apply to real humans. Which you are far from. If I kill you, you will walk. My flock and I will not for we are blessed and pure. Nothing you do can soil us.”
“What are you going to do to me?”
“I’m not finished assessing your group yet. Tell me who are they biggest sinners amongst you? What have you seen the others do? It will go easier on you if you confess their sins as well.”
He turned on his heel. “Give her the mark of Cain and then enjoy her as you will.”
A strange odor filled the room and then she saw a third man enter. This one wore a black cloth that covered his face and held a glowing cattle branding tool. A symbol had been created looking like three sixes with their bases touching.
“Wait! No! Please!”
“Oh this will just feel like a pinprick compared to what we’re going to do to you, girl.”
She was screaming before they even touched her