I was running.
Running on those stupid, flimsy little sandals.
Running for my life.
He was on his horse, I could hear the beast’s hooves pounding behind me, hear this mingled with my own, panting, ragged, panicked breaths – and they were getting closer.
I was covered in blood. Not mine. It was still warm from spurting from that man’s body.
I didn’t know where I was or how I got there. I wasn’t certain what was happening. I went to bed in my bed in a world I understood and I woke up here in a world that was entirely foreign to me, everything about it, and not one thing about it was good.
And now I was running for my life.
The horse’s hooves got closer; I knew they were almost upon me. Frantic, I glanced back and saw I was right. Not only were they close, the man, the rider, so huge he seemed giant, had leaned so deeply to the side, his body was in line with the horse’s middle.
And his long arm was stretched out.
I faced forward and tried to run faster.
But I couldn’t go any faster and I certainly couldn’t go faster than a horse.
I cried out when the arm hooked me at the waist, closed around and lifted me clean off my feet before my ass was planted on the horse in front of him.
Without thinking, I screamed bloody murder, twisted on the horse and prepared, instead of running for my life, to fight for it.
One hour earlier…
I was in a pen, a kind of corral.
Yes, a corral. Like you keep animals in. Except basic, not modern, primitive – tall, thin but sturdy-looking stakes woven with leather bands all around.
There were enormous, extremely muscled men standing guard every four feet around the corral wearing nothing but pants made of hide, their upper bodies painted with black and white streaks. And the inside of the pen was filled with women dressed like me.
Flimsy sandals and wisps of thin, silky material of all shades curved around our bodies and held together at two ends at a kind of ring-like necklace at our necks.
Their faces were made up to extremes. Heavy kohl eyeliner. Pink, purple, green and blue eye shadow. Penciled in brows. Rouge. Deep red, pink or berry lips.
And everyone had lots of hair. Lots and lots of it. Out to there.
I suspected I looked the same.
Truthfully, if I hadn’t been in that corral wearing a light blue wisp of material and a silver ring-like necklace, I would have thought they looked cool. Whoever did their hair and makeup was a master. It was phenomenal.
But I was too terrified to think anything was cool.
There were people milling about around the corral looking in but not getting too close. They were not getting too close because the guards weren’t letting them get too close. We girls in the pen were off-limits, it was clear. They could look but they couldn’t touch nor could they speak to us.
Some of these onlookers wore weird clothing; the men, hide pants like the guards but some had loose vests on top or wide leather bands around their chests (only the guards had the black and white paint, however). Some women wore what looked like sarongs at the bottom, attached to and apparently held up by belts mostly made of woven material or leather or some were made of metal, silver or copper, but there weren’t many of those. Up top they wore bandeau-style or halter bikini tops, some a folded piece of material that went straight across the tops of their br**sts, the bottom coming down to a point.
There were other men looking in too, these men dressed in old-fashioned clothes, breeches, boots, flowy shirts, vests, wide-brimmed hats with feathers.
There were no women wearing old-fashioned clothes, just the men peering in.
It was clear there were two types of people there. There were those, like the warriors, with deep tanned skin, dark-toned eyes and black hair. These were the women in their sarongs and the men in the hide pants.
They looked at us with curiosity.
The men wearing old-fashioned clothes were different. They had all colored hair and eyes.
All of them were looking in with curiosity too but this wasn’t benign or indifferent. It was lewd.
And it scared me.
Outside the pen, beyond the onlookers, I saw big, round tents and torches. Beyond that, it was dark because it was night but it appeared the ground was dirt or sand and stone broken by intermittent thrusts of dark brush. It looked like a set from Gilligan’s Island but not fake and therefore definitely unfunny.
I had woken up there not an hour ago, panicked and freaked way the f**k out mainly because I was not in my bed in my townhome in Seattle which would freak anyone out but waking up here meant I was freaked way the f**k out.
This caused a minor sensation when I surged to my feet and started to act exactly what I was, scared out of my brain, panicked and freaked way the f**k out. This was not looked upon favorably by the painted, muscled guards. In fact, they made it very clear my freaked out, panicked behavior was highly unwelcome. Luckily, an unknown sense of self-preservation kicked in and I quieted immediately, sat on my behind, pulled my shit together and decided to get my bearings.
At first, I thought it was a dream. In fact, I decided it had to be a dream. This kind of shit didn’t happen to people, right?
But, unfortunately, after repeatedly pinching myself and coming to the understanding that in dreams you didn’t think you were in a dream, I realized it was not.
It was something else.
And that something was way bad.
So as I surveyed my surroundings, I decided that I had to get out of that something bad but I was in a pen, for goodness sakes, being leered at by icky men and looked over by people who appeared to be natives of some weird, foreign fantasyland.
And furthermore, to get out I had to know what I was in.
So I paid attention and took in my surroundings.
And the thing I noticed, outside what was going on on the outskirts of our pen, was that there were different kinds of women in the pen. There were those with black hair, dark eyes and tanned skin – in fact, this was the vast majority of the women. And they did not seem panicked or scared. They seemed content, some chatting to others in a language I didn’t understand, others holding themselves separate and eyeing their compatriots in a guarded or even calculating way (and it made matters worse that a lot of these kinds of looks were aimed at me). Some even preening for the onlookers.
Then there were others who were not like them. Not many, I counted three.
These women looked scared out of their brains.
These women were like me.
And once I made this realization, I decided what I was going to do first. I had no clue what I was going to do second but at least I knew what I was going to do first.