Feeling clean and near-human again, I take my place in the dinner line at the back and wait for all the men and women warriors to load their bowls with chunks of meat and rice and stalks of broccoli. Despite this entire horrible day, my stomach audibly growls at the spicy scent.
Sera goes right before we newcomers, and when we finally step up, there's only a couple scoops of rice and some broccoli left. They did it on purpose.
Camille's eyes water. "I can't do this," she whispers.
"Yes, you can," I assure her.
Behind the long table stands a small old man I assume cooked everything. He grabs a spoon and slings a wad of rice into Camille's bowl, but nearly half of it falls to the ground.
The cook scoffs. "Recruits eat whatever is deemed left." He nods to the rice on the dirt beneath our feet. "And off of wherever."
I glance over to Alexior who has been silently standing along the wall. He doesn't do anything. Just stares straight ahead. Isn't he in charge? Shouldn't he do something?
Camille kneels down, like a dog, and scoops the rice into her bowl.
I unclench my fist so I don't punch the cook who merely raises an eyebrow in challenge.
The veteran warriors have left no room for us at the wooden tables, so we recruits, as I now know we're called, find a spot over in the corner on the floor. None of us speak as we inhale the meager dinner and shamelessly lick the bowls.
With a sigh, Felicia puts her empty bowl down on the ground. "I miss my boyfriend."
Her comment makes me think of the conversation I had with Camille in the cart. "Do you have any family?"
"No." She shakes her head. "Just my boyfriend. We've only been dating a month."
"How'd you end up here?" Camille asks.
"My boyfriend and I were camping in Canada, and when I woke up, I was here. Wherever here is." She straightens, like an idea just hit her. "Do you think they took him, too?"
None of us respond. Who knows? Maybe. Or maybe he's the reason why she is here. Like Mr. Vasquez is for me.
I look at the other three women sitting in our circle. "Any of you? Family?" I ask, and they all shake their heads. Just what I thought. No one knows we're missing. No one knows to come looking for us.
"I have a daughter," the woman sitting directly across from me quietly says. She looks older than the rest of us. Maybe late twenties. She has features like she's an Asian-Caucasian mix. "My name's Gem by the way."
Up to this point she's been the most silent of us all. I think about her in the original holding cell in the marketplace and then up on that auctioning block. She hadn't seemed terrified like the rest of us. More like she was going through the motions. None of that had occurred to me until just now.
She runs her eyes over all of us sitting around her. "I... I was in prison. Ten years for something I promise you I did not do. I signed a one year contract to come here."
Her words curl through my brain, confusing me. "What do you mean you signed a contract?"
"Some man came to visit me. Told me I could come here for a year, my ten would be wiped, and then I could return to my daughter. I took it. She's only eight. She'll be nine when I get home versus eighteen if I would've stayed in prison."
"Who has your daughter?" I ask.
"She was placed in foster care."
"So then, do you know where we're at?" Camille asks.
"No." Gem shakes her head. "I knew I would be sedated and transported to an island where I would become a house slave in a role play environment."
"But you're not a house slave," I point out the obvious.
"I know," she sighs and the meaning really hits home. They get us here and then they can do whatever they want with us.
"No other family?" Camille asks, and as expected, Gem shakes her head.
United States, Denmark, Australia, Canada... Saligia seems to have their fingers everywhere.
Alexior crosses the outdoor eating area to tower over us. "Enough talking. Get up. You will rest when you prove yourself."
Tune in next week for Chapter 7!
YOU ARE READING
VANQUISHEDMystery / Thriller
A SECRET ISLAND. A SADISTIC SOCIETY. AND THE WOMAN WHO DEFIES ALL ODDS TO BRING IT DOWN. Yesterday, Valoria's worst problem was getting her sister to school on time. Today, she's a slave in a perverse world. And an even worse fate awaits her sister...