LONGINGS OF SURRENDER
Enna ran through the darkness, her grief so deep she longed to lay down and die on the barren desert floor. The only thing that kept her feet moving was the memory of the one shining light in her life. As long as there was any chance of seeing Miria again, Enna would struggle on.
She hardly knew what she was running towards. The cryptic message, the vague directions, the hope of a refuge – she wasn't sure any of it was real. But she knew that what she'd left behind was intolerable, and she would never return, never let herself be taken. Unless it meant she could have Miria with her. She'd accept any slavery, any bondage, if it meant Miria could be with her, and be happy and healthy.
But Miria wasn't with her now. Miria would probably never be with her again.
The grief overwhelmed her and made her steps careless. She tripped, falling hard. When her injured hand hit the ground, she screamed. The hand had probably been broken as she was beating on the door of the small bedroom in her master's house, where they'd imprisoned her after they'd taken her daughter away.
Enna had known they'd be taking Miria soon. All girls were taken from their slave mothers when they turned five, to be raised in schools far away until they were eighteen and old enough to be sold. The grief would have probably been no less consuming if they'd waited the last four months, until Miria's birthday. But they'd stolen her right from Enna's arms as mother and daughter lay together in a deep, probably drugged, sleep. Enna's master had known his slave well, had known the anger and rage that would probably erupt, and had made a preemptive strike.
The next few days had been a blur. She remembered screaming and crying and beating against the locked door until she collapsed, her right arm cradled against her chest after one hard blow had exploded in pain that ran from her hand up to her shoulder. When the door finally opened, she'd been limp and unresisting. Nara, Master's First Slave, and his favorite, helped her into bed, bandaged the hand, and fed her soup while Enna wept quietly and refused to talk.
"Master will be glad to see that you're better when he returns," Nara told her. The young woman had never borne a child. She didn't know there would never be a 'better' for Enna.
Something Nara said pricked at Enna's mind as she lay facing the wall. "Where is Master?" she asked quietly.
"I don't know. He said he'd be back later. He told me not to open your door, but I could tell you were calmer, and I wanted to help you."
Enna didn't really have a plan even as she replied. "Thank you. I do feel better. I think I'll get up now. Would you be able to hand me a clean dress to wear?"
Nara turned to the small closet that held Enna's three dresses. Enna rose out of bed and threw herself at the smaller woman, knocking her into the closet. She slammed the door and grabbed the ladder back chair, shoving it under the knob awkwardly with her good left hand. Nara pounded on the door and yelled. Enna reached under her thin mattress and scooped up the small amount of money she'd managed to hide away in the vain hope that she and Miria might get away before her daughter was taken.
She shut the bedroom door behind her and the sound of Nara's yelling faded. Enna wasn't really worried about being overheard. She and Nara were the only other occupants of the small house. They did the cooking and cleaning and served their master's seemingly endless sexual needs.
Nara was better at that stuff. Enna wasn't interested in sex and performed her duties perfunctorily, something which Master frequently complained about. She'd dared to retort once that if she was so bad, maybe he should just sell her, and the beating she'd received had left her black and blue for days.
She wondered why he hadn't sold her, to be honest. He clearly didn't like her very much. He'd won her in a bet from her first master, and made it plain from the start that Nara – younger, prettier, and always ready for sex – was his First Slave. He doted on her, and Enna cringed to see her sitting on his lap and cooing in his ear. Once Miria had been born, Enna stopped caring. It had left more time to be with her daughter, the only one she really loved.
Miria had been a surprise. When Enna realized she was pregnant, she hid it from Master as long as she could, until one day Master had commented that she was getting fat. She gritted her teeth and informed him her birth control had failed and she was pregnant. He was annoyed; Nara was supposed to be the one to give him his heir, and the plan was to have a boy embryo implanted in her next year. Then he shrugged and said that maybe having a baby would calm Enna's rebellion down. He treated her better for a time, but when the test showed it was a girl, he went back to ignoring her. The plan for Nara to bear his boy was back on.
Nara, to her credit, had known Enna was pregnant and said nothing. She confessed later that she was relieved because she didn't really want to have a baby. When she found out that she wasn't off the hook, she was disappointed. But the round cherub with curly dark hair won over her heart, and she doted on Miria. And Enna poured all her energy into loving her baby and was, for a while, a model slave.
Enna didn't hate Nara, and she was sorry that the young woman would face Master's wrath for disobeying him today.
Before she left the house, she broke into his office. All of the legal papers concerning the slaves were written in Br'ini, which she was forbidden to learn, but she knew Basic as well as anyone, and Miria's name looked similar in both languages. She saw a number next to Miria's name and committed it to memory, praying it was the number of the school she'd been sent to. What exactly she was going to do with that information, she didn't know. Then she let herself out the front door. She wasn't sure where she was going, but she knew she had to get away. Her steps as she walked down the gravel path to the street crunched like a metronome of grief.
Miria's gone, Miria's gone, Miria's gone, Miria's gone...
Her hand throbbed and she couldn't bend the fingers. Tears that she'd pushed away since Nara had come into her room earlier rose up and spilled over. She couldn't see, but it didn't matter. She dropped her head down and put one foot in front of the other and headed away from the house.
She wound up across town, hiding behind a large trash bin, barely escaping from soldiers who had tracked her to this row of shops. She crouched in the cold and dark, nightmares of previous runaway slave punishments she'd witnessed running in an endless loop through her mind.
She'd slept fitfully, awakening every time some drunk spilled out of the back door to one of the bars. She heard slaves coming and going through the night, emptying trash or sweeping up litter.
When she emerged in the first grey light of dawn, a miracle waited. Across from her hiding place was a loaf of bread, some cheese, a container of water, and a note:
24 Lindau Lane. In back.
Number 24 Lindau Lane was a run-down house that backed up to an abandoned industrial warehouse. The lot was littered with boxes and barrels that came right to the edge of a dirt path which ran between the site and the house's short wooden fence. The extraordinary wealth of Midros was not shared equally among all, a truth Enna knew well.
The boxes and barrels had made an excellent hiding place. Enna had watched and waited most of the day, ducking down when someone came near, but it seemed that no one was looking for a runaway slave here, either to help her, or to hunt her.
Towards dusk, an elderly woman, loaded down with shopping bags, had ambled down the lane, cursing loudly at just about every ill of the world, including her master. As she'd reached a point about twenty meters from Enna, one of the bags burst open and spilled its contents on the ground. With more colorful cursing, the woman set everything down and retrieved the rolling fruit, brushed the dirt off jars, and loaded everything into her remaining bag. She resumed her walk, now whistling cheerfully.
Enna had been about to doze off again when she spotted a piece of canava fruit sitting in the dirt. It was yellow and round and Enna knew it was sweet and wet. In her desperate thirst, she'd crept forward in the fading light to snatch it, when a second miracle appeared. A pack of food was sitting behind a box, out of sight. She pounced on it, pulling out dried meat, more fruit, and bottles of water. And at the bottom, there'd been another note:
Travel east until the time when our mistress shines her full light upon you, and you will be found.
Men might be their masters, but women had always paid homage to Mistress Moon, who ruled the cycle of their bodies more powerfully than any man. Enna shouldered the pack, looked at the darkening sky and the small moon visible right now in its waxing gibbous phase, and headed east towards the distant mountain ranges.
By the time they found her, several days later, she was barely conscious. Her hand had swollen up to twice its size and was a sickly greenish color. She was aware of feminine voices, a cool cloth on her feverish head, and a whisper into her ear:
"You're safe now."