Damon learns escape is not as easy as he might have hoped.
The Plantation VI
By Lydia Trethewey
A sweet and acrid smell stings the inside of Damon’s nostrils. Rosa walks around inside his head, but as he watches she transfigures into Enhi, and then into a deep black hole.
His bones are cold, arranged along the concrete floor. Head spinning, he pulls himself into a sitting position.
What little light there is seems to emanate from the metal bars. Damon sits for a moment, unmoving, watching the faint glimmers. There are two points of light that don’t seem to belong to the pattern of the cage. With a start Damon realises that they are eyes.
There is a woman in the adjacent cell, watching him.
“Hello?” he says. His throat feels raw and dry.
The eyes move closer.
“Where am I?” he asks.
“I think you know,” she replies.
In his head Damon sees a map of the compound, himself sequestered in the black line of the wall.
“Why am I here?”
“Same reason as me; you’ve committed the greatest sin, trying to leave.”
Damon blinks through the darkness, makes out the pale edge of the woman’s face. “You were escaping too?”
“A group of us, from the women’s quarters. We were digging a tunnel, a little bit each night, with sentries keeping watch.”
He remembers the first night he saw Enhi, wandering through the twilit trees.
“But somebody ratted us out,” the woman continues, “and yesterday the alarm was sounded.”
“Do you know Enhi?” Damon asks.
The woman pauses. “No. There is nobody in the compound by that name.”
Electric light floods the room and a streak of pain shoots through Damon’s head. Heavy footsteps echo down the corridor.
A man in a grey suit stops before Damon’s cage. His eyes glitter like green jewels.
The metal cuts into Damon’s wrists. He squints against the blaring light, shivering. His jaw feels soft and soggy, face bruised.
“Don’t lie,” says a silky voice. “You aren’t a journalist. You are a spy working for the government.”
Twin green jewels watch him.
“I’m not lying. I came here to do an expose, but I’ve since discovered the joy of Aviva. Please. I was just doing my job.”
“Oh? And what brought about such a change of heart?”
Damon stares at the table.
“There’s no need to be shy. We’ve seen you together, at night, cavorting in the Pavilion.” The man’s lips twitch into a smile.
“Where’s Enhi?” Damon asks.
The man laughs. “Don’t mistake that woman’s attention for affection. She’s a high society slut trying to bury her past, that’s all. Don’t you know what she does on Rest Day?”
Damon remains silent.
“You seem very fixated on her.”
“Where are the others? Klareh, Wik, Reniha. Waro. What have you done to them?”
The man stands, the frayed edge of his suit catching the light. “There’s one thing we can’t abide, and that’s people eschewing our hospitality. Your discourteous friends have been dealt with according to the laws of Aviva.”
Damon grits his teeth. The manacles weigh heavily on his wrists. “And what about me?”
The man leans forward. A whiff of fish and brandy stings Damon’s eyes. “If you’re not ready to admit your true intentions then we will put your skills to good use. Tomorrow you will be returned to the plantation as normal. If anybody asks you will say that you were very sick and required isolated rest. You will go about each day as usual and report back to us if you see or hear anything suspicious.”
“And if I don’t see or hear anything?”
Green eyes glitter. “I think you will. It’s in your best interest to.”
A guard pushes Damon roughly into the dark cell.
The woman is gone.
Damon collapses into the corner, pulls his knees up to his chest. His breathes come in ragged sobs.
A vortex seems to open up in the concrete shadows, a gaping pool sucking the light away. Damon feels like he might pitch forward into it and disappear.