The Plantation VIII
Flames make dancing shadows between the endless trees, licking Damon’s skin. He stumbles, fallen palm leaves cutting the heels of his hands, leaps up again and keeps running. The sound of drums is blood in his ears.
Ahead of him the concrete demons of the Pavilion wall become clearer, closer, and behind him shouts carried on torchlight threaten to tear right through him.
His bruised breathing punctuates each step.
From the corner of his eye Damon sees a liquid figure, a person gliding like a ghost beside him. Onyx eyes. Metallic saliva fills his mouth. He keeps his attention forward.
At the wall Damon drops to his knees and crawls through the secret hole. On the other side, he follows the tail of a shadow that guides him through the maze, across courtyards and under arches until the luminescent blue of the pool unfolds beneath him. An amphitheatre of steps leads down to the waters edge.
“Nice try,” says a voice.
Damon swivels in time for something solid to connect with his cheek. He pitches backward, his skull crunching against the stone, his arms spread wide. The green-eyed man twirls a black baton in one hand.
Rosa had green eyes. Damon doesn’t know why the thought strikes him now, lying bloodied on the sacrificial stones of the plantation. As his vision falls in and out, his executioner becomes his ex, the two people sliding together. When he cheated on her, Rosa had joined a cult. Running, like Enhi, from the things he’d said and done. She never made it out. He deserves the pain that’s coming; he can’t live with the pain that’s already here.
A boot lands in his ribs. Damon moans, doubling-up. A glint of silver appears in his attacker’s hand. Green-eyes bends down.
“So,” the man hisses, “ready to admit the truth?”
Damon’s head swims. He opens his mouth and a gurgle of blood spills out. “I told you, I’m just a journalist.”
“How profoundly disappointing.”
The knife hovers above his chest. Damon sees Rosa, crouching over him, the weapon in her hand. He shuts his eyes.
Green-eyes falls sideways beneath a liquid shadow.
Damon rolls onto his stomach and pushes himself up.
“You,” the man snarls, scrabbling to his feet. “You’re the spy?”
Sense returns to Damon’s limbs. He staggers towards the pool.
Green-eyes and Enhi circle each other. The knife quivers in the man’s extended arm. “Why are you interfering here? The government needs to mind its own business.”
The smell of burning leaves fills Damon’s nose. Smoke rises in pillars against the night sky.
Enhi laughs. “You trick the vulnerable into entering, and keep them against their will, for free labour. This is definitely our business.”
“People want to stay. Everyone has a reason.”
“Yes. And when I kill you, know that I will stay, and dismantle this place from within.”
From his jacket green-eyes pulls a revolver.
Damon splashes into the water. Neither Enhi nor green-eyes looks at him. As the chilly pool rises against his knees, he realises that he was never really part of this struggle. He is an extra, an observer.
The fibrous robe drags towards the centre, the current pulling him in. Beneath his feet icons of bone lie scattered, horses and tigers and dragons. He looks up.
Enhi and green-eyes are locked together, a flash of metal between them. Damon can’t tell who is holding the gun.
The water grabs him and wrenches, crushing the breath from his lungs. He struggles to keep afloat.
A loud crack fills the air, ringing in his ears. Through water-logged eyes Damon sees one of the figures fall, opens his mouth to shout, and is engulfed in freezing darkness.
Pinpricks of sunlight play across Damon’s face. Water laps his fingertips, and a mosquito lands on his arm. He opens his eyes.
Two faces stare down at him.
“He needs a hospital.”
Damon lets his eyes close.