fiction

Sung Home: Chapter Forty Seven. {fiction}

“Darian sat there in the kitchen late one night, eating after a scouting trip. The other gang members were already in the big house, asleep.

Emma was there serving him like usual, like it was no big deal, while I finished the sweeping. Emma had handed Darian a bowl of her chile stew, which he loved, and he was hungry so he ate it up. But before he got halfway through it, his face just landed in his bowl and he sat there like that.

I was freaked out. Did he just fall asleep all of a sudden? Would he drown in his soup? I just didn’t know, but I ran over to him and lifted his face out of the stew. He wasn’t drowning in it. He was dead. Really dead. Just like that.

I looked up at Emma and she stood there, a long kitchen knife in her hand, her eyes gleaming and a very creepy smile on her face. She marched over, with more energy that I’d seen her use in years, grabbed him by the hair while shoving me aside and set her knife against his neck as if to saw his head off.

I stopped her because I really couldn’t see the point in trying to make him more dead than he already was, and the mess would have been a really big problem. She didn’t fight me, just stepped back with that smile on her face.

I realized we had better get out of there, and fast. And so did she. Emma had known about our plan after all. She said, ‘you young people get the hell out of here. I’ll hold them off. They won’t get you. I’m already dead and have no use for living anymore. I’ll die happy if I know that the rest of you are free.’

I didn’t argue with her, just laid Darian down on the bench he was on, then went to wake the others. We also woke the ones who hadn’t wanted to escape, telling them quickly what had happened and that it might go badly for them if they stayed. Most of them were still too paralyzed with fear to do anything, but we had to get going so we did.

There were ten of us that ended up leaving, and having only eight horses we had to double up some.

I went into the kitchen just before going, and found Emma there with a bunch of large buckets that were filled with rags soaked in oil. She often saved oil for soap-making, so it took me a second to realize the rags were a new addition. We hugged a long time. And really, I have never seen her look so happy in all the years I knew her.

Then she pulled one of the larger rags out of the oil and rubbed it all over herself, her clothes and everything. My skin crawled, but a couple of the others had come in, pulling me away to the horses. Maybe I should have taken her with us, made her go. But she looked so happy. So clear.

As we finished loading up outside, I saw Emma setting clumps of rags at the base of the main house, where all of Darian’s men slept. She splashed the remaining oil against the walls. Then she went back inside the kitchen and came out with a big lit torch and walked serenely around the perimeter of the house, lighting each oily bundle. As I rode with the others, I kept glancing back.

The last thing I saw was the house starting to seriously flame, and Emma sitting on a bench right outside it, like she was sitting down to watch a movie in a theater. Then she lit herself on fire, going up in flames like the torch she held.”

I stared at him numbly, trying to take it all in. Within a week of my leaving, Darian and his men, and Emma, were dead.

“But, if they all died, then why didn’t you just stay there?” I asked.

“You know, we talked about it, but we just couldn’t go back. The others who were left, they could start over. I just knew I could never be at peace there ever again. I had to get out of there. And the others with me felt the same. We rode northwest to stay clear of Deming, then west to Silver City, staying a long way from the highway but paralleling it. 

Just before we made it to town, we ran into a small group of Slavers. We scuffled a little, and they got one horse with a man and his young daughter on it, and another woman, but the rest of us got away. We had no idea what to expect in Silver City, but just dumb luck took us right up to here, to the Makers.

We stayed out of sight, peeking around a corner to see if they seemed dangerous or not. It didn’t look like a slaving place, all clean and neat and fruit and pecan trees growing in giant planters outside. The people tending the planters looked happy. So we risked it. I went alone at first, just walked up to the fence and asked if they would help us. And they did.”

Frank walked up to us at that point.

“We’ve got a plan.”

“What, what are we going to do? I can leave right now!” It had been all I could do to keep from bolting after Victorio as it was. If it hadn’t been for my reunion with Robert, I would have been begging to go before we even set down our belongings.

Frank held his hands up in anticipation of my assault. “No, no, no, Lakshmi. We’ve got a good plan, one that might actually work, but we’re going to have to play it cool if we’re going to stand a chance. And we’re going to have to rest up for the night before we do anything. Everyone needs to be sharp if we’re going to get Victorio and the Maker people out.

The Slavers are used to people trying to break other people out. We can’t go off half-cocked.”

Robert and I returned to the other group to hear the plan.

“This is going to take more courage from you,” said Ching Shih, nodding her head my direction, “than from the rest of us.”

I nodded, a tingling sensation rolling across my skin.

The combination of pre-dawn light and the full moon lit up the Northern Slavers’ compound enough for me to perceive the layout and orient myself, while still providing enough darkness and shadow for cover.

The tall chain link entrance gates faced the deteriorating street. A dusty field on the other side of the street served as a parking lot of sorts for about a half dozen supply wagons for the Slaver’s. A bit of pinon and juniper forest formed a deep U shape around the lot.

Coming from around one of the wagons, I took a deep breath then ran straight towards the closed and locked gates at top speed, finally allowing the pent-up fear and rage over Victorio’s kidnapping free rein. I had spent the short night tossing and turning, trying to think clearly, trying to remain rational. All that was gone now. The Slavers weren’t going to kill another person I loved.

“Victorio! Vic-tor-io! Let him out, you troglodytes! Let him go!” I screamed through the gate like a deranged lunatic, loud enough to wake everyone inside, Slavers and prisoners alike.

“You brain-dead brutes, you let me in there right now! I’m taking Victorio, and you can’t stop me!”

I climbed a couple of feet up the fence, rattling it ferociously with the weight of my entire body.

Pounding on the gates caused that entire side of the fence to jangle clamorously. The razor wire topping the fence bobbed and swayed.

“Lakshmi, don’t come in! Don’t come in!” I heard Victorio yell, somewhere inside the gates. I couldn’t see him, but he sounded close enough that I should be able to get to him pretty quickly. His voice sounded rough, but if he could yell then he definitely wasn’t dead or seriously maimed. My heart jumped with happiness.

In moments, two guards were at the gate, unlocking it as fast as they could.

“You want your man, little girl?” sneered a greasy man of indeterminate age, as he turned the key. I spat in his face. He wiped it away and glared at me before continuing.

“Stay out, Lakshmi! Please don’t come in! Run!” yelled Victorio hoarsely.

“Hey girl, I’ve got a special present for you, for you and your man,” said the other, leering at me and grabbing his crotch.

“Just let me in, you slimy cockroach spawn!” It took every bit of willpower I had to stay there, the two of them inches away, but I did. Timing was everything, and I needed to get this just right.

Soon there was a whole swarm of Slavers beside the guards, all taunting me and laughing, making vulgar gestures and speculating with one another about who would get me first. I was shaking with fear, but they couldn’t see it because I was rattling the fence so hard. I worried my legs would give out.

The thick chain was being unwrapped from either side of the gate.

“Get back!” the greasy guard snarled at the others, “I can’t get the gate open if you’re pushing against it.” They inched back, just enough to allow the necessary play in the chain to finish unwinding it.

“You’re going to let me in, you overgrown worms, and I’m going to get Victorio out!” I bellowed, while they continued their jeering insults. I felt the doors of the gate release and start to open.

This is an ongoing series from a forthcoming fiction novel by Laura Ramnarace.
Tune in weekly for the next chapter in ‘Sung Home’.

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Laura Ramnarace, M.A. was driven to earn a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution while on her quest to find out why we can’t just all get along. She has published a book on inter-personal conflict, ‘Getting Along: The Wild, Wacky World of Human Relationship’, published a newspaper column also titled ‘Getting Along’, and submits regularly to Rebelle Society. Since 1999, she has provided training to a wide variety of groups on improving personal, working and inter-group relationships. ‘Sung Home‘ is a work of eco-fiction set in southwestern New Mexico.

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