‘Fuck, I can’t move.’
I scrambled up the side-wall.
‘Fucking maze.’ I cursed.
I tied my bronze hair back.
Just... left, an inch.
Huh, I sighed.
In the breath went. Huh – out again.
How I’d ever get out of this place I didn’t know.
Heck, how I even got in here I barely knew.
‘It is your time,’ they’d said.
If only I’d won that fucking card game...
Jazz slurred in the background while tall, red-lipped whores slunk in the shadows.
This was a man’s domain, and, I, Kat, had infiltrated. I gave myself a pat on the back.
I sat down.
Dirty ale jugs sloshed in the centre of the table.
Is it five-check pokem? I asked.
‘Yes dear.’ He slithered.
His snakelike eyes ought to have been a clue. This was no ordinary underhand, earth-facing, roughneck crowd. These were the earth-facers. They followed no rules.... lawless. Hedonistic interest and grime were their only Gods, these... people.
I had not traversed the known world to end up here and not win, though.
I would win back my mother’s signet ring. The one that had been stolen by the dirt festering tyrant in front of me. The one that kept her heart beating.
I knew this game, I had been sure of it. I’d never lost a game back in Newcastle.
It is your time. They’d said.
The ring had been my mother’s heart itself.
They were wrong.
‘Darling, darling, are you having one of your day-terrors again?’
‘No.’ I answered.
I was simply remembering, remembering the injustice.
‘I’m getting out of here.’ I screamed.
The walls seemed to laugh back at me.
Ahead of me were two options.
Up... or down.
I chose up.
Oh why did I choose up?
I scrambled up a tangled ladder. Thorns from winding, spiking brambles scratched at my thighs.
On reflection, while the skirt may have got me into the game, it was not working for me now.
‘Ouch.’ I cried.
I looked down.
A trickle of blood ran into my boots, and then dropped down.
I’d choose down.
I looked all around me.
Though I could smell the rot from the under-passage, it seemed the only way to go.
‘NO!’ I’d screamed. ‘Don’t take her...’
But it was too late.
‘...ring’ I gulped. ‘That ring kept my mother’s heart beating.’ I snarled.
He looked at me.
I spat in his face.
Then he left, cackling.
I’d cradled my mother’s dead body.
I felt tiny, belittled by this stinking gigantic hell.
I went further down.
The spikes grew an inch. The maze grew higher.
Down I went, into the stifled air and hit my boots on the disgusting ground.
Slop, slop, they went.
‘We play for rings.’ I said.
I could see his ring, a murky brown, swirling on his second finger.
‘High stakes girl.’ A long-haired, dirty man smirked next to me.
I turned my head.
‘I will win.’ I said.
And at that no one said a word.
They started to dole out the cards, the whores. Their hands looked cracked.
I swept my head down.
Nobody would see my face. My fear, loathing, panic. My determination.
Nobody would know how angry I was.
I would just win.
I slopped forward. Sticking faeces stuck me to the ground. I pulled harder.
I could hear footsteps coming towards me.
I picked up my cards. Two aces. I had to stop myself from looking up.
The whores slunk back into their corners. All that was left now was to play, play my best game.
I pushed a card forward.
‘I’m in.’ I said.
‘You’re out.’ He said, pushing his own card forward.
I started to stutter, to stumble.
I turned a corner and there he was, the snarling man. The man I’d come to kill.
‘You stole my mother’s ring.’
‘And now you’re going to die. What sweet injustice.’
He reached over and plucked my heart right out of my chest.
I grappled for the light, gulped in a last breath of air.
‘She’s dead.’ My dad said.
My God stood next to me.
‘Let’s go.’ I said.
Perhaps I could find him in the afterlife...
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