An excerpt from a book I am currently writing. Will probably need some slight alterations in the future. Please review if you find this effective.


Convulsions

The women, standing naked in the rain, open to the gaze and taunts of men, were open for other uses too. The male guards and prisoners were never slow to take advantage, and Audrey had not escaped their attentions either. Her haunting dark eyes and brilliant mahogany coloured hair had instantly turned her into a particular favourite.

But she had fought them. Desperately clawing at their faces like a wild-cat, scratching and biting. She writhed desperately and struggled to push them away. But there were so many, and they held her down. She was not strong enough to resist.

Then the guards had come and hauled her before the cold-faced governor, who stood and un-sympathetically listened as they explained the cause of the uproar. She watched his face, hoping vainly for some understanding to flicker across the hard grey eyes. None did. Her pleadings fell upon deaf ears. Instead he declared that they double the usual punishment.

The guards pushed her towards the middle of the compound. She could feel their lascivious eyes scorch her body. Hard faces leered over her as they fastened her to the stake. More then one hand groped at intimate parts of her person. She shuddered and convulsively swallowed the bile that rose in her throat. Audrey was helpless. Her hands were fastened tightly together above her head and stretched her body until her feet barely touched the ground.

The lashing was savagely administered. The beating the guards inflicted for her rebellion would have destroyed a weaker woman. But Audrey was not weak, her will sustained her when her flesh failed.

She cried out repeatedly at first. She had not yet learned to keep silent. Every blow was torture, and she felt she could not contain it. So she screamed- ear-piercingly, desperately, her agonised cries reaching out vainly for help and for rescue.

At last the fiftieth blow fell. She slumped against the stake loosely, unable to stand. When they cut her bonds she crumpled to the ground. She could taste the filth of the ground mingle with the blood in her mouth.

They would not allow her peace. Two guards grabbed her under her armpits. They dragged Audrey roughly across the compound towards the open cage.

They slammed and locked the door upon her. She was to be exposed and put on public display like some wild animal. For a week she remained there without food or water as an example to other prisoners.

After a week she was allowed some water. The taste of it upon her parched lips was like heaven for her. She drank the bowl down heavily, heedless of its suspiciously murky quality.

Four days later Audrey lingered upon the verge of unconsciousness. She shivered quietly on the floor of her cage, unaware of the diarrhoea which soiled her hair. Her muscles ached tiredly and she felt too weak to move. She no longer cared enough to shield her nakedness. Her vision seemed to dance in front of her eyes. It seemed at times that she could see her son.

Thomas.... he gurgled up at her. His baby blue eyes smiling into her own. One chubby hand reached up and grabbed hold. She laughed and gently loosened his fingers, nuzzling his tummy gently. Thomas, Thomas, I love you so much....

.....Mummy! Mummy! Come quick! See the pitty doggie Mummy!

Where? Tommy? Where's the doggie?

He was excited, gabbling his words. Audrey went with him to the edge of the cliff, holding him by her side cautiously. It was a high cliff. She did not want him to fall. She had to grab him tightly as he leaned over.

Audrey's cracked lips opened and she moaned slightly. Her eyes were open but unseeing. She reached out weakly with one arm, and then let it fall back heavily upon the floor.

Mummy see? See there? There's the doggie!

Audrey leaned over to look, clasping Thomas to her.

The wolf was standing on an outcrop about fifty feet below. His nose pointed directly south, and his ears were pricked and alert.

Somehow, Audrey suddenly felt a chill. The wolf was so still. There must be some predator or-

The sound of the hunting horn filled her senses with horror. NO!

She cried out gaspingly, her eyes widening and showing her fear. Her voice was hoarse and weak, but still carried to the ears of the the nearest guard. He cursed and threw an empty bottle at the cage. It crashed against an iron bar and shattered. The prisoner did not hear it.

What instinct it was that warned her that she was the one being hunted on this occasion, Audrey could not tell. But she knew it as surely as she held her boy in her arms. Her son....!

She turned to the boy and gave a frightened smile. How would you like to play horsies Tommy?

The toddler's face lit up and he held up his arms expectantly. Audrey bent her back and felt his familiar weight settle. She shifted him and told him to hold on tight.

We are going on a long ride Tommy! You must hold on. Don't look back.

He chirruped happily and Audrey began to run.

Her feet stumbled and fell desperately, as she clambered up the rocky slope. Still -soft and distant, but steadily growing nearer on the breeze- she heard the hunting horn.

She ran. Thomas nestled closely in against her neck. She could feel his cooling breath against her cheek.

She ran. Thomas asked if they could stop.

No, Tommy, Mummy isn't there yet. Soon, I promise.

Splashes of blood began to mark her trail. Footprints... her feet were badly cut now. She could not pause. She drew her breath in great rasps. Thomas' weight had become almost unendurable. She was exhausted.

And yet, the hunt was closer than ever. She could hear the baying of the hounds now, as well as shouts from the hunting party. Thomas had fallen asleep.

For a moment, she stopped. Audrey looked around her frantically. They would be upon her soon. She had to hide her son. But where? A large thicket of bushes was upon her right. She laid the boy down as gently as she could. She thought he was still asleep. Yet the blue eyes she loved opened and looked up at her sleepily.

Are we finished playing horsy now Mummy?

Yes Tommy. We're going to play another game now.

I'm tired Mummy.

I know Tommy. This will be the last game, I promise. I want to play hide and seek with you. And see!

She lifted her hand and pointed at the bushes.

There is a good place Tommy. Mummy will never find you there!

Thomas eyed the bushes dubiously. Won't it be all scratchy in there Mummy?

Yes Tommy. But I want you to go in there now, and not make any noise. You must be very quiet. Do you understand?

Yes Mummy.

Thomas crawled obediently into the bushes. Audrey satisfied herself that her son could not be seen. She cast one frantic, adoring look at the concealing bushes and then suddenly turned on her heel and doubled back.

She crossed her own path and began one last desperate run towards the woods- in the opposite direction from where she had hidden her son.

The meadow which exposed her now would surely reveal her fleeing form to the hunters. They would chase her, and call off their hounds from the trail. Thomas would be safe.

Audrey heard a shout as one of the men spotted her. Then the hounds and the horses were bearing down on her. She stumbled over a root, and fell, but was up again straight away. She took great gasps for breath, and red seemed to dim her eyes.... She had to get as far away from that precious clump of bushes as she could. They must not find her son!

The guard glanced across at prone figure at the bottom of the cage. The woman's head was turning from side to side in a restless, stricken manner. He chuckled momentarily at the ludicrous sight and then went back to his bottle.

Suddenly they were all around her. The dogs jumped up at her and barked furiously, and she could vaguely see the shape of the horses and their riders.

Something long and snakelike appeared from nowhere and she felt a sudden searing pain about her legs.

She fell heavily, and then rose to her feet. Audrey stood savagely, like a wolf at bay, glaring up at the hunters.

Krasten was not there. Her eyes flickered from face to face, and they were all familiar. Montague, Krasten's second in command, Lungor, Peiterson...

But where was Erich Krasten?

The riders surrounded her, blocking all chance for escape. They seemed to be waiting for something. She looked at them defiantly.

And then there was a sound of hoof-beats. Audrey looked up at the approaching rider- and at the figure he held in his arms....

She seemed all at once to become like a mad thing- jumping up at the horse before it had even stopped and screaming at the man who held her son.

The lash leaped out again and again.

Audrey Wilder cried out from inside her cage. Her face contorted terribly in fear and anguish. "NO! NO! Let him go! Let my son go! He's mine! My son..!"

Another bottle broke against the cage bars. The guard swore loudly- more at the waste of his liquor than at the terrified groaning escaping from the woman's lips.

Then he gave his prisoner another look.

The guard had seen the results of starvation before. The hallucinations and physical convulsions usually started in the final stages before death.

He decided it was time to make a report to the governor.

She had never seen such a strange place. She could not understand why it had been built so. A great pit had been hollowed out from the middle of the floor, and they had chained her in shackles by the edge.

On one side of the pit was a large grating which seemed to cover the entrance of a tunnel.

Audrey's anxious eyes flashed from her son in the pit, to the tunnel, and then back towards Krasten.

Whatever you want to do to him- do it to me! He is your son too! You must not hurt him!

Erich Krasten merely smiled.

She became more insistent, more desperate in her pleas.

Please. Don't hurt him! He's just a boy! Do what you want to me! Please....

Her voice broke and trembled. Thomas looked up at her puzzled.

What is the matter Mummy? Are you scared? See the nice man? He was nice to me.

Audrey began to struggle against the shackles violently. The irons bit deeply into her wrists.

Tommy- can you try and get out? Can you jump up?

Thomas walked clumsily to the edge and reached up his chubby arms.

Can you reach me Mummy?

No Tommy. You have to jump up, can you try?

Thomas made an uncertain hop and then shook his head.

Mummy I can't reach. Sorry.

Audrey fought the more desperately as she slammed her body forward. She tried to use her weight to pull the fastenings out of the wall.

Thomas had wandered down and was looking in the tunnel.

NO Tommy!! Stay away from there!

Audrey's terrified shout disturbed him. He looked up at her and began to cry.

Mummy. Mummy. Why are you mad at me?

I'm not mad Tommy, but I need you to try to climb out. Please try.

Thomas looked at her uncomprehendingly. I can't reach Mummy. Why don't you pull me out?

I can't reach either Tommy.

Thomas looked at her and nodded.

Did you see the pitty doggies Mummy?

I saw the doggies Tommy- and I saw the pitty horsies too. Maybe Mummy will give you another horsy ride.

No, no Mummy. Not those doggies. THOSE doggies.

Thomas lifted his arm and pointed down the tunnel.

Audrey froze into stillness. She could hear it now- the muffled snarling and scraping noises that she'd been too terrified to notice before...

She could not move....

Thomas clapped his hands happily.

See Mummy? All the pitty doggies!

Audrey Wilder lifted her head and gazed at Erich Krasten. His smile had spread and now covered the greater part of his face.

She could not speak. Instead her eyes spoke for her, agonised horror terribly described in their depths.

He reached over and pulled a lever...

The screams went on and on, awakening the guards from their beds and disturbing the prisoners.

Most believed it was another torture session, and tried to cover their ears.

Some however, went to the door of their cell and looked out. Those who were near to the cage could see the governor hurry over and unlock it before bending over a convulsing figure.

The governor slapped and shook Audrey violently.

"Wake up woman! And be silent!"

The guard shook his head. "She ain't asleep gov'nor. She's having one of those delirium things. You'll need a doctor."

"Then go and fetch one! At once! Before I disobey orders and have her shot."

The guard hurried off. The doctor's examination was cursory. The symptoms were already clear enough, and he had witnessed plenty of similar cases before. He gave the prisoner an injection of some substance and then turned to the governor laconically. "Give her some soup", was all he said.