Salleem danced through the crowds of the sand ridden streets of Asyut. Behind him two men, one wielding a scimitar dawned in thin metal plating and the other, a merchant wildly flailing a loaf of bread above his head and screaming at the top of his lungs ran after him. Many people were shoved to the dusty cobble ground in the confusion as the two very out of place men forced their way through the busy narrow street. Salleem, twelve years old, peered down at the soft loaf of bread in his left hand and smiled widely. Today he would eat.
He looked over his shoulder as he ran. Salleem new the city well enough to be sure he wasn’t going to run into anything. The bread merchant and his guard had gotten caught up by a group of rowdy cloaked men who were looking for a fight after being shoved aside during the pursuit. Now was his chance. Salleem quickly ducked into the alleyway beside him and hid himself behind a large pile of trash. Although Asyut was considered one of the nicer villages in the region, it was not clean. He carefully leaned over the rounded corner of the alleyway just enough to get a look at the two men confusedly running down a different street. He laughed to himself before taking a bite of bread. At the far end of the alleyway against a weathered wood gate sat an old homeless man balled up in a rough hide blanket. After finishing his bread, Salleem couldn’t help but notice the head of cabbage lying beside him. As far as morals went, Salleem fall a little short, but even he had qualms about stealing from the homeless. But hunger is a powerful thing. And since the bread he had just gotten away with he had yet to eat in four days. So with great caution, he slowly made his way towards the rotting wooden gate.
He planned to grab the cabbage and run as fast as he could from the man so that he might escape the guilt that followed the pleading gaze so many others had given him after a successful theft. What was about to happen was going to be much worse. The old homeless man lied motionless only a meter or so in front of him. “Is he dead?” Salleem thought to himself. As quickly as he could, he plunged his hand toward the cabbage. Then it happened. The decrepit hand of the homeless man shot up and grabbed Salleem by the wrist. Salleem let out a quick squeak before stopping himself. He tried to pull himself away but the old man’s grip was so strong he might as well have been chained to the wall. There was no escape.
“You dare steal from me?!” The old man’s head shot off from the ground and glared into the face of the boy before him. “Foolish boy, you’ve made a mistake you’re going to deeply regret.” With his other hand the man brought out a dagger that had been concealed within his blanket. Slowly he raised it towards the boy’s chest. Tears streamed from Salleem’s eyes and he couldn’t get out a scream before the man leaned forward and with a grunt the dagger dove itself deep into his chest. “Never will you be able to appreciate the here and now! Never will you live a normal life!” The man screamed as Salleem fell to the ground. Everything went black.
Salleem woke up in a cold sweat within the prison cell. He gasped for air and stared blankly at the ground before him. Had that been just a dream? No, he had never been so fortunate. He hadn’t ever gone a month without that man cluttering his dreams. Through the bared window the first rays of sunlight flooded cell and awoke some of the other prisoners. A few new members of the cell remained asleep against the wall. They had probably been captured sometime in the night.
“Looks like you three are up. Good.” The woman from the day before gave them a wild, sadistic grin. In her hand several keys dangled loosely from a chain.
Salleem’s mind raced. He had been tortured in a prison before. However, the cold look the lady was giving him said that sometimes those that enter her torture chamber don’t leave. He knew he had to get out. Incredibly aware that these might be his last moments, he tried to phase his arms out of the shackles. No good, they weren’t ordinary cuffs. Behind his back, just as his wrists were half way out of the shackles, they flashed a bright blue for an instant and his arms snapped back into place. Beside him against the wall, the armored man stared wide eyed for only a moment before concealing his interest. It seemed as though he might have been the only one to see Salleem’s attempt at escape. The thief lay panting on the ground, defeated.