Ash sank gratefully into the water, sore from a full day’s work. As usual, his whole body ached, every muscle sore from overuse. The scent of oranges and spice lay heavy on the air. At least today he had pleased his master enough to eat. He turned to the plate by the bathing pool, a simple meal of bread, cheese an apple and a large glass of wine. He drained the cup first, in one go. As he soaked in the water and nibbled some cheese, he felt the numbness of the alcohol, combined with the drugs sweep through him. He allowed his eyes to close, the warm water soothing the deep ache in his muscles. Unbidden, his gaze drifted to the ragged wound, half-healed and still raw-looking, on his wrist. He had no idea how, but he’d avoided death when he had inflicted the wound with a knife he’d stolen from one of his meals. He bitterly wished that he hadn’t. His master had punished him severely for the act. Not only for the audacity of doing anything without permission, but for the damage to his master’s “property” and therefore his profits. No concern was given to the fact that Ash had tried to take his own life. Only to the damage and insult to his master. Now, they kept him on the drugs that kept him numb and compliant. Now, he barely felt the hands on his skin or the things that they did to him.
His skin healed, faster than any human he knew. He could last three weeks without food or a drop of water before he began to fall ill. His master had seen to that. The time he’d stepped out of his window.. Two floors up from the ragged cliff tops that should have taken his life. He’d felt an impact, yes, but it was as though someone hadtackledhim.He’d landed not six feet away from the rocks. An impossible coincidence and yet here he was. He continued to eat as he bathed, enjoying the silence of the room. This was the one room he could feel like this in. This was the closest to sanctuary and happiness that he ever knew; a drug induced stupor, cradled in warm water, alone.
But that was the catch about his life. Ash was never alone. All night and through most of the day too, he would have people around him. On him. In him. It was the nature of his slavery. He was a sex slave, a whore, and his master made sure that he knew his place. A whore was synonymous with the shit you scrape off your shoe with a shudder. Yet, he was also the most highly-demanded sex slave in all of Pompeii, maybe even in the whole of Greece. Zeus knows, he got enough customers. It was almost unnatural.
Ash clenched his jaw. The drugs weren’t working as well as they usually did. His mind screamed at the injustice of it. He didn’t ask to be born. He didn’t ask to be cast out by his family. He didn’t ask to pay for the luxurious palace in which he was now prisoner. They’d first auctioned him at just five. The highest bidder got to “break him in for the rest”. He was then passed round, countless faces, until he was broken and bleeding for weeks. Once he was healed enough, he was put to work and had barely stopped since. There were so many hands, even on that first night. And there had been so many more ever since. The degradation rose like bile in the back of his throat. The injustice turned his blood cold. What little pleasure he’d taken from the bath was thoroughly killed. He opened his eye reluctantly. A weary sigh echoed through the bathroom, the sound of an old man. And he did feel old, so very old. He felt aged far beyond his nineteen years. He turned to the plate by his elbow, hoping for a scrap of something he might have missed, even draining the cup of the last drops of wine in hope that they might tip the balance into numbness. He waited a heartbeat. Two. Three. Nothing. His fury ignited and he threw the cup with all his strength. It clattered across the tiles of the floor, echoing before coming to rest.
“Nothing ever fucking changes.” He snarled under his breath. “Nothing.”