The Cult

Scarlett gasped for breath as her head was jerked out of the water, her pale blue eyes wide and her head throbbing, before being shoved down again, down into the tub of stinging, burning water. Her wrists pulled limply at their chains, her bony frame trembling violently. When the priest finally released his hold on her black tousles, it took all of her effort to lift her head from the water and collapse on the concrete floor, coughing the liquid from her scorched throat even as one of the men dragged it away.

The water from her hair quickly seeped into her thin nightgown, adding to the chill spreading through her body. She could only watch as the head priest warmed the brand over a covered fire, nearing her with the same look of hatred painted onto his face. One of the other monks pulled her head back by the hair, each of their expressions dead even as Scarlett sobbed for them to relent. The heat from the glowing piece of metal flashed in her vision, before the searing pain burned along her neck. The priest held it there a few heartbeats, ignoring the smell of burnt flesh and the smoke rising about, and eased it off, making it hiss as he placed it in a tank of water. Scarlett could only pull in one shaky breath after the other, all too used to the pain. The hooded men gathered their tools, one of them pouring a ring of salt around the young woman hugging her knees to her chest, and another grabbing her hair and yanking her face up to mark her forehead with a circle of ashes.

The trapdoor in the ceiling opened at the hand of one of the men, casting a warm, beautiful light into the room. Scarlett felt herself reach a hand towards it, towards freedom and the world, but let it fall again as the last of the priests left, locking the door behind them, the loud grating of a heavy object being dragged over it sounding harshly, the sound of freedom lost and another night sealed in a cold, dank basement.

The hooded men would come each night; ‘cleanse’ her of her evils as they chanted words in Latin, never speaking to her except to command her soul to shirk its malicious ways. Scarlett held no memory beyond the torture-only faint snippets of visions remained in her shattered mind.

Scarlett looked up weakly at the noise of the dumbwaiter squeaking, rushing to it on her hands and knees and, taking the rock-hard loaf of bread and cup of thin water, ate ravenously even as the tough food grated against her throat. She was lucky to get these rations every three or four days and, even then, the priests occasionally chose to starve the darkness from her, forcing her to live off of air and water for days and, ever so often, weeks. It was a miracle that she survived when they did.

When all but the tray had been scarfed down impatiently, the dumbwaiter started to creak and groan, signifying that the small compartment was going to rise up on its track along with the tray inside it. Scarlett suddenly felt a bizarre idea worm into her mind and, without thinking, threw the tray across the room and squeezed into the dumbwaiter in its place. She shut her eyes and, waiting, felt herself rise, hands clammy and breaths ragged.

Time to see the outside world. 

The End

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