The Carving Knife
Her husband had hired a crew of chasers after discovering her missing from the laundry room where he’d chained her until she saw the error of her ways.
Ray was an ornery son of a bitch from the moment they said I do. Once he owned her, the law said he could do with her as he pleased, and so he did.
This came as a great shock to Susan, as it did to all young women when they discovered what was actually required of wives under The New Regime. Women were allowed only the most rudimentary education, but they were encouraged to watch TV — which is where Susan learned how to pick a chain lock.
“I can smell you in there, woman!” Ray’s raspy voice wheezed through a slit of granite wide enough to accommodate Susan’s tiny frame but not the bulk that was Ray.
No kidding, Susan thought. Ten days on the run she probably stank like a jackal’s den. Tough shit.
But now she was cornered.
Susan crept along the perimeter of the cave, tracing the wall with her fingertips for balance in the dank dark. She stepped on something that had been alive recently. It squished between her toes and she gasped reflexively.
“You get your skinny ass up here right now and I’ll let you come on home so’s The O-bedience Board don’t need to hear a thing about it.”
So now he was negotiating. Well, too late for that.
Susan lost focus, tripped over a rock and fell hard. Her face in the dirt, she smelled something. Something familiar and savory — it couldn’t be…roast turkey?
Having eaten nothing but grubs and pine bark for days, Susan got over her fear of the dark in a hurry. Carefully picking her way, she followed the scent as it got stronger with every crook in the underground labyrinthe.
After who knows how long, the smell that compelled her was eclipsed by a sulfurous gas that made Susan lightheaded. She stumbled onto a pile of bones, the bones of women who’d died in this netherworld between captivity and freedom.
Feral now with hunger and fright, she grabbed a nice thick femur, enjoying the heft of it, the rhythm it gave to her arm as she swung her way forward. No telling what she’d find at the end of this ride.
At last Susan spotted a spindly shard of daylight up ahead and sped toward the release it promised. Slowly, slowly she inched her head up through the hole, into the dusky air. And there it was — a wild turkey sizzling on a campfire spit, surrounded by a half dozen women clad in rags and deerskin capes.
The women kept silent as they helped her out of the cave and into their circle. Each bore a single scarred slash on her right cheek — forever branded as members of The Resistance.
A tall rangy woman stood closest to the fire, formidable in her Valkyrie helmet, a hand-hewn machete lashed to her thigh. She flipped open a buck knife and handed it to Susan, who sensed that she wasn’t being invited to carve the turkey.
© Lisa Martinovic