The whip swung down to strike my back. The sharp crack of leather against flesh jarred me, but it
was not until the white- hot pain came that I truly understood what torture was like. I had been whipped many a time before, but never with a barbed leather whip. I sighed and dreaded the next 49 lashes.
Later, I sat on my cot, rubbing salve on my little sister Rose’s back. She was only thirteen but was far nicer and braver than I. She never complained, never raised her voice, and never rebelled against Mother’s horrible ways. She had gotten 50 lashes, same as I had, even though her body was more fragile than mine.
“ Ashaya,” She brought me back to the present, “Your turn.”
I nodded and switched places with her, wincing as my shirt scraped against the lash marks. As she rubbed the cooling salve on my back, relief washed over me.
“How did you get this one?” Rose questioned, referring to the new salve that I had brought home that day, expecting more lashings.
I snorted and said, “Half with Mother’s necklace and the other half with my ration for the week.”
“Ashaya, you know I would’ve let you have mine.” Rose berated me.
I shrugged and said, “You need the food more than I do.”
She rolled her eyes and elbowed me in the ribs, saying, “It wouldn’t kill you to eat something occasionally.”
The mood grew somber when the thought of our tiny rations descended over us. We got 3 small portions of watery cabbage soup a week, along with one loaf of bread a family and some dehydrated vegetables. The rest was whatever we could find or grow. It would’ve been fine if the land around us was good for farming, but most of Sepil was surrounded by an ocean, so the majority of the soil was filled with salt and brine. Inland would have been better for farming, but the majority of that was covered by the steel and cement of the big cities. I lived in a tiny village south of Quentila, one of Sepil’s big cities. Our village was so tiny and unimportant it didn’t even have a name. Those of us that lived here simply called it ‘The Mud Hole’. And it was, quite literally, a mud hole. All of the houses were raised at least fifteen feet above the ground, and even the raised paths we built could not avoid the torrent of rain that bombarded our village monthly. It slashed over everything, leaving nothing dry. It comes at night, when you least expect it and has no regard for any sort of protection you have up. Everything is left soggy, mildewy, and grumpy. And there are three feet of mud outside your door. Hence the need for the name and the raised houses. I went to bed that night, sleeping on my stomach to avoid making the scabs on my back break, I heard shouting outside my window. I looked through it, but could see nothing through the torrential downpour.