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Chapter 14

Heat. Exhaustion. Dehydration. Heat.

My eyes blink, my body sways, my breathing pattern loosens as though I don’t know how to breathe anymore. Sweat drips from every gland on my body--I feel sick, dizzy, faint, but the thirst...

The thirst is unlike anything. I never knew thirst, not until now. My throat burns like someone is pouring oil from a vat fryer down it. There’s no escaping it, there’s nothing to distract me from it--and catching glimpses of the supervisors wandering around drinking water bottles that they occasionally dangle in front of some members is excruciating.

My surroundings begin to blur as I fight to stay conscious. My head remains down, my hand still moves against the perishing ground, but it grows slower and slower, weaker and weaker. The only thing that has kept me going is seeing the young girls carrying on, but physically, I can’t take it anymore.

“It’s full,” Ruth says, referring to the basket of potatoes. “Take it to the truck.”

“I. . . can’t,” I say breathlessly as I blink at the spots forming around my vision. “I can’t. . .”

Without any warning, my body jerks backwards and my eyes roll to the blue sky as I pant at it. I focus on the blue. I focus on the wonder of it, of the bedazzlement of it, and then I become annoyed by it. I don’t know how long I’ve been out here now. I don’t know if it’s been hours or an entire day, but the light seems to never end, the blue doesn’t seem to ever go away. The sun doesn’t seem to ever be setting.

When my eyes roll back down I’m face-to-face with the tall, brunette supervisor that I’ve seen whip the members carelessly. I’m too drained to offer a reaction to her deep gaze, I’m too alarmed that I’m seeing three versions of her above me to move my body back into position.

“What do you think you’re doing?” the three faces of her says, it’s all compiled together to create three versions of one voice.

Suddenly, I feel pain ignite into my shoulder as she unleashes her whip upon me. My body curls over, and I fall on my stomach as she whips me again directly into my spine.

“I said, what are you doing!” she roars.

I don’t even have the energy to speak anymore, I don’t even have enough energy to react to the pain. I’m slipping into darkness and it’s taking me quickly. As much as I try to stay awake, the thought of being able to sleep and having no control over it is frankly a haven escape. But she won’t let me sleep, she won’t let me go. She keeps on whipping me, getting angrier with every time that I’m not reacting, until finally, I gasp out and I look up.

“I. . . I just need. . . a drink,” I say.

“A drink?” she says. “Well, why didn’t you ask? I’ll fetch you a drink.”

My mind is so blanked out by the hallucinations and fatigue that I can’t evaluate her tone seriously. I’m not sure if she’s being sarcastic or if she genuinely means it, but either way all three versions of her begin walking away and I take that time to hold my hands to my face as I give myself a you can do it pep talk.

I don’t know how long I’m on the ground for, but what feels like seconds later an impatient cough rumbles through the air from above me. I remove my hands from my face and I glance up to see the supervisor looming over me with a smile on her face.

“Here,” she says. “Water.”

She throws me a bottle of clear liquid and it rolls across the soil to my toes. My hands reach out for it, grabbing it slowly and cautiously.

“Thank you,” I say, I tighten my grip around the lid, almost tasting the cure to death.

“That bottle is to remain by your side for the duration of the harvesting. If it has been opened, if a single drop is missing, then you will be out here every day under my supervision until I say otherwise.”

I snap my eyes up, glaring at one of her faces that is ugly and damaging. I slowly drop the bottle, placing it beside my leg as I resist the urge to use what’s left of my strength to throw it at her.

“Good,” she says. “You’re learning. If those brats down there can do it without water, then it’s rather selfish of you to ask for it. The Lord detests selfishness.”

I keep my eyes on her faces as she smirks to herself while moving on by, the whip swinging from her fingertips. When she is gone, I weakly roll the bottle back and forth from my leg, wishing that I hadn’t been foolish enough to ask.

The torture has now magnified. It’s not torture anymore.

It’s numbness.

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