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“Brea.” I said shaking her shoulder. “Hey, are you okay?” I asked her while pushing her hair away from her dirt stained face. I stared down at her as she lay on her side in the grass, she looked peaceful and serene. Even dressed in bulky ill-fitting clothes, it was clear that she was merely skin and bones. I felt sorry for Brea, but at the same time I was unable to give any compassion for her pitiful and pathetically feeble body, we both have had to accept the same circumstance of fighting to survive. Then groaning in frustration when she refused to answer me, I slumped back into the grass annoyed at her. I hung my head and inhaled deeply taking in the clean fresh air that I had been deprived of for so long. While closing my eyes, I recounted the journey that had brought me to this field of open space and sovereignty. I remembered the sound of frogs, the smoke far away in the distance, and the hope that it had given me. My thoughts turned to just leaving her to continue my own escape, but then realized that, it would make me a no better person than the dogs who abducted us. The vast crystal blue sky was comforting and I couldn’t resist turning my attention toward the good that this moment had presented to me. The air was quiet and tranquil, the sun radiated its warm energy on to my skin and I was strangely thankful to only be dressed in a thin cotton gown. Brea still lay in the same passive position, when I took one of her hands into mine and examined it closely. Her nails were broken and tarnished with black stains, bruises were in-between her fingers, and scars and scabs covered the top of her hand. Turning it over, I saw something that I hadn’t noticed before. On the palm of her hand near the heal, I could clearly see a marking of some kind that had been branded into her skin. It had healed flawlessly which lead me to believe that this had been done a long time ago. There was no blistering, broken skin or scabs, just simply a perfect circle with an ‘X’ in the center. Being curious as to how this marking was made, I gently rubbed my fingers over it. The outlining of the design was raised and had a reddish scorch look, while the unmarked flesh was a pale pink. I began to be very intrigued by what I was seeing, so I picked up her other hand and turned it over to reveal her palm, and just like her right hand, her left palm was also marked with an image, only this marking was a large isosceles triangle. It was larger in size as well as a different color from the circle on her right hand. It bordered most of her palm with the base of the triangle facing towards her wrist. Lines or strands encircled each of the three points, that depicted sharp thorns or spikes, almost like barbed wire. The exactness of the two equal length sides, was extraordinary and impeccably done. The uniqueness of a violet color covered the design was intricate and also very precise, as if the scar had been tattooed over. Whomever was responsible for completing this ornamental pattern was most defiantly a skilled skin artist. I stared at the markings, and was mesmerized at how elaborate they both were. I was sure that the shapes had a deeper meaning. But what? Had they been placed before or after Brea was abducted?

I thought back to the robes that all of the men wore, and I vaguely remembered seeing patchwork along the sleeve of one of the captors. Of course, at the time I didn’t understand the meaning behind it or see much in the way of any details, however, I now recall that it was a circle with another shape inside of it. But if somehow the markings on Brea’s palms were connected to our abductors, then that could mean she’s been a part of a satanic ritual or witchcraft. While unnerving feelings began to come over me, I was now realizing that I too had played a part in this manifestation.

The daily rituals of chanting, the odd behavior of the hooded brutes and how they would shepherd themselves around as if they were all in a trance began to make me ill. Over and over again, myself and the others would be forced to hold hands while we encircled burning candles that were placed in the shape of an “X”.

“That’s it!” I gasped and took Brea’s right hand in mine to study it again. The similarities of her branding and how we were forced to position ourselves was uncanny. This primitive act would occur daily and would last for hours. The disturbing humming noises filled the underground tomb, followed by startling and unnatural breathing sounds. The marking was a definite link to some kind of satanic cult and ritual being acted out. As far as the mark on her left palm, I couldn’t recall anything that resembled triangles or barbed wire. Nothing significant that connected the symbol to what I remembered while being held captive. I wasn’t even positive of the length of time between now and when I had been taken. We were kept in almost total darkness, daytime was night time, there was no in between, only gloom and shadows. When I was finally out of patience and now more than ever eager, for my questions to be answered, I began shaking Brea’s shoulder harder than before.

“Wake up.” I said to her. “Wake UP!” I started to shake her even harder as her head started to bob against the grass and dirt. Eventually, her eyes started to flutter, opening slowly at first then opening up wide when she jumped to her feet tripping on her oversized pants then falling back to the ground.

“Brea, Brea wait, calm down it’s me, Melody.” I said with my arms reaching out to her. Then slowly I crawled to where she had fallen but worried that I might spook her and she would take off running. She squinted her eyes at me with a very muddled look about her. I knew that she may be confused about who I was or where she had just woken up at, so I stopped my approach and sat backward on my heels and waited for her to snap out of whatever dream she was having. Her stunned and dumbfounded look began to weaken as we stared at each other, and I soon felt that it was safe enough to speak to her without causing any alarm or surprise. Her arms were folded tightly around her legs with her knees pressed against her chest with her ankles crisscrossed. I could see a tight tension form in her shoulders, as she tucked her head down and turned away from me when I moved towards her. I gravely wanted to bombard her with the questions that I had about her burn marks and the resemblances between the circle and the rituals that would take place. I needed to know what she had been involved in with the hooded men to receive such brandings. Why were they so different and what had she underwent? I Placed my hand gently on her forearm and hoped` that my touch would help relax her and then I would get my answers.

“Have you ever been upstairs?” She asked, turning towards me. Her face was now wet from tears flowing down her cheeks and dripping on to the dirty sweat shirt that she was wearing. We held our gaze for a while as I tried to comprehend what she was asking. I didn’t know if she was serious or still in her muddled up mind frame.

“Have you?” She asked again.

I slowly motioned my head ‘No’ and my eyes widened from shock. I wasn’t aware that there was upstairs, I thought I had been kept underground.

“It’s where the chosen ones are taken to be sacrificed. Their blood is spilled to invoke demonic spirits.” She told me. I leaned my body away from her stunned at what I had just learned. I could not believe that something so evil and primordial was taking place in today’s culture, but the signs and symbols had been there the whole time, just unknowingly to me. The burning candles, black cloaks, the constant humming and Brea’s markings all began to make sense to me now and painted a vivid picture of evil. The mystery of how my abduction occurred was still unknown to me, or why I was an inadvertent puzzle piece to these criminal sins, would remain a mystery, and while it was all very hard for me to grasp or understand how I could ultimately have been made a part of something so malicious and wicked. I sat motionless in the grass stunned by Brea’s words, my lips parted wanting to ask questions but the words wouldn’t come out. Brea glared at me while her entire demeanor suddenly turned from gloom and despair to one of self-importance and authority. She stood tall and emerged over me with her shoulders back and her head held high, transforming into a proud and confident person reigning over my pathetic weak nature. A tear drop started to drop from my eyes faster than I could wipe them away, I looked up at her gravely needing answers as to why this was happening and who the people in the cloaks were? But, my lips were unable to form any words, and I was powerless to speak. My body trembled inside and my chest heaved. The vision of muck, grime, and cages clouded my mind and with shaky hands, I covered my mouth in fear that I would vomit. All of the panic and alarm from my being kept in captivity overwhelmed me and poisoned my blood and thoughts with the imageries of cruel beatings and the cloak that would pace in front of us carrying a large battered book. The thuds of bell ringing that would sound out before our cages were opened and again after we were led back to them.

Suddenly and without any thought, I involuntarily placed my hand into hers and raised my body up to a kneeling position. I wanted to be eye level with her, but my legs forbade me to stand. She loomed over my puny and weakened frame with a supreme confidence, staring down at me with a strict disposition. The person she was just minutes ago was gone and had been replaced with a multifaceted sorcerous. Even though I was well aware of the danger that I was in I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming desire to obey any and every command that she gave out. The more my mind fought to regain power over my body the less of it remained.

“My duty is to take you back to our coven, so that your body may be forfeited.” She said, speaking as if she was under a spellbind. “You’ve missed used my masters time, and for that you will be punished. The full moon will rise and in the twelfth hour, you and the others blood will spill. Then you will all take your rightful places at the altar. Now stand.” She told me in a commanding voice. Brea reached out her hand to me and gestured for me to rise. In a matter of just a few minutes her presence had manifested itself into a stronger than life being, now capable of controlling my movements and emotions. Like any child being disciplined, or a prisoner submitting themselves to a guard, I followed her directions and did what she commanded. I was now being denied any and all ownership of my body. My thoughts and emotions still remained fully intact and attached to me, but were now disconnected from my body. I unwillingly followed her as she began leading me back into the woods, from where I had emerged from the night before. I blankly stared out ahead of me, watching Brea walk as if she were floating in air. Her baggy sweat suit had been replaced with a long flowy white almost transparent gown. Her hair had turned from blonde to black and that lifted from her back and shoulders dancing in the wind with every step she took. I followed behind her with heavy limbs, that felt as if they were not my own. Our steps carried us further into the forest and it began to appear more like a narrow path or tunnel. The trees that were upright and tall before now begun to enfold and hover close to our heads. With every step that I took I felt the need to bow my head to avoid bumping into the low tree limbs, but my body would not allow it. I continued steadfast and meandered behind Brea wanting gravely to turn and run away. I knew the danger that I was in and the evil that I was being taken back to, only I couldn’t react to any of my emotions or thoughts, I was an inanimate object like a puppet and Brea was my puppeteer.

We arrived at a meadow that was carpeted with green grass that flowed out in front of us, peppered with the scent of wild flowers that tickled my nose. The sky that was once dark and gloomy had now been replaced and spun into a perky sun filled summer day, with a light breeze that blew just enough to lift my dirty hair from my shoulders. In the far distance a graveled path weaved about with hills, twist and turns just like the one from the park that April and I practice on for the Alzheimer’s marathon.

“Mel! Mel are you coming?” A female voice called out. I was startled but eager to see who it belonged to, then turning around too quickly I lost my footing and fell to the ground.

“Mel!” The voice echoed again.

“Yes.” I responded whirling my head around. “Who’s there?” I asked.

“Melody!” The voice said louder than before. I scrambled to my feet looking around for Brea. She was near me only seconds ago, just a few feet ahead of me in the forest but now she was nowhere in sight. Who could be calling my name I thought? Just then I realized that I now had total control over my body again and I was no longer bound by an invisible tight rope of commands. So, I started walking further into the meadow searching in every direction for the owner of the mysterious voice. The sound was clear and I recognized the voice, I felt that I had a previous connection with this person, but couldn’t be sure of it.

“Is someone there?” I asked. While suddenly taking notice that I was dressed in one of my athletic outfits. My black yoga pants that Stefen would always compliment me on, a hot pink dri-fit t-shirt and black Nike running shoes with white laces.

“How can this be?” I asked out loud scratching my head at these new turns of events and then also noticing my hair was also neatly brushed back into a ponytail.

I gasped while stretching my arms out in front of me that were now clean and free from all cuts and bruises from before. My hand no longer hurt and the gash inside of my palm had disappeared. The hunger and thirst that once consumed me had diminished and was now replaced with a familiar feeling of my old self, the girl that I was before my nightmare began. The sky above me stretched out in to its own vast of sparkling blue, like the calmest sea that was full of life. I felt delighted with the feelings of hope and happiness and no longer craving the escape of my horrors, no longer detained and held against my own will. I am free and no longer caged.

I sat on the ground listening for the familiar voice again. I Looked far out into the meadow in every direction straining and squinting my eyes into focus. Small rolling hills that were caressed by vivid and picture-perfect greenery took me back to my childhood when my mother and I would visit my grandparent’s estate. Acres of land encircled the old brickhouse covering it with the most enchanting and magical carpet of emerald green grass I’d ever seen. I would spend hours curled up in my mother’ s lap inside of a gazebo overlooking the property. The gazebo was nestled close to a curving river bank not too far from the estate house. Then after my father was killed in a motorcycle accident, I soon called it my safe house. The loss of my father was too much for mother and I to bare, so we made it a habit to disconnect ourselves from the world and everyone around us inside of that white wooden gazebo. Mother and I never spoke out loud about his death, we both hid our grief which eventually led to her passing. Dr.’s simply said that she had died from a broken heart and with her death, I became an orphan at the age of eleven. I missed both of my parents dearly, and I missed my safe house that years later was destroyed by a fire.

“Mel honey, I’ve been looking all over for you. Here sweetie, I brought you some lemonade, drink up, you have a long journey ahead of you.” Said a voice that surprised me, but brought me back into focus. I scrambled to my feet, spinning around in search of where the familiar sounding voice was coming from.

“Hello.” I called out. “Hello is someone there?” I asked.

Frantically I turned my body in all directions looking for who the voice belonged to, my heart pounded hard and loud as I felt heat flush my face and tears flood my eyes, but the meadow remained empty. No one was around me and I was still all alone. The exquisite green grass was waving gently in the summer breeze as if it were mocking me.

“Am I going crazy?” I screamed. “Show yourself!” I demanded. I stood motionless, even holding my breath, hoping to hear something or someone. Seconds turned into minutes that I carefully waited and listened closely for any sound. Looking up, I noticed that the sky that was blue and clear not too long ago, had turned gray and was starting to fill itself with storm clouds.

“Shit.” I said, stomping my foot.

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