THE PATH Part 19

He’d waited until she woke up to cut off her nose.

His rage had been all the greater, because her beauty would have brought him much riches when the time came to sell her. Yes, the one who called herself No-Name had been beautiful then. But even her shin’she’e dared not defy the Law. He had carried out her punishment, at a loss to himself. It would be worse this time, if he caught her. The Law would require that he cut off her breasts for running away this second time. *But he will not catch me.*

No-Name looked towards the horizon, squinting. She told herself it was just the glare of the sun in the yellow sky that made her weep.

Freedom. It would be hers this time. Somewhere ahead of her, beyond those mountains. She had heard stories that other men lived in those lands, in a world where there were trees and green leaves and water flowed and rain came. The men there, she had heard tell, worshipped the sun, and ventured out by day, whereas her own people came out only at night. A distant land, where Tull held no dominion.

They will shudder to look upon you, No-Name reminded herself. You are so ugly. If you are not killed, that is, before you reach their land, which you will be. No-Name bit her lower lip to punish it for trembling. At least the animal that eats you will not care that you are disfigured, she told herself.

She walked for a long time, ran until she had to stop, then walked until she regained her strength and could run again. The sun rose high in the sky, hovered over her, then began to slide down behind her, where it would disappear somewhere beyond the desert, beyond the walls of X’bal’ba the Great. X’bal’ba the damned.

No-Name stopped. The evening had grown cooler. Her throat felt scalded; it screamed for water. Her skin had burned; it hurt to be touched. But No-Name smiled.

She pulled the knife from the strip at her waist. She’d stolen it before, from beside the remains of the cooking fire. Now, with the city and all of the Menhau behind her, she dared to use it. How she had wanted to use it then, to plunge the blade to the hilt in the fat heart of the shin’she’e! But she had not, dared not. Afraid, she just ran, left him alive. But not even the shin’she’e would pursue her this far, despite his rage. Her shin’she’e. Her *father*.

No-Name pulled up her leather skirt, gathered it up with her hands and held it against her stomach with her left forearm. She looked down at herself, where they had sowed her together, at the cord that crisscrossed itself. As with all Menhau k’tee’jo, they had sewn up her privates on the day that she passed her first menstrual blood. She winced now at the memory of it, the sharp bone needle, the pain. With a sneer, she used the knife to cut the cord.

Though her skin had long since closed around the wounds, it only hurt a little as she pulled out the strips of cord. She did not bleed. Under the Law, none save the man who purchased her from the shin’she’e could remove her stitches. By doing so herself, No-Name rendered herself worthless, fit but to be killed.

“I am my own now!” No-Name announced to the rocks, the sand, the sky, the vultures circling far overhead, the clouds, the sun. “I belong to no one else!” She shouted, her voice echoing across the barren desert. “No one!”

With that, No-Name left it all behind her. The words she repeated in her mind; they became a mantra, a prayer. And then a curse. X’bal’ba the damned, may not one of your stones be left standing upon another! May the winds rattle the dry bones of the Menhau over the flat earth and Tull die from want of blood!

Then the woman without a name did something she had never before done in her lifetime.
She laughed.

Categorized as darkness

By The Evil Cheezman

Purveyor of sacred truths and purloined letters; literary acrobat; spiritual godson of Edgar Allan Poe, P.T. Barnum, and Ed Wood; WAYNE MILLER is the head architect of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS, serving up the finest in entertainment and edification for the stage, the page, and the twain screens, silver and computer. He is the axe-murderer who once met Andy Griffith.

Leave a Reply