It was dreadful, the way they covered her in mud.  Over her body.  Over her face.  To her death.

Yes, I know that to do this thing is a custom, a ritual, living history that precedes my opinion and observation by uncounted years but I am a stranger here and I have delicate sensibilities bordering on feminine squeamishness and I cannot reasonably be expected to “go native” in one fell swoop.   Frankly, I am scared.

Still, I know I will have to adapt and adjust.  No matter what threats they make (or carry out, for that matter) I will never get to go home.  I’m sure Lindsay has been contacted and I’m sure he cleaned out my bank accounts while he was still fake-crying on the phone with the fools at the consulate.  I don’t blame him.  I’d do the same.  We fucking hate each other.

This morning a young man with ball-bearing eyes spoke to me though a small sliding panel in the box where they’re keeping me.  He was wearing a uniform of some kind but I didn’t recognize it.  The sun had not yet risen – it was dark still – but the tunic looked clean, pressed and I thought I could see a few bits of metal on his shoulder indicating rank.  Maybe considerable rank.

“Good morning, ” the young man said. His manner was controlled and even.  Much more so than I would expect from someone his age.  “How long will I be here? ” I asked.

“I don’t want you to ever leave me, ” he replied, “One of us will live forever.”   I thought I saw a smile.  Maybe not.  I wanted so much for him to be human, to be like me, that I can’t say for sure that I didn’t simply believe I saw a smile, no matter how brief.  I returned his (real? imagined?) smile.

They covered her in mud, a custom.  They wanted me to see this.   She was led to believe she was dreaming.  She could taste salt and sweet.  Her mother’s voice sang and she drifted.

Text and Images © Andrew Auten – All Rights Reserved