Scorched Soul

In a scorched dystopia, Jenna Sand is just trying to survive, without knowing who her parents are or anything about how the world used to be. A servant in a ranch house, she flees the cattle ranch with the other workers, fearing the deadly 'Sand Plague'. The Harshlands outside the ranch, however, are aptly named, and surviving isn't going to be easy. Jenna struggles on, determined to keep going, but will her final, seemingly unjust, predicament be the last straw? Will her luck finally run dry?


7. Freedom for most, injustice for one...


"Why would I tell you?"


"… Lucas Flintlock."

"Next. Name?"

"Jenna. Sand."

"No need for the attitude, missy. You two, that cell. Next. Name?"


Dreary iron bars and cold grey walls surrounded Jenna, as she was shoved into a small cell block, Lucas following her. The ceiling was so low that the red-bandana wearing youth had to stoop a little, just so that his head wouldn't hit the rocky ceiling, while Jenna, short and thin as she was, still felt the claustrophobia setting in. The cells in Rairrk Prison - a small extension to Rairrk Police Station - were underground, so they had no windows, but lizards scuttled over the rock floors and a chill crept into your spine, tingling there constantly. It was like a different world to the Rairrk that Jenna had known. Irritatingly, they were also trying to force the 'Earth Gods' religion on them, by making a priest stand at the end of the corridor and recite the 'Book of Earthly God Deeds'. It was all rubbish, in Jenna's mind, but the priest's voice was a sort of droning noise which she could never tune out, and, since Lucas had gone quiet, it was the only thing she could hear.


Really, she couldn't blame him. When the officers had surrounded them, a desperate - and foolish - shootout had begun, killing Will and Jesse and injuring Heartsleeve. Jenna had ducked down onto Devil's Demon's neck, closing her eyes tight and trying to drown out the cracks, shots and cries of pain, but she couldn't. It must have been even worse for Lucas; Jesse was one of his closest friends. At least, she thought, he was shot cleanly through the head: Will had been shot in the chest, but not close enough to his heart, so he had limped back to the Police Station in chains, before falling down dead on the doorstep. Heartsleeve had a face as dark as thunder, as he ranted and raved about how other people had ruined the plan - but never himself. Jamie and Carl, along with the rest of the gang, were nowhere to be seen, since the supposed backup had turned out to be a group of officers on their way back from chasing cattle rustlers. Personally, Jenna didn't think they were going to come, but she wouldn't say that out loud. In any case, it wouldn't matter. No one would listen to her, not before, not now.


"… and so the Earth Gods did deliver us from our wicked ways, from our rich extravagancies. They humbled us, showed us a new way to live…"

"They stole all our stuff." One prisoner chuckled, though Jenna didn't recognise him. "Then they told us to be thankful for it. But when I steal people's things, they throw me in here!"

"The injustice is real." Heartsleeve remarked, sighing, as the priest didn't even pause in his monotonous 'teaching'.


Days and nights passed, with time plodding on like an overworked camel or mule. At some point, Heartsleeve started whistling again, the same tune over and over. Other prisoners came, and left. One of them knew the words to the tune, and a miserable melody echoed around the corridor.


"If I do die, upon this day, let it all be known,

That I died with a pistol in my hand,

And my horse, a pretty mare of roan,

That I roamed all across the land,

But never, not once, did I see,

A girl as pretty as my mare of roan,

Not even from across the sea.


Many girls have I been shown,

Laughing, dancing, filled with joy,

But none quite like my mare of roan,

And not one that was not a ploy,

Of course, I'll die, just like you,

Alongside my pretty mare of roan,

And that day, I am sure, she will rue."


But even the singing prisoner soon went away, struggling. All the ones who were going to be executed struggled, Jenna noticed, while the ones who were going to be free showed no real emotion, with a dull glaze over their eyes and a certain weariness in their step. No wonder; the most food they were ever given was a bowl of sloppy porridge and a heel of hard bread, so nobody had any energy to fight back, or to even think about escaping. Life went on above ground, but Jenna found herself loathing the normal people for being so happy, when she was miserable. Lucas had been silent for days, staring straight ahead and completely ignoring her. Pickpockets and cattle rustlers alike came and went, some to the gallows, others to their freedom. Jenna wondered why they had stayed there for so long, as she waited at the bars for her breakfasts and wolfed them down as soon as they arrived. Day became night and night became day, since she just slept when she felt like it and made sure she woke up for meal times.


Maybe it was her fault, she sometimes thought. For not standing up to the bandits, or dying with her friends, or staying on the ranch. Her life could be called many things at that moment in time, but loyal? Well, maybe, but, if so, she was being loyal to the wrong people. There was no honour, no loyalty, among bandits, and Jenna felt no pride by being thrown behind bars for them, but her real friends were long dead and these bandits had healed her, fed her, trusted her. Sure, they forced her into breaking the law, but she had felt that rush of adrenaline that so many people described feeling when they committed daring crimes. There again, she had also felt the horror and disappointment when they were caught, and now she had to face the consequences: the one part of being a criminal that nobody really boasted about. Now she could see why. Sometimes, it was incredibly hot, so she could barely touch the bars of the cell, the floor or the walls, but, at other times, it was cold enough to freeze her while she lay there, trying to sleep, shivering, with her teeth chattering. And then, of course, there was the uncertainty. The waiting. The not-knowing. Even the jealousy of other criminals - some of them murderers, some of them thieves - getting in and out of prison in a shorter time than her. In truth, she felt like she was the victim, but nobody would listen to her if she tried to tell them that. Nobody ever listened.


It was a little while after breakfast had been shoved through the bars of Jenna and Lucas' shared cell, when it happened. A rattling of keys in the door and two or more sets of footprints usually meant that a new prisoner was being introduced to the other side of a jail cell, but this woman was not in handcuffs, nor did she look like a criminal. In a slim, silky, sky-blue dress and jewelled sandals, she seemed to glide through the air instead of walking. Her fair hair was pinned up in a complicated hairstyle, with a desert rose (The most exotic and rare of all desert flowers) clipped to the right of it. Her dark green eyes checked over each cell, as she spoke to the two guards accompanying her in a musical voice, sweeter than honey. Finally, she stopped outside of Jenna and Lucas' cell, caught Jenna's eye, and nodded, saying 'That's her. Yes, her.'.


It took a minute for Jenna, so unused to people addressing her in conversation, to realise that they were talking about her, and another few seconds for her to catch onto the subject. Her eyes widened. She was staring into the face of her mother. Tears pricked the corners of her eyes, as the cell door was opened, and both mother and daughter cautiously stepped towards each other. One, a beautiful Goddess. The other, a ragged prisoner. Jenna let the tiniest of smiles cross her face, as the tears dripped down her face, wetting her cheeks. Her mother held her arms out, as if she wanted a hug, and Jenna moved forwards into it. But something was wrong. She suddenly felt it in the pit of her stomach, where so many stones had dropped of late. Then she realised, but it was all too late.


Something hard and blunt hit her on the head, and she slumped to the floor, unconscious.

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