Too late. I felt two rough, yellow fingernails enter me. This time, I didn’t get nauseous, I just threw up. Some of the vomit splattered on the old bitch’s face. I spit the rest in her face, but she didn’t stop. As the old lady went deeper, I could feel her bony knuckles slide in. She fiddled her fingers inside me for a moment, then pulled them out. Tears ormed in the corner of my eyes and trickled down my face likes streams in the desert. I felt so violated. So dirty. So ashamed. So scared and wrathful at the same time.

“Yep. She’s a dirty little whore." The old lady held her right hand up to her face, and ran her pointer and middle finger across her nose a few times. “Dirty whore, but she smells clean." Then she licked her fingers. She opened her mouth, plucked out a rotten tooth, and crammed it into my mouth. “Swallow it down…like a pill…take the medicine!" She placed both hands over my lips in a cupping motion, flung her head back like taking a shot of whiskey, and let out a menacing shriek.

The smell. Oh dear God the smell. It reminded me of used dental floss. And the taste? The tooth tasted like rotten meat doused in formaldehyde. I could feel it sitting on the tip of my tongue like a breath mint. It was a molar. I felt all its ridges and the crown as I rolled it around and tried to spit it out. The old lady’s grip proved too strong. I shook my head back and forth like a pit bull on the throat of its prey, but the old lady wouldn’t let up. Growing tired of fighting, she removed one hand, clinched her fist, and brought it down like a hammer on the bridge of my nose. The force of the blow caused me to gasp, and as I did, I swallowed the rotten tooth.

The old lady then rammed her yellow, infectious finger nails into my mouth. She dug around to make sure I swallowed the tooth. Her fingers tasted like moth balls soaked in vinegar, and I wanted to wretch…again. I started to gag, but nothing came up. Satisfied the tooth had been ingested, she removed her fingers, dismounted me, and leaped off the stone slab.

I began to taste a copper taste again. The blood from my nose dripped into my mouth. It replaced the flavor of the old lady’s fingers. I welcomed the taste like a straggler, beat down by the burning sun, who finds a first sip of water.  

I lifted my head and saw one of the persons in red break the circle. As he walked towards me, swaying back and forth in his hand, hiding partially behind the sleeve of the robe, hung a dagger. Fear clamped on to me like a vice. I could now feel it. The presence of death. It loomed closer than my own skin. Tunnel vision set in, and all the muscles in my body became stoic.

“Why…no…please don’t…you…you…" I couldn’t get my words together. My mouth felt like it had been shot up with novocaine. The red hooded figure continued to approach, unmoved by my pathetic plea. Then it stopped and stood behind my head. I tried to position so I could see what the figure planned to do with the dagger, but all I saw was the faint silhouette of a face hiding under the red hood.

“Please," I swallowed hard, “don’t…don’t kill me."

By the movement of the figure’s shoulder, I could tell the dagger went in motion. I closed my eyes and prayed, preparing for the sting of the blade and the burning of its entry. Instead, I felt a hand yank my black, curly hair, followed a sounded like the cutting of a rope. As I opened my eyes, a clinched fist hovered above me, holding locks of my black hair. My heart slowed, and the pace of my breathing let up.

Maybe, maybe they don’t want to kill me. Maybe they just need me for this ritual and then they’ll let me go.

But I knew better.

The figure in red now walked around the stone slab and stood to my left. In the candle light, I could tell the body shape was one of a man. He returned the dagger to its sheath, then handed it to one of the other red hooded figured behind him. He placed his right hand in the pocket of his robe and pulled out a small piece of driftwood, followed by some twine. The man then took the locks of my hair and wrapped it around the driftwood, tying it off with the twine. The finished product resembled a scroll. He held it over me, chanted some words I couldn’t understand, and then made a swipe with it for my face. I flinched, avoiding his attempt, so the man reached out his other hand, grabbed my head, and then swabbed the scroll in the blood from my nose.

The man then turned and faced the other hooded figure who stood at his back and handed over the scroll. The other figure in red walked to a table sitting behind them, picked up an urn, then dropped the scroll inside and returned to the circle.

“It is complete." The old lady spoke up. “It is time, my darling, for you to descend to the Ethereal Plane, where you will be greeted by Tetromet, who will introduce to you a wonderful suffering!"

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