They entered a brightly lit room and Melinda spotted three chairs on a platform, the middle one raised above the others. Tulkoy was seated in that one and a woman sat in the one to her left. The Overseer released her arm and took his place in the chair to Tulkoy’s right.
No one spoke for a minute or two and Melinda could hear people shuffling behind her, no doubt blocking the doorways to keep her from trying to escape.
Tulkoy motioned to Melinda. “Have you made your decision?”
Melinda worked her tongue and jaws hoping to get some moisture in her mouth. Finally, she answered, “I have.”
Tulkoy gave a look of disgust that she would have to belittle herself to ask another question. Of course, that attitude would be rectified once Melinda was part of the Dalkum. “Your decision?”
“My decision is, ‘No, I will not join the Dalkum’.”
Tulkoy’s face didn’t reflect the shock over Melinda’s decision. She was certain her sister would have joined them, but now had to hand down her verdict and thus kept her composure. “It is my duty as the Polcara to inform you that because of your refusal to become part of our family, you leave me no choice but to sentence you to be sacrificed to the Two Moons.”
Before she could react, Melinda felt a stinging in her neck and knew she had been given another needle. This time, however, the drug didn’t sedate her, but made her compliant and mellow. She could hear words being spoken but with her mind reeling, she was unable to discern what was being said. Someone took her arm and led her from the room where she was ordered to strip off her clothes. She was given some new clothes to wear. One of the garments was a dress or some sort of ceremonial gown. She couldn’t help but think how beautiful it looked and reveled that she was thin enough with just the body shape to accentuate the dress in all the right places. They placed slippers on her feet and she was escorted back into the main room.
She was led to the same place in front of the platform and when Melinda glanced up, she noticed that Tulkoy had changed into another outfit as well. It was black with various colors and designs sewn into the fabric. On Tulkoy’s head was some sort of tiara but Melinda couldn’t quite make out the symbol in the middle of it. In her hand, Tulkoy held a staff with a small head of an animal baring its teeth.
A mental picture of a polecat entered Melinda’s mind and when she went to say it out loud, she slurred, “pawlcl,” and laughed.
Tulkoy stood up and began talking about the Two Moons, but Melinda’s mind drifted in and out of a fog and didn’t comprehend all of what Tulkoy was saying.
A commotion broke out behind her and the two women who were holding her arms let go and Melinda slumped to a sitting position on the floor. People were yelling and there were some scuffles and objects clanking on the floor but Melinda couldn’t stay focused long enough to discern what was taking place. She wanted to close her eyes and sleep.
Just as she shut her eyes, someone pulled her to her feet. She scanned the room and saw funny looking creatures with big black heads and wondered if they were coming to sacrifice her and eat her body.
One of the creatures came toward her and spoke. “Are you okay, Miss?”
Melinda closed her eyes and opened them again. It took a moment before it registered they were policemen and she saw the large S.W.A.T. letters on the backs of their uniforms.
The officer spoke again. “I’m Captain Molinski, I’m with the…..”
Melinda held up her hand and forced herself to speak slowly and as clearly as possible. “You…got…..mmmmy…..mmmmessage!”
Captain Molinski thought for a moment then replied, “Actually, no, we didn’t get your message. We only heard a partial word and the number never registered where it had originated.”
Her questioning expression caused him to further explain. “The call came from a different person.”
Before Melinda could say more, she spotted other policemen bringing Tulkoy down from the platform.
She pointed her finger. “Stop.”
Captain Molinski turned and said, “Hold up a minute.”
With the help of the person supporting her, Melinda moved over to Tulkoy. Without saying a word, she slapped her hard.
Captain Molinski motioned with his head and the other officers led Tulkoy away. He turned back to Melinda. “C’mon Miss we need to get you to the hospital.”
On the way out, Melinda observed a number of people being led out of the vault by the police. From the corner of her eye, she spotted the Overseer surrounded by a number of officers and had all she could do to keep her anger contained.
Outside, she breathed the cool night air deeply into her lungs and was thankful the ordeal was over. EMT’s were waiting with a stretcher and carried her out of the woods to the ambulance. A thousand questions still lingered in her mind but she brushed them aside. There would be time enough to find out the answers once she was back home. She closed her eyes and drifted into the darkness.
Three months later, after having taken care of Angie’s affairs and closing up the house, Melinda was thrilled to be back in her own apartment. Luckily, she had suffered no major physical damage, or any neurological problems from the drugs she had been given. Emotionally, she was still having difficulty overcoming the trauma she had experienced and the shock over what Angie had become and was willing to do to her because she had not accepted membership into the Dalkum.
Even though her nightmares were less frequent, Melinda knew there would be more emotional uprisings as Angie’s trial date came closer. She was determined to go through with testifying, not so much out of anger, but so that no one else would be hurt the way she and others had been.
The doorbell rang. She went to the door, looked through the peephole, unlocked the chain and opened it.
“Hello,” she said and stepped aside. “I’m glad you could make it.”
“Hello, these are for you,” Tom Bennert said and handed flowers to Melinda.
She stood on tiptoes, leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you Overseer for having saved my life.”
May 1, 2014