Martha woke up to a hand on her shoulder. The stranger in a plague doctor’s mask gestured for her to get up and start packing up camp.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
He hadn’t said a word the entire trip. They had been traveling for three days since he found her, and she didn’t know if he was taking her somewhere or if he planned on just camping. He handed her a bowl of soup from the fire then began to pack his bags. It was night again, they only traveled at night. Martha had a million questions, but she knew there wouldn’t be answers. She quickly ate her soup then set her bowl aside to take down the tent.
Observing the stranger, she began to have her doubts. He never removed his mask the entire time they were together. She didn’t know what he was. Two arms. Two legs. He looked like a man but according to that so did the shadows she first met. He might not have a face behind the mask.
Martha continued taking down the tent but accidentally scratched herself with one of the poles. Letting out a hiss, she grabbed her hand and could feel it bleed ever so slightly. She wiped off her hand and returned to work, but she noticed the stranger immediately grabbed a piece of cloth and a bottle of alcohol. After wetting the cloth, he took her hand and dressed it then finished taking down the tent.
When she first started camping with the stranger, she could barely see what she was doing with only the glow of a fire. After a while, it became easier, but she still wasn’t perfect. The forest had more color at night than she expected. She wondered what this world would look like in the daytime. After they finished packing their bags, the stranger loaded up his mule, and they were back on the trail again. “Why do we only travel at night?” Martha asked.
She kept following. With every night, the forest became less eerie to her, and she was able to walk the trails with confidence. There weren’t many people on the trails, at least none that she saw. Looking down the trail, she saw a warm glow of a fire. Multiple fires.
“What’s that down there?” Martha asked.
The stranger looked up from the ground. No response.
Martha wondered if it was their destination or if it was just another camper. As they got closer, it appeared to be more than one camp. She could hear chatter from the camp, and once they were close enough, she was able to make out the tops of tan tents. It looked like a farmer’s market from back home.
Each tent sold different items, food, trinkets, or art. Everything looked slightly exotic, and not one person in the place looked human. Down the main aisle, Martha noticed people turning to look at her, each one with a different mask and made up different animals. Some with goat legs, others with wings, some with the masks of skulls. She couldn’t help but stare at them as they were staring at her. Every one of them were strange, and to them, she was even stranger. The stranger she had been following gestured for her to keep up, then put his arm around her to keep her beside him.
“Don’t think for a moment, these people wouldn’t kidnap you,” He said.
She was astonished, by his comment and by his voice. “Why didn’t you tell me we were coming here?”
“Because you’re going to hate me in a moment.” He stopped his mule and grabbed a bag from off its back, handing it to Martha. “Remember this name, Melochy. Don’t forget it okay? I need you to give him what you have in that bag there. When you find it, don’t let anyone see it.”
“Why don’t you tell me what it is?”
“Because you’ll know it when you see it. Trust me.” He told her. Grabbing her by the arm, he led her into a tent, “Sir I found another one!”
“Fantastic!” the shopkeeper cried, “eh. How much for this one?” Martha paused to examine the shopkeeper, four arms and a small head, small enough to use a rat’s skull for a mask. The entire tent seemed haphazardly put together, but it was standing.
“She’s well built, very strong, little clumsy at times. I’d say 500 gold.” She felt the words sink in, money? Was he selling her?
“500?! There’s not profit to be made at 500. How about $350?”
“I’ll go down to $400” The stranger bargained, “She’s worth more than the last one you sold, I can tell you that.” The more she listened, the more she hoped the stranger didn’t mean it.
The shopkeeper threw up all four of his hands, “Fine fine. 400 it is.” He rummaged under the counter and pulled out a small pouch of coins, dumping it on the table. “There you are.”
The stranger quickly counted the coins then handed Martha off to the shopkeeper, “Remember what I told you,” he muttered to her.
She was pulled by the arm to the back of the tent where she saw four other people who looked like her. Humans. “You’re going to stay here,” the shopkeeper said, “you all be good, supper is coming soon.”
Martha slowly made her way to the back and set down her bag. The back of the tent was filled with old boxes and some fold out cots. She could barely focus on her surroundings. Sold. She wasn’t even sure what she was sold for.
“Hey, my name’s Alex.” A lanky, blonde young man outstretched his hand, “what’s your name?”
“Martha.” She said shaking his hand, “do you know where we are?”
Alex chuckled, “you’re in slavery, my dear.”
“slavery?” her eyes went wide, “that man I followed here sold me into slavery?”
“It happens to the best of us.”
“We gotta get out. We can’t stay here,” Martha said frantically.
Alex put his hands on her shoulders, “calm down, it’s not as bad as you think. This could be our ticket back to our world.”
“Are you from…” Martha stumbled trying to find the words.
“I’m an American,” Alex answered pointing to himself. He gestured to the other three, “everyone here is from a different place from around the world. You’re not alone.”
“How did everyone else get here?” She asked.
One raised his hand, “I’m from Egypt. I went to play in the river, and I slipped. When I got out of the water, I wasn’t home anymore.”
“I’m from Germany,” Another woman said, “I went to the beach, and when I got knocked over by a wave, I came out of the water, and I was here.”
“I’m from Singapore, I also played in the ocean and ended up here,” a young man said.