Ariadne sat in her house, alone, waiting to go to the church. She had pretended to faint while sewing torn clothing, it had worked and she had been sent home. She was told to come to prayers in order to pray for forgiveness as her sickness was surely a sign of God punishing her. She had understood the insinuation that God was punishing her for not having any children for The Lambs. They could force her if they wished and at times she feared she would be raped, but so far she had been safe. She had been waiting for a time to leave, but there had been no opportune moment. She had seen through the façade of the cult three months ago, soon after the move. By the time she realised what was going on it was too late for her to run, the fence had been in place and there were no duties that commanded she be outside of it. Although it wasn’t marked, she knew it was electrified. She could have simply run past the guard but with no knowledge of where they were, nor of how to get to someone who could help, she would be quickly caught or die of exposure. The last person to try and run had been tracked down with the help of dogs and not merely through Gods will and guidance as Mary had claimed. The man was lashed forty times before being ejected from the compound. Two weeks later Mary told them he had been begging to return to their Eden, but she had refused, then, after another week, she told them he had been killed in a car crash. Everyone who left had died. Mary said it was a mugging gone wrong or a car crash or house fire or any number of things, but Ariadne knew better. She knew that someone, most likely not Mary herself, was killing them to prevent them telling others what had happened to them. They were doing nothing illegal, not yet anyway, but Ariadne thought Mary had to be doing something in order to make money. When she had joined, they signed over their life’s possessions, including their savings, most were allowed keep their jobs in order to hand over their income to Mary however this was stopped not long after as too many people were deserting the compound. It would have been perfect if they worked with others who had the same ideals, but once exposed to the world outside they were able to see things how they were, they were able to get food outside their rations, claim to be working late and get more sleep. They could talk to others and see that how they were being treated was not right. Ariadne had not been so lucky. She had not been allowed work outside, she had stayed and like everyone else believed what she was told. Her life before was horrible, but in the compound she was free thanks to Gods grace.
She had been formulating an escape plan for months, waiting for the right time. She didn’t know when that would be but as soon as it presented itself she would run. Today, however the right time had come and she had missed it. A private detective had come to the compound, most likely to scope them out for someone, it had happened a lot at the last place, but she had learned something that she had not known before. She have been convinced by Mary her parents had abandoned her like everyone else in her life she continued to blithely worship, however today she had found out that the private detective was looking for her and that he was hired by her parents. She had overheard two people talking, if Mary found out they would probably be punished, they were talking about the private detective and her parents, telling each other that her parents should just give up and leave her alone. She hadn’t wanted to talk with them in five years, they should get the message. This was the first time Ariadne had found out that her parents were trying to contact her. For the first time in five years she knew that they still loved her, that they hadn’t abandoned her like Mary had said. They had been trying all that time and it was Mary, not them, that had severed the relationship. She didn’t know how she had been so foolish, looking back now it was obvious. They were allowed go on scheduled visits, however, Ariadne had accidentally told a friend that her parents thought she should leave The Lambs and that she was foolish for signing away everything, together her and her friend laughed at their stupidity. The next time she was scheduled to leave to see them, Mary pulled her aside, her eyes full of tears in order to tell her the terrible news. “Your parents were here earlier. They told me that they did not want to see you again if you were going to consort with the likes of us. I told them you were our family, that we loved you but they wouldn’t listen. They told me that they never wanted to see you again.” Though Ariadne didn’t want to believe it she remembered their last visit, her father had yelled that she was being taken in by a bunch of freaks, her mother crying. It seemed believable. She had told this to her friend as well, not realising how Mary would twist everything. Mary had been very sly. She had suggested that maybe writing a letter to them would help, they were so angry that, to see them in person or talk to them on the phone might make things worse. And that’s what Ariadne did, she wrote letters, one a week for a year. Each one begging them to see sense, to allow her to live her life, telling them her friends loved her, that they were only trying to save her, that she missed them, that she loved them. There was never a reply and, after a year, Mary had gently suggested that maybe she stop writing letters and accept The Lambs as her new family now. She had done just that. Ariadne shuddered at how easily it had been to block them from her mind. she had not grieved for them as she would the dead, rather one moment they existed and the next they didn’t. She put her head in her hands, trying not to cry over what she had done. It would have been so easy to leave in the early days. Before the guards and electric fencing, which added for “The Lambs protection” and at the time, Ariadne had applauded these measures designed to keep them safe, never realising they were locking her in. There had never been any real cause for alarm, there were never any attacks. There had been occasions when everyone was herded to the church for safety, without being told what was happening, Mary would leave them after asking them all to pray for her and their safety. What would happen next no one ever knew but speculation abounded. When Mary returned she would tell them the danger had passed and the evil taken care of. But the evil was never specific, there were never any details, only those that peoples imaginations had filled in. She shivered, how believable it had all seemed and now, realising the truth how obviously fake it was. She wondered if she had the look yet, the look that so many “heathens” took on before they left or were cast out. The grim look of sickness as they realised what was going on and the true extent of what they had given up.
She needed to get out somehow, to get a message to someone that she wanted to leave. She couldn’t trust any of her “friends” in the compound, no one was safe. She needed to get out as soon as possible, to hide before “Gods wrath” caught up with her. If she could vanish well enough, she might be able to escape Mary’s clutches. As she sat she began to wonder if any of the people had really died or if they were still alive somewhere. After all almost everything else Mary had told them was a lie, why not that. After a moments consideration she decided this was true. It would be inconvenient for deserters to have somewhere to go or somewhere to turn, it would be harder to acclimatise to the world again if there wasn’t someone there who had been through the same thing. No one really knew the full extent of what Mary was doing, probably not even Joe, of course she didn’t want people in her higher circles telling people outside, or inside, the compound just what she was up to.
The candle started to gutter in its holder, the dying flame casting wild shadows. Her house had electric lights but she preferred the candles. The light given wasn’t as intense, the curtains they were given in the upper houses were thin enough to see the light and shadows through. Ariadne had no doubt that if pressed against the glass, someone could make out what was going on inside. It made it easier to see who was following curfew. Those who stayed up later than told were punished, usually their rations were shorted for “wasting electricity.” Ariadne was allowed to be home but she was supposed to be resting, she didn’t want someone coming over to her house because they saw lights on. She had a little alcove, one that she was sure was a construction error as she had not seen it in any other house. it allowed her to light a candle and have most of the light directed away from the window. She had checked and found that, if it was pushed back far enough, the light wasn’t visible from the outside, the curtains still showed the faint glow of light however and she had found that she could cover the window with her thin duvet, hooked into nails she had hammered into the wall herself. She knew she would have to leave soon for the prayer and ritual but she felt drained. She would try to get out of it and in the morning claim that she was better after spending the night praying for forgiveness for what ever sin she had unknowingly committed. Should she continue to appear sick in the morning she would be sent to the compounds doctor. The doctor had no medical degree or training and took a strictly biblical view on illness. If you were sick you had done something wrong and if he prescribed it, you could be sent to the repentance room, a small cell that was completely devoid of light. You were given food and water once every two days, at the same time your bucket was emptied. Ariadne had been prescribed there for four days, during which she thought she might go mad. She prayed for forgiveness and found, when she was done, she did feel better. At the time she believed God had cured her, now she realised it was probably her immune system fighting off what ever it was naturally. The doctor was fond of using experimental treatments. It was sometimes a shock to those who were used to popping a pill. Sometimes he did prescribe pills but Ariadne guessed, correctly, they were placebos or herbal cures that did nothing but sooth the mind. He used leeches freely in order to remove toxins from the blood, they would “suck out the evil” but there were other treatments only hinted at. They were not allowed to be discussed as they were secrets passed down from God. Ariadne had no desire to go through one of the secret treatments nor go to the repentance room. When the bells started to toll announcing it was time to congregate, she made her way towards the church.
People walked in ones and twos, the sun was setting and there was a chill in the air. The church, the largest and most extravagant building, dominated the sky. Due to the smaller buildings around it it was quite imposing. Moving through the people Ariadne walked through the large, open doors and made her way towards the alter. Mary was already there, smiling benevolently as her people filled the pews, seeing Ariadne walking down the centre aisle, she frowned slightly and stepped down to meet her. Ariadne cast a glance at the book on the alter, never before had she been so close to it and she was slightly curious as to what it contained. As Mary stepped out to greet her she mounted an apologetic smile, “Ariadne, is anything wrong?” “I’m sorry Mary, but I am not feeling well, I fainted earlier while repairing cloth” “I had heard, I hoped you would be feeling better by now.” “I was hoping it would be alright if I went home and prayed for healing there? I feel that I should separate myself from everyone here until God cures me again in case I infect them.” “Of course, we will pray for your cleansing as well.” Mary studied Ariadne, she did look quite pale, hoping it wasn’t something that she could catch, she took Ariadne’s hands in hers and bowed her head slightly, then standing, she touched her fingertips to Ariadne’s forehead. “May God cleanse you of your sin and sickness.” Ariadne bowed and mumbled “thank you.” The congregation had sat down during this exchange and watched attentively, the low whispers that had filled the room stopped. As Ariadne walked from the alter the entire congregation stared at her, some with fear and others with pity. As she walked out of the church doors they closed behind her, faintly she could hear Mary begin the sermon “you are my flock and I am your shepherd, guiding you from darkness into light and into the loving embrace of God.” She and the guards would be the only ones excused from attending the sermon. She quickly went home so the guards wouldn’t question her.
Once home again she did go to bed, she knew she would be fine in the morning. She had left the candle downstairs and did not bother to turn on the light. She got into bed, the rough fabric scratching at her skin. She lay in the darkness her mind racing. She had to have a formal plan she could put into action, without it she would be lost. Her first problem was getting a message to someone outside, preferably her parents or that private detective. Anyone else could be dangerous. She knew it was paranoid to think so, but she would prefer to be safe than to be released into the world under Mary’s view. For all she knew anyone cast out from the compound was killed. No one ever saw anyone leaving, they were cast out at night so they could return to the darkness they had come from. She thought of the boxes that filled the vans to bring the rugs and weavings for sale and delivery. There always seemed to be one leaving the morning of a casting out. She needed to escape, but she wanted to leave walking, rather than in a cardboard box.