I heard footsteps on the path. When I looked up, three men in black were standing in front of me, and when I saw the silver five-pointed star that the one in the middle wore on the front of his cloak I knew I was lost.
One of the dogs padded up to him, and he bent down to pat it on the head.
"Thank you. You've done very well."
The dog wagged its tail and tried to lick his hand.
He straightened up again and began to address the small crowd that had formed around me.
"Good people, thank you for your vigilance. You've done very well. We'll take him off your hands now. Please go home."
A brief moment of silence followed. Then a few whistles and softly spoken commands to the dogs could be heard and the animals padded off, following their masters home.
I was on my hands and knees, the drying blood obscuring the vision from my left eye. With some surprise I noticed that my backpack was still strapped onto my back. Heavens knew why I had held on to it for so long. I blinked, as I seemed to have something in my eyes. I felt a tear roll down my cheek.
One of the helpers pointed at the bag.
"Take that off and give it to me."
I began to undo the straps but my fingers didn't seem to be up to the task. More tears were streaming down my face, and I closed my eyes to make them stop. The backpack came loose. I clutched it to my stomach and wrapped my arms around it. I felt my body roll up in a fetal position, and I prayed for the world to go away.
When I came to I was in a prison cell. For a while I watched the last evening light shine in through a small, barred window. I was lying on my back on a wooden bunk, my head on a pillow with a yellowed but clean linen covering, and a worn but also clean blanket covering me. Under the blanket I was naked. I looked around for my backpack and, without any real sense of surprise, found it was gone.
In stead of a wall, the side of my cell opposite the window consisted of an iron fence with a narrow corridor behind it. Somewhere nearby I could hear a door open and close, and then footsteps approached. It was the leader of the men who had arrested me, carrying a wooden chair.
He set down the chair and set down, propping up his feet against the bars.
"Good, you're awake."
I tried to answer, but nothing came out.
"Lost your voice, eh?" He chuckled without any real joy.
"I've searched your bag. You'll get it back right away. Don't worry, you'll find everything quite undamaged. I've also taken the liberty of having your clothes washed. You'll have them back as soon as they're dry."
I kept silent.
On this page Transitional HTML 4.01 and CSS 1 are used. If you're seeing this text you either have CSS switched off in your browser, or you're using a browser that can't handle CSS. If you're using an older browser version, you might want to consider upgrading.