"Please, stop, I still don't know what I did," Brianna said through her tears. She sobbed as she trotted down the dim narrow corridor with quick tiny steps, trying to keep up with the guard, the exertion bringing shiny sweat to her naked body, little beads of it everywhere, tickling as they flowed down her back and thighs.
"Please, where are you taking me? What's going to happen to me? At least tell me that," she pleaded, before crying overtook her again.
The sounds of her cries echoed from the heavy concrete-block walls of the prison. The guard was walking quickly, and Brianna was nearly breathless now from her crying and from the effort to keep up with him. Loud clinking sounds came from the foot-long chain that connected the wide metal shackles locked around her ankles. She wore similar wide steel bracelets locked snugly around her wrists, with a heavy padlock serving both to lock the bracelets together behind her and locking them both to a heavy steel chain drawn tightly around her waist. She knew she had no way to escape. The guard was leading her by a leash hooked to the leather choke collar fastened around her neck. Without being told, she was sure that if she held back or fell, he would start dragging her by the neck down the corridor, choked by the collar.
She had hardly had time to think since the police had burst through her door and into her bedroom. Without a word they had hurried her to a waiting car, tearing her nightgown as they pushed her roughly into the back seat. She had not stopped crying and pleading since then, but it was as if the police and guards were deaf.
They had driven her through the streets of town, her torn nightgown barely covering her breasts, and then outward from the edge of town to the enormous prison. Few people from the town had ever seen the prison, and certainly nobody could be found who claimed to have been there. Rumors said it was because nobody ever left it once they had entered.
The car had stopped in front of an enormous metal door at the front of the prison. It opened outward as they hurried her towards it, and at the door the policemen roughly pushed her through the door, not coming in themselves. The guards took over at this point, one of them holding her bare arms tightly while another took a folder of papers the policeman handed him and closed the door. Up to this point she had felt everything was unreal, she felt emotionally distant from the events happening around her, but the door, somehow, seemed very real. It was then that she truly realized it was all really happening to her, and a voice inside her told her she would never see the world outside that door again.
The guards hurried her into a small room where a bored-looking man in a judge's robes sat looking through a pile of papers. She felt a tiny bit of relief: if this man was really a judge, then at last she had found someone she could talk to.
"Please, sir, is this a trial? Are you a judge? I don't know what I've done. I..."
He looked up and cut her off with a gesture. "Silence! You're not allowed to talk in here!"
Her jaw dropped in dismay. If this was a trial, how could they refuse to let her try to defend herself?
The guard carrying the folder of papers the policeman had given him now handed these to the judge. He paged carefully through them for a few minutes.
He looked up at last. "I find you guilty of treason. You are sentenced to death." He looked at the guard standing to her right. "Chamber four." He put down the folder and went back to his papers.
"Treason?? That's just impossible. Just tell me..."
The guards on either side of her converged on her, one of them wrapping a large arm around her from behind and holding his other hand over her mouth, cutting off her protests, while the second guard busied himself locking the metal shackles onto her wrists and ankles. She shouted muffled protests that turned to screams when the guard who had shackled her ripped her nightgown off of her -- she wore nothing at all underneath. He fixed the chain around her waist then, and locked the wristcuffs to each other behind her, and to the waist-chain. He bent and held her feet against their desperate kicking, and fastened the short chain running between the ankle cuffs. Finally he put the collar around her neck, passing one end of it through a ring at the other end to complete the loop, then putting a padlock through a metal-reinforced hole in the leather just outside the ring, to make it impossible to remove the collar. As he clipped the leash to another ring on the collar, the guard who had been holding her let her go, and the one holding the leash led her quickly out of the room, shuffling as fast as she could with the hobble chain.
The only time he let her go more or less at her own speed was when they came to the steps leading down. They went down three flights, at least seventy steps total, and it took all her concentration to walk down; she could barely get her feet from one step down to the next with the hobble, unable to use her hands to steady herself. The guard led her down insistently, staying just the length of the leash in front of her. She believed they must have ended up at least fifty feet below ground level when they finally reached the bottom, and the guard led her off at a trot once more. They stopped one more time, arriving at thick metal door covered with spider webs: it had clearly not been opened in months, maybe years. They had passed similar doors, much cleaner than this one, on the way down. She had seen no other prisoners; maybe they were behind those other doors. They clearly weren't behind this one. She shuddered violently. What were they going to do to her? Only one thing made sense: that they must use whatever was behind this door for a very rarely-used type of execution.
The guard struggled and finally got the door open, and led her trotting down one last corridor. The air down here was stale, unpleasant smelling, and very warm and sticky. There were dim electric light bulbs about every thirty feet in the ceiling, some of them burned out. Without pausing he led her through the door to a cell, about fifteen feet wide in each direction, with a ceiling about fifteen feet high. There were no windows, and the only entrance was the door through which they had entered. There was no bed, no furniture of any kind, in fact. And no plumbing. Obviously it was not intended that she stay here for long.
The cell was lit by a single lightbulb. The only features of the room were several thick chains hanging from ceiling to floor, and a large pile of bones pushed into a messy heap along one wall. They were dark and dry, and clearly human: she could see at least a dozen skulls scattered among them, and more might be hidden underneath.
He led her to the middle of the cell, next to one of the chains, its lower end a disorderly pile of metal links on the floor. He spent a moment searching through the pile on the floor for the last link, found it, and lifted it to her collar, removing the leash and attaching the chain, using a padlock through the hole where the leash had been attached. He turned then and walked to the door. Standing in the doorway, he reached for something just outside the door, out of her sight. She heard a sound like a light switch clicking, but no additional lights came on.
"Please! Tell me what you're going to do to me!" she shouted between sobs.
The guard laughed, and spoke for the first time. "It's already been done. I'll let you figure out what it is." Still chuckling, he reached out and pulled the heavy cell door closed behind him, leaving her standing in the middle of the room with the chain hanging down from her neck. The door had no openings at all, not even a barred window. She heard the locking mechanism click as it closed. After that, nothing.
She had never been in such stillness. Her eyes still brimmed with tears, but she quieted a bit now. She was exhausted, too tired for emotion, and it was clear that, whatever was going to happen to her, it wasn't going to happen quite yet. Her first thought, that they were going to leave her here to starve, seemed possible, but she decided that couldn't be it: the chain from the ceiling must come into it somehow, because she could see no other reason for it.
She could see no reason at all for the chain, in fact, but it must be important, because the guard had spent such time with it. She saw now that it did not simply hang from the ceiling: the upper end of it actually hung out of a metal barrel-like container, and the container itself was then attached to the ceiling. There were several of these barrels bolted to the ceiling, each one with a chain hanging out of it. She continued examining her chain because it puzzled her so much. It wasn't there to prevent her from moving around: it was so long that she found it allowed her easily to walk to any part of the room, even the door. And the chain couldn't be there to keep her from going outside the door, because the door was closed and locked anyway. She tried to find a way to open it, but there was no handle on the inside, no hinges, nothing at all to allow her to grip it. Turning her back to the door so she could feel as much of it as she could reach with her fingers, she found she couldn't even get her fingernails between the door and its frame. And even if she could somehow get it open, there were even thicker doors between her and freedom -- she knew she had no hope of opening those, even if her hands had been free -- with guards she could not possibly run away from, hobbled as she was.
She was so tired, it made no sense to stand. With her back still against the wall, she leaned back and wriggled downward with her fingers and shoulders until she was sitting. Not wanting to block the door in case they opened it, she scooted along the floor using her buttocks and feet, into the middle of the cell. At last she leaned over and fell sideways as gently as she could onto her left arm, and tried to find a comfortable position to lay in, resting her head on the floor. She was much too scared to sleep, but too exhausted to want to move anymore.
Again, the silence closed in on her. She held her breath to make it easier to detect any sound at all. There was a regular thumping sound, seeming loud now; after a few seconds she realized it was her heart. And this sound would stop soon, she knew. One last tear fell from her lower eye onto her cheek.