I regretted many things in my life, and this moment was toward the top.
“Hey! He turned that way!”
I didn’t mean to start my day out like this.
“Corner him! Over there!”
And I didn’t mean to start all the previous days like this either.
The guard pinned my back against the wall, holding his arm across my throat.
“You’re going to have come with me.” His breath was warm and smelled distinctly of alcohol.
“I can think of over a hundred places I would rather be than with you.” I kicked my knee hard into his gut. He stumbled a bit backward clutching his stomach. He let out a horrid moan and then before speaking, spat onto the ground.
“Ya filthy rat! I’ll kill ya!”
I threw my body into a run. The run wasn’t meant to be fast, but just fast enough to get me away and far. At the corner of the alley, another man grabbed my arm as I passed him, and slammed me face-first onto the ground. I felt his knee push into my back while he bound my wrists. It took both men to clamp down my legs and tie them. The man with the alcohol breath lowered himself so that I could see his still hideous face. He whispered a curse at me, then slapped me hard across the face.
By this time, I had worked for a hand free of the ropes behind my back. I reached a hand into my ripped pocket and took out a sharp knife that I’d stolen when the butcher wasn’t looking. Using the knife, I cut into the coarse rope that was tied around my legs. I stretched out my foot to trip a guard and rose up to hit another in the jaw. I ducked as a third man tried to grab me. Why were there so many guards in this one little town? I slid to the side, avoiding a guard who had been reaching for my head. I dropped down onto my knees to just miss a sword that had sliced the tips of my hair off. And then I raised my head to see the ogre-faced man, whose eyes were aflame with anger. His grin reflected in his polished sword right below my chin.
“I’ll kill ya.” He whispered his breath into my ear, with his grin growing ever more malevolent.
“That would seem to be his rightful punishment.” A man decorated in the same armor, but in his arms, he held a helmet different than the others by its rusted golden paint. He loomed over me, with his sense of authority strong. “Would you like me to read out each of the many crimes you’ve committed?” He patted a small leather bag that was swung over his shoulder.
I made no attempt at an answer.
“I see.” The captain of the guard lowered himself onto his knees beside me. “Although you don’t wish to admit it, you’re ashamed.” He stood back up again. “You’re ashamed of yourself.” His face was somehow familiar and yet I couldn’t seem to recall when I’d seen him before. “Your crimes were mostly petty thievery, and you’d never gotten caught.”
“I have a knack for finding things that aren’t mine.”
“You were never caught, but on several cases, you returned the items. Why is that?” And when he saw that I wasn’t going to answer he continued. “I’m going to give you a second chance. A chance that could potentially change your life forever.”
Then with a thud, he crashed the hilt of his sword down onto my head.