Abe, Martin, Cassie and I left the excavations at sunset to drive across five miles of desert to the campsite. We weren’t even half way there before the engine conked out. Two hours later we decided to abandon the truck and walk back.
An hour later, Cassie began to falter. She looked at me. “I can’t go on, John, I’m sorry.”
Concerned for my wife, and what a night out in the open desert would do to her and the secret she was carrying, I suggested we stop at the first shelter we found.
The guard at the gate was as imposing as the building. His scimitar hung at his belt and his hand rested on it with practiced ease. “Can I help you?”
“We seek shelter for the night,” I said.
He shut the door, leaving us standing there.
Cassie looked at me. “John, let’s just go,” she begged. “I’ll manage.”
I shook my head. “Not in your condition.” We waited for ten minutes until the guard came back and said we could stay. We were led through many hallways until we finally reached a huge hall. The ceiling vanished high above us, colossal potted palms, towering columns and gilded statues surrounded us.
A tall dark man sat on a huge seat, surrounded by many beautiful women; one waving a palm branch over his head. I noticed his eyes fall on Cassie, and wrapped a protective arm around her.
“Welcome to my humble house. I am Sefu. Whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?”
I introduced us, not letting go of Cassie; not liking the way he kept undressing her with his eyes.
“You may stay. The woman, however, must go to my harem.”
“No.” I drew her closer. “She is my wife. She stays with me.”
He fixed his steely gaze on me. “Mr. Willis, if you wish to stay here, then your wife stays the night in the harem.”
I looked at her then at Abe and Martin.
Cassie took my hand. “It’s okay, babe, I’ll go.”
I wrapped my arms round her, kissing her deeply, ignoring those watching. I loved this woman with all of my heart and knew she loved me the same.
Finally she was taken to the harem with the other women. Left alone with Sefu, we followed him into another hall. There we ate with him and his many other guests. I didn’t pay much attention to what we were eating; my mind was on my wife.
Later that evening, we were taken down a hallway to a huge window. As we stood there a curtain was pulled back and we could see into the harem. There were many beautiful women there. “You may each chose one to spend the night with as you wish,” Sefu told us. “Until dawn she is yours.”
“At what cost?” Abe asked.
“Just tell me why you choose her. That’s payment enough.”
My heart leapt into my mouth as the other men began picking women to sleep with. I was terrified they would pick Cassie. Fortunately none of them did. Each chose a woman and, when asked why, listed her eyes, or her breasts or her legs.
When it came to my turn I fixed my eyes on my love. She looked so pretty in the dress they had given her. “I choose my wife, because her heart belongs to me and me alone.”
He smiled and nodded and ordered the guards to have Cassie sent to my room.
When I got there, she was waiting for me. I pulled her into my arms, loving her as only I could. In the moonlight and the stillness of the night, she told me her concerns. “John, in the harem, some of the women have been horribly mutilated and no one knows why.”
I shushed her concerns with kisses, not wanting to waste a moment that we had together. These moments would be all too rare once the baby was born.
Dawn came too soon. She was taken from me just as the first rays of the sun touched the sky. I kissed her, telling her I’d see her soon.
Back in the main room, Abe grinned at me. “Tell you, that woman had the longest legs.”
“Mine had eyes to die for,” Martin said. “Pools of love they were.”
I was anxious to be heading off. I tried asking where Cassie was but no one seemed to know.
A door opened and Sefu came in. “I have parting gifts for you gentlemen,” he said. “Some may be bigger than others but each will get the one thing you desired most last night.”
The hairs on the back of my neck rose. Something Cassie said rang in my memory as many servants came in all carrying boxes. As each man was given his gift he turned pale. Some passed out, some threw up.
My fear grew.
Abe turned. “John, I don’t like this. Maybe we should leave.”
“Not without Cassie.”
“Mr. Johnston,” Sefu said. He nodded to the servant and Abe was given the biggest box. He went green when he saw the contents. “She had a tattoo on her ankle,” he whispered. “It’s her legs.”
Martin came back with trembling hands and a white face. “It’s her eyes.” He looked at me. “John, you chose Cassie… what did you say was the best thing about her?”
I stared at him in horror. What had I done? “Her heart,” I whispered. “I said it belonged to me.”
The box was placed into my unwilling hands. As the tears poured down my face, I took it out. It was still warm, the blood flowing over my fingers.
Sefu grinned. “You were right; her heart does belong only to you.”
I turned and grabbed the scimitar from his belt and slashed at him wildly, cutting him down. Then we ran. We are still running–Abe and Martin and the heart of my wife and I.
Tels Merrick has been married for 16 years and has three children. She lives in the UK and writes fiction. Mainly romance with a spattering of horror, sci-fi and children’s stories thrown in for good measure.