He’d tried to get loose when they opened the cage doors but they were strong and there were lots of them. They pulled him to a stunted, leafless tree that stood in the center of the camp and tied him too it. The rope they used was never intended for this purpose; over an inch thick with harsh bristles jutting from the coarse weave like thorns, it chafed his skin even when he didn’t move. They wrapped him in a coil from shoulders to knees, leaving him with his back pressed to the surface of the dead tree. The knots required by the thickness of the rope were twice the size of his fist.
Two of the… things, walked up to him after he was secured. Their noses were about three inches too long, same as the chins, and what skin he could see where mud had flaked away was the same color as the sky. Their eyes were the black of used forty-weight oil.
Not human. Sean would know what to call them, probably; he sure as hell didn’t. He might hope he was dreaming, but he knew himself well enough to know he’d never come up with something like this.
The taller one (a little more than four feet tall, and not quite as bowlegged) spoke, phlegm rattling in the back of his throat like the sound of a kid’s straw that’s hit the bottom of a chocolate malt. “You the man Steven. You ours now.” The second one sniggered, and Steve was sure he saw the first one twitch in annoyance.
“I’m not a damn thing to you. Let me go and I’ll be on my way.”
The rest of the crowd around him murmured when the first one nodded, acting as though he’d expected that answer.
“Good. Fight is good.” He gestured to the second one, who stepped forward and unfolded a cloth on which he laid out the first bright or clean things Steven had seen since he’d woken up.