Toko spent the next three days locked in her room. Fresh water was brought every day—but only enough for drinking. Though she begged many times, she was brought no food. And all she could do was to lie on her bed and chant “Food, food, bring me some food.”
On the fourth evening, Marta came with a small loaf of bread. Toko tore at it like a ravenous wolf. It felt so good in her stomach. By the time she had devoured the loaf, Marta was gone.
That night and all the next day, Toko chanted, “Meat and cheese, please, oh please.
That evening one of the priestess from the weaving shop showed up. Determined not to give up her chance, she took the bread but did not devour it. “Why am I being punished, do you know?”
“No,” the priestess said, then held her finger to her lips. She leaned forward and took a small bundle from her ample breasts. “Do not tell or we all die,” she whispered.
Toko shoved the small bundle under her blanket and tore off a small piece of bread. She savored it.
As the priestess left her room, Toko heard her say, “M’Lady, may I go back to my weaving now?”
So M’Lady had been outside her door. Listening she presumed. She’d have to be more careful in the future.
Toko ate only half the bread this time, saving the other half. She waited an hour to be sure M’Lady was not returning, then she pulled the small bundle from under her blanket and opened it. Inside were slices of cheese and wrapped in the cheese were pieces of meat. As she put each morsel into her mouth she gave a prayer of gratitude. She marveled at how little it took to make her content.
For the next few day, Toko kept up her chant and, although a different priestess came each evening, she received the same small bundle of meat and cheese.
On the eighth morning, a priestess Toko had never seen before showed up, carrying her ration of water in a small pitcher, but also carrying a cracked and dirty chalice. The woman was scrawny, her eyes sunken into dark cavernous rings. As the woman approached, Toko caught her smell, first of sulfur and then unwashed hair. Then Toko noticed the sores on her arms and how her hair seemed to have come out in patches, leaving her scalp dark and mottled. The strange woman’s skin was pale, almost yellow, Toko thought, as she took the chalice being handed to her.
“Drink it,” the woman said, her voice raspy and deep. She almost seemed to gasp for air, as if even those two words took her breath away.
Toko took a small sip. The liquid was bitter and Toko wanted to gag. “I can’t,” she said, setting the chalice down.
“Then you get no water today,” the woman hissed as she took the pitcher and left the room.
“No wait,” Toko called after her. But the door remained firmly closed and locked.
All day Toko looked at the chalice, sometimes smelling it to see if it was really so vile. Each time she left it again, refusing to drink it. Finally she poured it onto the floor, hoping it would dry by the the time anyone came back to see her. Are they poisoning me now?
By evening her throat was parched, her tongue so dry it stuck to her teeth. Nobody showed up that evening. She almost wished she had not poured out the chalice. At least it would be something in her stomach. As she crawled into bed, she felt weak, dizzy even. Whether she slept that night or not, Toko did not know.
The next morning the strange priestess showed up again, and again Toko was handed the chalice. “Drink it or you get no water,” the woman growled and Toko saw her rotting teeth, now barely more than spikes sticking from her gums.
Toko took the chalice. “What is it?”
“Herbs to bring about the powers.”
The woman just glared at her.
“Will it hurt me?”
“Stupid girl. If I drink some, will you drink the rest?”
The thought of drinking from the same chalice as this smelly woman with rotting teeth made Toko’s stomach turn. The woman scratched at her head, then inspected her ragged finger tips.
Toko held her nose and drank the vile liquid down, gagging as she did.
“Good girl. Have some water. It will take the taste away.”
Toko took the pitcher and poured it into her burning mouth.
“Bring more water,” the strange woman called out and a second scrawny woman entered, carrying two more pitchers. “Drink plenty of water tonight. It does not burn so much if you drink plenty of water,” the older woman said as she sat on the floor watching Toko.
Light-headed now, Toko sat on her bed and placed the empty pitcher on the floor. Toko felt herself passing into a dreamlike state, the world now getting fuzzy and losing its edges. Before she could curl up on the bed, the second woman brought over a dirty rag. “You’ll want to place this between your legs, girlie.”
Unable to control her body now, Toko fell back and felt the woman stuff the rag up under her shift before settling Toko onto her back. The last sensation Toko felt was warmth as her bladder relaxed into the rag.
By Zde [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons