Earth - Year 1647 - Southern Spain
Clara Morillo woke with a splitting headache and a gag in her mouth. Ropes binding her hands and feet carved into her flesh. The flavor of rum she last remembered chugging on a dare lingered along her dry gum line. The swimming sensation between her ears made opening her eyes a near impossible task. Draped atop a horse in motion, the stench of animal feces infiltrated her nose as she bounced in sync with hoof beats. She moaned and twisted until a hand slapped her bottom, freezing her in place. "Knock it off!"
Her body trembled, and her teeth chattered despite a lethargic effort to lock her jaw. Nervous sweat rolled down her back to her neck and dripped from both chin and brow, enhancing the chill of the night breeze. Her heartbeat pounded in her windpipe as it threatened to force out the filthy scrap of mystery fabric in a bilious explosion. Was this an evening of drinking gone sideways, or a distorted nightmare?
"Over here," a voice nearby called out.
The horse's trot increased to a gallop, and Clara groaned each time her ribs slammed into the saddle. The rider pulled the reins, slowing to a stop. "Take her," he instructed someone. "Careful, she's a wiggler."
Thick arms lifted Clara from the steed and threw her over a broad shoulder. The man carrying her turned and scurried, swinging her side to side and exacerbating her headache.
A third male spoke. "Did you see anyone?"
"No, I checked," said the man hauling her like a sack of grain.
"Good. Put her down right here."
She free-fell and grunted as wet soil punched her in the face. Laughter ensued while she tried to wipe her eyes and nose with her sleeve. "Oh, it's gonna get much worse than that!" said a non-discernible voice.
A sudden, deafening noise blasted Clara's eardrums. Someone cut her ties, and with unrestrained hands, she removed the balled up rag muffling her. On legs that wobbled, she stood to behold a floating, double-door-sized, swirling anomaly that looked ravenous and ready to swallow everything whole.
Her words bled together in a jumbled mess. "W-what is that?"
One of the three repugnant clods put himself in her line of sight mere inches from her unappreciative grimace. Or was it six men? She blinked, straining to focus. "You're going on a little trip, bitch!"
Clara was too intoxicated to understand what he meant, but it became obvious when he put his arm around her waist and inched her closer to the aberration. "No!" She countered his push with her own, and he overpowered her, forcing her onward. It was then that she recognized him. In fact, she recognized all those men.
They were her father's guards.
"Fools! You cannot do this! My father will see you all hanged!" She dug in her heels and swiveled to slap the brute male locking her in an iron grip. "How dare you! Let go of me, you vile pig!" The guard used her inebriated state to his advantage by knocking her off balance and dragging her to the abnormality.
A peripheral movement captured her attention, and a wave of relief rippled through her senses. "Papa! Look at what these buffoons of yours are doing!" But instead of coming to her aid, her father stared with an icy indifference that both stunned and frightened her. Aghast at his behavior, the inability to hold her bobbing head still and enunciate annoyed her further. "Well? Tell them to let me go!"
Ten feet from his daughter, Senor Morillo held a thick, leather-bound book in his grasp and said nothing. His lack of outrage baffled her. "Papa? What is happening?" Clara resisted the urge to sob as she peered around at the fuzzy shapes of the people crowding her. All of them glared with hatred. Although she could acknowledge that she was a handful, this punishment did not equal that crime. What scared her more, though, was that it did.
As her eyes pooled, Clara sniffed hard against her runny nose and swallowed the growing lump of panic in her throat. "Are you not going to help me?"
Her papa's silence spoke volumes; he had no intention of saving her.
Clara attempted to level her tone and elicit a pragmatic, rational response that defined Senor Morillo's well-known character. "Please. Do not do this. Let us talk about it. I am sure we can resolve this discord between us." If she had blinked at that moment, she would have missed his eyes soften. In that fraction of a second, he tossed her a lifeline which disappeared the instant she reached for it. Tears streamed down her cheeks. "Papa?"
Senor Morillo advanced a step, and with an impassive expression that stung her heart, directed his men to do the unthinkable. "Do it. Now."
In a desperate rage, Clara grappled with the lout that held her, and another stepped in to assist in her restraint. The sizzling hole of energy hovered a few feet above the ground, and each man took an arm and a leg to hoist her high in the air. One cackled in her ear, "Time to go, you miserable wench!" They swung her wriggling body and hurled her forward.
"WAIT! NO! PLEASE!"
Shrills of terror filled her final moments on Earth.