Thea, Part 1 (The Church of Seasons)

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“Thea, formerly Thea Davis, is henceforth officially stripped of her personhood, and is now the legal property of the Church of Seasons. All of her property, if not mentioned in her will, now belongs to the Church of Seasons.” Thea stood rigid, clenching her jaw and staring down at the floor, letting her long auburn locks fall in front of her face. She tried not to let them see the tears welling up in her honey-brown eyes. Was this it for her, then? A promising internship in business, a 4.0 GPA in college, a loving family… all gone, in exchange for this. Then again, she was doing this for her family’s sake, wasn’t she? Tentatively, she glanced upward, meeting her sister’s eyes. She was struggling not to cry as well, biting her lip and clenching her hands together. The grief in her eyes was mixed with an equal amount of guilt. It was her fault, after all.

Around a month ago, her sister, a sophomore in high school, had decided to join the Church of Seasons. After all, she was in a pretty bad place, and faith seemed like it would help. From the moment she entered the large wooden doors of the chapel, she was welcomed with an intensity that should have warned her about what was going to come. The members of the Church were kind to her beyond measure. Whenever she needed emotional support, or someone to confide in, or perhaps someone to borrow money from, they were always there for her. Gradually, she became the first to volunteer for recruitment missions, the first to donate funds.

She grew to trust them as she thought they would grow to trust her too. But, as it turned out, the Church of Seasons was not on organization worth trusting. Soon, she ran out of money to give, and her debts from the Church finally caught up to her. Turns out, her borrowing from them came at a high cost. When it became clear that she couldn’t possibly pay them back, they came up with another solution. They wanted the rest of her property, to liquidise – and her. She didn’t want to, but what else could she do? She accepted, and that should have been it. But it wasn’t. Because stupid, stupid Thea couldn’t let her baby sister give up her life just like that, could she? And the only thing that would pay for a life was another.

The lawyer rustled his papers, and Thea snapped out of her memories. Her sister, carrying a sheaf of papers – she’d given her as much of her stuff as she was allowed, thank goodness – ran out of the room, and two hooded men took her place in Thea’s field of vision. Up until now, they had been standing either side of the exit. To make sure I don’t escape, she thought bitterly. They seemed to be staring at her, though it was hard to tell from the shadows of the hood. One of them stood between her and the exit, while the other fumbled with his belt. He pulled something off of it, and she blanched. A heavy, iron collar, with a leash dangling off it. Were those even legal these days? Out of instinct, she moved away, shaking her head, but the first held her fast. The second stepped forward. Snap. The collar, though thin enough for her to move her head, was just loose enough for water to pass under it, and Thea felt her breath quickening. The lawyer packed up and quietly took his leave. The door slammed shut. The three of them were alone in the room.

“Common.” Thea was shocked as one of the cultists finally spoke, with a deep, mature voice.

“She’s nothing special, really. For now, at least. In time, she could well become a worthy sacrifice.” He took her face in his hand, moving it back and forth like he was inspecting a horse, running a cursory hand through her soft curls. When he pressed on Thea’s cheeks to open her mouth, she resisted at first, but her sister’s face flashed into her head. Biting back a growl of frustration, she opened her mouth obediently, letting him see inside.

“That’s a good girl.” She wanted to kill him. He nodded assuredly, and the one behind her left the room without a word. Now’s my chance, she thought, maybe he’ll listen to reason. As soon as he let go, she started to speak.

“Listen, I–”

He slapped her with a resounding smack, and sent her tumbling to the floor. “You are a slave. You will not speak without permission. Understood?”

Her mouth hung open in shock. Had he really just done that? That was assault. Now she had a concrete crime to accuse him of, she could get out easily, she could– no. Her sister was still here, still a member of the cult, no matter how much she wanted to leave. If Thea found a way to escape, she knew who they would go after next. As much as it pained her, she had to give herself over to this. “Yes.”

A kick to her knee, just hard enough to bruise. “The members of the Church are your masters and mistresses, and you will address them as such.”

“Y-yes, Master.”

“Good.” His eyes narrowed, and he looked her up and down, nose curling in disdain. “Your appearance does not fit one of your station.” He gestured for her to stand up. “Strip.”

Gingerly, Thea got up from her position on the floor, and stood awkwardly for a moment before slowly starting to unzip her jacket. As it fell onto the floor, he started going faster, just wanting to get this over with. First, her shirt, then her jeans, and finally her bra and panties fell into a growing pile of clothing around her. She hunched over, gripping her arm, embarrassed at her state. She could feel the ends of her hair tickling at her back.

He barely looked at her before gesturing down at the floor in front of him. “Kneel, facing away from me.” Biting her lip at the humiliation, she walked over hesitantly, turning around and settling onto her calves. They were already starting to ache. “Now, let’s see…” He turned away, leaving her in suspense, and rummaged around in one of the many drawers in the large room. “Ah.” Her stomach dropped into her throat as he walked back and waved a pair of shears in front of her. “Now don’t move.”

Thea had never been overly attentive to her appearance, but her hair was something that she treasured. It was like her father’s, thick, dark red and wavy, and she took care to keep it healthy, conditioning it often and brushing it out every night before bed. Now all that was going to go to waste. She could feel him taking a thick swathe of hair from the back of her head, and held her breath, biting her lip. It was all she could do to ignore the lump in her throat and stay still. Even then, a small whimper escaped her throat as she tried not to beg. The shears started sawing through her hair, right near her scalp, and a tear finally slipped down her cheek. It was torture, listening to the rasp of the blades as they worked. Finally, she felt the slight tugging release from her scalp, and a handful of long, silky locks, two feet long, landed in front of her. She gasped as loudly as she dared, and reached back to feel the effects, but he grabbed her wrist and squeezed it painfully hard, nails digging into her flesh. “I said not to move.” He threw it back down, and she let it drop.

As the man grabbed another chunk of hair, near her left ear, and started hacking away, she cried silent tears. Another bunch landed in front of her, and she squeezed her eyes tightly shut. She didn’t want to see this. He started working faster, snipping at the back of her neck and working his way upwards. She could feel the soft waves falling down her back and slipping one by one onto the floor. Her head was gradually getting lighter, much to her dismay. This is a nightmare, she told herself, I’ll wake up in my bed any minute now and all this will be over. Except she knew very well that there would be no waking up from this. Most of her hair was gone now, with only the front remaining. He sheared it all off in one long line of cuts, pressing the flat of the blades to her head before closing them each time. She felt the curls slipping down her face, and knew that it was over. She had been sheared like a sheep. What would her family think if they saw her now?

She heard a drawer close, and a deep voice saying, “Open your eyes.” Bracing herself, her eyes fluttered open, and saw a nearly unrecognizable person staring back at her, with unevenly cropped hair, some patches showing skin and others nearly an inch long. Her ears stuck out from either side of her head, and her cheeks were blotchy with tears. Thea saw her own eyes, and realized it was her. The man was holding a mirror in front of her. She looked pitiful, like a child that had stuck gum all over their head and tried to get it out with kitchen scissors. She’d never seen herself like this before, without her trademark waves, and she realized that she probably never would again. She choked on a sob, and the man chuckled, putting away the mirror and staring mockingly at her grief-stricken face. “There’s more to do. Come.” He tugged on her leash lightly before clutching it and walking away, making Thea stumble up, out of the puddle of her shorn locks, and follow him out of the room.

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