Unknown because he refused to accept it.
Time shifted and the burlap was gone. His eyes opened to darkness. Chill air moved through the room, touching his bare chest with an uneasy caress. The dank, fetid odor of mold filled the air. A shard of light pierced a window set high in the slimy stone wall, and he saw he was in a prison cell – or a dungeon.
Shackles weighted his wrists, dragging his shoulders into a bowed position. Chains, padlocked to a ring embedded in the floor, trapped his feet. He couldn’t move. Could barely breathe. A terrible feeling of apprehension bound his heart.
They entered, as he knew they would, those men in black robes, surrounding him, pressing in and suffocating him with their nearness. He couldn’t see their faces, but he could feel their menace.
This was all too familiar.
He knew the history.
And he played the part of the coolie.
Sweet savior: one man bent down to release the padlock. McCollister tried to stand upright and pain shot through his back. The man made to help him. Gently, he grasped McCollister’s wrists, easing him past the stiffness, raising them over his head to affix them to the rings situated above.
Savior no more.
Fear gave him energy. McCollister began to struggle. He knew this story and it was a tragedy.
The ritual, it required blood.
They began to chant.
He could’ve joined the chanting. He knew the plan. He knew the words.
The men began to dance. Chill drafts of air swirled around their feet. One man broke from the circle and came forward, holding seven inches of fierce steel.
Terror choked McCollister. He knew he wouldn’t be missed. Authorities in 1800’s San Francisco didn’t give a damn about missing coolies.
They needed a binding for the book.
The blade traced 5 X 7 inches of fire through his skin.
Freed from acting the coolie, now the nightmare faced him. An anachronism stood over his bed. In times past, Chinese laborers had worn the same simple black pajamas. The same black caps had rested on ebony hair pulled back in the same waist-length pigtails.
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