Chapter 1

Jonah's insides burned with the fires of hell as he felt the pressure of the kick dealt by one of the 'believers' he knew only by the name of Josh. It had been Momma Rose who had dealt the first blow, setting an example for the rest to follow as she made a heavy blow to Jonah's head and chest, knocking him to the ground and winding him in the process. His shoulder jarred painfully as it came into abrupt contact with the dry earth and he put his hands up defensively to guard himself against any further blows. He expected them to lay into him, as he had seen them do to so many others countless times before. It was a ritual that he himself had once been a part of – but now he had left that part of himself to rot along with the sins of all the others, and they could do what they liked with him now. Jonah waited though, and it never came – he waited quivering in pain, the floor cold and hard to his aching body, cold and hard like his mother's heart. He waited for his body to give in to the ferocity of their blows – blows which never came.

His vision was a black hole as he kept his cold fingers pressed tight against his eyes, if he couldn't see them he couldn't know what was coming. He couldn't let them see how afraid he now was of his own mother, of the people he had once considered to be his family – he had to play along with their game, and let them do what they had to do, at least for the moment. He couldn't let them kill him, though he knew that they wanted to. He would not let death take him, not yet – not until he knew that Tasha would be safe.

It was then that he made his mistake, he removed his hands from his eyes just for a moment hoping against hope that the first couple of hits had just been a warning and now that they had beaten their message into him they had left him to dwell on his sins, soaked in his own blood. He flinched with pain as burning light entered his eyes, and then he felt it, the searing pain as Josh's booted foot met with his gut – a single blow, but it was enough, and Jonah recoiled in agony. His sight was foggy as unconsciousness threatened to overtake him, and in that moment he knew that he would not make it out of this alive.

The 'believers' returned him to his tent that evening in an exhausted state. He had little recollection of how he had got there, he remembered being carried rather unceremoniously by a girl and an older man that he had once counted amongst his closest friends – but he had been too weak to recall their names. Momma Rose had followed cruelly behind, entering the tent with Jonah and making sure that he was once again handcuffed securely back in place with no chance of escape. He winced as his right leg brushed against the hard ground and gripped his ankle like a vice as pain shot up his leg and into the base of his back. Tasha was wrenching at her shackles in a desperate bid to get to him and he rejoiced briefly at her loyalty. After all he had done to her she still cared for him, she still didn't want to see him hurt.

"What have they done to you?" She cried.

But Momma Rose won't tell her, won't tell her all that they have put Jonah through, of the trails that lie ahead, and for the first time in days he is grateful for her heartlessness. Her silence is malicious, she wants to keep them waiting, to keep them in suspense as though their fates haven't already been decided – but Jonah knows what is coming, and he doesn't want Tasha to know.

"What did they do to you?" She asks him as Momma Rose leaved them to themselves. She sees the pain in Jonah's eyes – the fear – but she herself no longer appears afraid, at least not for herself – and that's how he wants it to stay.

"Nothing… its nothing." He smiled, and with that she turns away.