Ripples in Time (Maji #2) by L.A. Casey


Prologue





Levi



Four moon cycles ago on Earth …



If I believed in an Almighty who watched over the beings on Earth, I would send up a silent prayer and ask Him to end my life. I didn’t believe there was an Almighty, though. In fact, I didn’t believe any higher being looked out for humans at all. In the world I lived in, you could only rely on yourself … and I couldn’t even do that because of him.

Master.

I tensed in revulsion at the thought of the man who owned me as I laid on the hard ground and stared up at the smog-filled sky. I longed to be able to see the many stars that I knew twinkled beyond the thick mass of black pollution that made its home above the endless wastelands that stretched across my sick planet. The otherworldly lights had not been visible to the naked eye since long before I walked the Earth.

Not for the first time, I found myself wondering what things would have been like if I was born into another life, to a different species on a faraway planet. A life that was not bound by slavery, pain, and terror. I pinched myself to snap out of such idiotic thoughts. Having hope was futile. For a person like me—a slave—having hope was like drinking poison.

It would kill me, and the death would be slow and most painful.

As fickle as hope was, I couldn’t help but yearn for death because my future was set to be full of immense torture and pain. I was a slave up for sale on Earth’s Human Trafficking Market, and Master often flaunted that he’d ensure a cruel person bought me just so I’d never know a moment of happiness.

I believed him.

Master hated me, but he did treat me differently from his other slaves. He allowed me to keep my virtue because he believed my value would be greatly increased if I remained a virgin or “unspoiled” as he liked to call it. He’d mentioned a few times over the years that coming from his loins kept me pure. The man who abused me in many ways from the time I could remember was my biological father, but he had never shown an ounce of paternal affection for me in my twenty-one years. I was his property, and that was all. I never cared that he never acknowledged me as his child. I would rather be his property than his daughter. I didn’t believe in a greater good, but I did believe in evil. Master harboured all that was evil and didn’t hesitate to express it in vile ways multiple times each day.

He was as pathetic as he was evil.

I bolted upright when my mother stumbled out of Master’s house. Rising to my feet, I quickly rushed to her side, catching her as she reached for me. She could barely stand, and her body was trembling. I squinted and noticed liquid was running down the insides of her thighs. Mama’s skin was too dark for me to see the colour, but I could smell the metallic twang of blood. Her patch-ridden dress was hiked up indecently. My heart felt like it would burst with fear when I realised how weak she seemed to be. She was only thirteen years older than me. Master forcibly took her innocence when he was only fifteen years old himself. He inherited his slaves from his father, who died and passed on the business of trafficking to Master.

As I stared at my mother, she suddenly looked decades older than she was, and it frightened me to death.

“Mama,” I rasped. “What’d he do to you?”

My wonderful, caring, and utterly selfless mother patted my hand before she wrapped an arm around my waist and allowed me to guide her over to her bunk situated just a few inches away from the patch of dirt where I slept. She adjusted her threadbare dress and offered me a smile. I set my jaw when she sat down and whimpered a little.

“Mama,” I repeated. “Tell me.”

She lay on her back and sighed deeply. I saw heavy pain in her wise eyes, the kind of pain that dwelled within a person and caused their soul to wither and die. My mother had only known pain in her life, and I hurt for her deeply because of that.

“He said that Nicah took some of his apples, but we both knew he was lying. I told him I took the apples so he wouldn’t hurt her, and he told me to turn around and get on my knees before him. He … He … I do not wish for you to hear of such—”

“Mama,” I cut her off, exasperated. “I have seen his cruelty.”

“And I pray to Almighty that you will never have to experience it, Levi.”

I patted her hand, not commenting on her Almighty. She knew I did not share her beliefs, but she never attempted to change my mind, just as I never attempted to change hers. She believed in a higher being, and if that faith gave her some courage, some happiness, then for as long as I lived, I would never speak a word against it.