She seemed to sense that her escorts were momentarily distracted, and with a sudden rush, took five or six very short steps away from me, apparently trying to distance herself from the men. Again I heard the metallic clashing, and these strengthened, becoming more harsh with her every restricted step, until she managed to reach a space between two rows of seats. For a momentarily misunderstood reason, she tripped and fell, making no move of her hands and arms to break her fall. Actually, she’d only managed to move about two metres from me, and when I saw her start to go down, I quickly stepped over, but she’d already collapsed to the floor. She was almost hidden between the slightly separated rows, and so I suppose I was the only one who saw the real reason she’d fallen. Her costume had obviously caused her mishap, and when I looked down to where she lay curled on her side, I saw that the hem of the long robe had risen partially up her legs.
Surprisingly, the first thing I saw was that she wore very high heeled, ankle-strap pumps, but that wasn’t the reason she’d tripped. Clasped tightly around her light brown complexioned legs, encircling the narrowest part of each limb just above her ankle was a wide, thick, smoothly machined, gleaming band of what could only be steel! Cuffs!? Joining these was a very short, thick-linked, shiny chain. The ankle bands were about five mm thick and five cm wide, appearing to be virtually seamless and quite permanent, but they certainly weren’t some type of elaborate and expensive jewellery! The chain wasn’t decorative in any sense of the word, but most definitely a means of restricting her freedom of movement. For a moment, she kicked her legs against its shortness, making the voluminous garment rise even higher up her legs, and I saw that from the central link of the hobbling chain, another rose into the shadowed area within her long skirt! Under the upper body portion, her arms jerked, seemingly restricted by this chain, for it snapped tight with a subdued clinking, and she struggled a little more which caused the skirt to fall again and hide the flashing cuffs and gleaming chains. I bent down, and taking hold of her arm through the enveloping robe, carefully raised her to a sitting position then seeing she was unable to rise further by herself, I helped her to stand. While I assisted, my hands again sensed her undergarments. They seemed uncommonly inflexible; tightly clamped around her body, and she trembled quite violently while I held her, leaning a little against me. I thought I heard faint mewling and hissing sounds emerge from under her opaque veils and assumed that she had some sort of speech impediment, but how true this was, I only found out much later, and she did indeed have one ... a man-made contrivance.
The escorts were beside me in an instant, speaking in low, harsh, and I thought, threatening tones to the girl while she regained her footing. She bobbed her head in silent obedience, and apparently some fear, then their eyes turned to me with a look of hard determination, slowly turning to stone faced indifference when I released my hand. They, however, remained quite courteous.
“Thank you for your assistance,” the one in charge said quietly. “We will have her in the chair in a moment. Please? May I have your name? I would like to compliment you for your excellent service and to officially advise your employer.”
I gave it to him gladly. Compliments in the airline business are hard to come by at any time, and one from a diplomatic source would truly be of major significance. The wheelchair was quickly brought over by one of my co-workers, and the black robed wraith sank reluctantly into it, all the while staring intently at me; her head making minute shaking motions. I stared back, fascinated still. Was she some sort of prisoner? Or, was this a part of her cultural heritage I had no understanding of, and I would be an oaf to query? “What had she done?” I asked myself. The junior of the men spun the chair away and pushed her over to wait beside the jet way door, facing out the window. With a sigh, I returned to my vehicle and went on to my next assignment. It was the last I saw her for some time, but not the end of my involvement in the events that have since shaped her life ... and mine.