Slav fell to his knees and rapped his knuckles against the boards of the box bed.
“It’s too low, there’s no room.” He wanted to punch his fist through the wood. How would it feel to have a rope tightening around his neck, choking him? He couldn’t swallow. He looked up at his grandmother.
“That’s just what they’ll think, my lad. Now stop sitting about with your mouth open and help me move this panel.”
His fingers felt numb as he tore at the plank, the varnished wood unforgiving as iron. Together they worked it loose. He could hear the shouts of the villagers as they drew nearer to the cottage. Turning his face to one side, he wriggled into the tiny space between the mattress supports and the floor. Inch by inch, it seemed to take a lifetime.
The voices were louder now, almost at the door.
“You won’t let them take me.”
“No lad, I won’t let them take you.”
Slav listened as his grandmother replaced the panel, shutting out the light. Then he waited, trapped in the dark, hardly daring to breathe.