I watched the transaction with a disgusted fascination.
I had managed to find a small town, one not completely ravaged by the war around me. This, I believed, was a good sign, evidence that I was following the right trail towards those who conducted the campaigns from some safe place.
Sitting in a small café, and drinking a decent cup of coffee, I watched as a young woman stood on a street corner. I could not quite make out what she was saying, but it did not seem to be offensive. Several of the men she stopped bowed, apologized and continued on their way.
Finally, after about the tenth man, she struck up a conversation with a tall and handsome man. They spoke for several minutes, laughing and carrying on. At last, the man nodded his agreement and sat down at a chair close to me.
I finished my coffee the same time she placed her basket on the table and drew a filleting knife from its depths. She checked the edge of the blade, appeared pleased with the result, and then turned her attention to the man’s left hand. He held it out to her, and she asked if he was ready. The man replied he was, and she took a small pill out of the basket and placed it in his mouth. He shivered in what can only be described as ecstasy, and he paid no mind when she deftly removed a section of skin from the back of his hand.
From that piece, she trimmed off a small slice, popped it into her mouth, and chewed meditatively for a moment. She smiled broadly, gave him a pleased nod, and then turned her attention to his head.
It took her less than a minute to completely remove the flesh from his face.
Surprisingly little blood splattered onto his coat, and as quick as she was with her cutting, she was equally as fast with the bandage she applied. Once he was cared for, she wrapped his face up in a bit of wet cloth from the basket, and then she offered him a cigarette, which he gladly accepted.
They chatted for another moment, then he got to his feet and left, lighting his cigarette as he went.
I called for another cup of coffee, and I watched as the woman went back to the corner and sought to add another face to her collection.