First Day of Winter
by Jim Davidson
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
"I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land."
— Harriet Tubman
Mary Morris was ill. She knew that she was sick because of the man who took her two nights ago. He had also been sick. It would do a great deal of harm, to Mary, if she were to complain. She hadn't known better six months ago, but she knew now.
The thought of being new to camp brought a flood of memories. She remembered being a young professional woman, living in Jersey City. She remembered her home. She remembered the family home where she grew up. She remembered her friends from high school and college. And she remembered the arrest.
Was it right to call it an arrest? Five men kicking in her door at 3 a.m., shooting her dog Joey, grabbing her, beating her, handcuffing her, shackling her ankles, and then looting her home. They made her watch. They laughed about all the things of hers they were taking. They laughed about the things they destroyed. Her family photos that they urinated on.
She had spoken up about her rights. That was a mistake. She was hit over the head with a baton, knocked out. Hours later she woke up in the camp. There had been no bail hearing, no trial, no possibility of parole. There was no treatment for her concussion, but it didn't bleed much the next day. It seeped a bit of blood and a bit of other fluid, and then scabbed over.
They made her clean toilets for a week. With a toothbrush. She caught on about not complaining, fast enough that she was never one of the prisoners made to brush their teeth while the guards stood and laughed. So it was just a tool that happened to be too small to make the work go fast. She also learned not to make the work go fast, and not to go too slow either. Finishing faster did not improve her situation and finishing slower wasn't too bad as long as she wasn't the last to finish.
The food was wretched but there was enough of it. Rice could be identified in the stew if she took the time to look at what she ate. Beans were often in there, too, so she thought she probably was getting complete protein. Nothing resembling meat was served. As the weeks became months she heard rumours that there was meat served to guards and overseers. There were also rumours that it was human meat. The rumour that she heard one night in a whisper from a distant bunk that it was often children on the menu was too ugly to believe. It couldn't be. But so much ugliness was all around her now, in the every day life she now led. She turned her head at the thought. She would not think about that idea.
Mary huddled in her blanket on the bench. The benches were for prisoners who didn't feel like walking during exercise period. They were allowed two hours after supper. Walk in the yard, sit on a bench. No games. No basketballs or baseballs. Nothing that could be thrown. Nothing that could be used as a weapon. No books.
Mary missed books. She had many many books on her eBook reader but that was all gone now. She had a few physical books, gifts from her granddad, but they were also gone. Ripped up as "contraband" during the arrest. She still thought of it as arrest, but really, it was capture. She was caught and she was here, and there was no talk about any process, due or undue, to get done here.
The second week had been the kitchen. The kitchen needed cleaning. Preparing and serving food was a reward duty, and she had not earned any rewards. Dishes needed cleaning. Pots needed scrubbing. Floors needed cleaning. Food preparation areas needed cleaning. These were attended to with vigour because there were actual inspections. Once a week a lab-coated orderly would look, with a clipboard, and make marks, and ask questions about how long something had been left where it was, and there were temperature readings. There was much emphasis on storing food safely. That second week Mary thought it was a good sign, that keeping them alive was important enough to bother.
She was alive. And her wounds from the capture had healed. Oh. That was bad. That meant she didn't look wounded. So they took her to the comfort station. She was raped.
There are no good ways to think about it. Mary couldn't stop thinking about it. So she thought about it in a bad way, and later in another bad way, and sometimes in a way that didn't seem bad at first but the more she tried to keep thinking that way the less she could stand it.
Every evening she would be taken to the comfort station. She would be chosen by some man. She would be raped until he felt like stopping. She would be thrown on the floor, or thrown out of the room he was in. Sleeping on the floor was better. Being thrown out of the room meant she had to face discipline.
Learning to be obedient was hard. She always wanted to scream. She always wanted to fight. She always wanted to get away. Obeying was the only way to avoid punishment, but obeying was so monstrous.
Some nights she was not chosen by a man, but by a woman. Those were terrible nights. Proving their toughness meant treating her worse. Or pretending to treat her nicely to get her to say she liked it. She didn't. It was rape. She couldn't go on.
Every morning she would go to the mess hall to be fed. Every afternoon she could rest. Every evening she was taken to the comfort station. And now she was ill.
It felt like the flu. Chills. Nausea. Fever. Reporting herself ill meant going to the clinic. People who were very ill never came back from the clinic. Nobody knew where they were taken, but there were rumours. It was no simple thing to report herself. It needed more thought. She coughed a bit.
Sitting there on her bench, feeling some relief that she had not been ordered to take her blanket back to her bunk, Mary didn't know how to go on. The dismal life of being a rape survivor, a captive, a slave. Deep within her, there was frustration, anger, and outrage. Showing any of these emotions would result in a beating, or a night in the cramp hold.
She had been in the hold, and it lived up to its name. Too low to stand upright, too narrow to lay down, too filled with pipes jutting out from walls to find a comfortable position. However you positioned yourself, you would have to find a way to shift positions, and once the door was closed in the tiny room, that was nearly impossible. Trying to sleep was also impossible because sounds and lights would come on at different intervals, so there was no way to stay asleep if one did fall asleep for a few minutes.
Obeying meant pretending. Pretending to be happy. Smiling at guards and overseers and servers and the trustee slaves who were the worst at lording it over her and everyone who was only an ordinary prisoner. Slave. She had to stop thinking of herself as a prisoner. Prisoners served sentences. Prisoners had lawyers. Prisoners had hearings and appeals and had been through a trial. She had been captured and there was no explaining why, no reasoning about getting to go home, nothing but obeying, or being punished. Sometimes obeying and being punished anyway.
There was a new noise. The Sun would be setting soon, and exercise time would end, and she'd be taken to the comfort station. Or she would have to report herself sick. She could see the setting Sun, and she could hear the sound. It was coming from the North. What was it?
A droning sound. It seemed familiar. She looked at the buildings and fences to the North. Nothing over there would make this sound. Then she looked at the sky, and there, low on the horizon, there it was. An aeroplane.
It had happened sometimes that a military jet or a helicopter had passed overhead. Somewhere to the West there was an airbase. But this plane wasn't like any of those. It was a general aviation plane, she had no name for its kind, but she had seen them on television years ago. It was flying low and slow and it was coming over the camp.
Something about it seemed good. Mary had not seen any good thing in months. She had not thought to see any new things, either. But here was a small plane, about right for four people who weren't going very far. Looking at it as it approached, she could see that it was very low, and that there was just a pilot. But something was filling the rest of the plane.
It was coming apart! No, that wasn't so. The passenger door had opened and leaflets were coming out. So many of them, it looked like the plane was coming apart. Then the door closed and the plane climbed rapidly, the engine screaming loudly as the pilot gave it full throttle.
All around her there were leaflets coming down, floating and twisting in the air. To the West there were distant sounds from the airbase. Sirens of some sort. But here and now there were leaflets and knowing better than to stand up or reach for one, Mary sat patiently and waited for one to come within her grasp. A leaflet landed next to her on the bench. Mary had her blanket ready and covered it quickly.
Now there were sirens all over camp. Guards were scrambling after the leaflets. Guards were screaming at slaves to get inside. Mary thought about it, and decided to read the flyer now. Then she could leave it behind with all the others. Instinctively, she felt that to be found with a leaflet would mean punishment.
"Rescue teams are coming. Tomorrow morning. Dawn. Fences will be cut. The minefields will be detonated. Look for orange paint. Head downhill. Look for water. Follow streams and rivers to the sea. Rescue boats waiting." These ideas were accompanied by simple drawings in case the person getting the leaflet couldn't read.
Mary let her hand open and the leaflet fell to the ground. She headed indoors. She would not report herself sick. She would get through the night. And she would escape. She would get free and she would get as far away as she could. If she ever came back, she would hurt the people who did these things to her. Tonight would be bad. But tomorrow would make up for it. Tomorrow was coming. Freedom was coming.
[End part seven, continued in part eight]
Jim Davidson is an author, entrepreneur, actor, and director. He is the cfo of KanehCN3.com and the vision director of HoustonSpaceSociety.net You can find him on Twitter.com/planetaryjim as well as Pocket.app and Flote.app also as planetaryjim.
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