The blindfolded woman, seated in the back of the car with men on each side, was growing both nervous and excited. She was not certain why the Philippine rebels who had taken control of several outer Philippine islands had chosen her, Tala -- a young reporter barely five years out of college -- as the one reporter to whom their General -- who went by the name of Datu, meaning "chieftain," but whose real identity had been kept secret and mysterious -- would explain the purpose of the islands' seizure and the nature of his demands. She was not even one of the better known reporters at the Philippine Times. True, she had slowly been developing a reputation in her local news reports, but it still seemed that most spoke about her good looks rather than her good reporting. [see Tala1 pic] And she had never been assigned a story like this one, and never would have been assigned it except that General Datu's aide had explained to her superiors that, "The General will speak only with your reporter who calls herself Tala." So she had boarded a small boat to the island, captained and crewed by the rebels, where this car had awaited her. And now ... she had a chance to prove how good a reporter she really was.
The rumor was that General Datu wanted independence for the islands. No doubt with him as their new leader. Tala expected that she would soon find out the truth of this rumor, and what was really happening on these islands two months after the rebels had seized control and shut off all communication with the outside world. At least, she would see what they wanted her to see, and, from that, she would do her best to piece together the truth.
She felt the car slow, and the man to her left reached over and removed her blindfold. She could see that she had been taken to a small village. The car stopped in front of a group of soldiers, one of whom opened her door as soon as the car had stopped. It was a bright, hot day.
"Ma'am," the senior officer of this small group nodded to her. "I am Ramil. I am sure that you understand that I will have to search you and your belongings before you are allowed to see the General."
"I searched her before she entered the car," one of the soldiers advised Ramil as the soldier exited the back seat of the car.
Tala intervened. "Thanks, but I'm all right. Ramil just wants to cop his feels like you did." Ramil's face flushed as Tala handed her bag to the nearest soldier in the group. "And my suitcase is in the trunk of the car." She then turned to face the car, put her hands on its hood and spread her legs to shoulder width as one of the soldiers opened the trunk, removed the suitcase and began to rummage through its contents.
Ramil moved behind her, placed his right foot between her legs, moving his hands first to her shoulders and then down the sides of her body. They both knew that there was nothing that Tala could conceal in the tight khaki shirt and shorts that she wore. [see Tala2 pic] Until Ramil moved his hands under her shirt and up to her breasts, she had been glad that she had not worn a bra in the hot weather. "They're real," Tala could sense that Ramil was surprised that a fairly tiny woman like herself -- no more than 5'2" and 105 pounds -- was larger than he had expected, "so there's no padding there to hide anything." She cringed slightly as he gave an unnecessary squeeze before moving his hands back down to her thighs. Payback, she imagined, for her previous snide comment.
Ramil's examination was more thorough than the first, and she could feel that his penis, pressed against her backside, immediately grew hard as his fingers moved around her hips to between her legs. She gritted her teeth. "You're the one with the pistol in your pocket, not me." No reaction. Being a rebel was serious business 24 hours a day, Tala guessed. Unpleasant as she found Ramil's hands, she did enjoy the thought that her body could so easily excite him.
After Ramil finished his examination, Tala turned to face him. He had her handbag in is hands and was examining its contents. "Could I have my pad and pen? I assume that I will be allowed to take notes of everything that happens? Starting with a description of the too thorough search of my person?" Ramil returned her bag to her, and she took out her pad and pen before closing it and slinging it over her shoulder." "My instructions are that you may write whatever you wish," Ramil told her. "We have nothing to hide. Shall we begin?"
Tala knew that Ramil had no choice in that regard. One of the conditions to which the General had agreed, and a condition that had been announced to the world, was that she could write whatever she wanted, without censorship of any kind, and that she need not show any of her notes to anyone.
Ramil, at the head of the group of soldiers, led Tala slowly down the street. Its open air shops on both sides of the narrow dirt road seemed fairly busy. People walked on the sides of the road and bicyclists rode down the center. Tala noticed only one car, and it, like the one in which she had arrived, was filled with soldiers. Each person who passed their group bowed slightly toward her. She wondered, but doubted, if they knew who she was.
Tala walked up to an elderly merchant selling vegetables. "Sir, excuse me. Can you tell me what things have been like these last two months?" Her meaning was clear. The merchant turned toward Tala, then glanced at the soldiers standing behind her before looking back at her. "Better. Better I would say."
"How are things better?" Tala continued.
The man hesitated only slightly. "Freer. Freer, I would say."
"For those who believe in freedom." The man nodded toward her politely, then turned and went back to his work arranging his produce. Tala looked at Ramil. "I would like to ask him some more questions."
"We do not prevent you, Miss. But this is a free country now. You may wish to talk to him further, but he does not have to talk to you further if he does not wish."
They walked only a few more yards before Tala stopped a young woman just getting off of her bicycle. "May I have a minute of your time?" The woman looked over toward Ramil, then nodded.
"Do you go to school?" She asked.
"Is your school work different since the soldiers arrived?"
Tala could see pain in the woman's eyes. Tala, quickly catching on, had intentionally asked her a question, unlike those she had asked the merchant, for which the answer that the nearby soldiers wanted was not evident.
"Some of it is different. Some is not." She hesitated.
"But how is it different is what I would like to know?" Tala persisted.
"We learn more about government. About how free governments treat their people to make freedom thrive. Not like the last government."
As Tala took a second to make a note on her pad, the woman took the short pause as permission to mount her bicycle and pedal off. Tala remembered that she had just arrived at her destination when Tala had approached her. Tala put away her pad and pen.
As the group proceeded down the street, it seemed to Tala that the people on the street did not make any effort to avoid the group, and all seemed pleasant as they passed. Tala had sensed fear in both the merchant and the student, but it was difficult to believe that the rebels could have so totally subjugated the islanders in such a short period of time.
When the group turned to the right upon reaching the next cross-street, Tala changed her mind. She immediately understood. And gasped.
In the middle of the block was an open space about 10 feet long between two of the open air shops. A long horizontal bamboo shoot about eight feet off the ground ran between the shops on each side of it, but Tala could not see exactly how it was secured. What she could immediately see, however, was that a rope was hanging from the bamboo shoot. And that the other end of the rope was tied around the neck of a naked woman, about 25 years old from the appearance of her body. Her wrists were tied behind her back, her ankles tied together, and her head covered by a black hood. Her body swayed ever so slightly in the air, and Tala had no doubt that, if this woman were 25, she was never going to turn 26. Equal to Tala's shock of seeing this naked woman's body hanging in the middle of the open air shops was the fact that none of the villagers seemed to pay it any attention, but went about their routine business as if they were aware of nothing unusual.
And when Tala finally took her eyes off of this woman, she realized that there, just a few feet away, hanging from the same bamboo shoot, was a second naked woman of perhaps the same age, tied in exactly the same position and also hooded. Only, while the first woman dangled slowly in the air, this one stood on a small wooden block placed in its most unstable position with only its smallest side flush to the ground. Tala could see the woman's stomach muscles twitching as she struggled to maintain her balance on the shaking wooden block.
Tala grabbed her arms to her stomach and doubled over and vomited. None of the soldiers, and none of the villagers, went to her aid. When she finally regained a degree of her composure, she wiped her mouth with the bottom of her shirt and stood up.
"I see that you have never seen how a country ensures its freedom. To do so, it must treat severely those who would destroy that freedom." Ramil actually made it sound as if he believe his words, Tala thought.
"What did these two women do?"
"They offered shelter to a group of men and women who tried to rally the citizens against freedom. To go back to the old ways. Freedom is too important to allow this to happen."
"Where are the men?"
"Putting the men on display is not as effective in reminding those who would destroy our freedom that we will not tolerate it."
Tala moved closer to the woman trying to maintain her balance in order to maintain her life. "You said that I could talk to the people. I want to talk with her."
"Yes, you may talk to anyone you wish," Ramil responded, "but, as I explained, they are not obligated to respond. Talk to this one, if you wish. But I don't think that she will respond."
"Why are you so sure? What has she to lose from talking with me? She must know her fate."
"The hood allows sufficient air that she can breath, though with difficulty. But under the hood, she is gagged, and her ears have been plugged. So she will not hear your questions and could not answer them even if she could. Her world has been made black and silent so that her mind will focus entirely on the evil of her actions. Without knowing what is happening in the outside world immediately around her. Without knowing who is staring at her or spitting on her or throwing rocks at her. Or whether there may be someone foolish enough to show her pity, who, in the middle of the night, will kick the wood out from her toes to save her from future anguish."
"The only one of her senses that she is left to experience, in fact," Ramil continued, "is her sense of touch, and to the extent that we allow her to experience that sense, it is not with pleasure."
"This is barbaric."
"Those who would destroy freedom are the barbarians. So they deserve to be treated as they treat others. Besides. She can maintain her balance only for so long. And when she loses it -- on her own or with the assistance of another traitor to freedom -- her torment will be over. If you wish to end her torment, kick the wood block. Of course, none of our freedom-loving citizens believes that she deserves such sympathy."
Tala looked at the shivering body of the young woman. Toes on the wooden block. Breasts firm. Nipples erect. Stomach muscles twitching. "I didn't think that you would," Ramil began to walk on. "Because you too believe in punishment for those who would betray freedom." Tala took one last look at the woman, then at her swaying compatriot, and slowly followed Ramil and the soldiers down the street, again wiping her mouth with the bottom of her shirt.
"How many have you treated like that these last two months?"
"Like that?" Ramil seemed to ponder for a moment. "Perhaps a few dozen in this village. You must remember that, when we arrived, there were a lot of people against democracy. They had not had it for so long that they did not understand it. Few now oppose democracy."
"I will see others like that on our way to the General's headquarters?"
"I don't think so. Most must be treated more harshly."
Tala stopped. "More harshly?"
"What you saw mostly involved mental torture, followed by a quick and painless death. That is the punishment for those who simply help the traitors by housing them or giving them food or clothing. The most severe punishments naturally are reserved for those traitors who actually make an effort to bring our country back to the days before freedom. You will see several of those as we get closer to headquarters." They continued to walk. And Tala held her breath, still tasting her own vomit, as they finally turned onto the street of the General's headquarters.
It was a long dead-end street with the headquarters at the very end. And on this street Tala immediately saw four more naked women who obviously did not share the rebels' definition of democracy, had apparently acted on their beliefs, and therefore were forced to suffer the "harsher" treatments that Ramil had referenced.
Tala could immediately see that the placement of a long horizontal bamboo shoot across an open expanse seemed to provide the rebels' standard method of restraint, since these four women all hung from such poles, just as had the first two victims Tala had seen. And use of the black "deprivation hood" -- under which Tala assumed the rebels employed the same "focusing" methods -- appeared to be another standard feature of the rebels' punishment, since all four of these women also wore one. But none of these women hung by their necks.
Tala walked slowly to the first woman on the left. Her arms had been secured to a shorter bamboo pole behind her elbows, which forced her to thrust out her modest chest, which heaved in obvious fear. This shorter pole was held in place by two ropes hanging from the longer pole above and attached to the sides of the shorter pole.
The woman's ankles had been secured by ropes tied to two vertical bamboo poles about 10 feet apart, and the ropes had been pulled tight so that her legs were spread at a 90 degree angle. The vertical poles were far enough separated that they did not interfere with anything that the rebels decided to do to the unfortunate woman. And what the rebels had decided to do was to place directly under her a large pot of soil out of which was growing a single bamboo shoot whose top had been cut off, and into its hollow core had been set a sharp spear with its point facing upward. The edge was still at least 12 inches below her body. With dark fascination Tala studied the woman's situation. Ramil could read her mind.
"Two or three days. That type of bamboo grows about 4-6 inches a day this time of year. And she has no idea that it is there, that soon her mental agony will turn into severe physical agony. For several long days until ... well, you can imagine." Ramil watched Tala's body shudder at the thought, matching for a few seconds the continuous shuddering of the poor woman she was facing.
"But if your imagination fails you, you needn't imagine." Ramil gave a nod to the other side of the street. Tala turned. Had there been anything left in her stomach to give ...
This second woman had been placed in exactly the same position as the first. Only she had been placed there either several days earlier or with a larger bamboo shoot under her to start with. Because that sharpened spear had already pushed up between her legs, through her cervix, into her internal organs and was now starting to poke out the center of her chest, just below where her hooded head had fallen. Dried blood covered the woman's body from her chest to her knees, and a large pool had formed below her. This woman had obviously died in agony as the shoot literally crept into her inch by inch over several days, forcing the point of the spear upward ever so gradually. Surely, even through a gag and a hood, the villagers must have heard even her muffled cries. None, obviously, had dared to show her any mercy, but had allowed her to die as slowly and painfully as the rebels intended.
A whole island of villagers could be brought into complete subjugation in just a few months, Tala now understood, as all of them wished to sink as deeply into the background as possible.
"You seem interested in only these convicted felons," Ramil observed. "Does nothing else interest you? The fact that the people are happy and working? That they have expressed no complaints? That they have no objection, and respect and appreciate, our location, removal and treatment of the traitors within their midst?"
But Tala had walked on to the next victim just a few yards down the street from the second. This one appeared to have been placed in a position similar to the first two from the waist up, with a short pole securing her arms at the elbows. But her ankles had been tied together without being secured to the vertical poles and no bamboo shoot had been placed between them.
Instead, Tala could see, two bamboo shoots with their embedded spears had been placed to attack the other obvious places on a woman's body that depraved men like to destroy. Which they had done quite successfully in this case. This woman had obviously been selected for this particularly grisly treatment because of her overly large breasts. The spears, supported by the bamboo shoots, had been placed to poke up from under them, and then deeply into their center, until they had poked out again through the top.
But a bamboo shoot does not know when it has already accomplished its purpose. It continues to grow. And as it grows, its diameter thickens at any given height. So, after pushing through the woman's breasts, it continued to grow upward, getting thicker and thicker at the level of her breasts, reaming them of most of their tissue. Even worse, enough of her breast tissue caught onto the rough sides of the bamboo, so that, as it grew, it also raised her entire body with it. And now, as Tala stared, the woman had been lifted at least two feet off the ground, hanging from bamboo shoots through what was left of her once substantial breasts.
"What did these women do to deserve this type of treatment?" Tala demanded, turning to Ramil.
"I think you already know the answer. They threatened freedom. They were involved in a plot to assassinate General Datu. An unsuccessful plot, as you can see."
"No one deserves this kind of slow painful death."
"Oh, I think it more than just painful. I think that it is torturous," Ramil's response stunned Tala. "We just disagree whether no one deserves it. We believe that those who despise freedom and act in a manner to try to destroy it deserve such treatment. How else can our freedom be protected?"
Tala could guess what she find when she turned to look at the fourth victim. While the rebels scored high in brutality, they were not really creative. What Tala didn't guess, however, was that this fourth woman would neither be awaiting the onset of her torture nor finished with it.
This woman, placed no more than 10 yards from the entry of the rebels' headquarters, had been positioned as the first two, with one subtle difference. The horizontal pole from which she hung had been moved back just enough so that, when her ankles were secured to the vertical poles, the lower half of her body tilted slightly forward, leaving her in a bit of a sitting position rather than straight up. The bamboo shoot, therefore, was aimed at her anus. And, from the constant groans and gurgles coming from under the woman's hood, it had found its target.
Tala walked to the side of the woman to confirm that the spear had begun its penetration. Although she could not tell how far it had intruded, she could see that the diameter of the portion of the stalk that she could see was already thicker than anything the woman would have previously experienced, no matter her predilections.
"So original." Tala turned back to Ramil in disgust and sneered at him. "You all hate women and just need an excuse to violate them with something harder than anything you've got. Women must laugh at you when you try to satisfy them, so this is your revenge on all women. I think it's time for my appointment with your General Datu."
Tala marched into the General's headquarters, as Ramil and the soldiers scrambled in behind her.
"I'm here to interview General Datu," Tala announced to the woman behind the desk, who was startled by Tala's brashness.
"We're early," Ramil shouted from the doorway. "Have a seat, Miss Tala." He motioned toward the several wood chairs in the waiting room. "We had expected that you would take more time focusing on the good citizens of our islands and not just the traitors, so now you will have to wait for your appointment." Ramil sat in the chair farthest from the one Tala chose. The other soldiers waited outside.
Tala again took out her pad and pen. So far, she had written nothing. There had been nothing to write. Only the canned answers from two terrified villagers.
But now she began writing, quickly, not bothering to correct grammar or structure errors in her first draft. "The leaders of the Philippine government have allowed these so-called 'freedom fighters' who are really nothing more than sadistic heathens to subject the islanders to constant acts of the most brutal tyranny, depriving them of all freedoms in the supposed name of freedom."
She wrote about the plight of the resisters and those who helped them, particularly the women, since that is what she had witnessed. Then she continued: "We cannot accede to the demands of the 'freedom fighters' who are no more than cowards who do not seek the islands' independence, but only their barbarous control of the entire island. The islands and the islanders must be liberated immediately. Our government officials must give the islanders their full support in their hour of need. Its people must always remain a part of our own wonderful country, which each of its inhabitants love."
Tala looked up and saw Ramil staring off idly into space. She apparently still had more time to write: "I will remain here with the imprisoned people of these occupied islands for as long as I am allowed, so that I can report to you what is really happening to them. I believe that this is extremely important, perhaps the most important thing I have ever done. Their cause is now my cause. Tala T." She always signed her byline "Tala T." It made her name read the same forward and backward. A palindrome. And sometimes she would tell others that Tala was her middle name, and that her real name was "Fay Tala T." and her brother was "Mort Tala T." But she was thinking of none of that now. She was just beginning to write the most important story of her life.
Tala closed her pad as the receptionist finally indicated to Ramil that he could take her to see the General. Walking down a long corridor to the General's office, they passed several sets of soldiers standing guard every ten feet or so. She wondered whether yet another soldier would first claim a need to search her, but none did. Finally, Ramil knocked on the door at the end of the corridor and opened it slowly. She followed him inside. General Datu was alone.
As startling as had been everything that she had seen in the very brief time that she had been on the island, Tala was now even more startled and confused ... and terrified -- than before.
"Hello, Tala. "Nice to see you ... again." The General's words were colder in delivery than in content. Tala stood speechless in front of him.
"You had no idea, did you? I mean, that you had once dated the mysterious General Datu? How many years ago was it?"
"Isko. No. I had .... I had no ... Three years ago. It's been three years." She had met Isko right out of college and they began dating almost immediately. He was five years older than she, and she was smitten by his intelligence and seeming worldliness.
"Actually four, but I would expect that I would know that better than you."
They had dated for more than a year. He was tall. Handsome. Muscular. With an ability to bring her to orgasm nearly every time they had sex. Which was more frequent ... and more varied ... than during any other period in her life. In fact, she probably had more sex that year that she dated Isko than in the three ... no, he said four ... years since. And many more orgasms. Well, at least more partnered orgasms.
But she finally was forced to face the fact that Isko's strange and radical political and social views far overshadowed her physical attraction to him. And so she had told him that last night. Told him quite bluntly. There was no other way to get through to Isko. And she had not seen or spoken to him since. Although he had written to her nearly daily for more than a month, begging her to reconsider. She had not responded. And then the letters had stopped.
And now Isko ... General Datu, the "Chieftain" ... was the most feared man on these islands, able to put any woman through the most horrendous ordeal at the snap of his fingers. She had seen half a dozen examples of his work, and had been told by Ramil that there were dozens more just in this one small village on this one island.
Tala cringed to think that what may have set Isko completely over the edge, onto this path of treason and torture and depravity, was his need to prove to himself ... and possibly to her ... after her rejection of him that he really was a man even if he could not win her heart. But, no, she decided. He had had this predisposition even before they had met, so she could not be considered responsible for it. To the contrary, she had left him because of it. Leave it to Freud to figure out why he turned out this way. It was not her doing.
"Four, yes. Four." She agreed with him. "Well, I guess I don't have to ask you what you've been up to ... General Datu." Tala laughed nervously, not knowing what else to do or say.
"Nor I you. And so we meet again. Under quite different circumstances, wouldn't you say?"
"In every way, yes."
"Yes," the General reflected. "Last time we met, well, I was at your mercy and you destroyed me. But this time ..." Tala stared into his cold eyes. "... this time you are at my mercy, are you not? And I could destroy you."
Tala suddenly felt very helpless. Standing there, on a strange island, surrounded by General Datu and his soldiers.
Isko. General Datu. The man who butchered helpless women in the cruelest ways. The man she had spurned years early. Who had obviously not forgotten the shame that she had caused him. She cringed at the thought.
"I am, General." He was no longer Isko to her. She had called him Isko affectionately those several years ago. But now he was General Datu. "But I am here because you have asked to speak with me to tell your story, so that I can relay it to the world, which I will do fairly and honestly after you tell me what you wish, and I have a chance to ask you what I wish."
"Actually, my dear Tala," the General's eyes were now even colder than before, and Tala felt a chill run down her spine, "that is not what is going to happen." Tala felt the hands of two of the General's soldiers grab her arms above her elbows and hold her firmly. Her muscles tensed. "You see, I have no need to be rejected by you a second time. Read the charges. And the verdict and judgment." The General nodded to Ramil, who pulled a sheet of paper from his pocket. So he knew all along that this would happen. Now the thought of Ramil's hands all over her upon her arrival enraged her.
"The prisoner," Ramil began. Prisoner? Tala struggled, but the soldiers held her firmly in their grip. "has been tried in absentia as a threat to freedom." Tala could feel the men wrap their legs around her ankles so that she was completely immobile. "After a fair trial, she has been convicted by a jury of her peers," he continued. Oh, I'll just bet, Tala thought, but was still too stunned to speak. "Having now subjected herself voluntarily to the jurisdiction of the new republic, the sentence for her severe ... and active ..." Ramil emphasized the words, looking up at Tala, who understood their meaning. "... betrayal of the republic shall be carried out without delay." Ramil handed the paper to the General, who quickly scanned it before affixing his signature to it and handing it back to Ramil. "There. It is official."
In an instant Tala felt a thick white cloth thrust deep into her mouth and then taped in place. And in the next instant, the men holding her dragged her out of the General's office, down the long corridor to the front of his headquarters and out into the street.
He is trying to scare me, Tala thought. He would not dare harm me. The entire world knows I'm here, and, if any harm were to come to me, every country would turn against him. But ... no ... the entire world is already against him. And has done nothing. Her mind blurred. Would he really? Just because she had ended their relationship? Had he carried such a strong hatred of her all these years? Certainly his actions indicated that he had that poisonous capacity within him.
And if he did ... now her entire body shuddered, not unlike the shuddering from the helpless woman standing on the small wooden block, trying to maintain her balance ... then she knew that, having been condemned as an "active" betrayer of his cause, she would be subject to the types of punishments suffered by the last four women she now once again saw in the street outside the headquarters. She glanced at the fourth woman, the one closest to the headquarters. She clearly was in an agony that the gag and hood did not allow her fully to express.
And now, for the first time, Tala noticed -- on the other side of the headquarters just past the door, another set of vertical bamboo poles across which ran a long horizontal pole. Another set of poles ... with no woman yet hanging from them. These, she knew, had been reserved for her.
Tala tried futilely to twist out of the soldiers' grasp. Following Ramil, the soldiers dragged her under the horizontal pole, and forced her arms upward, while two of the soldiers who had been waiting patiently outside looped two ropes hanging from it around her wrists, and then pulled her up until her feet were off the ground, the loops now wrapped tightly around her wrists, holding them more than shoulder width apart.
At the same time two other sets of soldiers looped ropes attached to the vertical poles around her ankles and pulled them tight as well, leaving Tala completely spread-eagled, her feet off the ground, her shoulders bearing the entire weight of her body. Her position was not exactly like that of any of the other women she had seen, but it certainly placed her in a situation where the General could have any of the things done to those women done to her.
Shortly after she had been secured in her restraints, the General came out of his headquarters and walked over to the scene, nodding his approval. "Usually we deprive our traitors of their senses before we begin their treatment. Except, of course, for their sense of pain ... I mean touch." The General's face slowly broke into the first smile that Tala had seen from him. An evil smile. She made no attempt to speak through her gag, knowing that it would not be removed under any circumstances.
"But, because of your past relationship with me, we will first let you see what is going to happen to you." Tala saw two soldiers move toward her, one of them carrying two much shorter bamboo poles, each only about two feet long. He still could be just playing a game with me, Tala thought. Putting me through this to get even with me for before. And then he'll laugh at how he had so frightened me. Yes, he still could be playing a game. But Tala did not believe that he was. She had seen that look in his eyes.
"Captain Ramil," the General ordered, "finish preparing her."
Ramil saluted the General and approached Tala's spread-eagled figure. He reached his hands to her chest, each hand grabbing one side of her shirt, and, with a single motion, ripped it open, exposing her ample breasts. Tala could hear many of the soldiers express their approval, but this time, unlike before, she took no pleasure in her body's ability to create such a reaction.
Ramil stepped back as the soldier carrying the short bamboo poles placed one horizontally just under Tala's exposed breasts, using it to push them slightly upward. Still holding that pole in place, he moved the other across the top of her breasts, and held that one too in place. Tala sensed instantly what was about to happen.
The second soldier took two thin strips of rawhide and dampened them in a water bucket. He secured one around the left edges of the two poles, moved behind her and wrapped the other around the right edges. The poles held secure, pinching her breasts between them but causing no more than mild pain. Tala sucked in her breath.
Ramil then approached, dunked a third strip of rawhide into the water bucket, and wrapped it around the center of the two poles, between her now protruding breasts. The poles squeezed a bit harder, but again she refused to scream, though she regretted that the gag did not allow her to bite into her lip or the inside of her cheek. Finally, the soldiers secured the sides of the short poles to ropes hanging from the horizontal pole above her, forcing her to arch her back slightly as her breasts were pulled up.
By now a small crowd had gathered to watch what was happening, although most in the area pretended to ignore it, as they had the others. Ramil addressed the onlookers to explain: "We have captured another who would deny you freedom and have you return to the ways of tyranny. This one has made false accusations against the General and then deserted him. She will therefore pay the price for her active treachery." To Tala's horror, the crowd cheered her impending torture.
General Datu walked up to Tala. "I'm sure you know how rawhide reacts to water, my love, don't you? "It defends itself by slowing tightening its forces to repel the watery invader." The General placed his hands on the edges of the two poles, but did not squeeze. "And it does not feel itself safe until it has completely protected itself as tightly as it can." The General then reached down and picked up the water bucket. He slowly poured the rest of the water down the front of Tala's stretched body.
"Bamboo, I am again sure you know, does not have a very ... smooth surface. It has ridges that will bite ... and cut ... as the rawhide squeezes the poles together. And it is incredibly strong, so little can stand in its way. Certainly not mere flesh. And that, lovely Tala, is something that you can think about over the next several days."
The General kissed her cheek, then turned and walked back into his headquarters. Thinking about his words, and her utter helplessness to do anything to alter her situation, Tala immediately lost control of her bladder, soaking her khaki shorts and panties. As she did, she heard the crowd again roar its approval of her fear ... and anticipated punishment.
One of the soldiers promptly approached, and slashed through the shoulders of her hanging khaki shirt, pulled the remnants from her and tossed the shredded shirt into the crowd, which surged to grab the souvenir. The soldier stepped back to allow all to gaze upon Tala's body, now naked from the waist up. For the first time, she started to cry.
After allowing the crowd to enjoy the sight for a few moments, the soldier again approached Tala, and, this time, slashed down the sides of her shorts, snatched them as they fell off, and tossed them into the crowd. He stepped back to allow an unblocked view of the woman now clothed only in her urine-soaked panties. Her eyes were closed, but she continued to sob, her body trembling.
Finally, the soldier returned to his victim, quickly slashed through the sides of Tala's panties, and pulled them off. Before moving away, he pushed the panties up under her nose, forcing her to acknowledge the degree of her fear.
Ramil allowed the crowd a full minute to view Tala's situation ... and her body ... before walking up to her. Ramil whispered in her ear, "I would have enjoyed you otherwise first. And let my men enjoy you, too. Maybe I still will." He then stuck a thick piece of wax into each of her ears, and slipped a black hood over her head, securing it at the neck to make certain that no light entered. Tala now knew exactly the fear that the other six women had faced. Her world was dark and silent. It was her turn to suffer the horrible fate that the General had planned for her. And had no idea for how long she would be forced to suffer it. But she knew how it would end.
Tala could not even guess how much time had passed when she first realized that she was gurgling through her gag as a result of the slowly-increasing pain from the tightening of the bamboo shoots securing her breasts. She thought that, by this time, it probably was night, because her body felt chilled. And because, occasionally, she could feel someone's hands on her body. Touching between her legs. And, much worse now than that, touching her swollen breasts. She didn't think that anyone in the village, or even the soldiers, would dare to do that during the day.
She wondered how long her ordeal would last, and, thinking of Ramil's final words, also wondered if, before this was over, she would be raped. And how often.
If the bamboo poles squeezed her breasts so tightly that they did tear them off, as the General said they would, then she imagined that she would bleed to death. Unless the grip of the bamboo also damaged her heart. Then her death would be faster. But she doubted that the soldiers had positioned the poles in such a way that that would happen. By now they were probably too experienced. And any soldier who allowed her to die too quickly would face the wrath of the General. But she had no sense of time.
She realized that more time must have passed as even the slight movement that resulted from her breathing caused pain in her breasts. Had it been a few hours? A day? She wished she knew how long it had been so she might know how much longer it would be.
And then she sensed something. Something from below. From between her legs? A hand? No. The tip of a penis? No. What then? Ever so carefully she tried to move her body down to feel what it was, but even this created even further agony in her breasts.
More time passed. Blackness. She had difficulty now knowing whether she was screaming or not. And there was that sensation again. Now joined by another. What was it? And then Tala knew that she must be screaming. She knew.
Because she realized that the sensation that she felt ... was coming from a point of a spear, which must be attached to a bamboo shoot, just beginning to touch between her legs. And she had seen what it had done to that one unfortunate woman. Well, not now so unfortunate in Tala's eyes, because at least that woman's ordeal was over.
Despite the pain it created in her breasts, Tala forced her body back slightly to try to move away from this dreaded intruder. And then she understood the second sensation she had experienced. She could feel a second sharpened spear aimed directly into her anus. Apparently her crime had been the most severe, requiring that she be violated in all of the most sensitive and personal parts of her body.
Tala's stomach muscles began to twitch uncontrollably, soon joined by her entire body. She had no doubt that she was screaming as loudly as she could into her gag. Isko ... General Datu ... had obviously carried his hatred for her for all these years, and she was now going to pay the price for that hatred.
Standing just in front of Tala's naked, hooded and now quivering body, hearing the panicked gurgles attempting to escape her gag and hood, Ramil looked at the General and nodded. "She knows."
"Yes, she knows," the General responded. "I'm going to watch for a while before going to bed. I will see you in the morning." Ramil walked away, leaving the General alone to enjoy the show that he had been waiting to watch for so long.
"Well, dear Tala, had you chosen differently, you could have been my queen. But you did not choose wisely, now, did you?"
Ramil returned from his trip to a neighboring island early in the morning two days later, and headed to the General's headquarters. As he approached, he remembered the last woman, the reporter, the one the General had particularly wished to torture for the past indiscretion or indignation he had told him about so often. The last two nights had been rainy, Ramil remembered. That had probably been fortunate for her, since it would have sped up the growth of the bamboo and ended her torment more quickly than otherwise. Perhaps more quickly than the General had wished. But not even the General could control the weather.
Ramil walked past the entrance to the headquarters and saw that Tala's spread-eagled body remained hanging from the horizontal bamboo pole. After less than three days, the bamboo shoot between Tala's legs had pushed through her torso, into her throat, and through the gag and hood. The shoot that had begun in her anus had apparently lost a battle inside her body with its competitor and had been pushed down so that it now exited from the middle of her stomach, just below her chest. Or, rather, below what remained of her chest. Ramil looked up and saw that the bamboo poles that had squeezed her breasts were still squeezing them, but now were dangling by the ropes attached to the horizontal bar, free from any attachment to the rest of her body.
Ramil looked at his watch. 8:00 a.m. She had arrived on the island almost exactly three days earlier. For so long in the General's mind she had represented the biggest threat to freedom that he had faced. At least to his personal freedom, since he had remained her emotional prisoner for these last four years.
Ramil walked into the headquarters to tell the General that he was now free, though he would not use those words. But he was quite certain that the General already knew.
The editor of the Philippine Times tossed the short letter to his bureau chief, whom he had summoned urgently to his office. He had received it that morning at 7:00 a.m., when he had arrived for work "What do we do now?" he asked.
The other man pondered. "We have to go with it. It's now part of the story."
"I agree. How will it make us look?"
"Extremely foolish. But not as foolish as we will look if we are not the first to print it. And we have just a copy, so it probably was also sent to the other papers. So we have to decide fast."
"All right. We go with it. But I want to print an editorial along side it denouncing this bitch for her treason. Three days? In three days he converted her? No. She used us. She had to have been one of his infiltrators all along. Whatever. We'll uncover the details, the connection. All right. Round up the staff. They have to be told." The bureau chief hurried out of the office. The Times' scoop of the decade had turned into a nightmare for it.
He would assign his two best reporters to learn everything about her background. Prior jobs, apartments, boyfriends, sexual kinks, the works. She was now a major part of the story. The fucking traitor.
He read the letter again, still not believing it. But there was no question that it was her handwriting, her writing style, her signature:
"The leaders of the Philippine government are nothing more than sadistic heathens who subject the islanders to constant acts of the most brutal tyranny, depriving them of all freedoms."
"The islanders give the freedom fighters their full support in their hour of need. Its inhabitants love them."
"I will remain here with the freedom fighters and the people of these occupied islands. I believe that this is extremely important, perhaps the most important thing I have ever done. Their cause is my cause. Tala T."
Now he knew why the General had specifically asked for this reporter by name. Because she was one of his agents, and the publicity that he would get after he supposedly converted her to his cause was invaluable to him. And irreparably damaging to the Times, which had so touted itself as the paper that was getting an exclusive interview with General Chieftain, or whatever he was calling himself these days. Now he had to make sure that his paper was also the first to uncover the true identity of this mysterious General. As part of the story of how he had gotten to her.
Damn, he thought. All he probably had to do was fuck her. The horny naive bitch. In fact, she was probably screaming his name that very minute as he fucked the shit out of her.
He picked up the letter and walked out of his office, glancing at his watch. 8:00 a.m. Time for the world to learn what a traitor this bitch Tala was. And he, the editor of the most powerful newspaper in the country, was just the man to make sure that the Philippine press murdered her for her betrayal.