Bring Out the GIMP (Girls in Merciless Peril)
Stories


FILIPINA I – MIA

By Kirsten Smart


One

“May pagkain po kayo?”

Hope in the brown faces crowding the window underlined the children's question. But Mia shook her head with an apologetic smile. “No, I have no food for you. Maybe later, I'll have something, okay?”

She watched the children run off along the narrow street, barefoot in the dust, eagerly followed by a bony and yapping dog. Since the Japanese had come, food had been less plentiful; the black market choked what supplies there were, and the children were asking at Mia's window more and more often.

“Joy?” Mia went into the coolness of the parlour, where her maid was sleepily dusting. “Cook some extra rice and ulam for the children, okay?” “Yes, Ma'm Mia,” Joy said.

It was the hottest time of afternoon, when even the flies sought the shade of bamboo groves, and Mia retired to the relative coolness of her bedroom, switching on the electric fan. She pulled off her dress, stripped down to her white satin chemise and flopped onto the bed, letting the shifting air cool the sweat that shone on her bare skin.

Even though Mia had never met her father, his regular contributions of money made her life more than comfortable. Food, clothing, a roof over her head, a good education, and all the luxuries. Too bad he already had a family in the US, a wife and two children who were unaware of their father's illegitimate offspring in the Philippine Islands.

Mia sighed. It was two years since her mother had died, and she was lonely.

In the village, Mia's beauty was widely admired. Thick brown-black hair that tumbled to her shoulders, glittering almond brown eyes; a slender nose and pouting, plump, and exquisitely sculpted lips; a slender nose and soaring cheekbones. She was graced, too, with a beauty of ffigure, a strength of intellect and a quickness of wit that made her the desire of some, the envy of others.

Despite her attractiveness, and despite no lack of offers, Mia had never been naked before a man; but she had listened to tales told by other women in the sari-sari store or beneath their parasols on the street corners, and often fantasised about making love in the sweltering heat of an April evening.

There was a thudding at the front door and Mia opened her eyes.

The room was still hot, the fan still whirred; but it was dark, the quick tropical sunset having passed while Mia slept. She yawned, rubbed her eyes, sat up slowly. More thumping at the door; then a heavier crash that shook the house on its foundations.

At once, Mia was fully awake. She leaped from the bed and hurried barefoot to the door, opening it cautiously. She found herself looking straight into the barrel of an army rifle.

“Do not speak. Turn around,” was the order.

As Mia turned, she caught a glimpse of khaki fatigues and open sandals; a straw hat. Her heart began to thud painfully in fear, her first thought: resistance. She had often heard of the rebels hiding up in the surrounding mountains, running daring raids on Japanese outposts, sabotaging communications and kidnapping suspected collaborators.

What do they want with me?

“Put your hands behind your back,” she was ordered. Trembling, Mia complied. At once, course rope was put about her wrists, binding them so tightly she gasped.

“Please, why are you doing this?” Mia asked.

“Shut up,” she was told. “Open your mouth.”

Fearfully, Mia did as she was told. A moment later, a wadding of cloth was forced between her teeth. She almost choked, retched, a sudden sweat flashing over her, but she couldn't eject the packing as a second cloth was wrapped over her mouth and tied tightly behind her head, a cruelly effective gag. Mia tried to make noise, but her voice was muffled.

A hood was put on, next; dark sack-cloth pulled over her head. Some kind of cord secured it around her neck. Panic gripped Mia, claustrophobia and a fear that she would suffocate. She sucked air desperately through her nostrils, and instinctively tried to pull her wrists free of their bonds; but she was tied securely, and she felt hands on her bare arms, turning her about and roughly hurrying her from the house.

“Get her in, quickly!” she heard. Arms came about her torso; hands grabbed her ankles, and she was tossed into the back of some kind of truck. She tumbled onto a wooden flat-bed, hitting her knee on an iron bolt, and whimpered with pain into her gag. She heard several of her captors clambering into the truck after her; an engine started, and they lurched into motion along the bumpy village street.

Two

The truck bounced along ever-worsening roads and tracks, into the mountains, into the night. For the first while, Mia slid and rolled helplessly about on the truck floor, bound, blindfolded and gagged. Worse, the constant motion made her stomach churn, and it was all she could do to avoid vomiting against the packing of her gag.

Eventually, though, she managed to get her legs under her, and finally worked her way into a sitting position against the side of the truck. It was awkward, but better than before.

They drove for several hours. To Mia it felt like an eternity. Fear alone drew sweat from her skin, and the hood over her head quickly became damp, further threatening to suffocate her. Mia's lungs strained constantly to draw air through the wet fabric, her nostrils flaring with every desperate breath. She half expected to die like this, that her captors would pull the hood off to discover her blue-lipped corpse, and dump her body in some forested mountain ravine.

But Mia survived; and the truck finally slid to a halt. She didn't have time to clear her spinning head after the endless buffeting of the ride; hands grabbed her bound arms and wrenched her up. She was hauled to the back of the truck and half-lifted down to the ground.

Her bare feet found tepid mud.

“Walk,” a male voice told her.

The insect hiss and night time clamour of jungle was all around them. Even through the hood that smothered her, Mia could smell the foliage and damp earth as they followed a slippery, rocky path through the undergrowth. Barefoot, bare-armed and bare-legged, she walked with caution, but was unable to avoid stumbling, sliding, being caught by flicking branches and twigs. At one point she fell, landing in leaves and mud on her knees; a casual hand hooked under her arm and lifted her up, and the trek went on.

After forty minutes' walk, Mia's feet were hurting badly. Her flimsy chemise was soaked with sweat in the humid night. Her hands were numb beyond the coarse grip of the rope on her wrists, and her face was running wet, her neck itching from the hood fastened about it, her jaw hurting from the gag crammed into her mouth. When a voice suddenly called a halt, Mia crashed to her knees, sobbing silently.

That was worse. As she began to cry, her nose filled with mucus. Panic gripped her as she realised that she could no longer breathe. Desperately she sucked for air, sniffing hard, her head spinning. Her arms worked desperately to break free of the ropes. Her temples thudded.

Gradually, she began to get air again; but a moment later, she was pulled to her feet.

“This way.”

Breathless, dazed, she was hurried across flat, leafy ground. Ahead of her, a creaking door was opened – and a second later, she was pushed through onto a hard earth floor. The door banged shut behind her, and there came the sound of a bolt being drawn, a padlock fitted.

Mia stood, silent, listening. Denied the use of her arms, her senses dulled by the hood, she tried to ascertain where she was. Tentatively she edged backwards, until the searching fingers of her bound hands touched the wood of the door behind her. She slowly slid down it until she was sitting.

Outside, she could hear the ambience of the jungle, the sound of calling voices and movement. She seemed to be in a hut of some kind; through her hood, it smelled musty and damp.

Why am I here? Who are these people? What do they want? Mia's head raced as she tried to imagine answers; but nothing would come. If, as she suspected, she had been taken by the Philippine resistance, she could think of no reason for them to want her.

Again, she tested her bonds; working her wrists against the rope, feeling for a knot or a few precious millimetres of flexibility. But they were well tied, she was helpless. With the gag in her mouth, she could not call for help; all she could do was sit, and wait.

Time crept.

Mia guessed it was after midnight. And although the night was warm, it was cooler than it had been in her village of Cantusay; which suggested she was now somewhere up in the forested mountains beyond the surrounding rice fields and farms.

Gradually, she became calmer, her heartbeat slowing, the pounding in her head easing. Had they wanted her dead, she would be dead already; the fact that she had been gagged and blindfolded suggested that she was a captive with some value, and that release was a possibility. It was an encouraging thought.

Somewhere in the jungle night, a bird squawked, an unusually long, piercing screech.

After a few moments, it came again, and Mia's heart quickened at the realisation that it wasn't a bird at all. It was a human, a woman, but barely recognisable. Again it came, echoing through the trees; long shrieks – and Mia's blood went cold as she suddenly realised who it was she heard.

Joy!

They had kidnapped her, too? The maid? The question was answered by another scream. It was definitely Joy's voice, but a long, long cry of such desperate agony. Mia began to shake. Joy was being tortured!

No, no, please stop! Mia moaned into her gag, tormented by the sound. The screams went on; one followed another. A long, terrible cry, sometimes lasting as long as a minute, then fading into silence. Even the creatures of the jungle had fallen silent at the sound, as if every living thing was holding its breath for the next cry. And, inevitably, it would come. Another long squeal of torment.

Joy screamed at intervals for more than an hour. Then, abruptly, the screams stopped. Mia listened, waited for them to resume; but there was nothing. No sound at all. Gradually the hiss of the jungle returned.

No more than an hour after Joy had fallen silent, Mia heard movement again outside. Boots, approaching her hut prison. In sudden fear, she scrabbled along the wall away from the door, quickly finding herself in a corner; she wedged herself into it as tightly as she could as the lock was released, the bolt drawn.

The door opened.

“Okay, on your … hey, where did she go?”

Mia held her breath. There was a moment of silence, confusion, then somebody entered the hut. A moment later her cowering, bound and hooded figure was spotted. “There you are! Come on, let's go.”

Mia shook her head, tried to moan through the wadding of her gag; but she was unable to protest as she was all but dragged out of the hut. Her bare feet stumbled on the uneven ground, and she was hurried for perhaps thirty feet, before entering another door. It was closed and locked behind her, and she was dropped to her knees on concrete.

For the first time since her capture, Mia felt hands on the cord holding her hood in place. A moment later, the sack was pulled from her head. The coolness of the air was a relief beyond words; but her relief was momentary, as her eyes fixed on the gun muzzle only inches from her sweat-wet face.

“Do not try to stand. Do not turn around. Stay as you are, or we will kill you,” a voice said.

Mia knelt less than a foot away from a concrete wall. The wall itself was pitted with bullet-holes, stained with the faint rusty-brown of old blood; and sweat crept down her spine. The floor beneath her was wet. The only light in the room came from behind her, strong and bright. Her own shadow was stark on the concrete in front of her. She could see, in peripheral vision, the gunman standing over her. He wore a bandanna over his face, only his eyes visible. A second man, the one who had removed her hood, now loosened the sweat-tightened knot of her gag, and the fabric dropped to hang around her neck. The saliva-soaked packing was pulled from her mouth.

Mia slowly closed her aching jaw, licked her dry lips, keeping her eyes to the wall ahead. Her hands remained bound tightly behind her back.

“What's your name?”

“Mia Lopez,” she answered in a small voice.

“You live in Cantusay?”

“Yes.”

“Who else lives with you?”

“My maid, Joy,” Mia said. “Please, can I see her?”

“Give answers, don't ask questions,” the voice said impatiently. “What about your parents?”

“My mother is dead,” Mia said quickly, “she died two years ago … my father is in America.”

“What is your connection to the Japanese Intelligence?”

The question threw Mia, and for a few moments she was unable to reply, her mouth moving soundlessly. Where were they heading with this? “I … I have no connection,” she finally stammered.

“Who is your contact?”

“I don't have a contact!” Mia said hurriedly. “Please, I don't know what you're talking about!”

A longer pause, while hushed voices conferred. Male, and female. Then, an order to the soldiers guarding her: “replace her gag, make her ready for interrogation.”

Mia gasped in fear as the soldier behind her grasped the loose loop of cloth that hung around her neck and pulled it up into her mouth. The knot at the back was tightened, a gag that stopped her forming words but still allowed her voice. She was lifted to her feet, turned around, and a moment later her heart almost stopped.

Three

Above her, brightly lit by floodlights, simple iron manacles dangled from the ceiling, seven feet off the floor. Alongside her was a trolley of sorts, its lower shelf stocked with heavy batteries, its upper shelf containing some manner of control unit, with dials and switches. There were coiled wires and cables alongside.

Oh, Jesus, no! Mia wailed incoherently into her gag as she realised her captors' intentions. She struggled; but she was bound and no contest for the two rebels who now held her. A knife quickly freed Mia's wrists from behind her back; but her arms were seized and raised high over her head. She was pulled up onto her toes as the cold, hard iron of the manacles was put about her wrists. Her heels were lifted from the ground, her weight on the balls of her feet. She watched in wild terror as one of the soldiers bent to a metal pail.

An instant later, water was flung over Mia's helpless form. She shrieked into her gag, and stood, reeling, as the water coursed down her body, dribbled from the hem of her chemise. The satin garment clung to every curve of her slender body, transparent; her full breasts with their light brown nipples, her flat belly and narrow hips were all clearly visible.

“Well! What a pretty one you are!”

The voice belonged to a uniformed man who emerged slowly from behind the protective glare of the lights. He had the Filipino's solid build, a small moustache, tidily-cut hair. He wore military fatigues with sleeves rolled up to the elbows, a packet of cigarettes in his top pocket, a sidearm in its holster at his hip. He smiled, but there was little warmth in his eyes. The guards moved aside, their eyes on him, as he drew closer to the Filipina half-hanging, still dripping, in the manacles. He reached out and took her chin in his hand, lifted her face between her upraised arms. “Very beautiful.”

Mia gave fearful protest through her gag.

“Not yet, Mahal,” the man said with a shake of his head. “You will have your chance to speak, but not yet. First we must ensure your cooperation.”

Mia's ongoing vocalisations were to no avail as the officer put out his hand towards the soldier who had cut her bonds. “The knife, if you will.”

Mia held her breath, watching in trepidation as the blade was passed over. “My name is Ramirez,” he explained, as, with careful fingers, he lifted the spaghetti strap of Mia's soaked chemise from her skin. The blade of the knife eased under the string, then cut it cleanly. The bodice of the garment slid down, baring one breast. Mia closed her eyes against the humiliation. “It is my job to wrest the truth from you, however reluctant you may be to part with it.”

He carefully severed the second strap, and there was nothing Mia could do to prevent the water-heavy chemise sliding down to hang about her hips. Her breasts and belly were exposed. There were at least six people in the room; two guards close by, two more distant, and a woman at a desk: never had Mia been so open to the gaze of strangers, and she felt her face heating uncontrollably.

With cold nonchalance, Ramirez plumped Mia's left breast in one hand, pinched her nipple firmly with the other; in an automatic response, her nipple swelled, the areola crinkling and growing dark. It was the first time her breast had been touched by a man, and Mia moaned in fear.

“I warn you that I have much experience in the matter of obtaining information,” Ramirez said. “You would be wise to talk.”

Mia began another wordless protest, but her voice dissolved into a shriek of horror as Ramirez gathered one of the long wires from the rheostat on the trolley. At its end was a small, cruel-looking clip, serrated brass jaws and a powerful spring. Casually, as if attaching it to a contact, he squeezed the electrode open, then let it snap onto the erect stub of Mia's nipple. The pain was biting and savage, setting nerves alight deep in her breast, and her first instinct was to twist away, jerking desperately in the manacles; but it was quickly evident that the wire was not to be dislodged.

Ramirez repeated the process with her right breast; pinching the nipple erect, then crushing the clamp onto her sensitive flesh. Mia moaned and twisted, but could not shake it loose. Is this what they did to Joy? Is this what drew those awful screams from her?

Ramirez paused to regard his work, the long wires hanging off Mia's naked and wet breasts, then moved to the trolley and sat in an old wooden chair alongside it. Slowly, deliberately, he flicked a switch on the rheostat, turned a dial. “Electricity is a wonderful thing. It can achieve so very much …. and leave no marks at all. Observe.”

He threw a lever. With a clunk, Mia's body bowed into an arch as current surged into her breasts. It felt as if a tremendous force was tearing her very nipples from their roots, tentacles of fire enveloping her breasts. She was aware of wailing into her gag, but it was involuntary as her body writhed from the manacles. The pain didn't stop, but continued in an unending torrent, while she squealed.

Finally, after twenty terrible seconds, the current stopped. Mia hung limply, her legs akimbo, barely taking any of her weight; her head lolling between her upstretched arms. Her chemise had slipped from her hips and been flung from her thrashing body, now just a wet scrap on the floor. She was completely naked, but now cared nothing about the stares.

She moaned incoherently through her gag, slowly recovering from the shock; but even as she did, Ramirez's hand closed on the lever. Seeing what was about to happen, Mia shook her head desperately, her eyes growing huge in horrified pleading.

“Nnnnnn! Nnnnn!”

But Ramirez threw the lever, and Mia's body snapped into an arch as current surged into her helpless breasts. Her wails escaped over the gag, her body twisting and writhing with the unendurable pain. The hum of the electricity seemed to fill the room, a subsonic buzz that underpinned Mia's muffled shrieks, punctuated by tiny crackles of sparks from the electrodes.

Half a minute, before the shock stopped. Gasping, dazed, Mia hung weakly in the manacles. A dilute line of blood ran from one shackle, down her arm. Sweat glossed her naked body. Tears streaked her face, and she shook her head in mute pleading over her gag. No more, please, no more!

But Ramirez seemed unconcerned by her anguish, adjusting a small dial on the rheostat.

He closed the lever again. Mia screamed through her gag again as her breasts were ravaged by an even-stronger current. Steam and smoke began to curl from the sprung metal jaws on her nipples.

Finally, release. Mia went limp.

Again she was shocked; then again; then again; an endless cycle of current and recovery, until she had lost count of the number of shocks sent into her burning breasts. Her chest was filled with searing pain, her nipples felt as if red-hot pliers had torn and mangled them beyond recognition; and yet they seemed almost unharmed. Her heart pounded painfully. A small trickle of urine ran down the inside of her thigh. She bit helplessly into her soaked gag, trying to speak but unable to do anything more than moan and wail in muted anguish. Tears slid from her eyes as she sent looks of desperate pleading to Ramirez. Why? Why are you doing this? Why won't you let me speak? Why won't you ask me any questions?

Ramirez ignored the young woman's muffled moans, dialling the current higher and closing the switch again. Electricity seared Mia's breasts. Sparks cracked and sizzled on her nipples. Her stifled screams filled the room, she twisted from the manacles in a desperate effort to rid herself of the pain. But she remained victim to the torture, until Ramirez decided to release the switch.

Panting hard, her belly heaving, Mia hung dazed. The sweat ran in streaks down her bare, wired breasts. It felt as if she had been under torture for hours. She was drained of strength and spirit. She no longer cared what had happened to Joy, no longer cared what fate awaited her; she just wanted an escape from the pain, even if that escape was death.

Ramirez slowly pushed his chair back, and stood, walking in a slow circle around the dangling woman. Her slender body, brown and wet beneath the harsh glare of the lights, trembled; muscles spasming in the aftermath of the shocks.

Finally, reaching between her upstretched arms, Ramirez dislodged the gag from Mia's mouth.

“Please, no more,” were the first words she moaned. “Please, what is it you want?”

“We want information, Mia,” Ramirez said simply. “We want to know about your communications with the Japanese occupying forces. We want to know the name of your contact. We want to know what you have told them about Resistance movements in Cantusay.”

Mia shook her head weakly. “I know nothing of those things.”

“That's not what your accuser told us.”

“My accuser?” Misery contorted Mia's face. “Who would accuse me? Please, po, I have done nothing to harm anyone, why would I be accused of this?”

“Your maid confirmed what we were told,” Ramirez continued.

“Joy? She knows nothing!”

“She knew plenty,” Ramirez corrected. Slowly, he returned to the rheostat. “Now perhaps you will tell us the rest?”

“Please! Don't!”

He threw the switch. Sparks cracked against Mia's nipples, and she slammed into a screaming arch as current fired into her breasts. She twisted and shrieked as humming, sizzling agony flowed from the copper clips directly into her engorged flesh.

When the current finally stopped, Mia hung panting. “Please,” she begged, when she could finally speak again. “please, no more, I can't take any more. I know nothing, I swear!”

“Liar!” Ramirez shouted, and slammed the switch again. Mia screamed and bucked in agony as the shock burst into her breasts. Sparks and smoke sputtered from the wires on her nipples and her scream trailed into a wail, gradually growing weaker, then finally was drawn to silence. Her body, shuddering and arched dangling from the manacles, was rigid. The current sizzled and hummed.

Ramirez released the lever, and Mia went limp.

Four

The shocks did not resume, and Mia slipped into a whirl of nausea and confusion. Her half-suspended body shook violently. Her nipples felt as though they had been ripped from their roots, a throbbing agony deep in each breast and tendrils of pain encircling her ribcage. There was pain in her wrists from the hard iron shackles that held her aloft; fire in her arms from having hung for an hour or longer. Her shoulders felt as if they were about to rip from their sockets.

Ramirez had risen from the controls of the rheostat, and now was joined by the woman who had earlier been working at the far end of the room. They were talking, although through the whining in her ears from her racing heart and the echoes of her own screaming, Mia could not pick up their words.

From behind, hands grabbed her right leg. She was too spent to resist, as a single loop of rope was passed over her foot and drawn tight around her ankle: a moment later, her legs were parted wide and a rope was tightened over her left ankle, too. That brought a surge of alarm, and she looked down, over the glistening landscape of her own dangling body, to see that her angles were roped to either end of a yard-long bamboo pole. Only the very tips of her big toes now touched the floor, her body at full stretch, her ribcage expanded, her belly hollowed, hips jutting out and her legs tautly extended. Her tuft of pubic hair looked like a little birds' nest in the open juncture of her thighs. This new bondage was even more exposing, and far more terrifying; she began to sob in fear.

“Mang Ramirez has asked me to explain what happens next.” The woman had come to stand in front of Mia. Immaculately presented, hair tied back, a slender figure in a white sleeveless blouse and khaki skirt; dark almond-shaped eyes and high cheekbones. She fixed her gaze to Mia's face. “So far he has been playing only. A woman's breasts are not so sensitive to the torture. This was just to see how much resistance you have.

“I swear, I'm not resisting!” Mia protested in growing terror.

“My name is Maricon,” the rebel woman went on. “I studied as a nurse, and I can tell you that the most sensitive places to put electrodes on a woman are her armpits, or in her ass.” Her eyes briefly flicked to Mia's bare underarms, framing her terrified face, wet and vulnerable. “Your kilikili are easy targets, but Ramirez has already seen its effect. …Unfortunately for you.”

Maricon was holding an object, which she now raised to Mia's view. A short, hollow brass rod, eight inches long, with one tapered end, one open end. “This is for removing spark plugs from engines. But it is perfect for our needs.”

Mia felt her stomach churn; as Maricon handed the tool to Ramirez, who moved behind Mia. With her legs spread, the gap between her thighs was generously revealed. Without warning, Ramirez touched the tip of the brass cylinder against the tight brown star of Mia's anus. “No - no! Please!” Mia gave a shriek of misery at the humiliation and horror of the metal's cold touch. With both hands, Ramirez pushed upwards; automatically, Mia's anus contracted, resisting the intruder, but with insistent force, Ramirez continued to push. Slowly, the metal circumference was embraced by Mia's ass and the brass tube began to slide into her bowel. Mia gave a long groan; she had never felt anything like this, a thick, long intrusion pressing up into her rectum, filling her, distending her. The other guards smiled to each other, Mia's moans indistinguishable from those of a woman in ecstasy. Maricon watched impassively. Deeper, inch by inch, Ramirez pushed the tube, until most of its length was buried inside her ass, only a half inch of shining brass poking out between her smooth buttocks.

“Take it out, please, take it out!” Mia begged. Her bowels cramped and spasmed, trying to eject the hideous intrusion; but it remained buried inside her. Her head rocked back between her upstretched arms; her widespread legs trembled with the terrible burden of the object buried inside her.

“Let me explain what happens,” Maricon said calmly. “We electrify the metal. The current will be taken all through your lower body; your ass, into your spine and your pelvis, your vagina and bladder; there are so many routes for it to take and all are immensely painful.”

Ramirez, still crouching behind Mia's wide-spread legs, was attaching one of the brass clamps to the protruding end of the rod. He attached the second to the metal link joining the shackles by which Mia hung, the wires dangling down behind her.

“This will be a hundred times more painful than the breast torture,” Maricon advised. “So I advise you tell Captain Ramirez the truth, and quickly, or you will lose your mind.”

“Please - I know nothing, there is nothing to say!” Mia was frantic in terror, Maricon's words striking to her heart. “You cannot do this!”

Ramirez was returning to the rheostat, adjusting dials. “You are lying to me.”

Maricon stood back. Mia, helplessly stretched from the shackles and with legs spread, could not even struggle, but watched in helpless dread as Ramirez's hand moved casually to the lever.

When the current hit, Mia's body snapped into a shuddering, straining arch: sparks sizzled between her legs and the pain seemed to shatter her body. She screamed uncontrollably in agony, a manic shrieking that went on and on as the current continued to violate her very core.

Ramirez finally released the switch, and Mia's body went limp, her head hanging forward between her arms. The wire swung lazily between her outstretched legs. The smell of seared sweat tainted the air. Her belly heaved with the labour of breathing. The immensity of pain had left her reeling, in shock so intense she was on the verge of vomiting. She felt total disbelief.

“The world sees the Asian woman as a fragile flower,” Ramirez said calmly, adjusting dials and watching as meters climbed higher. “And yet, she has a higher pain threshold than any other.”

“No …” was all Mia could muster. “No, no … please, I don't know …”

“You cannot lie to me,” Ramirez said in reply. “And you will not lie to me.”

He threw the switch again. Screaming. Mia's body arched, jerked and jolted in the shackles as the electric charge fired into her. The muscles of her pelvis and abdomen clenched fiercely in response to the current, thrusting her hips forward and bowing her back.

When the shock ended, she fainted.

“Water,” Ramirez demanded.

The guards moved awkwardly, erect and aroused after watching the Mia's throes of agony. A fresh pail of water was brought, and flung over her naked body.

She woke with a groan, her head rolling as awareness returned in a slow, awful wave. Without waiting for her to become fully lucid, Ramirez closed the switch again. The sizzle of electricity was met by arching and jerking and screaming from Mia, as agony exploded again through her ass, her hips pumping and shaking.

Release. Mia smelled the tang of smoke and ozone from her own electrocuted flesh. The pain was so terrible that her limbs shook, her eyes would not focus, she drooped heavily in the shackles, her legs spread to the bamboo, the tips of her toes dragging sluggishly on the wet floor.

Again the shock. Mia jolted and screamed, the brass rod buried in her anus sizzled and her body bowed fiercely, shuddering moved almost sexually in response to the torture. Ramirez kept the current for half a minute, until Mia's lungs were empty and her voice was gone, eyes and mouth wide open in silent agony, no sound save the buzz of current, the jolting and jerking of her body.

Release. Again Mia hung, drained, gasping air with her shining ribcage and belly violently heaving. Her heart was hammering. Her hair clung to her face.

The lever closed; the current exploded into Mia's body. Her screams were terrible as she shuddered and shook in agony again, convulsing as the electricity coursed through her flesh and her bones. Even secured to the bamboo pole, her legs shifted side to side as if she was trying to shake the electrode from her anus. Again, Ramirez kept the current going, torturing her brutally, counting the seconds until she had been shrieking and thrashing for a full minute.

When he stopped the current, she swung silently on the creaking chain. She waited for the current to came again, realising that her insistence of innocence would not save her. After a time she managed to lift her weary face, streaked with tears and sweat. “What do you want me to tell you?”

“What is your connection to the Japanese Intelligence?”

“I … I have been telling them things …” Mia said, desperately stalling for time.

“Telling them what?”

“Names. Telling them names.”

“Who? Whose names?”

“I don't know, please, I don't remember!”

Mia's voice exploded into a ragged scream as Ramirez closed the switch and current fired into her ass again. She shuddered violently in the shackles, screaming for as long as the current ran. When it finally ended, she hung heavily.

She eventually caught her breath. “Please, po, I cannot remember for the pain!”

“I need names.”

Mia began giving names. Names of men who had disappeared from the village in recent times, names she had heard whispered at the market. Ramirez wrote the names down, his free hand never far from the switch; Mia's eyes watching in dread in case he start the current again.

Finally he asked, “who is your contact?”

Mia shook her head, unable to answer, her mouth curling into a sob and fresh tears spilling from her eyes. She knew what was to follow, and watched in misery as Ramirez put his hand to the switch.

Her screams shook the walls. Ramirez gave her fifteen seconds, then released.

“I can't remember,” Mia gasped. “It's a Japanese name. Maybe a code. Toyo … Tohiro …”

“Tomoyo?” Ramirez prompted.

“Tomoyo!” Mia no longer cared that she was picking and guessing her way through a confession, prompting her interrogator for cues and saying what he wanted to hear. Anything was better than the shocks. Finally, after an endless time, Ramirez gathered up the strewn pages of information, and rose from his chair.

“I thank you for your cooperation. Men, take her down, keep her safe.”

Five

Mia was dumped to the floor of her holding cell, the damp rag of her dress tossed in after her; the door was closed and locked. She did not sleep, did not move, but lay on her side, staring emptily at the bamboo wall. Her body still shone with old sweat. Her nipples and anus burned, her wrists were grazed and cut from her frantic struggles during the long minutes when electric shocks took her to the edge of sanity.

Daylight came, filtering between the stout bamboo poles that made the walls of the hut. Mia discovered then that water had been left in her cell, a chipped old pitcher in one corner. Thirst quickly overcame her weariness; on hands and knees, she crawled to drink, scooping slow handfuls. It helped enough for her to lie down and recover, though every sound, every voice, sent a shock of terror through her, fear that her torturers would return.

Daylight faded. Mia lay curled on the floor alongside the pitcher. Her prison became dark; then daylight returned in a blink, and she realised that finally, she had slept.

This second day, every joint and every muscle ached, as if she had walked a thousand miles with a heavy weight on her back. After almost two days naked, Mia weakly gathered up the grubby silk camisole that had been her only clothing. Carefully, she knotted the severed shoestring-straps, and pulled the garment over her head. It sat much higher on her thighs than before, but she seized the small dignity it offered.

When they came at sunset, she was quickly on her feet, clasped hands, a vulnerable figure in the middle of the hut. Two armed soldiers stood outside, a third carried a ceramic bowl, which he placed on the floor inside the doorway. “Eat.”

As soon as the door closed, Mia fell on the warm rice soup, but barely had she scooped the first handful into her mouth, when she heard from outside a guard call back, “it's your last supper, so savour it!”

Mia's stomach closed and she could barely swallow what she had taken. Her dark eyes locked blankly to the closed door for a time, those words echoing in her head. “Please,” she called towards whoever might hear, “what do you mean by that? Am I to be executed? I have done nothing wrong!”

But there was no response from beyond the door's blank darkness, and Mia lowered her head, bursting in to tears.

She had no sleep that night, but crept to each corner of her prison, her fingers searching the floor, the walls, for some means of escape. The night-time sounds of the jungle called to her from only paces away; but the bamboo walls of her cell kept her from running free.

Mia realised, as the night crept on, that her only hope was to appeal to her captors – to their common sense, first; and to their humanity if that failed. In her head, she rehearsed words she would use to convince them not to execute her. But always she was aware of her desperate confession, the crimes to which she had falsely admitted to avoid the agony of electric torture.

It was dawn when soldiers came; Mia got to her feet as the door was opened. Two men entered.

“Turn around. Put your hands behind your back.”

“Please - is it true? Am I to be executed?” Mia asked fearfully.

“Not if you cooperate,” the guard said.

Mia humbly turned and placed her hands behind her back. Rope was quickly looped around her wrists, pulled tight, and tied; her hands were lashed firmly in place.

“Now, come with us.”

Mia blinked against the light of morning, for the first time seeing her surroundings. A compound of perhaps a dozen buildings, mostly bamboo, most beneath the cover of the forest. Here and there, she saw rebel soldiers in pieced-together camouflage or green and grey civilian clothes, some cooking food over open fires, some sleeping on the bare earth. The ground was cool to her bare feet, the air still and fragrant with wood-smoke and forest.

They walked towards a low central building, made of bricks with an iron roof; the door was opened by a single guard. Mia gasped and tried to pull free of her captors, as recognition flooded her in a wave of sweat; the torture room. From this angle, she could see the bullet-marked wall, the manacles hanging from the ceiling, the awful gurney with its wires and rheostat alongside. Behind the harsh spotlights that had blinded her that night, she now saw was a wooden table and several chairs. Seated at the table was Maricon, and a man whose face brought fresh terror to her pounding heart. Ramirez.

“Oh, God, no!” she squealed as she was wrenched inside. She struggled to get free, but her hands remained inescapably bound behind her back, and the guards held her tightly.

“Don't speak,” Maricon barked abruptly. “You are not here for more questioning, so stop snivelling.”

Mia bit her lip, fearful but determined not to make her situation worse. A few moments later, the door was pulled open again, and Mia glanced around.

“Joy! Are you all right?”

Mia's maid was pulled inside - without a stitch of clothing on her body, but with her hands, like Mia, bound behind her back. Joy's eyes briefly met Mia's, but she had no time to speak. “Where are her clothes?” Maricon demanded of the two soldiers who had brought Joy. The guard beside Joy looked sheepish. “We could not find them, po Ma'am.” “They were taken from her in the barracks hut,” Ramirez grunted. “I think the men have kept them.” “Why?” Maricon was puzzled. “To sniff,” Ramirez said. Maricon looked incredulous. The soldiers holding Joy could not suppress smiles. “Fine. She can be naked, who cares,” Maricon finally said. She glanced at the open book in front of her, in which Ramirez's careful notes documented the two prisoners' confessions. “Mia Lopez, this Court Martial represents the resistance movement of the Philippines, and therefore the Filipino people. You were brought here under accusation of complicity with the occupying Japanese. The information you have given us has confirmed it. We have no hesitation therefore in finding you guilty of Collaboration and Treason. The penalty for your crimes is death, and the sentence will be carried out without delay.”

“No!” Mia sagged, a wave of heat passing over her, almost driving her to faint. A soldier grabbed her arm and held her upright. “No, it's not true! Please, call my father, ask him! He has money, he will tell you the truth!”

“We have heard the truth, from you, from Joy, and from other witnesses. You have been accused and you are guilty, that is enough.”

Mia's eyes had filled with tears; misery overwhelmed here. “I was told I wouldn't be killed!”

“It was a lie,” Ramirez said. “Bring them now,” Maricon ordered. She and Ramirez stood, and led the exit from the room. The guards hurried the two prisoners out after them, Joy in front of Mia.

As she was marched, stumbling, across the uneven ground of the compound, Joy looked back over her shoulder with sad eyes. “I am sorry, Ma'am Mia,” she said. “I had to say what they wanted, I could not bear the pain.”

“Quiet, or you'll be silenced,” one of the guards said, shifting his rifle-butt to emphasise the threat. The two women fell quiet, and walked without talking as they were led down a path hewn through the dense jungle. They walked for almost an hour, stumbling and weak, sweating in the heat, awkward with hands bound behind them.

After a time, they emerged from jungle at the top of a ridge, a broad green panorama of rice terraces in the valleys either side; waterfalls cascading over mossy rocks into natural pools edged with ferns. It was beautiful, and Mia gazed across the scene with a mix of sadness and resignation.

“Keep moving,” one of the soldiers behind her said.

On the trek down, they passed a small group of farmers, men and women who watched with curiosity as the straggling group, with the two woman prisoners, one naked and the other barely clad in white negligee, passed by.

After another half-hour, they reached the bottom of the valley, and there followed a narrow track to a recently-harvested rice field. The dried chaff lay on the sun-warmed ground; a small grove of trees edged the field, four water-buffalo lazing in their shade. Near the animals sat a small group of resistance soldiers, perhaps a dozen in total. They rose to their feet as the group crossed the field towards them.

“Stop here,” Ramirez said. The guards halted the two prisoners, and made them kneel, side-by-side, on the dried grass some twenty paces from the trees.

It was hot in the sun, more so after their long walk. Even so, Mia was grateful for the chance to rest, her maid kneeling beside her, faithful and stoical to the end.

“What are you going to do to us?” Mia asked, fighting to keep her voice calm, trying to sound composed. “This is wrong, you are making a mistake - we are guilty of no crime!”

“The matter is already settled, you have confessed,” Ramirez returned indifferently He glanced at Maricon, gestured to Joy. “She's all yours.”

“On your feet,” the rebel woman ordered Joy.

Joy did not move; so on a command from Maricon, two of the soldiers grabbed Joy by an arm each and lifted her up, forcing her to stumble towards the nearby trees. “Oh God, no!” The horror that had caused Joy to scream out was revealed to Mia a moment later, as Maricon picked up a length of rope, one end tied in a distinctive noose. Joy sagged in the rebels' grasp as the rope was tossed over a low-hanging branch of the tree.

“Ma'm, please po, please help me!” Joy screamed back towards her mistress. Mia looked in desperation to Ramirez, who had retired to the shade of a tree himself, and was lighting a cigarette. “Stop this, please! Joy is innocent! She has done nothing!” “She has seen us, and our camp. We're safer to be rid of her,” Ramirez replied. Joy still fought, even as the two rebels brought her to stand beneath the tree branch, and Maricon fitted the heavy noose over her head, closing it snugly around her neck. The soldiers released Joy's bound arms, and left her standing for a moment in the grass, looking almost peaceful beneath the branch of the tree. Her shoulders shook with her sobs, her head down.

The two soldiers took up the free end of the rope and drew it in, until the noose pulled up under Joy's jaw, extending her neck. Wailing, the tears spilling freely down her cheeks; she worked and tugged at the ropes binding her hands behind her back, in a last desperate effort to get free. But the men hauled on the rope; by her neck, Joy's little body was heaved up into the air, cutting off her cries abruptly.

It was a bizarre moment. As she continued to be raised up, she swung backwards, then forwards, her legs dangling and feet slightly back, her hands still securely behind her back. The noose was tightly wedged under her jaw, tilting her head as if she was looking curiously into the distance.

As she swung lazily back and forth again, a pendulum on a creaking rope, the rebels secured the free end to the trunk of the tree, leaving her toes easily two feet off the ground

The apparent disbelief that had rendered Joy motionless for a moment now lifted, and she began to kick and struggle, eyes wide. She fought again to pull her hands from behind her back. Her body began twisting and writhing in the air.

Mia did not want to watch, and turned her eyes to the ground. She tried to listen to the hiss of insects, the twitter of birds; but all she could hear was the grassy creaking of rope, harsh croaks and rattles from her maid. Her execution was not going to be quick. Long, terrible minutes passed. The tears slid down Mia's cheeks as the sounds of choked agony continued. After a long while, there was the sound of liquid splashing to the ground, but the creaking of the hanging-rope continued unabated. It was nearly half an hour before Joy fell silent, and the birds and insects were the only sounds. Mia still knelt in the harsh sunlight, her own body glossed with sweat in the day's heat. Finally, she lifted her gaze to the slowly-swinging brown body that hung by its neck from the nearby tree. Joy's face was still pretty, even in death, although her greyish tongue now poked cheekily between her darkened lips. Mia barely noticed Ramirez returning from his shady retreat.

“I hope you enjoyed the show,” he said. “But that will not be your fate. For traitors, we reserve a more traditional execution.”

Six

Mia watched as several of the rebels now set to work goading and leading the four water-buffalo out into the sunlight, towards where she knelt. Maricon, no longer interested in Joy's swinging corpse, rejoined Ramirez.

“What … what do you intend to do?” Mia asked in rising panic.

“Your execution is called 'quartering,'” Maricon said.

Mia had never heard of it; but she saw, trailing from the harnesses of each animal, a long rope. Carefully, the four beasts were positioned at four points in the rice field around her, each six yards distant. When the four ropes were laid across the chaff towards her, the realisation struck home with a shock that sent a fresh rush of sweat over her body.

“Oh – God, no! No! Please, no, you cannot!” She tried to break free of her bonds, but her shoulders were seized, hands grasped her bare leg, and a thick rope was looped once about her ankle, fastened with a simple large knot.

The second rope was tied about her left ankle while Mia wailed in terror. The bonds about her wrists were untied, she was pinned down to the warm ground, and her left arm pulled up-and-out so that another thick rope could be looped about her wrist. Finally, her right arm; until she lay in a loose starfish-shape, the long ropes tethering her limbs to the four carabao.

“Please, please, not like this!”

They let her lie.

Mia's heart pounded. On her back beneath the mid-morning sun, sweat quickly saturated the flimsy fabric of her scrappy dress, making it cling to her slender body. Her arms and legs shone. Her breasts heaved with anxious breath. She tipped her head back to look at the heavy ropes around her wrists; they were the kind used to moor boats, and it was obvious they would not break.

Ramirez finally nodded. “Begin.”

Using switches and slaps of their hands, the soldiers urged the water-buffalo into motion. The solid beasts lumbered forward. The ropes slid through the felled rice like brown snakes, drawing straight, lifting from the ground as their slack was taken up. Another step, and the ropes rose higher, pulling Mia's slender limbs taut between them. The knots on her wrists and ankles drew tight, the loops bedded against the heels of her hands, the tops of her feet, and she felt the gentle stretch spread through her limbs as her body was drawn out by the slow strength of the carabao.

The four beasts shifted outward in their four directions, and like a hammock strung between trees, Mia's whole body was hoisted from the ground. She gave a small gasp, hearing the creaking of the ropes, her spine giving an audible pop as joints flexed.

Their progress halted by the tension on Mia's slender limbs, the carabao briefly stopped. Mia was slung between them, her body mere inches from the ground. Sweat was a liquid shine in her bared armpits and on her throat. The hem of her dress hung down beneath her thighs, her head dangled back, her black hair brushing the ground.

“Please,” she wailed, “please, not like this! I don't want to die like this!” She felt a pain deep in her shoulders and hips, echoed in her elbows and knees.

“Again!” Ramirez ordered.

At their prompting, the carabao strained forward, now pulling against each other but prevented from moving only by the ligament and bone of the woman slung in a perfect X between them. This time, the groaning ropes drew fiercely tight, and instantly racked Mia's delicate limbs. The effect was savage; pain flashed from the pits of her shoulders, the depths of each hip, firing along her limbs towards the ropes at wrists and ankles. She gave a cry of pain; and as the carabao strained forward again, the stretching worsened, savage and cruel. This time, Mia gave a scream. She was held like a stretched canvas, and fiery agony exploded into her joints.

“Oh, God!” she shrieked into the day's heat, helpless to stop the torture of being stretched. It was a pain like none she had experienced, a damaging, ravaging torment, hot fire singling out every tendon and fibre of her limbs, like red-hot knives slicing along her very bones. The muscles of her arms and legs stood out stark, the tendons drawn.

The rebels slapped and pushed the carabao; but they were uncoordinated in their progress, and Mia, splayed in mid-air between them, was tugged and wrenched in different directions as her individual limbs were pulled. She screamed with the agony as muscles and ligaments bore the heaving strength of the four big carabao, pain engulfing her body. Her head swung from side to side in torment.

The carabao were heaving, now, their heads dipping as their powerful bodies pulled hard against the resistance of the ropes. Mia gave scream after long scream of agony as her joints began to weaken under the strain; creaks and pops coming from her stretching body. Her breasts, clearly revealed by her now-transparent dress, quivered as she shrieked and screamed; the soaked fabric clinging to the ridges of her ribcage, the contours of her belly and hips. The veins on the side of her neck stood out as she screamed, her limbs being cruelly stretched and racked, wrenched and wrested by the struggling water buffalo. The agony was fierce, all-consuming, like being burned in a bonfire.

The four carabao snorted and stomped, bellowed and complained as they were goaded to haul on their four ropes; Mia's limbs stretched and strained outwards from her body, the pain tore scream after endless scream from her. Dismemberment was not a fait accomplis, nor an effortless task. Dust was kicked up by shifting hooves, the ropes quivered and vibrated as the carabao heaved and pulled. Long minutes passed, until it became clear that this was as much a slow, racking torture, as an execution. It was only the gradual weakening of Mia's own muscles and joints, as the strain began to wear her to exhaustion, that would finally allow the next stage.

There was suddenly a loud and distinct “crack!” as Mia's left shoulder joint dislocated. Her scream of pain was terrible. The agony of her shoulder seemed to spread to every nerve in her starfished body; the small of her back was alive with fire. But the tension did not ease; the carabao continued to pull on her limbs, the ropes groaning. Mia let out a fresh, bone-chilling scream; a moment later, her right shoulder dislocated. Both shoulders were now pulled out of joint, her arms visibly longer; still the rebels coaxed the four beasts, and the stretching on Mia's helpless limbs continued without mercy. But her hip joints were stronger than her shoulders, and it took more long, agonising minutes of heaving and stretching, grunting from the four carabao, more long minutes of Mia's screams before her left hip loudly separated from its socket with a sickening pop! Mia's whole body shifted violently and visibly with the dislocation, and she shrieked and bawled with the agony.

“Kill me, please, please kill me!” she screeched in desperation.

But the execution was neither quick, nor merciful. Mia's pleading dissolved again into inarticulate screams as her right hip surrendered to the persisting tension, and with a wet, sucking sound, the bone slid from its socket.

Spread taut and suspended by her wide-stretched limbs, Mia was drawn out on broken joints, screaming at the upside-down rice field. Her limbs' dislocation had allowed the carabao a few inches of movement, but now they were straining forward again, this time wrenching the Filipina's very ligaments where they were anchored to the bones. The stretching would not end. Mia screamed and shrieked as the animals pulled on her body in four directions; after long minutes of her screams, one elbow dislocated loudly, followed by the sharp-popping dislocation of the other. Each separation sent vibrations along the taut ropes. Cracks and creaks came from her spine, too, as her vertebrae were drawn slowly apart.

Mia's shrieks were barely human. She could no longer beg or plead, could not form words; the agony of a tearing spine was too much, sending her into the realms of insanity. Even though she could not think, she could still feel; and gave a wild bellow as her knees tore apart with rending pops.

The spreadeagled Filipina was now stretched by inches; her shoulders beyond her ears, her arms and legs grotesquely drawn, her torso distorted and elongated. But she had not lost consciousness, and remained screaming and shrieking as tendons broke, fibre by fibre. Her wrists and ankles came apart with sharp cracking sounds, now every joint in her body pulled apart as the four carabao continued to struggle against the resistance of her small body.

“Ease down!” It was Maricon who gave the command in a shout, over Mia's screaming. The four rebels glanced at one another, then to Ramirez; but he gave a nod. Gently, the carabao were directed backwards. The tension on Mia's body was suddenly eased; her screams became a wail, the ropes sagged, and she was lowered to the harvested chaff. Broken, she could not move a limb, and lay, sweaty and moaning, calling out in agony, in the hot sun.

Maricon moved to stand above her. Every joint torn apart, agonised, Mia could not focus her eyes on her tormentor, but rolled her head in slow anguish. “Please …” she groaned through swollen lips.

“I could order you cut loose,” the rebel woman said in a low voice. “You would die where you lay, eaten by the rats and baked in the sun.”

“Have mercy,” Mia wept. “Please, just kill me now …”

“No, not yet,” the rebel woman said. She drew, from her belt, a sharp knife; carefully, she re-cut the slender straps of Mia's sweat-soaked camisole, then, resting the back of the knife against Mia's breast-bone, slid downwards. The fabric of the dress parted to the knife's kiss, from d├ęcolletage to hem. Finally, the rebel woman stood.

“Finish it,” she called.

“Oh God, no more, no more!” Mia shrieked in horror and dread, but the soldiers slapped their beasts, and the four water buffalo lumbered forward. Mia gave a long scream of abject torment as her shattered joints were reawakened to agony by the shifting ropes. On disjointed limbs, she was heaved into mid-air again, her starfished body rising up out of the torn remnants of her dress. Even broken, her naked and shining body was beautiful, petite and slender, her perfect breasts and tuft of black pubic hair now bared to the blue sky as the carabao strained in four directions.

With a terrible creaking and groaning, the four ropes drew taut, wrenching the tendons and ligaments of Mia's body once again, drawing her broken frame to its limit – and then beyond. There was the deep, grassy ripping of tendons tearing from anchorage, of muscles ripping apart. Mia's screams were shrill and awful, as her frame was wrenched and pulled in four directions.

With shouts and slaps, the soldiers urged the carabao on. The beasts pulled and pulled, straining for nearly a minute against the final resistance of Mia's body, while she, her mouth and eyes wide in sheer agony, shrieked and howled with the torment.

Then, with a sound like sucking mud, her left arm separated from her body; the skin stretched and tore; the limb pulled away in a splash of blood, and Mia's body dropped as the buffalo dragged her dismembered limb through the dry chaff. An instant later, her right arm and left leg both tore free; her body thumped to the ground heavily, the last of the air driven from her lungs by the landing, her eyes wide in shock. By her remaining leg, she was dragged a few metres, before the animal stopped.

Mia gave one last desperate whimper, which faded into a long croaking gasp. Her bare ribcage and breasts heaved, rapid and desperate, as her blood pumped onto the sun-warmed rice stalks. Dazed, her world spinning, she saw an upside-down view of her own arm, its skin still wet with sweat and now splashed with blood, lying in the chaff. Mia's breathing was getting shallower. Her body had been pulled apart, her spine broken, her heart going into fibrillations of shock. She gasped like a fish out of water, and then, abruptly, stopped breathing altogether, her eyes wide and still staring towards the sky.

Epilogue

The next day's sunrise lit a sad scene. A small corpse hung by its neck from a tree, with wrists still securely bound behind its back. The naked body dangled lifeless and limp, the morning sun adding a dull sheen to its waxy skin. Below lids frozen in a permanent droop, brown eyes still looked in sightless misery at the beauty of the fields. The tongue, dark and fat, still poked between plump lips in a last involuntary indignity.

Not far away, a naked woman's torso lay on bloodstained grass, just one limb attached, the other limbs some metres away. The world turned.




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