I cannot reveal the name of my homeland. However, if you have read some of the fragmentary accounts of the terror now being experienced by my people, it should be obvious to you. I can tell you that nothing perpetrated by the torture masters of Ivan the Terrible or Heinrich Himmler were more bestial than what we are suffering at the present time.
Let me say that I never considered myself a political activist. However, people who are associated with the arts place a great value on human freedom. And some of the members of my company undoubtedly were involved in clandestine activities against the regime.
If I were guilty of any "crime" it would have to be guilt by association. In a police state that is enough for a person to be denied all rights, to be swept from her home under cover of night, and to be subjected to the most bestial horrors a virulent secret police can perpetrate.
And so it was with me. I will never forget how they came to my flat, their booted heels announcing their arrival.
"You are Lucia Alvarez?"
I tried to hide the terror I felt at their presence. Any show of normal emotion is taken by them as a sign of complicity.
"I am," I whispered.
"You are under arrest."
"Of what am I charged?"
"You will find out in due time."
"May I at least call my parents or a friend?"
"If you do, they will be brought in with you. It will not be pleasant for them. Please place your hands behind you."
My knees trembled so I could hardly support myself. I felt the coldness of the handcuffs encircling my wrists.
Even there, in my own flat, the leader, a man the others referred to as Sergeant Leo, used his hands in the most obscene manner. He lifted my skirt, bunching it around my waist. He slid his fingers under my panties while the others looked on. Their faces were hot with a sexual excitement one would have to see to understand. It was quite obvious that the men given this assignment received as part of their compensation an outlet for their desires that was born of depravity.
I squeezed my thighs together, trying to protect myself as best I could. Sergeant Leo savored my struggles. He placed his thick lips close to my ear. "This is only the beginning," he sneered. "There will be much more. You can count on that."
He stood behind me, rubbing his body against mine. I felt his sex come alive. For the moment rage overcame my fear. I whirled around and jammed my knee as hard as I could between his legs.
That was the first time I felt real pain. He struck me across the face with his open palm. I have heard the Nazis had a way of slapping a woman which could bring the most indescribable agony. Sergeant Leo had learned their technique well.
I fell heavily, sliding across the floor and landing spread-legged against the far wall. Once again my skirt had ridden up, giving my tormentors a full view of my naked thighs.
I was too stunned to resist as they dragged me to my feet. Sgt. Leo placed his baton in the small of my back and forced me forward.
Dimly I recall being marched onto the street. There were people I knew there, neighbors, tradesmen, a few other acquaintances. I longed to call out to them, to let them know what was happening to me. I realized the futility of my desire as the people turned away from me. I could not blame them.
A long black limousine waited at the curb. The door opened. Hands reached out for me, dragging me into the dark interior. I wasn't even allowed to sit on the back seat. Roughly I was shoved to the floor. I felt men's heavy boots pinning me down. My face rubbed against the rough carpeting. There was a putrid stench like that of stale vomit. I knew what purpose the limousine had been put to before.
We rode over a series of winding paved avenues. Then the heavy car began bucking and heaving, bringing new sensations of discomfort. I knew I was being taken to some secret prison in the high mountains which surround my city. The secret police are very sensitive about its right to privacy. Political prisoners are never taken to regular jails. Suffice it to say a puta, a mugger and a robber are accorded more tender mercies than those who are alleged to have become a threat to the regime.
My new "home" was to be a stone bastion on a high cliff. The cold night winds tore at me, as I staggered the few steps from the car to the massive iron door which swung open before me.
Symbolically the bastion overlooked an ancient graveyard. Weathered and crumbling monuments stood out like some fearful markers announcing the closeness of death. The scene was all part of the terror.
It was as if they were saying, "Here, nothing awaits you but death." It would not be long until I began to understand the truth of the symbolism.
Immediately I was taken to a cell which contained not even a cot. All around me there was a stench of sweat and blood and human excrement. I was so terribly tired. My hands were cold and numb where the handcuffs pinched off my circulation. My jaw ached where Sergeant Leo's slap had jarred me. Yet I could not bring myself to sit down and rest in all the filth.
I knew I had to keep my sanity. It was my only weapon against them. I had to figure out why they had brought me here and what they sought from me.
Obviously it had something to do with the theater group. They suspected somebody. Could it be Domingo?
I thought about that. It was possible. Domingo was a hot-headed romantic. Often he quoted from the books that he always read. But to think of him as a terrorist?
To me Domingo was a kind and gentle lover. He was the person who had taught me the true beauties of my sexuality. Even now, even in these surroundings, I could remember his hands fondling my nakedness, preparing me, assuring me in their silent language. Even now, smelling the stench of the nameless dead, I could remember what it had been like to kiss his manhood and hear his groan of ecstasy. Even now, knowing that soon they would come for me and put me to the question, I thrilled deep in my belly as I remembered what it had been like to feel him entering me, to have surged up to meet his thrust, to have felt the sweat of his love bathing my body.
But there had been another side to Domingo—deep and dark and secretive. There had been those unexplained absences, the trips that he never talked about. There had been his sudden disappearance four days ago. Had the secret police seized him? Or had he made good his escape?
Or could it be Lupe Miranda?
Hardly likely. Lupe was like most repertory directors. A petty tyrant masking his sense of sentimentality behind towering rages which probably represented the best acting of the troupe. But his whole life was make believe. When it came to politics he was as naive as a five-year-old muchacho.
One by one, I ticked off the various candidates. I thought about it in terms of political activism or betrayal. Perhaps I had unknown enemies who for some reason of their own had placed me here.
Or perhaps I had been brought here for no other reason that it suited the whim of a policia inquisitor. This theory made as much sense as any other. But then again, nothing really made sense. Not here. Not now.
The cell door swung open on its screeching hinges. An electric torch shone in my eyes, blinding me. The man called Sergeant Leo moved forward. In the shadowy half light his face was a gargoyle of all the evil in the world. I bit down hard on my lip, tasting the warm blood in my mouth.
Sgt. Leo's arms circled my waist, holding me pressed to him as his assistant removed my handcuffs. Before I could fully comprehend their intent, the two men began stripping me. Slowly, malevolently they tore my dress down to my hips. Then in one violent wrench they ripped it from my body. I cried out in pain at the viciousness of their attack.
"You will find much to weep about here," Sergeant Leo spat. "Here we know how to deal with enemies of the state."
He pawed my breasts, his hands as cold as ice against the sensitive flesh. There was a sudden wrenching of nylon as my bra came loose. The dank air chilled me.
I watched in growing horror as he fondled my body, working his thumbs under the waist band of my brief panties. Even this last pitiful bit of clothing was to be denied me.
"What do you want from me?" I managed to gasp.
"You are about to meet an old friend of yours," Sergeant Leo answered. "After you have spent some time with him, we will talk. I am sure the reunion will bring back many memories. Memories which may be of interest to the state. We will reserve any conversations until after the meeting.
There was an indescribable menace in the officer's voice. He turned to his assistant. "You know what to do, stupido. What are you waiting for?"
The other man fumbled with a coil of heavy rope. He forced my hands in front of me and tied my wrists so loosely that I could still move my arms. Other cords were applied to my biceps and my thighs, hobbling me, but not so tight that I could not walk. It was obvious that their purpose was not to immobilize me completely.
With a vicious tug on the ropes, Sergeant Leo dragged me out of the cell. Once again I was out in the ghostly moonlight which cast hideous shadows around the monuments and the gnarled trees of the grave yard. I was being propelled forward towards a newly dug grave where the coarse dirt had been loosely replaced. The sharp gravel and stones cut and bruised my naked feet. All the while Sergeant Leo was doing indescribable things to me.
I was moved right to the lip of the grave. I wondered whether I was to be shot on the spot. In my panic and revulsion, I almost prayed that I would. I knew that the release of death was all that I might expect from my captors.
But even the savagery they had showed me up to this point failed to prepare me for what was to come. As Sergeant Leo held me by the loose end of the rope and the cold beat around my naked breasts, belly and loins, the other uniformed man picked up a spade which had been lying on the ground and began shoveling furiously.
I gasped in unmitigated horror at the terrible sight which assaulted my eyes. There in the grave, its hair matted with mud and dried blood, its expression one of the ultimate in pain and terror, lay the corpse of a man.
Sergeant Leo gripped me by the back of the neck, the way one handles a helpless puppy. He shoved me down onto my knees so that my face was only scant inches away from the cadaver. It was only then that I realized the true significance of what I was seeing. For the corpse was that of Lupe Miranda.
"He was really a weakling," Sergeant Leo sneered. "The questioning proved too much for his decrepit heart. But you are young and strong. You have much to tell us about the traitor Domingo Bianco. And you will tell us everything. Like why he disappeared four days ago. And where he is hiding. And who his friends are. You will talk. Never doubt that!"
Furiously I struggled to be free of Sergeant Leo's cruel grip. I saw the saliva bubbling at the corners of his mouth. I heard the quick intake of his breath. I knew that this was what he wanted above everything else. He had to show his complete power over his victims. Wasn't that the true mark of the sadist after all?
"You will have ample time to think about your future," he intoned. "And what does that future hold?
"It holds the parrot's perch. Have you ever heard of that? It is really quite simple. Your wrists and ankles will be bound together and you will be hung upside down so that all of your weight is borne by your knees. It is not too unpleasant at first. But the pain mounts as the knee joints are spread. Actually a woman's knees are very sensitive to pain.
"And there are other portions of a woman's body which scream out at the stimulus. There are the vagina and the nipples. Think of what it is like to be spread-eagled to a bench with electrodes inserted into your most private orifices. Think of how the nerves and muscles convulse as the electricity is applied. Think of the smell of burning flesh.
"Think of what our whips will do to the velvet smoothness of your back. Ernesto here is quite proficient with the lash. More than anything he enjoys stringing naked women up by their heels and whipping them on the buttocks, on the thighs, on the tender spots of their bellies and breasts. Think of what his kiss will do to your flesh. It will become livid and raised like so many worms were crawling under your skin.
"Think of the rack. How beautiful your body will be when it is drawn out to its full length. Your breasts will be stretched taut to await the caress of Ernesto's white hot irons. To be cauterized by Ernesto is like no other pain a woman can suffer. And while you lie chained to the rack, you may be assured that Ernesto's irons will find other and more interesting resting places.
"You have much to think about, don't you? And now we are going to give you time to think, Ernesto and me. We are going to allow you the benefit of your friend's experiences with us. Perhaps he can impart in you the desirability of your cooperating with us."
Ernesto flung one last shovelful of yellow sandy earth over the side of the grave. Now Lupe Miranda's naked body was fully exposed to my view. Even then I had no idea of what was immediately in store for me. I believed that they had wanted to shock me with the sight of my dead friend. But their diabolical purpose went much deeper than that.
For in a moment I was to learn that their having left so much play in the ropes which bound my wrists and ankles had been no mere oversight. Everything that Sergeant Leo did had the mark of the devil himself on it.
Suddenly I was seized by the arms and legs and shoved into the yawning abyss. Even before I could comprehend this new outrage, the two torturers had forced my arms around Lupe's shoulders. My legs pressed into his dead limbs. New ropes were being wound around my nakedness, binding me securely to the dead man in an obscene lover's embrace. To add to my agony they turned me over so that Lupe's full weight bore down upon me. His flesh was cold and clammy. His unwashed corpse stank of the residue of his bowels and bladder, released when his sphincter had finally relaxed in his death passion.
I listened to the vile mouthings of Sergeant Leo and Ernesto as they stood above me reveling in my horror. When they finally grew weary of their grisly sport, Sergeant Leo called out, "And now we leave you with your lover so that you may think about what tomorrow will bring to you. Never fear. There will be other sexual experiences before you are consigned to your permanent home. Ernesto and I will see to that. Sleep well my little one. Sleep well and wait for the dawn. For you it will rise blood red."
I heard the men retreating to the warmth of the building.
Now I was left alone in the numbing cold. The ropes grew ever tighter with my thrashing. I shrieked until my throat was so raw that I could hardly gasp. Pain, terrible and all-consuming lanced through my overstretched limbs. Whenever I opened my eyes, I was greeted by the sight of Lupe's dead face.
I knew that soon I must go mad with the terrible burden which was cradled between my bound thighs. There is just so much that the mind can take before it snaps. And yet I fought to maintain my last vestiges of sanity. Whatever happened to me, I would not betray Domingo. This last victory would not be Sergeant Leo's.
I tried to concentrate on other things. I thought about my home, my family, my life in the theater, the happy days which now had been made a cruel mockery.
But again and again my mind turned to what awaited me inside the house. In my imagination I was already bound to the rack. Already my legs were spread wide to receive the caress of the white hot iron. The current was already surging through the electrodes bringing the terrible mind-shattering agony as the humming current coursed through my being. The whips were already disfiguring me.
Somewhere a night animal howled in discordant protest. The moon sank lower as it flitted in and out of the clouds. The twisted, tortured leafless branches of the dead trees swung to and fro in a creaking cadence of death.
I was cold, so terribly cold. That itself was an unbearable torment. I willed myself to faint, to blot out this horror. But it is not so easy for a woman to faint, despite what the romantic novelists might tell you. Minute after minute, hour after hour, I remained excruciatingly aware of what was happening to me. Try as I would, I could not pull the shroud of madness over me.
Several times Sergeant Leo came to the edge of the grave to enjoy my torment. Each time his foul mouthings stung me like the metal barbs of the whips which awaited me. His words became slurred and I knew that he had been drinking.
Then, as the false light of pre-dawn flickered in the eastern sky I became aware of other sounds. It was the scurrying of feet. I thought of the predatory felines which lived in the hills. I prayed that they had come to claim me for their own.
There would be something almost clean and decent about being ripped apart by the slavering jaws of a wild beast. I prayed that they had arrived to claim me for their own. Some heavy object hurtled into the grave. Lupe's cadaver pressed down hard on top of me. I opened my mouth to scream. Only a terrible rasp came from my parched lips.
"Quiet!" a man's urgent voice hissed. "There's a chance if you remain silent!"
I felt the cold steel of a knife pricking my flesh. There was an instant of exquisite pain and then my arms were free. A moment later I was being lifted from the pit.
As my eyes focused on the scene around me, I saw the figures of other men darting among the monuments. They were moving on the house.
Suddenly the sky erupted in a burst of orange and yellow flames. There was a rumbling sound like distant thunder. Then an ear splitting crash. Then another and a third. I saw a figure raise up, an arm come back, an object hurtle through the air.
"We must hurry!"
I was being half carried, half dragged over the uneven ground. It was only then that I understood what had happened. The group led by Domingo was racing towards the low-hanging wall. Tenderly I was lifted across and into the back of a car. The engine coughed to life and we were careening down the road towards safety.
I lay sobbing and shaken in Domingo's arms, feeling his warmth and strength bringing me back from the dead.
"It's over, querida!" he whispered. "They will never be able to hurt you again. I am taking you to where you will be safe from them."
I cannot tell you the details of my escape nor whether Domingo accompanied me over the border. It would compromise those who still fight the good fight against the oppressors.
I would have not revealed this much of my experience except for what I told you at the very outset. I feel it is my duty to let the world know what is happening to innocent people in my native land. A land that has become synonymous with the stench of decay and the mortal screams of the tortured.