[start blog post #11]
“This be warning” one of them intones, “You know rule: No wailing. No disturbance permitted. All of you we flog too, happy to do. But owners, they say too much cost, so you lucky today. Proceed with training and maintenance of weapons. Any talk; any whisper, you flogged same as that gorok. He spits in the direction of the dead girl.
The message is delivered without inflection or passion. It would appear these men do not feel the least amount of the pain, fear or any other feelings they cause others to experience. No empathy. To them we are less than animals, although I believe the expression here is quite meaningless. There are no domesticated animals that I am aware of in this society. The food we eat contains no meat. But again, I’ve been wrong so many times about so many things in the few days I’ve been here! Days? No, not days. I’ve been here an eternity that will never end. I’ve fallen in hell and there is no doorway out of it.
Three handlers walk among us as we exercise or work, pick a half dozen of the youngest trainees and escort them through one of the stone doors. One by one they shortly return. One of them had been a virgin by the blood that runs between her legs. She is ordered to wash and continue with training and work. For the handlers, the flogging death they observed had given them a powerful sexual desire they needed to sate and that is also what we are for.
The day wears on, oppressive, endless, silent. When the sun passes beyond the battlements, painting the eastern sky a lurid reddish brown fired through thin stratus type clouds, a reminder of drying blood, we are fed and returned to our cages. The body of the flogged child, for she had been no more than twelve or thirteen years of age, now covered with some sort of black fly I hadn’t seen before, is removed from the post by two gladiators. She is stiff and cold. They carry her to the same door used to remove the body of her friend and is dumped in a similar conveyance.
And out of the blue my mind is asking, “What do they do with our bodies?” I know that the dead men are taken to a hill outside the city and buried with much pomp and ceremony, but what about the bodies of the gladiators? Or women in general? In the field they leave them to wild beasts. Do they take ours from here and from the arena to be eaten out there? Or do they perform some kind of hellish rituals upon them?
A cold chill goes through me and I try to change the subject in my mind. Is there something else, something beautiful, I can think about? Well, why not engage myself on my reason for coming here, instead of bemoaning a fate I deliberately chose or engaging in bouts of self-pity and self-doubt?
Come on, woman. Where is all that courage and bravery you were so quick to talk about once, far from here? Where is your compassion now that you are living in hell? Don’t both victims and oppressors need to find their freedom? Think. Why is this world, a place that could be so beautiful, such a horror? What feeds the misogynist males and their killing instinct? Why can they not sexually engage a female except by doing her violence? Why is the beating of a woman such an erotic event for all of them? Or is it all of them? Could there be exceptions among the male population, and if so, how can I find them?
When the doctor had sex with me he did not use force or violence on me. Well, yes, some force because he knew I could not refuse, but no overt violence. In fact his handling of my wound was uncharacteristically gentle. Who is he? He is taller than other men I’ve seen, and his face is broader, flatter. Could it be that he’s from another place? That he’s not a true Tassardi? Push this a bit further, could he be an alien like me? If so, why is he in this place? What is he to this place? Why did he whisper to me “we want him dead” of my first engagement in the arena? Who are these “we”? And his friend in the white uniform. I sensed a mantle of authority over him. Authority from whom, where? When he looked at me, it wasn’t out of lust; in fact I’d swear he was not sexually interested in me at all. Who or what, is he? What are they planning and how do I fit into that plan if at all?
Many questions. Good questions engender good answers and keep my feverish mind occupied. I will find out. I will know. I’m glad that tonight I’m alone in my cage. My thoughts are so loud I’d be afraid to think them if another was lying with me and after Tiegli I’m not ready to “make love” to accommodate another. I have no passion, no feelings. My heart is numbed from so much violence and loss in so short a time. I listen to the rustling of moving bodies in the fresh straw. I hear muted sobbing.
Later, a scream, quickly stifled, then silence – the silence of death. A large bird or some nocturnal creature ululates a macabre call outside, the sound coming in from one of the square openings high in the smooth stone walls to echo as the voice of the dead throughout the compound. Water drips outside. It must be raining. Yes, let it rain, hard and long. Wash all the blood out of the courtyard. Wash all the blood from this world until no world is left.
Rain – the tears of the goddess, she whom I must re-awaken in the hearts of these women. And I too begin to cry and my own tears become an endless river of sorrow. Tiegli’s hoarse whisper comes to my mind: “We be strong; we be courageous; not tough like stone; not fearless. We be only women, not robots or evil beasts. We have heart… feeling.”
In that on-going nightmare I am finding my own power, not the power I dragged in with me as from my other self, the Avatari Al’Tara, but a power I have created from the mix of love and terror I have experienced here. From the blood soaked stones and sand of the arena. From the many fights I have already entered and “won” if one can call that winning; survived is a more accurate term.
I dream again, but it’s a no-dream. A “locator” to help me find my mind’s feet on T’Sing Tarleyn, my chosen and adoptive world. Yes, after all, what I dream of is loving, caring and giving. I am; I am here; I am real. And because I exist here, in this time and this place, everything will change. I know this. I am all the women I have been in every life as far back through time as I can remember. Each with some memory of power gained from some great personal loss and deep sorrow and each willing to give her share of it to Antierra. Together we will discover the true pulse of T’Sing Tarleyn and change its name to T’Sing Tallala (pronounced sing tayala); the land of freedom and hope. All I have to do is survive the years ahead and not give in to fear but in particular, to hate. Anger is permissible to me I think, as long as it isn’t based on fear and isn’t allowed to develop into hate. I need to express anger as a psychological release mechanism. If I do not I will break or become a complete hypocrite.
[end blog post #11]