Third chapter. The camp and the other people.
Once they had had their fill, the two men tied the girl’s wrists together and draped her in a grubby blanket, before leading her away from the spot.
“Well, what a day this has turned out to be! Screwing a virgin! Who’d have thought it? It’s even taken my mind off this wretched fog!”
The baldish man kept stretching his arms in pleasure, like a runner at the end of an invigorating jog.
“I’ll have first shot next time, though, Ernesto” sniggered the young lad. He spoke almost without moving his lips, and despite his remark his expression remained impassive.
“We’ll see about that!
The older man turned to the girl and roughly squeezed her breast, making her whimper in distress.
“Won’t we, sweetheart?”
He laughed unpleasantly, revealing a row of crooked yellow teeth.
“I bet she loved it really.”
The young man tugged on the rope that held the girl’s wrists in a vice-like grip, making her stumble forward.
“Look, Tommy, she’s bending over. She’s already up for it again!” Ernesto leered.
“Whore!” spat Tommy, and, for the sheer hell of it, gave her a hard slap with his open palm. Hitting her turned him on: he had always drawn sadistic pleasure from vile actions.
“Not too hard, mind, she might cry.”
“Oh, you’re right. Sorry, I won’t do it again,” replied the young man in a whining voice, feigning remorse, and promptly thumped her hard in the stomach.
The girl barely registered the blow. The searing pain between her legs had dragged her down into a deep black well, whose round walls now imprisoned her and allowed her to see nothing but the violence she had just endured. Its horror drowned out all else and robbed her of the capacity to speak or respond. Her senses were dulled, obscured by the turmoil in her mind.
“The cat’s got her tongue! That’s perhaps just as well!” said Ernesto.
The girl fell to her knees. Tommy stared at her. His face was like a pale blank mask, with dark openings in place of the eyes.
“Get up!” he barked, yanking on the rope. “We’ve still got a long way to go.”
The girl got to her feet again, mechanically. She was in shock, drowned in her own self. She walked on, largely oblivious to her surroundings — the thick fog, the wet, uneven ground, and the occasional leafless tree that briefly appeared before retreating again in the swirling whiteness. She half noticed some large coiled shells on top of a wall of gray boulders, but for most of the way her eyelids drooped as though she were drugged and quite unable to come to her senses.
Every so often the men jeered at her, just to remind her that she was their plaything, but otherwise they exchanged only brief remarks to each other, deciding which way to go and cursing the fog.
“Tommy,” said the older man at a certain point, “let’s not tell the others about her. There could well be others like her down there, and we don’t want anyone stealing our fun.”
“My lips are sealed” replied the young man.
The older man took a long intake of breath, as if drawing on an invisible pipe.
“The underground system certainly came up with the goods this time, that’s all I can say. I really needed a bit of flesh,” commented Ernesto. “Sex is like meat for us men, you know” he mused. “If we’re starved of it we end up like dogs, ready to turn on each other !”
“Aren’t you the philosopher!” laughed Tommy, a touch sarcastically.
Ernest took the remark as a compliment.
“Indeed I am. With a full belly and empty balls we can all be philosophers!”
After they had walked for a quarter of an hour or so, the fog lifted, revealing a large concrete wall. It was about four meters high and was smeared looking, as if someone had sprayed it using cans of paint and then tried unsuccessfully to clean it. The men walked alongside the wall until they came to a rusty door consisting of two hefty iron panels.
Ernesto pounded on it, shouting for it to be opened. There was a sound of keys jingling followed by a screeching of hinges, high-pitched like the cry of a dying animal.
The door was opened by a man dressed in a long, military overcoat. The garment was torn and tattered. In his hand he held a tangle of astonishingly shiny glass tubes which contrasted sharply with his dull, ragged attire. The tubes contained liquid of some kind.
“Look what we’ve got here, Rigo” said Ernesto, showing off his prey.
“We were about ready for a new one — Toska and the Japanese woman have about had it.”
“I shouldn’t worry too much about those old hags, they’ve never been up to much.”
“Where did you find her?” asked Rigo, as Ernesto pushed the girl inside.
“That’s for us to know. After all, we’re the ones that go out risking our lives in that fog, not like you!”
The guard scowled.
“Well, in any case, you know the rules. They all have to go straight for recycling.”
Tommy handed the backpack to Rigo, who glanced inside it.
“Well there isn’t much there. Is that all you’ve caught?”
“We’ll do better tomorrow. We ran into a few problems” growled Ernesto.
The guard nodded, and let them pass.
“Come on, Tommy.”
The older man motioned to his companion to follow him. In the courtyard the fog was much thinner. A squarish brick building stood next to what looked like the remains of an electric power plant. Clinging to its broken cables, grids and transformers was a twisted and thorny plant that had spread horizontally like brambles. Its leaves and branches were rough like those of pumpkins, and they covered the entire width of the courtyard. Several half-naked women, gaunt and pale skinned, were pruning the plant, whose tendrils had wound themselves around everything. They moved slowly, as if they were on the point of falling asleep.
The girl was led to the brick building next to the expanse of thorny brambles. A carpet of sharp fallen thorns prickled the soles of her feet. She passed a wrinkled old woman with sagging breasts and scars all over her body. The woman looked at her for a moment and then very deliberately let a fruit, like a melon, fall from her hand. They both watched as it rolled slowly along the ground towards the girl.
A man with a blond crewcut, who was supervising the women, immediately strode over.
“What are you staring at? Get on with your work!” he yelled at the old woman.
Wearily, and moving with infinite slowness, she stooped to retrieve the melon. She never once took her eyes off the girl. Her expression was blank and deeply unhealthy, full of a kind of spent sadness. It was like the look of a dying man begging for release.
“Are you going to get a move on, or not? Stupid old fool.”
The blond man gave the old woman a kick that landed her face down in the mud.
She struggled to rise from the ground, propping herself up on her elbows like a wounded turtle. All the time she stared at the girl, and something in her demeanor filled the younger woman with a strange sensation — a combination of dismay and deference.
“Will you quit staring and get on with your work!” the man cursed.
The old woman, as best she could, drew herself up to her full height, her eyes never straying from the girl’s. It was quite clear from her struggle to stand erect that this not her habitual posture, and that she had assumed it as a way of conveying something she could not express in words. There was a sublime composure about the woman’s slow and difficult movement, a self-determination that no slave driver could ever take from her. It was then that the girl glimpsed, in her eyes, a flash of pride and energy that rose above her tribulations and martyrdom. There was something incredibly noble about her silent look, and the girl was deeply impressed by it.
Abruptly the blond man seized the glass contraption and sprayed the old woman with the liquid it contained.
“You asked for that” he spat.
For an instant, nothing happened, the old woman simply looked wet. But then her body began to bubble and boil. In a matter of seconds, the acid consumed her completely, reducing her to a bloody pulp that soon mingled with the mud on the ground. She had not even had time to scream. Tommy stared at the remains on the ground, stunned but at the same time aroused.
“My god!” murmured Ernesto “did you really have to do that? Couldn’t you just have given her a good hiding?”
“She was a useless old bag of bones, and she was mine in any case” retorted the blond supervisor angrily. “It was up to me to decide.”
Ernesto’s face twisted in an expression of disgust.
“Seeing as she was yours, you can clean that up, before the blood contaminates the crops” he said curtly.
The horrific sight had distracted him and he had loosened his hold on the rope that bound the girl. Realizing this, she suddenly bolted.
“Stop there, damn you!”
She knew she didn’t have a chance. She managed to run just a few dozen yards before slipping on the slimy ground. Ernesto immediately pounced on her.
He gave her several hard kicks with a heavily booted foot.
“I should just leave you in the mud, and then you might learn to behave yourself.”
He gave a final hard kick which caught the girl in the groin, and the pain made her lose her senses.
“Tommy, carry her” ordered Ernesto, panting from the effort.
The young man hoisted the girl on his shoulder, her white skin was entirely covered in mud.
“Ernesto, you’ve got Tommy all excited, just like I did. Go on, hit her again!” sniggered the old woman’s killer.
Tommy, furious, fired back a series of expletives.
“I’ll kill you if you don’t watch it!”
“Oh, come on, I did it for you. You know you enjoyed it.”
“I’ll kill you!”
The old man restrained his younger companion. Grabbing him by the sleeve, he pulled Tommy towards the main building.
“Psychopath!” he said between gritted teeth as soon as they were a little way off. “But really, I don’t know which of the pair of you is worse.”
Tommy looked down, Ernesto was well aware of his inclinations. He was the only one who could understand him.
The old man corrected himself.
“OK, you’re not like him. At least you play things by the rules. He doesn’t. That woman makes three he’s killed this week already” he said. “Raping them just isn’t enough for him. He’s a sadist and always will be.”
“I really should kill him though” Tommy chuntered, looking back at the blond man, who had returned to the rows of brambles. The women around him continued with their work, stripping away dead branches as if nothing had happened.
“I don’t like the way things are shaping up here” said Ernesto darkly.
“Perhaps we should just get our stuff together and get out of here for good” Tommy suggested.
The old man gave him a hard look.
“You can put that out of your head, Tommy, unless you want to end up like the others. We’ve just got to keep our heads down, do our duty, and get our pleasures where we can, and one day we’ll be out of here. If Marcus gets such a kick out of death, we’ll just have to see what we can do to oblige him.”
The old man gave a gave a phlegmy laugh and the two men shared a brief look of complicity. Ernesto opened the door to the main building. Inside there were various rooms, all with shabby, peeling walls and broken windows. Tommy gave the girl a sharp slap, trying to bring her round. He had no intention of carrying her up the stairs.
Caught between consciousness and unconsciousness, the girl attempted to walk, dragging her feet and leaving bloody footprints on the linoleum-covered steps. Metallic sounds mingled with the sound of excited voices filtered through the walls and there was a smell of oil in the air. The girl was covered in goose bumps and her teeth were chattering. The cold was much more bitter and penetrating inside.
They went into a large room with bricked up windows. As soon as Ernesto had set foot in it, a soft red light had come on, framing the ceiling. The walls were lined with black machines from which hung rubbery cables, and lined up against them were numerous trolley beds. The girl spotted some sharp instruments, needles and surgical bone cutters. She also noticed that the thin mattresses were stained with something black. Blood. A sudden wave of terror roused her from her hallucinatory state and she started forwards, trying to escape again.
Tommy intercepted her at once and pushed her onto one of the beds, pinning her down with the weight of his body.
“There’s a good girl…” his hissed, his voice sickly sweet.
Ernesto quickly bound the girl’s ankles with leather straps. Tommy secured her wrists before stroking her between the legs. His eyes glistened with excitement in his alabaster-pale face. It was true. The incident with Marcus really had turned him on.
“What’s going to happen to me?”
The old man watched the girl quizzically as she struggled, with every ounce of energy she had left, to free herself. But every movement brought sharp twinges of pain in the various places where she had taken their blows.
“Ah, so you have got a voice.”
Tommy picked up a strange steel ring. It was studded with screws and had wires dangling from it.
“You’ll become a recycled body, just like all the others” he said simply.
“Why are you doing this to me?” the girl cried.
The young man placed the ring round her head and then started tightening the screws at the temples. She screamed.
“Quiet! It won’t hurt that much.”
Her temples had begun to bleed.
“We’ll take care of you and see that nothing nasty happens.”
Ernesto was pressing some buttons and as did so
Tommy began tightening the screws even more, continuing until they had been driven right into her skull. The last thing the girl saw was the leering, lascivious look on his face.
“Afterwards I want to be the first.”