I scan the skies and I’m happy to see the great cyclones of sand continuing to partially block the sun’s rays and the sky’s normally sharp blue is of a tan colour. The ‘goddess’ continues to bless our efforts, it would seem. ‘I thank you Mother’ I whisper quietly and in my heart I feel a flutter of a response. She is awakening, I know.
End blog post #104
Start blog post #105
Chapter 41 – An Execution Order is Signed – A Killing Orgy Scheduled
Several days after the escape two men in dark blue uniforms wearing the red epaulets of those who work with the Fighter Council approach me as I spar with a couple of trainees.
“You gora, you come here now.” Peremptorily and angry. I quickly drop my weapons and approach the men with the mandatory bowed head.
The one on the right intones, “You be condemned by official statute. Must die. Prepare now.” The other flashes a sheet of ‘official’ yellow paper before my face and assuming I can’t read anyway, just rolls it up in a holder and files it in a shoulder bag. Of course it’s the long expected execution order that has finally been approved and signed. So this is it… and I don’t know what to feel here for a moment. I hadn’t been expecting this. I wonder why now? Time to apply the Teaching to myself: “When nothing matters, it will all be yours.” I return to the sparring line, pick up my weapons and continue with the training. How does a ‘gora’ prepare to be killed?
Turns out there is a very simple answer to that question. After the training session, even before the ritual washing and meal I’m taken to the cages by two handlers never seen in the compound. They practically drag me all the way to the back to be chained by the wrists to bars with the ‘dikfols’ who just stare at me. The stench in this part of the cages is almost unbearable, second only to what I remember of the Warmo’s death chamber. The chains are so short I can’t bring my hands to my neck or face.
Of course this is their way to prevent me from committing suicide and also add to my ‘punishment’ before they can fully taste their revenge. They, whomever ‘they’ be, have hated me for a long time, for the fortunes I cost them and the “great” men I killed, such as their prince and his aide; the many aristocrats on whom they bet huge sums of money; for the hundreds of very expensive drooks I also killed and especially for their dearly departed Warmo.
They have hated me for the alien fighting techniques I taught the women, enabling them to kill more challengers and live longer. They have hated me not only because I am a gora but because they know I’m some kind of alien and realize they should have killed me the day I came to Hyrete. Now they are about to get their revenge. I suppose the most likely method will be for “they” to take turns flogging me to death in a public arena show. It is the way of it. I’ll be chained here until the day of the execution, and whatever method they choose, they are not about to tell me. They want me to sweat it. They already know that I know it will be as pain-filled as they know how to make it.
So here I am finally at the end of the run. I’m still not sure of my feelings. Angry? Afraid? Eager to get it over with? I suppose all of that. I have to sort myself out and decide who I am not. Certainly I’m no longer the fighter. I’m no longer the Teacher. Am I then just another dikfol waiting to die in some cruel fashion designed and applied by misogynist males who fear life?
But you see there is justice in the ‘law of attraction’ as it is still called. It is not a law, of course, but some strange force that forms like an aura around those who focus upon the future. I wanted to taste Malefactus to its very dregs, to experience its horrors so as to truly know what it is like to be a woman on such a world. I wanted to be reminded what it has been like, what it continues to be like, for millions of women on Túat Har also for as long as the system there remains under a male-dominated hegemony. I’m tasting it indeed, just as I chose to. This is no accident; no miscarriage of justice. This is what the child finds under the tree on Christmas morning. “I want that!” she had said, pointing at a toy in a store window. Mom tells dad and the toy manifests under the tree with her name on it. A so simple aspect of the Force.
Some used to say to me, “Be careful what you ask for, you may get it.” I can vouch for this: I have been very careful and mindful of everything I’ve asked for. Through commitment and dedication; through honesty and compassion – even if that latter was stretched thin at times – I got what I asked for. Will it bear the fruit I long for? Who knows. I’m just planting the seed in the ground. For the tree to grow strong and tall and bear good fruit much depends now on others, on others’ labour in the orchard. All that remains for me to do here is to water that seed. For that it needs my blood and it shall get it, but it is still my hope it will be properly mixed with my sweat as well. We shall see.
The chains do not prevent us from lying down; they are short so we can’t deliberately strangle ourselves in them but they are on rings that slide around specially made upside down L-shaped bars so we can stand, even walk a bit along the horizontal part, then slide back and down to sleep. Ingenious these men, really. Imagine if they spent even half the effort they put into inventing ways to restrain, constrain, torture and kill into other pursuits like finding ways to better the lives of their poor and oppressed? Oh well, that will happen when it happens if it happens but not by talking about it. I’m hungry and I don’t know if I’ll be fed tonight but I need rest and that I can do for myself.
I hear the rest of the fighters and trainees return to the cages for count and lock down for the night. Nothing for it but go to sleep. The poor dikfols around me aren’t fed or cleaned after either. We share our misery. I slide down into old and thin straw that does not protect my skin from the cold and damp stones. Fine and never mind. This too I need to experience again. When I came here I spent my second night chained naked to the steel execution post outside in the compound. I thought then I’d die of exposure but survived to live as a fighter for thirteen years, from 1328 to 1341. The record says I racked up the greatest number of kills for one individual, and have been the longest lasting fighter. Well, as you know, I had help. I wasn’t after such records in any case but they helped establish my reputation among the women as they became more inclined to listen to some of my mad stories which I dub the Teaching.
The clanking of steel gates opening announces morning. I’m stiff but otherwise feel quite refreshed and ready to face whatever the day brings. A half dozen young women, some practically overwhelmed by the stench in our section, bring us food and feed us as our hands cannot reach our faces. Then they proceed to rake the straw, bring buckets of cold water, wash down the stones, even wash down the bodies of those of us who let them, and later carry in fresh straw on large wooden forks. One of the girls approaches me and whispers a memorized message in my ear: “We are aware of your condition. The doctor has gone to the King to see what can be done. The execution order stands but he hopes to change it from a public flogging to a killing orgy that you may have a chance to once more fight for the women of Malefactus alongside the others condemned to death with you. The killing orgy is in two days. Be brave and remember we all thank you and will remember you here.”
Undoubtedly the message came from the YBA Cydroid in the kitchen. I’m heartened by her message. We are never alone. After the girls have left I lay down in the fresh straw to ponder my life some more. Mostly about things I feel I could have done better and want to remember. I sleep, wake, sleep some more. The girls left us a bucket of water and by stretching we can pass it along from woman to woman. We all drink from it as the heat intensifies through the day. There is no circulation this far back in the dungeon and we sweat like pigs. Late in the afternoon, before the fighters and trainees are returned to the cages the servant women come with the evening meal.
That same one comes to me and whispers another memorized message: “The doctor has returned. He can get you out of Hyrete tonight and two Cydroids will take you to Koron if you wish it. Make the gorok memorize your reply if you can give it now.” This girl seems to possess an amazing aspect of plastic memory, something the Cydroids did to her, more than likely.
After an initial surge of hope from the Cydroid’s message I look around at my ‘family’; at the poor dikfols who can’t even speak or make themselves understood and are about to be butchered in the arena in less than two days. What sort of example would I give by sneaking off to save my own hide and leaving them to face the madness alone? I remember telling doctor Echinoza that I would die a violent death here. Perhaps it was a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts, but certainly it is one I can not now avoid.
However difficult the choice my answer is predictable. I say to the gorok, “Listen carefully and memorize this: ‘My answer is no. I stay with my people. Thank you again for all your efforts on my behalf. I have one question: Do you have news of Deirdre my friend on Koron.’ Can you repeat that girl? She repeats it word for word and I send her away. I great wave of relief comes over me now. It feels good to be able to determine your own fate.
In the dark, after everyone is more or less settled for the night I hear a rustle in the cages. The sound comes nearer and nearer to where I sit, shackled to the bars.
“Sir! Can you hear me?” The voice is of an older fighter.
“Yes,” I reply in the darkness facing the general direction of the question. “What you be wanting?”
“We know of the killing orgy. We all know you have chance to leave tonight but choose to stay with us, the gorok tell. Fight all the way with us. We certain now you be true. We all say we now listen to Teaching, remember Teaching, pass on to new ones each time they come. We continue Teaching until goddess rise again for us. We now say thank you for coming to us and we think, is difficult to know how, but think maybe we see you again soon. You come and bring back more Teaching, more power for goras.”
“Not goras!” I exclaim, not caring who hears it and takes exception. Nothing to lose here.
“Never again we be goras. Now we be ahya! Always! Forever! Together we be ahya! Say it low together. This is my last mantra, my last Teaching. Remember you all be ahya! Let men say ‘gora’ but you must translate that as ahya in your mind each time to break the evil spell. Practice self-empowerment, always. That is our greatest weapon, ahyas.”
End blog post #105