Tag Archives: escape

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #104

[How time flies this time of year. But, better late than never, here’s blog post #104]

Now eighteen of my children are heading out into the unknown to attempt the building of some kind of normal life they have never experienced.  They and their men hitching rides in the open on flimsy carriers are the seeds of a new culture, the hope of Malefactus.  Much hinges on the success of this venture, and taken one part at a time, it is a simple plan.  But put all those pieces together to happen simultaneously and you have a complex structure that can collapse on itself from the outset.  I’ve never been one to overlook possibility of trouble.  Life has not been so easy on me that I can afford to do that.  But at this stage, what can I do but join in the women’s prayer and offer mine to our ‘goddess’ in hope?

* Bene Gesserit mantra against fear – Dune, by Frank Herbert

End blog post #103
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Start blog post #104

Seeing an opportunity to speak near the end of our training session I signal I want as many women as possible to get within earshot of my words.  As I gather the weapons, examine them and store them, I speak to them in our special tone that men hear only as muted sounds which they now allow as they think it has to do with weapons handling.

“I ask this of you, fighters.  That you stand firmly behind our escape plan.  Tonight or tomorrow will decide it.  The storms are fully upon us and all other matters have been taken care of.  So now, please, time to turn to the Goddess and entrust this great venture to her care.  Our people will pass through her lands and we want her to bless their passage and help them fly through to the southern sea and the islands where they will make a new life.  They must succeed.  They must.  It’s no different than entering the arena.  This is a fight to the death.  None of these people can come back, for to do so is to destroy everything we’ve worked so hard to do.  They will succeed or every one of them will die in the desert, in the lands of the black ones or by the sea shore if there is no food and water to be found.  Many things we cannot know, but we can all focus ourselves on this venture.  We can all be a part of it.  We have shown our solidarity by not speaking of this to anyone except through trusted channels.  For this we will all be blessed.  Now we need to pray ‘so our ships launch and our new world is found.’” 

I explain the meaning of the line from the early days of human expansion into space as they faced unknown dangers taking their seed ships into unexplored solar systems to find that one planet, or group of planets, that would accept their type of life.  Mostly they were successful yet many were lost in space, never finding suitable worlds or landing on inimical places and dying cruel deaths there.  Seedships were designed to land and ‘park’ themselves.  Once committed to a landing they could not be launched again or returned to a safe orbit. 

The women understand.  They walk somberly towards the toilets, drinking and washing troughs.  It is so quiet here, we can hear the clattering in the kitchens, the intermittent bombing in the north and another quite welcome sound: thunder.  The thunder heads have finally past apogee and are quickly filling the whole sky above us.  Thunder rumbles louder with each passing minute and we rejoice inwardly.  I make the secret sign of ‘victory’ and it is quietly passed along among all the women.  We are one.  The great escape is on!

The young women bring our food and Tieka finds me finally.  “It’s on for tonight.  I would thank you but I have nothing suitable I can find to say to you for this.”

“Look in my eyes, Tieka”  I say and lift my face to hers in the gathering gloom.  She sees the tears there and knows she need say nothing more.  Her body sizzles with anticipation and the stress of the long wait.  The onus for success now lies with them, not us.  Here we part company and take a different road.  She knows.  We squeeze hands and she carries on with her duties.  Nothing out of the ordinary could be seen by any observer.  But each one of us is alive, more alive than we’ve ever been in our entire lives here. 

“All right there, line up for count, to your cells, now!”  We file past the wash troughs, rinse our mouths and hands and line up as we head for the cells.  I did not recognize that voice but I’m thinking the entire escape group must be out here now in official capacity to be ready for action.  Indeed at the cages we are sorted and all those earmarked for the escape are place in the front row of cages, four to a cell.  The women are ordered to stand at the back of each cell as the gates are locked, then each lock sliced open clean with hand lasers on tight beam.  It must all seem as a break-in, not an escape. 

Hand signals flash quickly between the women, and also between men and women.  I have to admit, love began and accomplished what nothing else could do all the long years I’ve been here.  I’m seeing a miracle take place right here.  This reminds me, not of an escape, but of a group of settlers heading for the wilderness to begin a new life.

The great doors remain open, their automated mechanism disabled electronically.  We can see the action in the yard between flashes of lightning.  I count five carrier shapes floating by, two coasting past loaded with men and three, one half-full, gliding towards our compound and landing at the entrance.  I see mounds covered with netting on every carrier – the supplies and what have to be heavy laser guns mounted on turrets on each side of the pilot’s cabin.

Quickly the women file out and are made to slip on desert coloured men’s hooded robes to protect them from the whipping sands then shown to take their place lotus fashion on the flat decks of the carriers. The women are given straps to put over their shoulders and ropes to hold on to.  One by one, silently, the carriers lift off and disappear from view in the pelting rain and buffeting winds.  It is done.  Once more we wait.  Who can sleep now? 

“Anti, are you asleep?”  It is Tiki’s voice from a cage to my left.

“Tiki, how are you?”

“Excited.  My friend the Concubine has something to share with you.  She was afraid to tell you earlier, but it’s good.”

“Aw come on Tiki, you can’t fool an old woman.  I know what it is: she is in love with you.”  I say this to tease her, I’m quite sure such an obvious observation would not need to be shared.  Everyone in the compound knows these two are inseparable.

“No!  Tell her, tell her!”

“Antierra?”  It’s the sultry, sexy voice of the Concubine.  “What I want to tell you is I have a name also.  I found it in my head during our last fight.  It is my goddess and power name.  It is ‘Tallala’”  She pronounces it ‘Tayaya’ and it literally translates as Freedom and Hope.  I do not reply for a moment to clear another lump in the throat.  These people amaze me more and more.

“Freedom and Hope. Ah woman, what a name.  This you did not make up.  This is given to you by the goddess herself to carry for her as a banner.  When you die that name will carry you past all the darkness to your true home.  Bear it well and proudly.  Bear it for all of us.  When you enter the fight, use it as your mantra.  In your last fight, when you lie in the red sands dying, say it as your prayer.  Then in your heart forgive that last man because by taking your body he is giving you access to your own freedom and your own hope.

“Now in honour of the One who gave it, hold your friend, touch forehead to forehead and say the name – slowly, just once.  This binds you both to that name.  And I, as her Teacher to you, bless you both.”

There is much approving grunting and sighing throughout the cages.  The message is past on to the far end and even the ‘dikfols’ chained there are not excluded.  This message and tonight’s venture is for all of us, all of us everywhere.  We have already overcome.  Now to make our ‘others’ realize this throughout space and time!

We do finally sleep and when morning comes we are awakened earlier than usual when the “break in” is discovered.  Old guards in threadbare and ill-fitting uniforms walk over to our compound, examine the great open doors, try their remotes on them then give up.  They examine the cut locks on the cages.  Someone, a messenger, comes running up with the news that the five newly repaired carriers are missing as well as some trainers, handlers, guards and the two chief engineers of the hangars.  Some time later it is noted that two of the night shift security personnel are also missing.  The moat is scanned and broken pieces of shunts and remotes are dragged from the water.

The story comes together fairly quickly, the evidence so obvious.  The two security personnel were Estáani spies and were able to disable the sensors and alarms with equipment given to them by their people.  Estáani commandos broke in, stole the carriers and various types of supplies and weapons, took captives for sex and slaves and returned to their camps using the carriers to carry their loot.  So carefully did the Cydroids craft this multi-faceted deception that no other conclusion can be drawn.  As if more evidence was needed, lost gloves and other artifacts used by the Estáani were found in the near desert.  The investigation is concluded swiftly and no one in the compound punished.  What questions we could answer of what we saw no one would credit anyway.  We are ignorant goras.  They file us out of our cages to the wash troughs and the tables.  How good breakfast tastes this morning, even under the oppressive humidity of last night’s storm!  And it looks like another one is going to hit us today. 

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

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #103

They have simple minds and I’m not really lying.  It could be the good life they all dream of sometimes.  I gain three men that way and stop my recruiting.  That’s it; we have our complement and are set.  Now it’s up to the engineers, the Cydroids and the weather.  We wait. Was it too easy? I feel serious discomfort in my mind but cannot locate the source. Maybe I’m nervous. Maybe I just want it all to be over.

End blog post #102
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Start blog post #103

While I wait Tiki and the Concubine are involved in two more fights.  They are a deadly pair.  Twice in one day they are pitted against drooks and twice they defeat them and kill them, sharp and clean.  With the many tricks I’ve taught and demonstrated plus their single-mindedness as fighters the two are simply unbeatable in any reasonably fair fight.  The day will come when they will be tested in unfair fights, especially Tiki because she is small, pretty to watch and young.  Money flows more freely where basest emotions of sexual lusts are stirred.  I have warned them not to get over-confident and to expect the unexpected, always.  Treachery is always around the corner.  It’s the way of life here, basically.

This I teach all women fighters, no longer using their pidgin in my exhortations.  I am the representative of the goddess now, and the voice of the crone from the other side:  “One day, I sense, you will enter the arena expecting the usual one-on-one fight and you will be faced with double the number of men, two on one, four on two.  You will not be permitted to protest and will have to fight for your lives.  You will get hurt in those.  If a team, one will likely be killed and the other have to finish the fight to stay alive.  Think about that.  Think about your state of mind when your partner receives the death blow.  What will your instinctive reaction be?  That is what will determine if you live or die, at that moment.  You are all excellent fighters but you are not immortal or super women.

“Train for that one eventuality now.  Train also for weapons switch.  It will be done to you.  Arena fighting, because of the many losses and the new phase of wars with Estáani, is entering a dark phase.  They are angry that less women die at the hands of challengers than used to be the case.  Ordinary challengers, the ones who did it just to show off for their friends; who made bets while under the influence of brew or chakr, are becoming rarer.  Now you mostly fight condemned men or drooks and less money is flowing through the gambling houses.  Investors are pulling out or going broke.  This means desperation and treachery.  Know your place, and your changing times.  Adapt to them quickly, I warn you.

“Now I have this to add.  When I arrived in Hyrete I was shown the legal array of weapons fighters needed to be familiar with and would be challenged by.  Of those we have consistently ignored one set because it is, well, antiquated and ridiculous.  So it was pulled out at my suggestions some years later as no one in their right mind would use it.  Who remembers this particular set?”

The women look at one another, staring especially at the oldest in the training line-up.  They all shrug negatively.

“It was a lance and buckler.  A lance is like the staff, a kind of long spear only much more unwieldy, easily broken if a weight, such as a man’s body is thrown against it.  Basically it can only stab a challenger.  The buckler is a small round shield with a short spike sticking out of the center, with which, if you break your lance, and expect you will, you try to stab your opponent.  Idiotic?  Totally but I’m going to request this weapon be re-instated in our sets because I sense that very soon some drook from a distant town where they use this stupid weapon to kill women will demand to face one of us with it. 

Yes, it is a man’s weapon.  It is very effective against us because of our small size and light weight.  It works against our speed.  A clumsy weapon designed on Túat Har, another world, in another dimension and at another time, to be used by tall muscular fighting men called soldiers; also used by fighting men, usually slaves, called gladiators, who, as with us, fought to the death unless given mercy by the crowds.  Later the combination lance and shield was used for one-on-one combat using heavy four-footed beasts called horses who could carry a man in a heavy saddle while both man and horse were covered in steel chain link armour.  The lance rested on a stand when not in use. 

“Tomorrow we begin training with lance and buckler if I can find enough of them.  Back to your training please, women fighters of Hyrete!”  I salute them to give them that extra edge of pride.  I have thoroughly trained them in the art of the self-empowering mantra and I can see their lips moving as they repeat the old mantra against fear:

I will not fear. Fear is the mind killer. I will face my fear. I will let it pass over me and through me. When it has gone, I will look and only I will be standing there.”*

Action processes, when engaged properly, tend to move in a reverse spiral, from slow to tight and fast as they approach the center.  Our commitment to the escape is tightening up.  The storms are all but certain now.  Great winds are arising over the desert I am told via Tieka from the on-duty Cydroid in the kitchen. We can see the sands being sucked high into the atmosphere, dulling the sun’s light.  Sand builds up in our washing and drinking troughs, on our benches and tables and even our straw we have to kick and stir before we can lay in it.  The flagstones are covered with moving, snaking sand.  On the horizon, what we can see of it, are great grey clouds with white thunderheads climbing high in the sky by late afternoon then receding in the night, only to return again the next day and climb higher each time.  So we know the prevailing winds are weakening to be replaced by a type of sirocco rising from the desert, crossing the sea and dumping its wet, oppressive sand-filled humidity upon Elbre. 

I do not envy those untrained and poorly equipped soldiers out there in their sandy dug-outs and eroding trenches attempting to defend Hyrete, the royal city; waiting for death to find them in the way of concussion bombardments or swallow them in quicksand in the sudden collapse of newly formed dunes or washed away to drown in the sand-filled waters of flash floods from rain storms sweeping the foothills to the north east. 

I get word that a confusion plan has been worked out among the Cydroids.  I really think they enjoy all this cloak and dagger stuff.  They have ‘recruited’ two of the legitimate security personnel to escape as well, using these individuals as the fall guys in what should be seen as a security breach allowing an Estáan commando force to enter the keep and steal five carriers as well as taking some thirty five captives for slave labour and sex in their offensive.  So that’s to be the official cover story.  It should leave all of us in the clear.  And that, I hope, takes care of the last detail. 

We wait, not without some anxiety.  The way I feel, you’d think I was one of those escaping.  But these are my people, these young women my children.  Long ago there was a change of energy towards me in the compound.  I became the head mother, especially to the newly arrived trainees.  I sought them out to encourage them and protected them from particularly vicious fighters to whom they were given.  I had one fighter taken out and flogged to death for abusing a trainee.  That example was needed at the time both to protect the young and to establish my authority in the cages.  Serious infractions to our own ‘rules’ were reported to me and I administered the punishment in a totally fair way.  It was done on the training ground.  I’d ask for the perpetrator to be matched against me in training, then I’d let her have at me to see who was right and who walked away in pain. 

Now I’m also the Teacher.  That’s my personal beachhead on Malefactus.  Over time, I’ve embellished our silent and sacred ‘cult’ to our goddess.  The women’s prayers, always including their chosen name, have become more personal and specific.  I’ve taught them that prayers are not begging for miracles, but for strength and patience.  For understanding when nothing makes sense.  For compassion towards one-another when one is afraid or hurt.  For courage the day a killing orgy is announced and the cages are culled for the slaughter.  I have given them something to look to, beyond their physical life and we have lived longer, had less suicides and many less executions.  Also I’ve noticed the women respond better if I use my own language, not their pidgin, and they are learning to speak more fluently. 

Now eighteen of my children are heading out into the unknown to attempt the building of some kind of normal life they have never experienced.  They and their men hitching rides in the open on flimsy carriers are the seeds of a new culture, the hope of Malefactus.  Much hinges on the success of this venture, and taken one part at a time, it is a simple plan.  But put all those pieces together to happen simultaneously and you have a complex structure that can collapse on itself from the outset.  I’ve never been one to overlook possibility of trouble.  Life has not been so easy on me that I can afford to do that.  But at this stage, what can I do but join in the women’s prayer and offer mine to our ‘goddess’ in hope?

* Bene Geseritt mantra against fear – Dune, by Frank Herbert

End blog post #103

The Cursed Year, the Year of Bliss

I just finished writing a short story in seven short chapters.  I am going to post each chapter, one at a time, either daily, or every two days or so, depending on time available.  Again, let me remind you that if the story is of interest and you want to read it as one story and not seven installments, please just copy and paste each segment in your own computer or tablet.  It’s what I usually do with blog stories that I like.  If you find discrepancies, please point them out in comments. Remember also, this story is fictional, only the names of towns and cities are real and they are all places I’ve been to, or lived in. Thank you for reading.  Enjoy.   “Sha’Tara”  

[The Cursed year, the Year of Bliss – short story by  Sha’Tara – part 1]

“Home”

The movie, Memoirs of a Geisha, begins with these memorable words: “A story like mine should never be told” meaning that such things should not happen, or so our minds insist on telling us women.  Things are done to us which we know are wrong but which we are helpless to prevent or more often, programmed to accept.  We live in fear in a system that operates on fear as the fuel of choice.  That system, supported from every power base is properly called “The Patriarchy” and in that Patriarchy women are the number one inferior group.  Fortunately some of us fight back and some of us discover ourselves in our struggle.  And some of us are re-discovered.  We are after all and above all else, “Mystery.”

It had been the coldest year on record, up here in the Peace River country, in northern Alberta.  And late in spring, almost summer, that is, the end of May, it looked like it was going to be the wettest summer on record.  The old snow was pounded into the ground by rains driven from dark angry clouds sweeping from the west in wave after wave from April and throughout the month of May.  What crops were seeded were soon drowned.  Only the hay fields would remain and of those precious little was foraged.

I turned sixteen that winter, November 11th, actually.  Mother was pregnant again and sick most of the time.  The boys’ squabbles and irresponsibility made my life hell.  My older brother gave me those looks, and as if that wasn’t enough, when mother went to the hospital, dad finally crossed the line before Gene did and under pretext of changing the bed sheets, got me into their bedroom where he suddenly locked the door, grabbed me and threw me on the bed. 

I was alone in the house, the boys were at school.  I struggled against him but dad was a very strong man.  He wanted me and he was going to have me however I struggled, screamed and kicked at him.  He slapped me hard, several times trying to slow me down and systematically ripped my clothes off.  He took his belt out: to tie me or beat me and subdue me? 

I knew if I stopped struggling it was all over.  He would rape me and then despise me and use me as his sex slave.  I would get pregnant and have his child and be forced to remain in his world forever.  The church would label me a “whore” and the entire village would blab on about my seductive wiles and my just deserved punishment raising a child out of wedlock.  Wedlock: what a telling word.  And for good measure they would say that my child looked dark and I had sex with an Indian out in the bush.

I knew these things went on in the village, that it was only luck that had allowed me to escape my fate until now.  I knew that nothing and no one would ever stop him or my older brother when he decided it was his turn.  I knew mother would accept it and hate me for it.  Everybody would hate me and all the village’s men would think that they could now have me too.  And I knew just as clearly that I couldn’t let it happen.  That it would be better for me to die than experience this.  In one blinding moment I knew and in that same blinding moment I knew just what the situation required of me.

A rage as from the wildest storm, something I had never experienced filled my entire body and I became akin to a raging wolverine defending her young against a marauding grizzly.  My unashamed, wild nakedness became my weapon – there were no longer any boundaries; there were no rules of combat, of decency, of respect or of love.  The barriers had been torn down allowing me to give full freedom to my feelings, my revulsion and my sacred rage.  

His arm came over my face and I bit into a protruding vein with all my strength.  When he tore his arm from my mouth his blood came flowing out.  I aimed my left knee at his crotch and caught him perfectly, immobilizing him.  I thrust fingers into his eyes and pulled his head back with his hair.  Some of it ripped out and I felt a glowing satisfaction well up within me.  I ripped the belt out of his hands and lashed out with it, whipping every exposed part of his body with such anger I imagined him dead from my slashing.  His blood was all over the bed sheets and the sight of it drove me into even greater fury. 

I saw a rope on the floor as I backed out of the bed.  He’d brought it to tie me to the bed posts.  I grabbed it and swiftly pulled several half-hitches around his wrists and ankles, enough to give me time to wipe myself up, get another dress, shoes, a coat, some of my stuff and run. 

Where to?  No idea, I just had to run.  I bumped the coal oil lamp and it spilled over on the kitchen floor.  I saw the box of Eddy matches on the stove and thought of setting the house on fire before leaving but my animal fury was ebbing and being replaced by another sense: compassion?  No, just normal fear of the patriarchy’s long arm and serious retribution.  I knew I’d never see justice.  Run… and hide in the vast world called Canada.  I knew I could do that.  

I didn’t have keys to the old International truck sitting by the barn so I got old “Beauty” in the pasture, saddled her and galloped away, my brother’s duffel bag filled with my most precious possessions and extra clothes dangling from the saddle horn.  I hitched the mare at the general store, walked in with a made up story that I needed to go see my mother at the hospital in Peace River, the main town some twenty miles away.  I got a ride with Mrs. Dermott in their old late 40’s pickup.  Mr. and Mrs. Dermott owned the store and she needed supplies anyways, she said.  She took the Nampa road because the rains had made the coulee road to Peace River completely impassable. 

On the way she noticed my bruises and I saw her questioning look.  I told her what had happened, and that I was running away and never coming back.  She knew, she said, that I was telling her the truth – she’d seen how my dad looked at me when we’d gone to the store after Mass and had wondered when the shit would happen, and what would come of it.  After buying me lunch at the Sun Café downtown, she took me to a friend of hers in the town of Grimshaw and assured me that she would tell my father, or anyone who asked, that I’d jumped out of the truck in Nampa and saw me hop a freight bound for Edmonton.  Nampa was in the opposite direction from Peace River, so it should throw any search for me “to the woods” she said in her Norwegian accent.  She gave me a hug and I never saw her again.  I was on my own, making up my own path.

The Henderson’s gave me some money and put me on a bus to Edmonton, wishing me well and long life.  They also gave me their niece’s driver’s license she’d left behind when she’d returned home to Norway.  Licenses didn’t have pictures in those days.  I memorized the address and a few details, like the birth date that said I was now eighteen, and the last name, Kristofson.  They didn’t ask me if I knew how to drive, assuming as anyone there would; that of course I could drive.  Every kid in the north could drive as soon as they grew legs and arms long enough to reach steering wheel and foot pedals at the same time.  That aside, they too knew I’d never return. 

I watched the road pass under the bus, the broken center line, the water filled ditches and the muskrats swimming across in their endless foraging and my spirit lifted with each mile thus gained away from what had been my home and my private hell.  Now I too knew for a fact I’d never return to the north. 

[end part 1: “Home”]