Like most people he had met so far in Australia, these women were friendly and curious.
"How long have you been backpacking here? Why don't you stay with us at the farm for the night?
We'll drop you off in town in the morning if you like"
"Of course not!" one of the women laughed as the other swung the car around and began
driving away from the town he had been hitch-hiking towards, "you won't be inconveniencing us at
all! Anyway, look at the clouds in the sky. The midday weather report did say there was going to
be a late afternoon thunderstorm. We'd better hurry."
The young man peered through the side window. Already thick grey clouds were moving quickly over the hill-tops. He leaned back in his seat, his finger idly tracing a line over the worn- out upholstery. No, no way he would want to be caught in a sudden thunderstorm. He was very lucky to have got a lift and shelter for the night.
He was ushered into the kitchen to meet a third young woman who taking hot biscuits out
of the oven while the kettle whistled loudly on the stove. Funny, he thought, all these girls look
very much alike. Perfect golden blonde hair and bright blue eyes the same far distance apart on all
their faces. There were quick introductions, the girls' names struck him as unusual, he put down his
backpack and was taken on a quick tour of the rooms. Thalia who was cooking the biscuits called
that tea was ready so everyone rushed back into the kitchen.
The herbal tea was sweet and relaxing. Very relaxing. Too relaxing. His head began to wobble and spin. Things swam before his eyes. His arms and legs felt heavy. "Uh-h ... is there a place where I ... can ...?" His voice tailed off and he slumped in his chair, deeply asleep.
When he woke up, he found himself in a tiny, narrow concrete cell. There was not
furniture, not even a bench or ledge to sit on. He felt the hard floor against his skin and realised he
was completely naked. He tried to move but his wrists were hand-cuffed together behind his back
and attached to the end of a chain whose other end was attached to the shackles around his ankles.
With a great effort and by rolling over to a wall for support, he managed to sit up. The door to his
cell was in front of him, the handle high above his head. He shuffled and rolled his way across the
floor and rattled the door with his head and shoulders. It was solid and moved very little. He
squirmed again and managed to bang the door with his feet. He thumped and thumped and
thumped all he could. He tried yelling: "Hey, what's going on here! Where am I? Anyone out
there? Help me!" over and over until hoarseness and exhaustion overtook him. There was no
answer from outside.
After a long interval, he heard faint sounds outside the door. Then the handle turned. The
door swung open. Two figures in black from head to leather-booted toe advanced upon him. He
looked up and glowered at the hidden faces above him. "What the fuck's going on here?" he yelled,
"who are you and why are you keeping me here like this?"
One of the figures lifted a slender stick and poked him on the thigh. A sharp lance of pain
bolted through his leg and up the side of his body into his chest and arm. "Owwwwww!" He fell
on his other side heavily, gasping for breath, rolling about and exposing his buttocks and other leg.
"Owwwwww!" Another sharp spear of pain ripped through his buttocks and into his belly and leg.
His bowels convulsed and the smell of faeces wafted into the air. He heard female laughter above
his head. There were some slight muffled noises, whispers, then foot-steps and the sound of the
door slamming behind him. He was alone again.
He turned and moved his body painfully. He saw an object on the floor near the door. It
was a baby bottle with milk inside. After the pain and spasming in his body had subsided, he
realised he was hungry. He inched over to the bottle, grabbed the teat with his teeth and gulped
down all the milk. Then he lay on his side curled up. All he could think of was the smell, the mess
on the floor and having something to clean himself.
The time crawled by. Seconds stretched into minutes. He tried yelling again. "Help me! What's going on? Someone help me? What are you doing to me? Where is everyone? Why am I here?" The time continued to pass.
He heard the door open again. He turned and saw two black figures moving towards him.
He opened his mouth but one of the figures moved a stick menacingly to his face. He closed his
mouth quickly. The figure with the stick snorted. "He's a fast learner, isn't he?" a female voice said.
The stick brushed against his sore arm and he yelped. He fell over into his mess. The two figures
laughed."Do you want to be fed?" a second female voice demanded.
"Can't I have a towel?" he whispered.
"What was that? Do you want to be fed or not?"
"I need a towel", he persisted.
"Answer the question!" the voice snapped, "do you want to be fed or not? Or would you
have something to eat?"
"Should we feed him?" the second voice asked the first.
"No", was the answer, "look at the mess he has made. He is worse than an animal. He will
"Please", he begged. The owner of the first voice moved towards him and poked him in the
arm with the stick. Pain exploded in his arm from his hand to his shoulder and across his chest,
then up his neck and into his head. Stars and lights danced before his eyes. His mind was
completely dizzy. He jerked and rolled on the floor, spreading faeces over his body, heaving for
breath. The figures laughed at him.
"In this place", the first voice said, "you speak only when you are spoken to. Is that clear?"
"Ye – yes", he stammered.
He heard foot-steps and the door slammed behind him. When his mind cleared he opened
The time ground into him relentlessly. There was no day or night in his cell. The ceiling light burned brightly into his consciousness the whole time. He was tired but unable to sleep. His stomach grumbled continuously. His skin itched from the dried urine and faeces.
He lost track of the passing days. The black figures made more visits. They forced him to beg for food and drink each time. He was made to beg for a bucket if he wanted to relieve himself. He learned he wouldn't always get food or drink or a bucket if he begged so he had to be grateful if the figures deigned to fulfil his requests. His jailers might sometimes poke him with the stick which didn't always zap.
Once in a while his jailers would unshackle his ankles and walk him to a bathroom where he would stand in a shower cubicle, wrists still handcuffed behind his back, while icy water rained over his long hair, scraggly beard and aching body. His jailers taunted him: "What a tiny dick! Not a man at all, is he? Look at his puny body! Is he actually male, do you think?" They would jab him with a wooden stick and laugh when he collapsed or cowered in the corner of the shower, gasping for air and gibbering in fright.
After the shower he would be marched back to his cell, leaving a trail of water behind him. Sometimes the cell was cleaned during his absence and the smell of ammonia would be strong. The jailers would shackle his ankles again and leave him dripping and shivering in the cell. A dog bowl with mashed banana and baby food might sometimes be waiting for him and he would wolf it all down, not caring if wet hair got in his way, he was so famished.
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