The hood made my world dark and the ropes that bound my wrists and ankles stopped me moving at all, as I lay on the hard tiled floor behind the sofa near the wall. I could hear the television in the room but was unable to understand the language.
They had brought me to the flat with the hood in place. I tried to trace back how I had arrived but the thoughts would not come. Right now, the only things on my mind were few; ropes burning into my wrists and ankles, stinging pain mixed with numbness; my stomach empty and mouth dry. A humid heat and a dry breeze came through the window with sounds of a busy street beyond; through the breath damp hood came dusty air and traffic fumes.
“What are we going to do with him now?” asked a muffled voice.
“I am not knowing, it is your problem,” returned a man in a heavy Asian accent.
They were behind a door at the far side of the room. I heard footsteps as their voices were lost. The television carried on in a low warble and I could hear the quiet breathing of a man, my guard.
I think I slept; it seemed the only way to escape. There were confused thoughts of the past mixed with the sounds of now, making a weird semi-waking dream. Lack of food and water, and little sleep while they had tortured me, had left my mind a crazy mess.
I least I had slept at the flat; how long had I been here? The torture had stopped since they moved me from the cells; then days and nights had meant nothing, in the dark with no windows. There had been no toilet, no way to bathe, no light. All I could hear was the sound of a distant road. There was nothing to lie on but the hard mud floor. I chose a corner as my toilet.
I had constantly been taken down the corridor from the cell, towards the questions and pain. It was hard to know what was sleep and waking.
“Who are you, who do you work for?” asked the voices in the shadows. Then the electric shocks, the near drownings, incisions, scraped skin and burning.
At first I had answered: “I’m a tourist. I’m no one.” But as they scraped my mind and body less came from my mouth but garbled untruthful confessions, made up to get them to leave me alone.
I tried to think of home, my loved ones, films, books and music. Of Suzie, Dickens, Casablanca, Hendrix; gradually it made no sense and was torture in itself.
“What is this box? Who are your friends?” My things were shown to me, examined, questioned, like they were items of terror. My small black box with a little red light flashing on the side drifted through my vision.
Then the torture stopped. They took me from the dark cell. I was stripped, and then almost drowned in grubby water, in a dirty shower room, by a large man with a hood hiding his face. I thought I could see brown eyes but it was so hard to focus. He scrubbed off the sweat and dirt and blood and shit. I was dressed in a robe and fed like a baby.
They placed a hood over my head and I was guided out to a car. The journey went on and on. I felt sick with the switching roads and turning endless corners. I could hear traffic and voices punctuated with car horns. I could tell the driver was purposely trying to confuse me.
Finally the car stopped and I was led out across a rough pavement on a busy smelly road. We went up several flights of stairs and stopped. After a special knock there were a few words in a language I didn’t understand.
Inside the flat, they guided around a sofa, my hand brushed past it, to a wall, pushed me down on the floor and my arms and legs were bound.
How long had it been now? My only gauge of time was my empty stomach, dry mouth and the fact that I had soiled my robe.
Then I heard footsteps and voices again. The door opened and it sounded like there were three men in the room. I was lifted roughly and sat on a hard chair. The hood was pulled off.
I blinked in the rapidly paling early evening light and finally saw them. They wore hoods and the same style of robe as mine. They had covered their hands with gloves and I could see no skin. The guard moved away and resumed his seat on the beaten cheap sofa after turning off the television. This was a typical flat in an Arab country.
The other two men stood before me.
“We want to know some things,” said the tall one. He spoke an Arab accent with educated English inflection.
“I’ve said everything to your pals back in the cells.”
“They are not our pals,” he said, “but they have decided they can get no more from you and handed you over to us. You are a strong one.”
“Who are you?” I asked.
“We ask questions,” said the other shorter and wider man with the same heavy Asian accent I had heard before.
The tall one raised his hand. “I think I can answer that,” he said with an element of pride in his voice, “I am known as: The Viper.”
“Ah! The words I’ve waited all this time for,” I said. It was what had given me the strength, I thought.
“Oh really? You have heard of me?” he said, removing his hood.
“Yes, I know you,” I said nodding, “I knew if I held out long enough I’d meet you.”
“I am called The Viper, because I lie in wait, and then strike!” he jabbed the air with his hand. “I am glad of my fame,” he boasted.
“Not something to be proud of –”
“Ha!” he interrupted and sneered, “And, your friends, they are not coming.”
“This,” he said, holding up my small black box with the flashing red light, “your transmitter. We have been monitoring it all this time.”
He dropped it to the floor and smashed it to pieces under his shoe. Then he stood back and grinned.
“Ah, but you misunderstand,” I said.
“Really?” he said, the smile dropping from his face, as at that moment the sound of several pairs of boots thumped on the stairs.
Instantly the door smashed open, a number of uniformed men entered brandishing weapons, and in a moment the three startled men were surrounded.
“You see,” I muttered, “my friends were to lie in wait until the transmitter was turned off. And don’t feel too bad, I got the idea from you.”