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Freida’s Bastard

By Mauricio Escudo de Mujeres

Maria and Freida sat in the center of a large group of women, all seated in the prison courtyard.  The last rays of the summer sun began to dip behind the orange horizon, but enough clear light and insufferable heat remain to make the women content to be outside.  Maria placed her hands on Freida’s slightly enlarged stomach and pretended to look forward to the guards who were shouting as usual.

"Are you feeling alright?"  She asked concerned for her friend. 

"Never better, I tell you, I feel like I am surrounded by a warmth... it really doesn’t bother me that she has been forced on me.” 

"The warmth you’re feeling is called summer.  Are you sure you’re okay?  You don't act like a seven-month pregnant woman.  You barely look it.  I’m surprised you haven’t started eating potato peels or volunteer to wash dishes to get more scraps.” 

"Yeah… I know.  With the little food we get... well… I don't want to talk about it.  I'm okay really, I'm just glad that you’re here with me.” 

"Well... I am glad to be with you too, but here… I’m not happy at all to be–"

"I just wish that they didn't come to my cell as often as they do.” 

"I never thought that your beauty and youth would served you wrong, but in this upside down place, beauty is a malediction.” 

"I don't know how to take that?"  Freida frowned at her friend while wiping sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand.

"As a compliment from an admirer of course, but here–"

"QUIET!"  The prison director screamed from the front of the assembled group of women.  Maria held Freida’s hand tightly and looked at the small man boring down on them through his small spectacles.

Assuring himself of having absolute attention, the director continued to yell.  "It's that time of the month.  You know the rules and what will happen if you break them.  Now, I want you French bitches here in the front, less we have a repeat of last months charade.  As for you two English whores, sit behind the Canadian filth.  As for the rest of you, I will expect complete silence and obedience.  Let me say this again, let's not have a repeat of last time.” 

The women let out a collective hushed giggle in defiance. 

"You can’t win!”  The director clashed his fist into his own palm.  “Now, let's start with English this time.  Calvino, give me the book!” 

A small round guard brought over a small black book and gave it to the director. 

"Okay… YOU!"  The director pointed to a pale woman with reddish and auburn hair. 

Oh it's Oriel,
Maria thought.  Yeah good luck you bastards; you won’t make her read even if you beg on your knees. 
The thin middle age women stood up and turned to face the large group of women staring and slightly smiling at her.  The director took the black book and opened to a marked page.  He then brought it to her face and pointed his index finger to a middle paragraph of the book. 

"READ!"  He yelled as he held the book in front of Oriel’s eyes.  She coldly and simply looked at the page, as if she had never seen a letter before and actually pushing her lips to the side as if actually trying to pronounce the foreign symbols in front of her. 

"Read you dirty whore!"  The director loudly yelled in her ear. 
Oriel brought her eyes upward and looked toward the setting sun.  Her cool demeanor in the summer dusk made her seem like a proud statue of ancient Greece.

After four seconds of holding the book in front of her, the director snapped it close.  It being a signal to have the nearest guard, out of the twenty-four that stood in attention, to land a harsh kick on the defiant woman’s back.  A rather fat guard stepped forward and kicked with all his might on Oriel’s lower calf.  She immediately fell backwards crying in pain.  The guard then brought a heavy right hand chop to the side of Oriel’s neck.  She fell forward unconscious.
“STOP,” yelled Beatrice, Oriel’s cousin and second British prisoner.  "You don't even understand English!"  She pulled Oriel back to the group of women. 

"The question," the director retorted back.  "Is not whether I understand or not... which I do... most parts.  The real problem is the fact that you defy my orders, time and time again.”  The director looked around the assembled group of 80 women, trying to instill a sense of fear by looking them individually in the eye.  "Now… I want to hear our great Fascist origins in," he took a long pause making sure that he built a sense of tension among the women.  “I want to hear our Fascist origins in... FRENCH!”  He pointed generally to a group of women with his index finger and made his choice based on who the finger signaled out.  “You, yeah you, with the stuck up nose, come up here.  You have never come up here, I think it's time that you read a little literature to us.” 

Maria tighten her grip on Freida. 

"She won’t read," Freida squeezed back.  “Have a little faith.”

"I hope not," Maria whispered.  "We have yet to read a single word.  If she does, they–"

"READ!"  The director followed the previous gesture as he held a small red book to the French women.  The young women looked up the lines in the book and followed some with her index finger.

"Je pense que tous les hommes ici…"

Collectively, most of the women let out a quiet protest, their passive resistance having been betrayed.  Most of them shook their heads in disbelief, their defiant struggle was no more.  However, the other French and some of the Canadian women were hiding smiles and trying to look away from the guards. 

"What is she saying Orainé," Maria whispered to one of the Canadian women trying hard to hide her smile. 

"That little kids have bigger penises than the guards, that they are no better than bitchy dogs, abusing the little power that they have to overcompensate for their... wait, ah, okay, for their traumas that they themselves were butt rapped by their fifthly uncles.” 

The director kept looking from the women reading the book, to the group of women who many seemed to be giggling.  He next looked to the line of guards who shrugged their shoulders in ignorance.  He brought his face around and closed to the book to see what the woman was reading.  He noticed her eyes slowly moving from side to side.  The irritation got to him and he suddenly closed the book. 

"Okay, that's enough!”  He stated trying to exert power on the obvious situation that none of the guards nor he himself understood what the French women had said.  "You can sit," he said waving the woman away.  He slowly paced in front of the sitting group of women.  He suddenly and viciously turned to them with renewed fury.

"We need some Spanish!"  He once again quietly paced around the larger group of Spanish women trying to once again instill a sense of fear and anticipation.   

"YOU!"  He unexpectedly shouted pointing at Freida. 

Maria's heart sank.  She almost stood enraged but was kept sitting by Freida’s hand on her shoulder.  Slowly, Freida made her way to the front of the group and stood facing the rest of the women.  The guard pulled out a small pocket book out of his uniform coat. 

"Read Chapter 2," he ordered handing over the book to her. 

Freida held the book, wishing she could speak a far-flung language. 

The guard stopped his pacing and looked at her with a fierce rage.  He stomped forward and grabbed the book from her hand. 

"I SAID READ!"  He yelled in her face as his saliva escaped his mouth.  "READ CHAPTER 2!” 

Maria chest felt like popping out.  Her nails were digging into the ground as she sat transfixed by fear and loathing. 
From Maria's perspective, the filthy little man slowly brought down his heavy right hand on Freida’s delicate neck making her collapse immediately.  Maria saw Freida everlastingly fall toward the hard ground.  She then saw the guard’s foot begin to recoil backwards for a kick.  The women in front of Freida were beginning to move forward, but not fast enough.  Beyond knowing, Maria was already hurling through the air, trying to prevent injury to her beloved friend who she loved like a sister.  She was not fast enough.  Maria felt deeply the foot begin to advance forward, accelerating in its trajectory even as her slow yell to stop the assault failed.  She saw Freida’s warm air leave her mouth as she tumbled further down, leaving a wide vacuum of crimson blood. 

"NOOOOOOOOO," Maria yelled to prevent any further injury.  She however tripped on someone and fell next to Freida right in time to receive the second kick on her back ribcage.  After a stunted second, she breathlessly yelled the thought she carried on her mind. 

"She's pregnant!" 

"WHAT!" The director stopped in mid stride for his third kick.

Most of the women had stood up and had moved forward in response.  The director and the guards did a double take.  Enraged and defiant women suddenly surrounded them.  They quickly grabbed for their loaded weapons and aimed forward effectively stopping the women in their tracks.  Back in control of the situation, the director relapsed into his first shock and turned to the guards. 

"How did this woman get pregnant?"  The director knew how, but he had hoped that his men had stopped their practices after he instituted the new rules regarding prisoner treatment.

All the guards shifted their weight, wishing the rest of the women would do something to instigate a potential danger and thus an “uprising.”  The director looked at his trembling hand and then down at Maria who was still trying to cover the younger woman from anymore harm.  For a second time he looked at the standing women and back at his guards who continued to aim their weapons at the group of women.  He noticed himself, and the two writhing women on the ground.  He was on the center, caught between the group of enraged women and that of the anxious gun-pointing guards.  He could feel the suppressed anger from both groups.  He looked at the women’s eyes and realized that they were titans read to die.  Feeling trapped by his political obligations and religious duties, an ocean of confusion descended on him.  He finally raised his hands to the sky. 

"Women," he addressed them for the first time as such.  "Returned to your cells!  All work is done for the day.”  He paused for a moment, looking up at the two guard-towers that each held a machine gun pointed at the group of women and yelled at them.  “They are returning to their cells, the guards will do the lock down.”  He backed away from Maria and Freida who were now being helped by Beatrice. 

"You can help them get off the ground."  The director told a group of waiting women who were being stopped by the guards who continued to point their weapons at them.  “Put the guns down you idiots!”  The director yelled at them.  Not waiting anymore, the women rushed to take their fallen sisters. 

Freida laid on the ground passed out.  The women carefully made a progression back into the awaiting dark shadows of their cell house.  And although only four shoulders carried Freida, all the women carried her tragic anguish in their hearts.  Maria was helped to her feet and was slowly walking amidst the procession.  With her left arm around Rosana’s shoulder, Maria slowly made it back to her cold cell room.  The desolate cold walls and humid sweat smell felt like never before, it was a blissful respite from the painful outside.  

"Please help her," Maria asked Rosana as she laid down on her sleeping corner.  Feeling completely drained and bruised, she fell into a bottomless slumber. 

It was in the early morning hours when all restless dreams were shattered by the piercing screams of a wounded animal.  Maria jolted awake and wondered why she had been screaming.  Her eyes automatically tried to see through the complete darkness all around her.  The screams were coming from all directions, bouncing on walls and reverberating everywhere else.  Maria's mind snapped to the memory of what had happened hours earlier.  She scrambled to her feet and griped cell bars of the door. 

"LET ME OUT!  OPEN THE DOOR!  SHE NEEDS ME!"  Maria screamed in between Freida’s agonizing shrieks.  She knew that the guards would be listening, for they were always close to the cells.  Especially on nights of labor, where it was known that a woman was pregnant.  On such nights, they listened most attentively to make sure that there were no new cries, no offspring heralding their inhumane indecency. 

"LET ME OUT PLEASE!  PLEASE!"  Maria screamed as hard as she could to make sure she would be heard.  All the other women were also holding onto their cell doors, all trying to see Freida through the blinding blackness, and perhaps miraculously help her if given the chance. 

"LET US HELP HER!"  Maria heard a women scream in a foreign accent. 

"DIRTY PIGS, SHE'S GOING TO DIE," another one screamed. 

Maria gripped the bars with renew force; her joints began to rip from her desperate attempt to force steal to bend to her will.  A new series of soul tormenting shrieks commenced, deafening all other screams.  Through each new cry, Maria could hear and visualize each sputter of saliva that uncontrollably erupted from Freida’s mouth.  Hysterically, Maria shook the bars of her imprisonment trying to shake off the feeling of hopelessness.  Through the blackness all around her, she could see glowing slivers of red and white lights floating around the prison cells. 

Maria the woman was no more, darkness engulfed all, and the nightmare was more real she.  In the empty bottom of her retched self, Maria remembered Freida’s glowing smile; how beautiful she had looked in the new Nurse Uniform; and how great of a friend she had been to Magdalena and to herself.  The memory of Freida playing with Magdalena restarted Maria’s heart. 

Not wanting a monstrous end to her beloved friend Maria’s determination and fury once again extended beyond her physical limitations.  She again screamed to be let out.  The air shattering yells matched those of Freida’s; both screams mixing into each other’s echoes, determination with anguish, tears with tears.

"BASTARDS!"  Maria shook uncontrollably from head to toe.  Her voice choirs began to shatter from each new shout.   "LET ME GO TO HER...”  She fell to her knees as her body gave away from the unrealistic strain.  As she slid down, the corroded cell bars ripped her palms open, releasing her boiling blood.  Her body convulsed with unseen coldness and fatigue.  She let go of the bars and brought her hands to her face to better cry her wasted tears.  She was powerless to aid her loved one in need.

Covering her face, Maria shook her head in disbelief.  In doing so, her teary face and bloody hands mixed together with her hopes of divine intervention, a primordial prayer for life.  In this her weakest state, consumed by a void of dreadful empty helplessness, her hope ascended to the heavens. 

God, please her.


In the far distance and through the screaming, Maria understood two bolt doors being opened.  A light had pierced through the darkness.  From her isolated cell, she heard the running of a woman toward the back corridor that housed Freida’s cell. 

"Stop her bitching!"  Maria heard a male voice say.  Two more cell doors were opened, one had a clang whistle to it and the other a creaking wail. 

"KATURA, ABELIA, HELP HER!"  Maria cried out in a raspy whisper.  Her voice had abandoned her and she was no louder than a mouse but she continued to yell at Freida anyway she could, trying to reassure her and herself.  "EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY MY DEAR FREIDA.  WE'LL GET OUT OF THIS YOU'LL SEE.”  Maria crawled around her cell floor to a corner where she believed her beloved friend would better understand her.  Even though Freida continued her guttural screams. 
"I'M HERE FREIDA!”  Maria hoarsely whispered.  I'M HERE MY SISTER.  WE'LL GET THROUGH THIS.  WE'LL GO BACK TO OUR HOUSES LIKE OLD TIMES YOU'LL SEE.  YOU AND ME, AND OUR BABIES!”  Maria chocked through her whispers and quietly cried further at the thought of her baby girl being lost somewhere in a foreign land. 

The hours slowly passed by, broken into segments of screams, whimpering, shrieks and deathly palpitating silences.  Refracted broken sun light began to slowly uplift the black veil around the cell house.  Maria half realized that she had been staring at a crack on the wall and talking to it as if it was Freida and Magdalena at the same time.  Seeing the cell for what it was, she slowly stood up and tried to squeeze through the cell bars as if she was in a dream.  The pain in her palms, and the now the bump in her head, made clear the futility of her situation.

"FREIDA!"  Maria once again tried to scream.  "HOW ARE YOU?  KATURA, HOW IS SHE?"
Oriel who was directly opposite from Maria's cell barely heard what Maria had tried to say.  She then echoed Maria's question loud enough to be heard by the right people. 

"SHE'S OKAY!"  A voiced answered back.  "FOR THE MOST PART.  SHE’S STILL IN–"  The voice was interrupted by the electronic bell in the cell house.  The main door was opened and many guards ushered in. 

"WE CAN'T GO TO WORK!"  Maria tried to scream.  "YOU DIRTY SON OF BITCHES, BASTARDS.  YOU–"
From the back of the cell house a male voice cut through.  "IT'S BETTER THAT YOU ALL GO TO WORK AND DO AS USUAL.  THINGS WILL GO A LOT SMOOTHER FOR EVERYONE.” 

A guard went around Maria's cell and systematically opened the door.  He promptly moved onto other cells.  Maria simply watched him in silent fury.  She closed her fist in anger, opening the wounds that rapidly shed their heavy strain.  Maria felt like crying out of desperation and hatred but was unable to let the guards see her cry.  Instead, her fist wept the injustice done to her friend.

Oriel came out of her cell and stood face to face with Maria.  "We have to go," she said.  "We have to go… we'll take care of her as usual.  Like we always do.” 

Maria looked at Oriel with distain.  How can you be so cold!  You betray her.

“Don’t look at me like that, you know it’s the only way we can help her!”  Oriel noticed the dried blood on Maria’s face. 

“Look, I hate this as much as you.  I want to kill these bastards but you know that right now that’s not going to help Freida.”

Maria finally consented that the best thing would be to follow the procedure... if only to help her friend.  She exited her cell and slowly walked toward the line that was beginning to form in front of the cell house hall.  Suddenly, she quickly turned about face and ran through the different cells in a familiar "z" pattern to where her best friend would be. 
Freida sat in a corner wall.  She was half naked and holding a dirty bundle to her chest. 
Maria tried to open the door but was still locked.  She then dropped to Freida’s level. 

"Uhm," Maria whispered as she fought back the tears and anger boiling inside her.  "How... how are you?”  She murmured, beginning to cry. 

In a similar horse voice Freida began to response but was interrupted by two women that rushed behind Maria and stood in shock.  Freida pulled the dirty bundle closer to her exposed chest. 

"Do you… do you want me to stay with you," Maria said hoarsely. 

A guard came behind the two women and also stood in shock but quickly turned from the cell. 

"You have to go back to the line," he barked. 

"No... I'm here," Freida growled.  "Go to work, I'm here.” 

Maria grabbed the cell bars and brought her face closer.  "We'll be okay," she rasped.  "You and me.”  She nervously smiled causing the dried blood on her cheeks to flake off, while the new tears channeled down her smudged face.
"Come on you women.  Don't make this harder, you have to go make line!"

Maria hunched her shoulders and awkwardly stood up. 

"Maria!"  Freida hissed at her friend.  "You have cried blood.  It's a sign!” 

What?
  Maria thought.  "Yes," she answered excitedly hoping to finally establish a connection with her friend.  "It's a sign that we'll be okay.  A guard will be here later and take you back to work.  I'll be waiting for you.”  Maria turned to see

Carmen and Oriel looking at her. 

Picking up on Maria’s hope, Carmen forced a large smile.  "We'll come back," she said to Freida.  "I’ll take you to work later on… okay?” 

“If you need us,” Oriel joined in.  “We’ll be right outside.  But for now, we have to go, but remember, we’re just outside if you need us for anything.” 

The three women smiled in unison, hoping for some kind of understanding from the younger woman.  However, Freida blankly starred at the three smiling women outside her cell and at the cowardly guard trying to look somewhere else.  She tried to move further into the wall.

Noticing Frida’s reaction, Carmen and Oriel gently grabbed Maria and led her back to the line.  Once there the other women comforted Maria and tried to brush off the flakes of dried blood that still clung to her face.  As they walked out of the cell house, Katura and Abelia approached Maria. 

"We did as much as we could in the darkness."  Katura gazed down on the ground in front of her.  “We tried, but it was horrible.”  Maria silently agreed with her. 

"He was born like all the rest," Abelia added.  "I was going to take it with me, but Freida wrestled it from my hands.” 

"We couldn't do anything more," Katura continued.  "And once she stopped screaming the pigs put as back in our cells.” 
Maria robotically walked as she imagine and thus re-lived the horrible scenes she was not able to be a part of. 
"Maria,” Abelia continued.  “She had not dropped the placenta when they took us away.  The boy was still attached to her!  We couldn’t–"  Maria stumbled forward.

"Please, no more," she whispered.  I need to be with her.

Maria, and most of the other women, passed the remaining part of the morning in complete silence.  For all, except for the two older ones, the cruel reality of the night before could again repeat itself inside them.  For thirteen of them, the personal memories of having gone through a similar horror made them want to end all possibilities of it ever happening again.  All of them shared the memories of their unlucky seven friends who died while giving birth to their stillborn babes.
The lunch hour having arrived, Maria sat with her usual group of women, distantly staring at her boiled potato.  Carmen and Oriel hurriedly approached Maria's table. 

Where's Freida?  And why is Oriel
here?  Maria looked behind the women to the prison cell house, hoping to see Freida behind them.

The two approaching women, having read the confused faces of the women that watched them arrive, quickly answered as soon as they could. 

"She won’t come out," Carmen stated. 

"What," was heard through the large group of women. 

"She's afraid of loosing her... her ... her boy.”  Oriel added.  The same response permeated through the women, all in disbelief. 

"But no one does that," a women thought out loud. 

"Well," Oriel continued.  "The stupid guards don't want anything to do with this.  They have simply left her cell door open.  They have even given us the key to the sacred area behind... well, you know what I mean.  The bastards, as usual they will wait till the last minute.”  

Maria stood up and began to walk to the cell house.  "Maybe I can get her to come with me."  She looked at Oriel and Carmen.  "You know what to do.”  Maria then rushed to the cell house, followed by the two women. 
On a mission, Maria entered Freida’s cell and sat next to her friend who still sat in the same location and position as in the morning.  Oriel and Carmen hid themselves behind a corner of the cell house.  A strong body and blood odor was particularly strong by where they stood, enough so that they had to cover their noses. 
Stunned from her friend’s condition, Maria lost her focused and decided to ignore the smell and simply brush Freida’s sweaty fine hair away from her face. 

After a long silence, Maria could not go on pretending that nothing was wrong. 

"Come with me," she warmly said in her raspy voice.  "Let's us wash you.  Summer days can be−” 

"No...”  Freida quickly responded with the same tone.  "You will take my baby when I'm not watching.” 

"No, no, not at all.” 

"I know you will, remember, I have been here with all of you to know better.”  Maria did not say anything to contradict her. 

"Don't you want to shower," she finally continued looking at the dirty walls that were slightly illuminated by filtered sun light. 

"No!" Freida began to cry.  "Get out, get out... you will take my baby!  He’s my baby Maria.  Sadio-Angel will stay with me and only me!” 

Maria saw the retched dirty bundle Freida held on to her chest, her now named dead son.  She impulsively thought of forcefully taking the bloody bundle from her best friend.  However, a forceful seizure of the dead baby was beyond anything she could ever do to another mother, let alone her beloved Freida. 

How could I ever attack one who has been repeatedly assaulted before?
 I would be no better than the pigs that did this.  There is no way that I could add to my sister’s pain. 

Loving Freida too much to go against her wishes, even if it was for her own good, Maria silently cried as she stood up and dragged her soar sweaty body out of her friend’s cell. 

For the rest of the day all the women talked wordlessly about Freria.  Silently praying for a miracle to deliver their fallen sister from further injury.  The end of the working hours had ended and they proceeded to eat in uncertainty and remorse of what step to take next. 

"I took her some food,"  Maria detachedly stated, remembering the upheaval of her heart at seeing her friend sitting in the same position as before.  "She threw it to the ground, telling me that her baby would stay with her.”   Her eyes burned from her friend’s hurtful accusation.  "I mean, I had not even thought of doing that.  I just wanted her to eat.  I would not drug her, or forcefully take it from her… how could I!” 

Maria continued to relive the scene as Rosana hugged her from behind. 

"Don't worry," she cried.  "I'm sure everything will be alright and she will come out of her cell tomorrow.” 
"But if she doesn't," Carmen rationalized.  "The guards might punish her further.” 

"Do you think," Maria turned around to face her silent group.  "That she will come out tomorrow?” 

"Of course!"  Rosana responded grasping for any sliver lining that could ameliorate the state of her friend. 

A bell was banged several times, signaling the end of the dinner. 

"MAKE A LINE," one of the guards yelled. 

Maria joined the usual line of women and slowly walked toward the cell house while dragging her strained hopes behind her bruised body.  She looked at the setting sun and was relieved to think that the hot day would soon come to an end.
As she walked into the cell house, Maria wanted to rush over to her friend's cell, but knew that the distrust Freida felt about her would not abate any time soon.  Hence, she quietly walked into her cell, which was promptly locked by a guard.  She gently sat down by the wall.  The same place she had awoken in the early morning.  The nauseating smell of birthing was inescapable; it covered every inch of her.  Being unable to escape the stench, she accepted it as part of life.  Nevertheless, she still felt broken by it.  She thus saw herself as an eroded mountain that could no further stand against the flow of life.  Maria imagined her bones and herself melting into the cell floor.  She was emotionally and physically drained.  She could do no more.  Everywhere her eyes saw, they welcomed the setting of the last rays of sunlight, closing in at rhythmic and tangible intervals.  Existence would soon be laid to rest in it’s own cycle.

Not fully a sleep, Maria knew that time had elapse, that the sands of instancess had forever escaped the hourglass constrains.  Floating in between empty dreams, she distinctly heard a lullaby that was more of a lament. 

Magdalena loved when I sang her this song.  She loved to sing along.  She always asked me to sing strong.  Though I think she preferred it when Freida joined the throng of the lullaby birthing song.


The familiarity of the song struck a nerve.  Time flashed in a lighting realization.  Maria awoke in state of shock.  She slowly crawled to the corner of her cell and placed her right ear through the cell bars.  From somewhere in the back parts of the cell house, Freida was singing a lullaby to her baby boy. 

"Did you... that," Maria barely made out the conversation between mother and her dead son.  "My baby... out of prison... tall and strong... house in the country... care of you… ever after.” 

In pain, Maria laid down on the floor trying to capture every word that escaped her friend’s song.  Her chest felt fracture, a sharp claw repeatedly sliced through her very being creating a deeper wound.  Each time she made out of what her friend sang another hack was inflicted.  Imploding into herself, Maria continued to listen to the source of her love, despair and pain. 

The night passed in a turbulent whirlwind of emotions.  With the new rays of the summer sunshine, the bell once again rang for their workday to begin.  Feeling like she was at the bottom of a deep ocean, Maria slowly swam to her feet.  The cell door opened and she mechanically made her way to the front of the prison entrance door.  She joined the growing line and noticed that most women floundered in a state of dazed.  Or was it just her?  No one said anything; they unconsciously made the usual marching line and proceeded to head out as soon as all the other prisoners joined in.  Maria kept looking straight, focusing on the short hair of the women in front of her.  Somewhere during the roaming nightly thoughts, she had misplaced her hopes that Freida would leave her cell and that everything would go back to the normal misfortune that was prison life.  Maria walked in a muted existence throughout her morning.  She had no idea what would happen next, worst of all, no hope reassured her. 

The first half of the day passed in puzzlement.  Some of the women called for a large meeting during lunchtime at which Maria fully awoke.

"... she has lost hold of reality.  She thinks her baby is living.  She sings to it and even tells how they will live after pris–.” 

“Stop!”  Maria heard herself say, not knowing why.  She looked around the women, frantically trying to find an argument.  Many simply looked down at their lunch, not wanting to catch her distressed gaze. 

"I love Freida,” Orainé stated in her French-Canadian Spanish accent while looking down at her lunch.  "But last night, I threw up three times from the smell.  I also didn't sleep because of her singing and...” she paused for a moment and looked at Maria.  "Her future dreams... with, the baby.” 

"Maria," Carmen spoke out loud.  "You are her best friends.  Do you think she will gain her sanity?"
Maria shuffled her feet from side to side.  Tears of impotent hatred chocked her mouths.  "I... I don't know.”   She said stabbing a boiled potato in front of her. 

"Can the guards not take it from her?"  Orainé quickly took a mouthful of her potatoes, not wanting to say more. 

"Those horrible pigs," Carmen answered curtly.  "I'd already asked them.  They don't want anything to do with the baby. 

If you noticed, none of the guards have visited the cell house all day.” 

"Shhh," Oriel silenced them in her proper British manner.  "Here comes the paranoic, Stupid Mouse.” 

A medium built guard hesitantly approached the women from the direction of the guards' building.  He had taken his hat down, revealing a receding hairline.  The guard nicknamed "paranoic” or Stupid Mouse, seemed to repeatedly turn his head back to the building he had come from, scratching his head as he advanced.  The women silently watched him stop in front of them. 

"Ah-hmm," he cleared his throat.  "The guards, I mean, we have decided that it's time we did something about the cause of the smell in the cell house.” 

"What do you propose.”  One of the women in the back asked. 

He cleared his throat again.  "Hmm, well… I volunteered to accompany two of you women to Princess… I mean, Freida’s cell and forcefully remove the baby from her.  We’d figured that it needs to be done.” 

"And then what?"  Maria asked as she gripped her fork with all her might.  

"Well... you take care of the... the thing and we'll lock her in her cell.” 

"What is she resist," a woman called from the back. 

"She must be tired," the guard answered.  "Tadeo said she was sleeping when he passed through there during lunch.” 

"Well, if she’s sleeping let’s go take it now.”  Another women from the back of the group called out.  Maria turned around to see a large group of women that had materialized out of nowhere.

Who spoke? 
She wondered but decided to turn back to face the guard and postpone the inevitable pain that laid ahead for her friend. 

"Wait… it might wake her."  Maria grudgingly added. 

"We, the guards, think that it's better at night anyway... this way the director will have gone home by then.” 
The women around her all agreed, while Maria remained still, disgusted at what she would do at the end of the day. 
"Great," the guard smiled looking at Maria.  "So don't bother her.  Don't go to her cell or anything.  We don't want her to figure out our plan, she's a smart one.” 

Without waiting for an answer, he turned and walked back to the guard building.  As he walked away he looked down at his hand; in it, there was a short purple string. 

Maria sat looking at the small guard walk way.  She hated him and his companions, but part of her thanked them for forcing a decision in regards to Freida. 

It’s to help you pigs sleep at night, but for me, it’s helping my dear friend and that is the most important thing right now.

Maria realized that she was grateful at the guards, which fueled her hatred for them even more. 

As soon as the guard was out of sight, Orainé turned to the group.  "Who would like to go with Stupid Mouse tonight?"

The women searched in their hearts, knowing the pain that it would bring on themselves, to hurt one of their own, even if it was for Freida’s own good. 

"I'll go," Maria quickly volunteered.  “I have to help her.”

"Me too," Rosana joined as well. 

"I want to go too!"  Carmen added as well.

"Me too!" Several women answered in unison. 

From the corner wall, a bell rang signaling the end of their lunch period.  Maria wanted to cry. 

"There can only be two of us,” Maria stated swallowing her tears.  “Please, let the nightmare be for only two, no matter how much we love her.  She will need you all tomorrow, for I fear that she will hate me when this thing is done.”  Those being the last words, the women silently returned to their working sections. 

The rest of the day passed in a slow cycles of crushing rocks and time consuming water breaks.  Maria was glad when she got called to kitchen duties.  She could focus on cutting potatoes and unions for the soon to be eaten miserable meal.  For Maria, the mealtime signaled the last supper of innocence, for she would become a pig herself.  By taking and hurting her best friend’s heart, she would become no better than the prison guards.  Worst, she was doing their duty work.

During the actual meal, all the women ate in silent agreement of what would come next.  As if on schedule, when the bell rang for them to return to the cell house, the small paranoid guard stood at the front of the line.  The other four customary guards were not seen anywhere, but the women knew that they and others were looking through vacant windows and soulless peepholes should they be needed. 

The diminutive guard walked to the center of the line.  "Remember," he addressed everyone in his prepared speech. 

"She's resting now so let's not give her any suspicions.  We'll wait till the middle of the night and then we'll go into her cell house.” 

The women stood rigid, hating the fact that they would turn on one of their own. 

We have to help her,
Maria thought.  No matter what, we have to help her. 

"Who will come with me?" The guard asked.  Maria and Rosana both raised their hands.  "Okay, I'll come to your cells when I'm told... I mean when the time comes.” 

The guard motioned with his hands to them to return to the cell house.  Slowly the women marched as one, one foot towards cruel pain. 

As soon as they entered the cell house the unity was broken.  They were hit with a torpid smell of rotting meat and sun baked carcasses. 

"OOH," the women pinched their noses with their hands. 

"Oh my God," Maria felt her stomach turning inside out.  "Something is wrong!  We need to go clean her right now!  This can't be good for her.” 

The single guard seemed to be caught unprepared for the women not to do as he told them.  His wide eyes looked from side to side for his absent comrades.  Maria stepped in front of his face.  "Has anyone been here?"

"Ah, I... I don't know, Tadeo–” 

"Do you have the keys!"

"Kind off.” 

"Here," Maria put her hand in front of her.  From the corner of her eyes, she saw eight heavily armed guards coming out from the guards building.  They were walking nonchalantly across the courtyard.  Maria knew that they were unaware of the situation in the cell house and that she had limited time to help her friend.

"Give them to me!"  Maria looked at the guard with a sheer wild determination. 

He begrudgingly gave them to her.  Maria grabbed them and turned quickly toward Freida’s cell.  Some of the women headed back outside trying to hold off from puking.  Four women rapidly walked behind Maria who desperately rushed forward.  The rest of the women saw the five women walk towards the heart of the putrid smell admiring their fortitude. 
The small guard felt ashamed that he had been ordered around by one of the women.  Seeing guards approaching, he knew that he had to explain what he had done with the keys that were specifically assigned to him for this one purpose.  Not wanting to be ridiculed more than he needed to, he quickly rushed off after the women.  He ran up to them in no time, the direction and intended cell being quite familiar to him.  He saw that one of the women was on her knees puking while another held her shoulder and was trying not to puke herself. 

Where is prideful Maria? 
He thought as he recognized the one who took the keys from him; who was now frantically trying to find the right one to open the cell door.  As he came behind her his stomach turned into painful knots, the smell was overwelming.

"Here," he said taking the ring of keys from Maria.  "This is... shit!” 

He saw what he could have never imagined.  Freida rested half sitting and half laying on the back wall.  Her eyes and mouth were wide open, as if gasping for air.  A bundle of dirty and bloody rags laid by her half exposed left breast.  In between her fallen legs and covered by her dress, an outline of a bloody bulge could be seen.  An umbilical cord came out from the bloody bulge and disappeared by her left hand. 

He once again looked at Freida’s lovely but tortured face.  The lips he loved to touch, the hair he adored to caress… it was all dead.  As he gaped at his most cherished doll in disbelief, a black spider came out of her mouth.  A revolting energy rushed from his feet up to his head, twisting his spine and shoulders.  He dropped to his hands and knees, preferring to see the dirty ground as he dry heaved than see inside his most treasured prize ever again.  As much as he concentrated on the dirt, the dead image of her had become forever singed on his mind.  He heaved yet again from his own repulsion.
Maria crotched in front of the guard and grabbed him by the collar of his shirt.  "WHAT'S THE KEY!"  She half slapped him with the ring of keys.  With a nervous hand he blindly picked the smaller gold plated key.  Keeping his eyes away from the inside of the cell, but knowing full well what it held inside.

Maria grabbed the key and turned back to the lock in one fluid motion.  She had finally found the right key to the pit of her worst nightmare.  She would soon plunge into the center of horror.  She threw open the door of the cell only to stand motionless once inside.  She was frozen by the shattering emotions that tore her asunder. 

From behind her she heard the words of Rosana.  "Let's get her out of here!"  Maria felt two women rushed by her into the cell.  Awakening from a mental stupor, she too hurried further in.  As she approached Freida, her stomach turned to stone and fell to the floor. 

Rosana grabbed Freria’s right hand and pulled her from the wall.  Rosana and Carmen then dragged her lifeless body to the other end of the cell.  Maria followed the lifeless body of Freida who left behind a trail of violet blood and a half dragged dark-purple placenta that oozed a black liquid.  Maria's body began to violently shake as she tried not to puke. 

"Carmen!"  Shouted Rosana.  "Grab her legs, let's take her outside.” 

"YES," Maria shouted fighting back the tears and vomit.  "TAKE HER OUT!”  It’s clean outside.  The two women quickly stumble down the corridor toward the front entrance.  The small frighten guard drunkenly staggered behind them. 

Immobilized once more, Maria silently watched them go.  Her mind having detached itself from the convulsing body, she thought of her friend.  My poor Freida!  How you must have suffered.  Peace be with you my sister.  You now rest with all the other angels.  And your baby sits with you, playing by your side.  Dear lord, protect us all, and shelter your fallen daughter Freida.  Let her go straight to heaven for her suffering on earth, for she has endured like the great saints of old and purgatory will burn no sin off her. 

The two women finally disappeared with Freida’s body.  Maria looked down at her shaky feet.  The dirty bundle of rags lay exposed in front of her.  A desiccated baby boy laid amidst the dirty rags.  His dried up umbilical cord was still attached to him. 

Maria felt her stomach tensing, flexing uncontrollably.  Her stomach all of sudden twisted violently bringing her down to her knees.  Not wittingly, she looked once again at the baby's delicate face.  Unlike his eyes, his mouth was open, exposing chewed piece of purple meat.  Her mind and body went into shock, the bleeding placenta now made sense.  In her delusion, Freida had tried to nourish the child by any means possible.  Her stomach contracted and she fell forward hitting her forehead on the solid ground, instantly losing consciousness. 
 
****

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