Hello again, friends! Put all your Christmas preparations on hold because some Serious Shit is about to go down.
The next time the girls saw her, she was crumpled in the corner of their messroom. Mavis and Barbie were first to breakfast, and they found her lying on her side, curled up with her knees at her shoulders, arms secured behind her back, unresponsive. Soupy came running at their screams, and they were zipping apart her sleeves, patting at her face, her hands, trying to bring her out of it.
“Linda! What happened to you? Come on, honey, sit up!” Mavis was on one side of her, Barbie was on the other. They picked her up and sat her at the breakfast table, in front of Barbie’s tray. Soupy brought another tray immediately; he was kindly toward “his girls,” and they were more his charges than those of anyone else. Linda sagged between her table-mates, looking blankly down at eggs and toast.
Because we just need to remember that Soupy is a Good Guy. While he is complicit in an act that the United Nations, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch classify as inhumane torture, he would never make a girl miss out on breakfast.
“Honey, what happened?” Mavis entreated. “Here, have a bite of eggs.” She fed Linda a spoonful. “Where were you?”
Slowly, evidently painfully, she said, “They … TORTURED me.”
Mavis and Barbie swapped glances at that. Majken came in as she said it, and almost dropped her own tray. They all paled visibly.
“Honey, are you okay now?” Barbie had a hand on her shoulder. “Can we do anything?”
Linda grabbed Barbie, buried her head by her neck. “Oh, no, no, no …” She sobbed on Barbie’s shoulder, trembling and clutching. The other girls could only gape and stare.
Finally Soupy came into the room. “Don’t bother her, girls. Linda, let’s get you someplace you can sleep it off.” He gathered her up and half-carried her to an alcove, where he pulled off her wet jumper, laid her down, and covered her with a soft fleece blanket. As he laid it on her, he whispered very quietly, “Good act, kid.” They were out of sight; Linda reached up and gave him a sweet daughterly peck on the lips.
Good job convincing all of these girls that their lives are now in danger! After all, if they’d do this to Linda, who’s to say they wouldn’t do it to any other girl?
She was sitting on the edge of the alcove’s bed, still naked, her head in her hands, when Erica came into the lounge with a lunch tray.
Erica scooped up a spoonful and pushed it toward Linda’s mouth. “Eat, Leenda. This is good.” Linda opened her mouth and accepted it, then she opened her eyes and stared Erica dead in the face. Linda’s eyes were like those of a corpse. Erica shuddered and almost dropped the spoon.
“Leenda! What happen to you?” Erica gripped her shoulder.
Linda shook her head, eyes down. “They tortured me, Erica. They put me on the waterboard.” Her shoulders trembled. “I thought I was going to die.”
Erica stared at her earnestly. “What is – waterboard? What happened?”
“It was like being drowned,” Linda said. “I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t even croak. I struggled but there was nothing I could do.”
“Oh Mother God,” Erica blurted. “Is terrible.” She looked at Linda’s wrists. “They bruise you too. Bastards.”
“I couldn’t help myself, Erica. They did it again and again. Each time I felt weaker, each time I was sure this time would kill me. I can’t remember what else – just the waterboard. Erica, it was awful. It was worse than dying. Oh, Mother God, forgive me.” And she buried her head in her hands.
Erica tugged at her. “No, Linda. You got to survive.” She pressed another spoonful of soup at Linda’s mouth. “You got to eat. You got to live. All we got is life. Those bastards win if you die. Eat.”
She was somewhat better by dinnertime, but Jules judged her as not quite ready to serve as a waitress. She did help set up tables, shuffling out with trays of food that the other girls delivered to the men, but she almost seemed like a zombie to them. And when they sat down to dinner, the whole crew was quiet, watching her eat, watching her pick at her supper. She sat, slumped at her tray, as Jules called out the after-dinner duties; and when Casey came in to claim her for the night, the girls watched with open hostility as she shuffled off with him.
When I first read this, I was hoping that the waterboarding event would be the catalyst for a revolution among the Comfort Girls – that they would strike back against the men and demand to be treated as human beings.
Spoilers: it doesn’t happen. After this chapter, the waterboarding is rarely spoken of, except by Linda, who views it as a quasi-religious experience. If anything, the girls grow more content with their lot in life: Linda preaches that they must willingly submit to their new roles as sex objects and they come to view her as a spiritual leader, like some kind of kinky Jesus.
When the door closed behind them, Linda wrapped Casey in her arms. “Oh, thank you, Master, for bringing me back to life!” She giggled in his shoulder.
“Scrawny, you had Jules scared half to death. He asked me what the hell we had done to you!”
She grabbed his mouth with hers, and kissed him, and kissed him, and kissed … finally Casey broke free with a gasp. “Goddamn, girl, Chuck is still just Chuck. You’re the Shark. You’re the man-eater!”
She dropped to her knees and lifted her crossed hands. “Forgive me, Master.” Her eyes danced in mirth – and desire.
“Jee-zo-flip, honey, you’ll be the death of me yet. And Sharky, and Robin, and Lord-alone knows how many more.” He put her on his bed, and stripped off her jumper. She stretched back, smiling, hands above her head, and infinitely ready.
Linda was surprised, herself, at her hunger. She wanted nothing more than to be fucked, and fucked, and fucked some more. She realized she would be in heaven if the whole Conshelf contingent would just run a train on her, one after another after another until she was so full of cum that it gushed out of her. What had happened to her?
This is a turning point in the story. Linda is no longer a person; she is now defined totally by her desire to serve and submit to men. The shrill, hypocritical bitch we knew and loved from the start of this book is dead and buried. And in her place is… well…
“I need you,” Linda said. “Both of you. I’m so hungry for you. Please.” Her arms were straining to hug them closer.
The men traded gazes across her head. Both of them had been in battle; both of them had known what a close brush with death could do for a man’s urges. What about a woman’s urges? Even if it hadn’t been dangerous, not really, it surely must had felt that way.
“She could kill either of us alone,” Casey muttered.
“What a way to go,” Sharky returned.
“Are you down with the brown?” Sharky nodded silently.
One of the first laws put into place after the Patriarchy took control was the Mandatory Racial Reporting Act: prior to sexual activity, all black people have to announce their blackness to other participants through one of the officially sanctioned catchphrases.
Linda became melancholy, with a haunted look that her ‘sisters’ attributed to her torture at the hands of the Masters. It didn’t set them much at ease, either; they knew Linda was a special case, ‘Dr. Death,’ but they still wondered if something like that could be waiting for them – especially the girls who had been active in the Radfem movement.
While the other girls on the station are living in mortal terror, Linda wallows in self-pity. Doc Landry calls her in for an emergency psych-eval.
“Linda, are you all right? I can see the other girls are worried about you; they almost mother you, out there. What’s really going on inside you, please?”
“Not what, Doctor… who.” *insert biggest winky face emoticon in the world*
“Oh, Doctor – Master-”
“Doctor. In here. For now. What’s going on?”
She turned and managed a smile. Not a sunny smile, unless one counts a sunset.
This is my favourite line in the book so far. Not even joking; the delivery is a bit off, but it’s a nice and evocative metaphor. Maybe Rick has some hidden talent?
“Wouldn’t it look awfully funny, Doctor, if I didn’t seem hurt and depressed and upset about what happened? The ‘her-story,’ I mean.”
“Then it’s all an act? It’s pretty good acting, according to Barnes.”
“Well … it’s not all an act. I am upset; I am anxious. I can’t get my mind off of what I was doing with Project Y.” She unburdened himself to him, her fears, her doubts, her heavier and heavier burden of guilt. She poured her heart out to him, and he soaked it up like the professional heart-sponge that he was.
OK, I take that back.
She turned to him. Her eyes reminded him of Einstein’s eyes in the famous Karsh portrait, infinitely deep pools of melancholy. “Oh, Doctor, I’m afraid of what I might have unleashed on the world. I couldn’t stand a world without men in it. Not now!” (It would be worse for me, Landry thought, as I’m one of the men who would no longer be in it.)
Typical male. So self-centered!
“Yes, Master, I am feeling better. I’m feeling relaxed. But now … may I please you, Master?”
Linda sat up very straight, her breasts, her erect nipples, straining at the fabric of her jumper. (How had her top come unzipped like that? he thought.) Her eyes gazed into his, and her hands stretched out to him, palms up, arms crossed. (Well! This is a new twist on ‘bedside manner.’)
“Linda, as a therapist, I’m not sure I should.” She looked stricken – and very delectable. “But this is new territory. None of us has given thought to counseling for ‘comfort women,’ after all.”
“We just figured that comfort girls would adapt to their new lives like battery hens, or zoo animals! Who could possibly have predicted any psychological issues?!”
He chuckled ruefully. “Mama always told my sisters, if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.” He stood up. “Slip out of that jumper and onto my bed. Let me put my clothes up.” He hung everything over his desk chair, and came to join her.
They fuck a couple times and go to bed, but Landry is trouble by thoughts of Linda’s future. She’ll certainly never be employed in her former career, or almost any other job.
What then? She was past the ‘best-by date’ for marriage and childbearing. She was beautiful now – and she would certainly still be attractive in ten years; but men want young women, and now after the Revolution, in the Men’s World of the future, they would insist on youth in their brides.
What about as a wife for him? As he imagined it, his “bullshit filter” rang on red alert. C’mon, son, take off that white-knight helmet and get real! He was not the marrying kind – especially not nowadays.
He was a Coastie, though he didn’t talk about it – a doctor in the U.S. Coast Guard’s equivalent of the Navy’s Medical Corps. Less than two years from now, he’d PCS to a shoreside station. Ten years from now, at the end of Linda’s sentence, he’d be forgotten – he meant, she would be forgotten to him.
And down here, they couldn’t really even be sure of tomorrow. Oddly, that thought was comforting to him, in this dark, dark night. His mind calmed, his breathing slowed, and finally he slept.
At least one of us can sleep after this terrible chapter.
Have a great Christmas break, guys. Thanks for reading!