WARNING: This poem contains rape, graphic violence, torture, mystical horror, revenge, and other touchy topics. If you are sensitive to these matters or horror writing in general, seriously consider reading something else. For those of you who like seeing the bad guys Get Theirs, however, that also happens.
"Once You Have Touched Her"
Six men die taking the last gun from her hand,
before the enemy soldiers drag the captain from her ship
and fuck her over the dry rasping sand of the beach
because that is what happens in war.
She is captured but not conquered:
they think they can put out the fire of her auburn hair
with the harsh scrape of their straight razors,
wring answers from her gasping lungs
with questions and running water.
They know nothing of this firebrand,
how the pale plain of her skin
burns like white phosphorus even underwater.
They try sleep deprivation next,
driving her from the dreamswept shores
until the waking world blurs and runs like a mirage
on a horizon that whispers with sibilant risk.
She weeps, she rages;
sometimes she laughs,
telling them mad things --
warning them that the walls of her self
are there not for her protection but for theirs.
She tells them stories,
rips their own language
with roses and thorns
spit from her bloody lips --
but she never gives them the answers
that they demand of her with hands and whips,
never gives away shipping schedules or armament
or the code words that would open radio frequencies to them.
The enemy soldiers laugh at her,
for all that the interrogator scowls at everyone;
they smear her sweat over their bodies
as they drag her back and forth beneath the burning sun
to keep her awake, to deny her sleep and dreams.
When the captain finally loses her grip,
it is the nightmare who comes.
It is she who takes the enemy screaming,
dragging them in and down so fast
that they have no time to broadcast a warning.
It is she who destroys the prison and the base
and leaves a gaping hole in the enemy line,
bereft of explanation, for there is no rationality to this.
It is she who disappears into the loch-dark night,
trailing destruction behind her like water weeds,
nothing left but a trail of damp fading footprints.
Those who live in the world of science
have forgotten the world of magic,
forgotten that the nightmare is kin to the kelpie:
and once you have touched her dripping skin,
her power holds you fast in an iron grasp,
and she will not let go until you have drowned.
* * *
Napalm with white phosphorus will indeed continue burning underwater in the right circumstances.
Sleep deprivation is a form of torture that can break down natural barriers within the mind.
A nightmare is a horrific dream, associated in mythology with horses.
A kelpie is a mystical creature resembling a horse, which preys on unwary humans.
Damage to torturers is usually psychological and self-inflicted. Also known, but far less often discussed, are two other possibilities that occur when the torturer rams into the far ends of the human spectrum. It's possible to shift a saint or other holy person from latent to active under extreme duress, and you don't want to be leaning over that when it happens. It's also possible to discover, as in this poem, that you are not the biggest monster in the room after all.