By convict 975468
On the third or the fourth day—it was hard to keep track of time–the 12 civilian prisoners were allowed to dress in their own clothes. Then they were chained up and moved by truck to the airfield, where they were taken into a military plane and locked to benches running along the side. After a flight of several hours, they landed at another military base. MP’s boarded the plane and unchained them from the benches. They were led off the plane to an army truck, placed in the back, and secured.
Upon arriving at the base stockade, they were removed from the vehicle and led inside. They went through two barred doors into a room with barred doors leading in several directions. Their handcuffs and leg irons were removed and they were told to strip and put their clothes in the plastic bag given to each of them. They were taken through the barred door to their right into what turned out to be a shower area. They were sprayed with a foul smelling chemical and after a few minutes were allowed to shower it off. They were issued olive-drab towels. When they were dry, they were returned to the first room. The bags containing their clothes were gone, replaced by two stacks of skivvies and tee shirts. One of the MPs said, “Civilians are not allowed to wear a uniform, so you’ll have to make do with these.”
After moving through another barred door, followed by another, they found themselves in a cell block. A whistle was blown as the second door was opened. Here there were only two-man cells. Ted was placed with a man that had so far avoided being paddled. They went to the back of the cell and knelt with their hands behind their heads until the cell was locked. Once all of them were locked up, an MP explained the rules, which were much the same as those in the first stockade.
A whistle blew, and they got up and shook hands. Ted used gestures to suggest they agree that one of them would keep watch while the other one slept. The guy nodded agreement. Then another whistle blew, and three MP’s came into the cell block – each carrying a nightstick.
“OK monkeys,” one of them said. “Time for a little monkey training – get up on those bars.”
Huh? What did that mean?
“I said climb on the bars! Use your feet and paws, monkeys!”
They started climbing up on the bars.
“No. This is how you are going to do it.”
The round vertical bars ran through several rectangular horizontal bars. With his nightstick, the MP tapped the four-inch horizontal bar that was waist high.
“When monkeys get on my bars, they start with the balls of their feet on this bar. Then they reach way up and grab a bar up there with one hand, and put their other hand on their heads.”
Ted and the other prisoners changed their positions so that they complied with the instructions. But that wasn’t enough.
“I’m a nice guy,” the MP continued, “but I don’t like those toes invading my space. When I give the order ‘up,’ pull those toes back and raise those heels. Because I might just bang against the bars with my stick like this.”
He violently dragged his nightstick along the lowest horizontal bar on Ted’s cell.
“When I decide to hit the bars like that, those toes had better be fully ON the bar, and those balls had better be OFF, or something might get HURT. UP, monkeys!”
Ted and his cellmate tried to fit their toes to the bar. So did the prisoners on the other side of the walkway. Ted soon realized it was very stressful holding the bars with only one hand. Yeah, and they all looked like monkeys.
“Now,” the MP continued, “being such a nice guy, I might say ‘down’, in which case you could lower your heels and rest again with the balls of your feet on the bar. But I really don’t like those toes sticking out into my corridor. UP!”
The pain was excruciating. But finally he said “DOWN!”
Then banged his stick against the bars of Ted’s cell.
“Hey weak little monkey.” Ted’s cellmate had lowered his heels before he said down. “I know just what we need to get you stronger.”
He ordered Ted and his cellmate to their knees at the back of the cell. The cell door was opened and his mate was called out of the cell.
“Back on the bars.” Ted climbed back on the bars. From there he could see what was happening as two MP’s tied the cellmate’s hands to a rope attached to a pulley hanging on the ceiling and tied off on a hook on the wall.
“Since you don’t understand the meaning of ‘up,’ we will help you to learn. UP monkeys!”
The men in the cells rose up on their toes and a MP pulled on the rope until the guy’s toes were barely touching the floor. After about ten minutes, and having to change hands on the bars twice, the men were shaking from the stress, and the poor fellow’s rope had stretched till he was putting some of his weight on his toes.
The MPs lowered the man until his weight was on the balls of his feet. After less than a minute, the MP said, “I really hate those toes in my corridor.”
The men got back on their toes and the guy in the corridor was raised again till his toes just touched the floor. Three times in the next ten minutes they were ordered to switch hands.
Finally, the MP said, “I’m so glad we had time today to teach you monkeys to hang on the bars. Now we can look forward to everyone playing the game. DOWN. All right, on your knees.”
The man was placed back in the cell with Ted. They remained on their knees for some time, and when the whistle blew, they found a sandwich and a bottle of water for each man.
The afternoon was punctuated by regular visits from an MP. On one visit the prisoners were required to hang on the bars again. Ted’s cellmate struggled and shook, but he kept up on his toes as ordered. Later the military prisoners returned from their work, and after supper things were quiet for a while.
Ted didn’t think it would stay that way, and he was right. Around what he guessed was ten o’clock, two MPs came into the cellblock and played a game of monkeys. The first set of monkeys-on-the-bars was followed by intense exercise. Then it was back on the bars for an extended period, followed by more exercise. It lasted over an hour, and within less than two hours the MPs were back for another session. The games went on all night.
At dawn the prisoners were required to get out of their bunks and get ready for the day. Then they were kept on their knees at the back of their cells. Soon breakfast was passed out. It was hearty–eggs, fried potatoes, sausage, and toast–all at room temperature with congealed grease for extra flavor. Ted ate with gusto. This was the best he’d had since he’d been in custody.
When they had eaten they returned to their knees as the military prisoners were led out to their day of labor. But then the MPs came for the other prisoners. Each prisoner was taken out of his cell and told to put on his civilian clothes, and chained up – wrists attached to a waist chain. They were lined up in two rows and given irons connecting the right leg of one to the left leg of the other. Ted was pleased to find himself chained to Blake, whom he liked and had come to trust.
Once outside, they were required to climb into the back of a large military truck. It’s hard to climb when you’re chained up like that—unless you’re a monkey, which nobody was. But finally the prisoners figured out how to coordinate with their buddies, and they got inside. They were seated on benches on either side of the truck, and chains were passed through their legs and locked at the front and rear of the vehicle.
After they left the military base, they were driven along the main highway for 20 minutes and then through a forest which turned into a gravel road which led to a large area cleared of trees. There was a gate at the head of the road, with armed soldiers guarding it. The truck slowed to a stop. The MP’s removed the padlocks and unlocked the chain. The tailgate of the truck was lowered and the prisoners were ordered to get on all fours and crawl backwards to the edge, and then lie on their bellies and slide off, dropping to their feet on the ground. Blake’s chinos were snagged on something so the two men dropped at slightly different times and were both off balance. They fell to the ground. Blake’s pants were ripped open from the crotch to his knee. The guard immediately shouted, “Get the fuck up and stand by the side of the truck.”
Now they were facing a weather-beaten shack about the size of a small house. Several Division of Public Order officers in their black uniforms were standing near the door. The MPs removed the chains from the prisoners, climbed into the truck, and left. As soon as they were gone, an officer in a uniform with silver insignia on the lapels and silver eagles on the epaulettes came out of the shack and approached the prisoners.
“You have been identified as disruptive and a threat to the social order, and assigned to this Civics Training Unit. Being so designated, you are decommissioned as citizens. Your privileges and so-called rights are hereby removed. You now belong to the Division of Public Order. The division has total authority over you. As a condition of a public emergency having been declared, no court has jurisdiction over you or this unit.
“The purpose of this unit is to remove you from society, and isolation is therefore mandated. The camp is not on any map, and satellite images are blocked, as we are located by military installations. No one that you know is going to find you. What does that mean for you? It means that you are here and you are going to stay here. I have every expectation that this will be your home for the rest of your lives. You will work. You will obey the rules. You will do exactly as you are told, exactly when you are told to do it. Otherwise you will be punished. Any slacking or violation of a rule or hint of disrespect or insubordination will be punished. You are not citizens — as such, you are not deserving to be treated as men, and you will not be addressed as men.
“My advice is that at this moment you accept your fate and resolve to adjust to your situation.
“In coming days you will learn the rules. Do not expect them to be ‘fair.’ Many of you are here because you ‘demanded’ ‘fairness.’ But these rules are not designed to be fair. They are designed to control you, to humiliate you, and to remind you that you are not men and that you deserve to be punished for the threat you have posed to the good order of society. The first rule for you to learn is that you are to remain silent unless you are told to speak, or until you are asked a question by an officer. There will be other rules, and, as I have said, you will inevitably learn them.
“You are some of our first internees. You may be given the privilege to assist in building this training camp, both for yourselves and for the many others who will join you here.
“In a few minutes you will begin what I call ‘general work.’ A few days from now you will understand that any other kind of work is a privilege. You will be willing to beg for the privilege of assisting in improving this camp. Unfortunately for you, begging will not help. It will be up to you to demonstrate your enthusiasm for your work and your desire to improve the camp. If you want privileges, you must show your superiors your eagerness to work harder and faster and longer than your fellows.
“Repeat after me, ‘I am a civic correction worker.’”
“I am a civic correction worker.” A few of them said it.
“I AM A CIVIC CORRECTION WORKER!” Most of them said it.
“I AM A CIVIC CORRECTION WORKER!” All of them said it.
With that the senior officer turned and walked away. Ted tried to look around, but a guard stepped forward and hit him across his chest, ordering, ”eyes front!” They were then ordered to kneel on the ground with their heads bowed and their hands behind their backs. Ted was wondering if they were going to have their heads chopped off! Ted heard a loud mechanical noise coming up behind him. Then he felt cold steel buzzing across his head, and saw his hair falling in clumps onto the dirt. When he was told to stand, he saw that Blake was bald, and so were all the rest of them. And so was he.
The prisoners were chained up, right ankle to the left ankle of their “partners.”’ Ted and Blake were chained together again, and now they were not only partners, but they looked remarkably alike.
They were ordered to turn to the right and were led about a hundred yards to an area fenced in with a primitive barbed wire fence. A heavy timber connected to a section of barbed wire was locked to another timber with a heavy chain. After the chain connecting the timbers was removed, one timber was pulled aside, allowing them to enter the enclosure.
Once inside, they saw a huge hole in the ground, with terraced sides – an old, open-pit mine, with a steep road winding down to the bottom. By the entrance, there was a large army tent. They were directed to the tent and their guards came forward carrying metal backpack frames to which large canvas bags were attached. They were then led over by the road leading into the pit. Nearby there was a large pile of broken rocks varying from the size of a baseball to a football. The lead guard shouted, “Each of you will fill his partner’s backpack half full of rocks from. To assist you in learning how to keep your footing while descending into the pit, for this first time only, your pack will be only half full. OK scum, down into the pit with your rocks!”
They set off along the road winding down to the bottom of the pit. Down and down, Ted and Blake trudged step by step. After they had stumbled a couple of times, Blake suggested that he step forward with his left foot as Ted stepped forward with his right. It was difficult to coordinate at first, but they were soon doing better. Every now and then the chain connecting their ankles would catch on a rock, and they would almost fall. But they continued, step by treacherous step, until they reached the bottom. There were guards who directed them to the large pile of rocks. They climbed up to the top of the pile and dumped their loads.
Now they moved to a second pile, where they were told to load each other’s pack to the brim. The weight was unbelievable; they struggled to maintain their balance. With a crack of the whip over their heads, they turned and started the long climb back to the surface. Each step taught Ted more about his new life. The work was senseless, stupid, pointless, and cruel. It went beyond humiliation, but he didn’t have a word for it. How could this have happened to him? Tears filled his eyes; he was defeated. Then he stopped — not climbing, but crying. Now he was angry, but that passed quickly — it took too much effort! A jerk of the chain caught on a rock brought his attention back to his feet, and to Blake and the need to coordinate and concentrate on their efforts. His thoughts moved to his feet–left now, right now, left, right, left. Eventually they were back at the top, directed to the correct pile to deposit their rocks, then to the other pile, to load up their packs, then down the road, back up the road — again, and again, and again. It was a mine, but they weren’t mining anything except hard labor.
Finally it was getting dark. They were ordered to put their backpacks in the storage bin. Then they were led through the gate, and along the path past the shack toward an area that even in the dim light Ted could tell was surrounded by a barbed wire fence. They approached another primitive gate, which was opened to allow them through. Inside the fencing were a number of large tents surrounding an open area, where men had formed up into groups, standing in straight lines facing a raised platform. Around the open area there were poles with lights illuminating the area. At the far side of the enclosure there was a very large tent, also lit up.
They were led past four groups, each consisting of eight men standing side by side, with three rows of eight men standing behind them. Each of the 32 men stood with his legs shoulder width apart and his hands behind his head. Each was standing rigidly, looking straight ahead. Ted noticed that none of the men made the least effort to look at them as they passed. When they had passed the fourth group, they were instructed to line up side by side — eight of them now forming what would become the first row of the fifth group of 32 men, and the other four lined up in the second row. They were instructed by the guards to stand like the men in the other groups, not to move, and to face straight ahead. They were told that whenever they were formed up they must always follow these rules. If they moved or looked around — the guard pointed to a whipping frame on the platform.
Once they were formed up, a guard stood before the groups and shouted, “What are you?” All the prisoners shouted, “I AM A CIVIC CORRECTION WORKER! I AM A CIVIC CORRECTION WORKER! I AM A CIVIC CORRECTION WORKER!”
The guard shouted, “Eyes on the frame.” As they looked, a man from the first group was led to the platform, stripped of his clothes, and tied to a frame. A guard came forward with a tawse and gave the man 10 hard stripes across his shoulders, ass, and thighs. After the first couple of strokes he was screaming and begging. Finally he was untied and allowed to put on his clothes and return to his place. This performance convinced Ted and his peers that their lot was strict discipline.
They continued to stand in formation and after about ten minutes, someone from the large tent called, “Group 1.” Group 1 was marched in order to the tent, then the other groups. Group 5 was last, and when they got to the tent they were given metal bowls and a spoon. They followed the serving line, and each of them received what appeared to be some sort of stew.
Ted didn’t find it very tasty. I was a mixture of vegetables, beans and grains. It didn’t matter, he started wolfing it down. There were no tables or chairs – no place to sit. The chow line snaked around the tent, and as he rounded the far corner he saw that it ended near the serving line. He saw one prisoner who had not finished eating, forced by the guard to throw away what was left in his bowl and place it on a stack on the table. Ted nudged Blake and they both began eating as fast as they could — finally turning the bowl up to eat directly from it. They were able to finish just as they approached the table. Even so, it wasn’t enough food. Ted knew at once that in order to survive and perhaps find a way out of here, he was going to have to be very careful. He wondered if one of the punishments was reduced rations. Regardless, he knew he must be very careful to keep on the right side of the guards.
To be continued …