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The Viper

The hood made my world dark and the ropes that bound my wrists and ankles stopped me moving at all. I could hear the television in the room but was unable to understand the language.

They had brought me here 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, little sleep while they had tortured me had left my mind a crazy mess.

How long had I been here? The torture had stopped now. Days and nights had meant nothing in the dark cell 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 crapped and pissed in a corner I had chosen.

I had constantly been taken down the corridor to 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.

At first I had answered: “I’m a tourist. I’m no one.”

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. But 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.

Then it stopped. They took me from the dark cell. I was stripped and almost drowned with grubby water in a dirty shower room by a large man with a hood to hide 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. I was dressed in a robe and fed like a baby.

With the hood placed over my head I was guided by three men 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 confusing me.

Finally the car stopped and I was led out across a rough pavement of 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 they guided me to a wall and pushed me down to the tiled floor when 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 urinated and defecated in my robe.

I heard the 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 from my head.

In the rapidly paling early evening light I looked at the three men wearing 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 in clear and educated English with only a slight accent.

“I’ve said everything to your pals.”

“They are not our pals,” he said, “but they have decided they can get no more from you and handed you over to us.”

“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.

“I think I can answer that,” said the tall one 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.

“Oh really? You have heard of me?”

“Yes, I knew if I held out I’d meet you.”

“Oh, and by the way, your friends, they are not coming,” he sneered.


“This,” he said, holding up my small box, “your transmitter.”

He dropped it to the floor and smashed it under his shoe.

“Ah, but you misunderstand,” I said.


At that moment several pairs of feet thumped on the stairs, the door burst in on its hinges and several uniformed men entered brandishing weapons.

“You see,” I muttered, “my friends weren’t to come until the transmitter was turned off.”

This is from my book: Project Icarus and Other Stories

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