Another snowstorm blew in this morning, thankfully after we got back from retrieving Aaron and the kids with him. We can't even go out and scout, much less look for Patrick, though I'm relieved and happy that he finally managed to get in touch with us. We also got word from the courier who is bringing copies of The Ark from Google. He's much closer, and if the weather lets us we will leave out tomorrow to meet him. God only knows how he got here from California so quickly, but I'm happy he's OK.
Now, to more somber news...
Last night, one of the women that came with my group of refugees was found in a pile of industrial trash, raped and beaten almost to death. The jumble of scrap metal and discarded wood was just outside the walls of Jack's compound, and only her thin cries for help alerted the guard nearby that she was there.
Evans, Gabby, and the rest have been caring for her. They say that she'll probably live, though I can't imagine the pain she must be going through.
I won't give her name, nor will I name the man responsible, other than to say he was not one of our refugees. The victim knew the man, had been showing some interest in him since our arrival here. Through her tears and anger, she told Jess (who has been staying with her, weapons in hand to keep the poor woman feeling secure) that she had intended to consent.
Her attacker seemed to think she was teasing. He struck her, and took her.
Sorry. One of the things in this world that pushes my rage to uncontrollable levels is rape. I'm trying to type softly, because thinking about what she went through, knowing the details, is making it hard not to beat on something with all my strength.
He did it. There was little doubt. He tried to deny it, but he had wounds from her scratches, and every part of the evidence linked up with her story. There wasn't a trial. There wasn't a defense for him or any judge other than Jack and the people who examined both the victim and the accused. The decision was quick, and the punishment...
Every person not on the walls was in attendance. Everyone was called over the PA system here, and gathered in a massive circle outside. The guilty man was brought into the wide empty space in the middle of that huge swarm of people, and his crime and punishment were announced via bullhorn for everyone to hear.
Ten people came forward. I'd have to guess that they were volunteers who served this duty in a rotation, because there was no hesitation to their movements. Each of them carried a thin, flexible metal rod. They looked dull, not shiny or polished. It was only afterward that I found out the reason: they were covered in tiny points and barbs. I watched for almost twenty minutes as they whipped him bloody, the force of their lashing ripping his clothes to shreds and leaving him virtually naked.
The scent of all that blood brought zombies to the wall. You could hear them crunching through the snow. He was still alive when they pulled him by his arms through the frozen and snowy gravel, moans of pain escaping him as the rocks dug into his wounds. He was conscious when they reached the edge of the wall. I know, because I could hear him begging in a broken voice not to do it, that he was sorry. I don't know if he really felt remorse for the suffering he brought. I am certain that he regretted his actions, if for no other reason than the horrible consequences.
He was still begging for mercy when they dumped him over the edge. Still at it as he was bitten and torn, right up until a wet crunch signaled that his throat had become part of the main course.
It was a dark night. I think he got off easy.
Because people always talk about their pain as a means of trying to cope with it, much of last night after the punishment for me was spent listening. I heard people who knew the condemned man comment on how lonely he had been, how hard he had found it to connect with others. In the time everyone I talked to had known him, he had never been seen so much as kissing a woman.
Until yesterday, he had been known for his politeness. For kindness. He often covered shifts for other people so that they could attend a social gathering or get needed rest. He spent much of his free time reading to kids. He was, from everything I heard, a very nice guy.
Which goes to show you what kinds of stress people are under, and how the constant fear and danger can warp a person. Or maybe...maybe it doesn't. Before The Fall, nice men still did things like this. In the world that was, good people lost control on a depressingly regular basis and ruined lives with the consequences. It's nothing new, nothing original. Yesterday was just another example of the human beast acting in accordance with its nature.
I don't want to believe that. I want to hope that it was the terrible months of devastation we've endured that pushed him to his limits. Like most people who are faced with senseless and inexplicable acts of violence, I just. Don't. Know.
I have a lot of faith in the survivors of the world. There are violent men and women out there, but it's been easy for us to think of them as simply our enemies, the raiders and marauders, even the Richmond soldiers. It's much harder to deal with the stark reality that within the best of us there might be something just as dark and violent waiting for the wrong moment.
Self control is what keeps us alive, by making us cautious and thoughtful. People who lose it are a liability, and people who harm others by losing it are a danger that can't be ignored. I hate that this has happened more than I will ever be able to describe. The wounds that woman carry on top of what she has already endured are more than any person should be expected to shoulder. It's unfair, and I feel despair in its truest form at the thought of what she must be feeling.
I'm babbling now. I'm going. This is too much to deal with.