Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Views from a Troubled Mind
Scene #5
The Weather of Depression

My Backyard at 2:00 a.m.

There was a strong wind last night. Lots of scary noises in the backyard. I listened from the front room inside the house as I watched TV. The plastic bucket used for mopping tipped over and rolled to and fro, hitting the dusty plastic chairs till one of the chairs also tipped over. Without the chair to stop it, the bucket rolled down the driveway into the street, where a car rammed it and flattened it with a creaking crunching moan. Then the fallen chair was dragged by the wind into the empty swimming pool. The clanging sound of the chair hitting the dry bottom echoed once, twice, thrive, till the sound died away in the wind.

The feral cat returned for its nightly visit for edible garbage. The trash can lids were closed. So the feline was disappointed and meowed. And meowed. And then the trash can lid flipped open. The wind? Another meow. A different one. Two meows. Then growls. Then voices: Half meow, half make-believe words. A clang of metal and plastic. The wind tipped the trash can? Angry meows. Curse words sort-of. Cat fight. One body slams against the plastic trash can; the metal handles jingle. The words turn to growls. The growls to meows. Till only one meow. The victor? Its meow fades into the trash can.

There are sounds of growls and shrieks. Scratching and clawing. Plastic tearing. Then the meow turns to a muffled scream inside the trash can. Its scream grows louder as it continues high into the wind. And fades to a distant silence. My brother's car pulls into the driveway. Into the garage. He locks the garage.

I hear my brother picking up the trash can, closing the lid. He enters the house. I ask, Did you see the cats? No, he answers; it was just the wind. I tell him that that's what the victims always say in horror movies just before the monster kills them. He shrugs it off.

In the morning, I arise and check the backyard. A plastic chair is in the empty pool. A flattened bucket is in the recycles (my brother's doing). A dead possum is under the dead shrub. Its stiff corpse stinks like skunk piss. I flip the trash can lid. It is filled with feathers. And blood. It stinks like nothing I've ever smelled before. Except once. Not too long ago. In a dream. But the Shrink said there are no smells in dreams. I find no comfort in that. It only can mean that what happened last night was no dream.

The morning TV weather forecaster mentions nothing of last night's wind. And today, after several weeks of 70 degree weather, it was 96 degrees hot. A windless weather.

I called Animal Control and stood outside drinking a hot cup of French Roast coffee, watching for the red and white truck. The neighbors laughed. Drinking coffee in this heat?! I wanted to explain that we are not cold-blooded animals that require sunlight to warm our blood. We are warm-blooded mammals whose temperature adjusts when hot and cold elements affect our body. Our bodies cool down when we drink something hot; it warms up when we drink something cold--the opposite of what my neighbors believe. We are not lizards. We are not birds. We are humans. We are apes. We are bears and dogs and cats. We adjust internally to the external temperatures. Hot coffee cools you down. I can imagine my neighbors lying in the sun soaking up heat to weather the cold night ahead. Damn reptiles.

I thought this through as I waited for the Animal Control handlers to pick up and dispose of the dead possum. One man arrived with heavy gloves. He asked if I had handled the possum. I told him hell no. He said, Good. Rabies. You never know. I just picked up a cat about a half-mile from here. Looked weird. Strange claw marks. I told him a cat fought with the possum. He said, Possum has little claws. Cat was shredded by long claws. Like maybe a bird. Feathers in the trash can, I thought. Said nothing to the handler. As he carried away the dead possum, I asked if he'd like a cup of coffee. In this heat?! he laughed. And drove off.

I checked the trash can again. It was filled with dead leaves. My brother raked the backyard as I waited on Animal Control. I asked him if he noticed the feathers and blood in the trash can. He said no. I decided not to dig through the leaves to find the blood. Rabies, you know.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Views from a Troubled Mind
Scene #4
Bad Memories & Nightmares

Perspective #1
The Road Leading to the Homeless Camp

I dreamt I was piloting a jumbo jet. 

I remembered learning that left controlled climbs and dives, and that right controlled velocity. But the controls did not correspond to my maneuvers. 

A hand from behind me reached over and flicked on the automatic switch. And we landed.

As I exited into the city, I wondered what became of my comic books. 

I was at the University. I climbed the stairs. Maybe I'd find my comics there. 

Perspective #2
The One-Way Stairs

But I couldn't see the small letters on the campus map. The small boy next to me was holding a pair of glasses that looked like mine. Those are mine, I told him. One dollar, he said. The old man next to him whispered into his ear. Then the boy said, Forty five dollars. I told the old man that he can buy them if he wants. I won't pay even a dollar for what is mine. 

The police arrived and I saw my comics in the patrol car back seat. The door was open. I grabbed the bag tightly and thought, No dream will take what is mine. With comic bag in my grip, I slid down the stairway rail to the waiting jet. I boarded and didn't look back as we ascended.

Perspective #3
Where the Horizon Meets Itself

A Footnote on Therapy & Treatment: Update #6, re Defense Mechanisms

The Dr forgot two Defense Mechanisms in her essay: Avoidance and Procrastination. Maybe they aren't psych terms., but they should be. It occurred to me that these two terms may be mutually exclusive, but I'll treat them as two separate mechanisms here. 

What is Avoidance? When we think of something bad that happened to us, we sometimes whistle; we blink our eyes or we cluck or tongue. Then we're thinking of something different. We avoided the bad thoughts. 

What is Procrastination? We put off till tomorrow actions that will bring up bad thoughts. I'll mow the lawn tomorrow; here, for instance, the smell of fresh cut grass may remind you of the day your pet cat was killed by that neighbor's dog. You put off the memory by putting off the activity. 

That's why perceptive is so important. The wide mouth of the distance ends with a sharp point and at this point there is a familiar creature, the beast of nightmares: The bad memory. The closer you get to this monster, the further away it gets. You never reach the horizon. But, oddly, the creature can simply reach out and crush you even as you stay a safe distance from the beast with Avoidance and Procrastination. For the beast looms larger in front of the perspective, and your safety lies there in the sharp point of the distance. To your eye, the two points are the same distance; to your mind, tomorrow is far away. But today is yesterday's tomorrow, and the beast never leaves. It lives simultaneously in the wide mouth at the front of the perspective and in the point at the end of the perspective. 

And you bring it closer with every tomorrow you live today by hiding in the false safety of your illusory Defense Mechanisms. Do you hear the whistling? 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

After the Storms

The Sky is trying to be clearest blue
Save for puffs of billowing Clouds
Staining the afternoon Sun
And a laughing Wind
Haunting the Horizon.
The squawking of feral Parrots 
Blossoms from the top of the Tree.

Poem & Photo 
by Anthony Servante

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Update Six
Trauma & Therapy

The Traumatized Child: A Malleable Mind
An Essay
by Dr. Marcy Davidson

Traumatized 15 Year Old Girl Self-Portrait

by Anthony Servante

In this update, I decided to address the approach that therapists take toward traumatized children. I talked to two experts in the field: A therapist and an academician. Dr. Marcy Davidson agreed to write a summary of children's therapy from diagnosis to goal-setting.

Let's begin.

Trauma & Treatment for Troubled Children
by Dr Marcy Davidson

What is a troubled child? If you ask any parent, you'd receive a variety of answers. Parents tend to focus on the actions and behavior of their kids for their answers, rather than on the child's frame of mind or the source of the troublesome activities. My child shoplifts food that he would never even eat; his closet is filled with canned goods and moldy cheese. My child walks until he is so exhausted, I have to go pick him up and drive him home; I've driven as far as the beach once, and we live in Los Angeles. That's a six hour walk. My child pretends to go to sleep, and when my husband and I are asleep, she watches TV using headphones to stay quiet. Her teachers have told us that she sleeps in class and in the lunch area. She is ridiculed by her fellow students, but it doesn't bother her at all. My child talks aloud to herself; she says she's trying to drown out the voices in her head. The anti-psychotics don't help at all. My child gets into fights with anyone who meets eyes with her. My child washes her hands till they're raw. My child suffers nightmares that she describes as "more real" than her home life. My child cries for no reason, and minutes later, she happy as can be.

But if you ask these parents why their children act out in this way, they'll say that it is because they have problems with authority, they're going through a teen phase, or they may be Autistic. Maybe they are seeking attention. Maybe they are displaying symptoms of early onset Schizophrenia. Maybe they are on illegal drugs.

But rarely do parents say that their kids are suffering from traumatic stress and they don't know how to deal with it.

That's why the first step a therapist must take when meeting with a patient alone (the primary meeting with parents, therapist, and patient determines whether the child qualifies for therapy or if the anti-social behavior is rooted in non-traumatic circumstances, such as reacting to a divorce situation at home). The evaluation serves to eliminate non-therapy problems, including issues with environment, until only the issues of the child's mental health can be assigned a corresponding treatment. Once it is determined that therapy may provide solutions for the problem child, the parents are brought in to sign off on the prescribed treatment. Root causes for the problematic behavior are spoken of only in general terms. Here goals are set for the child so the parent can have indicators to observe and track at home and to share with teachers at the patient's school to also track indications of progress or regression.

Once the parents agree to the therapy goals, the therapist meets with the patient to discuss their home environment, school environment, and typical routines of the child. The environmentalization process is the beginning to finding the underlying patterns that hint at an internalization of psychotic or social trauma. For instance, was the child touched in an inappropriate way at home or school or is the child bullied? Perhaps the news on television about the death of a child his or her own age brought about a break in an old routine or created a new branch for a new routine that may be deemed "odd" for the child. The therapist maps the patient's external social life in an effort to find the source of the anti-social breaks in the environmental maps.

Then we pinpoint neurotic behaviors in the maps, repetitive social tics that can indicate a causal relation lying behind each neurosis. For example, Anxiety manifests as fear of animals, strangers, dark places, or bad memory triggers. They child may take a different route home from school or a different route to school from home that may indicate an avoidance of a particular memory. Denial manifests itself as displaced reality, where fantasies become the new version of the source of the trauma. The child may disappear into elaborate video games, TV shows, books, or fantasy card games where certain characters take on an importance in the child's routines. Protective states such as withdrawal or excessive daydreaming render the child unapproachable. The child may avoid conversation or answer in monosyllabic responses or not communicate at all. Insomnia reflects possible night terrors, nightmares, or fear of uncontrolled memories (as unleashed in dreams). The child may deliberately stay awake in an effort to suppress bad memories that bad dreams may unleash. This, of course, is but a brief list. Once the underlying neurotic triggers correspond with the environmental maps, therapeutic techniques and their goals are then considered and chosen.

Hereafter, communication is the primary source for gathering indicators. The therapist, the parents, and the teachers must pool their findings of the child's activities to adjust the therapy until the right environmental paths can lead us to these goals to help change the child's self-destructive behavior.

Firstly, if the patient is inclined, the therapist can talk with the child. The good in this oral form springs from the information that can be gathered while also observing the manner and tone of the child's voice and their body language; the bad is the difficulty for the therapist to determine whether or not the child is telling the truth or manipulating the account in order to shape the therapist's own expectations. Secondly, a medium can be selected by the patient to put down their thoughts; this form includes drawing, painting, writing poems or stories, molding clay figures, dream interpretation, or any other tangible artistic outlet that the child feels comfortable with regarding sharing their internalized trauma via an external objective outlet. This can also include texting by cellphone between patient and therapist and taking photographs with the cellphone to capture images that remind the patient of something relative to the past.

Two areas of the child's mind are being brought to the surface with these play techniques: One, the unconscious motivations for the problematic behavior; two, the triggers for this behavior. The roots of the problem can be revealed to understand the manner of hiding the roots (projection, denial, aggression, withdrawal, etc) while the surface reasons for the bad actions can be correlated to the environmental maps. Here the therapist takes on the role of translator and interpreter, but one must be careful with such therapy as such techniques also bring with them the risk of the therapist's own subconscious weaknesses (fear of misreading the maps and play, anxiety about transference from the preteens and adolescents, and worry about too many hours spent in conference with the child--over ten hours a week in some cases). In nearly all cases, the therapist must work with the parents during each step of the child's therapy, from diagnosis to "play" therapy techniques. At minimum, the therapist should consult with a fellow therapist to compare notes in regards to diagnosis, selection of therapy, play, and progress.

As you can see, therapy is a village, not a doctor-patient relationship. As always, progress is the main goal. For childhood trauma, there is rarely a cure, but making it through each day adds up to weeks, months, and years of leaving the trauma in the past, even if only a minute at a time. With consistent therapeutic play and measurement, the child can learn to deal with the trauma well into his or her adult life.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Rift: Dark Side of the Moon (2016)

Reviewed by
Anthony Servante

The Rift: Dark Side of the Moon (2017) has been getting the troll treatment with undeserved bad reviews. Look, just you didn't like it doesn't make it a bad movie and just because I liked it doesn't make it a good movie. What in the film in and of itself had qualities to be or not to be enjoyed? Well, first get the genre right. It is a science fiction story, not horror. Just cuz there's an ax doesn't make it a slasher film. It deals with time travel. 

An Apollo crew lands on the moon to investigate a sighting by the previous crew. They find a wormhole. One of the astronauts enters the fissure and disappears. The next crew is sent to look for the lost crew mate. The wormhole appears again, an astronaut looks in, sees a woman, grabs for her, but she pulls away as the fissure closes. The astronaut is left holding a crucifix that he grabbed from the woman. 35 years later, a team is sent to investigate a fallen satellite. They are attacked. They kill their attackers. The attackers return to life to attack them again. Even their own man who was shot comes back from the dead. 

Then the investigators find the missing astronaut from the Apollo mission. He has learned to control the wormhole and is messing with time, life, and death. He looks creepy because he is still in his astronaut suit and all he says is, "Death is dead" and "Nothing". Interrogating the silent man in the space suit is futile, and the investigative team calls in to be picked up. The command center orders the remaining soldier (Foree) to kill all threats (namely the undead) before the rescue team arrives at dawn. 

And this is where the ax works its way into our story.

The "horror" element comes in when the soldier keeps trying to find a way to permanently kill the undead. It proves to be a difficult task. But he is up to the challenge. 

Let's back up a bit.

We meet our team in the first act and learn a bit about their psychological twitches and tics. They are professional in their investigation until they realize there is no downed satellite, and then we move to act two, where our team sets up camp in what appears to be an abandoned ranch. Here we meet our three ranchers from the dead and our lost astronaut from the Apollo mission gone bad. The scientist begins to freak out. The stress of fighting off the reanimated farmer, his wife, and their son still wearing the suit he was buried in, begins to peel away the scabs healing of the other three team members' weak psychological wounds. They each begin to break down. The confuse flashbacks with the present and the dead with the living. And there in the middle of it all is that damn astronaut, silent and staring as death itself. 

When the wormhole appears again outside the ranch, we move into act three. The woman investigator looks inside, sees an astronaut who reaches for her and grabs her crucifix, and backs off as the wormhole closes. The dots are starting to connect. I'll leave the rest of the mystery for you to solve, and there is more than one mystery and more than one plot line in each act to tie together in the final act. 

The movie is atmospheric, which is easy to mistake for a horror movie setting, but most of the old Outer Limits episodes used a similar creepiness to their SF tales to great effect. But "les piece de resistance" is the soundtrack. It takes the creepy atmosphere over the top.
1. Don't Keep on Me Waitin' (Omega) 7:21
2. Us and Them (Dweezil Zappa) 7:41
3. Brain Damage (Colin Moulding) 3:49
4. Mask (The Anix) 4:24
5. 1799 (Echolust) 4:35
6. Paranormal (Nik Turner) 5:30
7. Serenade for the Dead (Leæther Strip) 3:53
8. Astronaut's Nightmare (Nektar) 6:27
9. C. Abyssal (Le Seul Élément) 5:27
10. Nebula (Brainticket) 4:45
11. Dynamics of Delirium (Rick Wakeman) 3:27
12. Into the Eyes of the Zombie King (Chrome) 3:07
13. Notre Dame (Mothership) (The Rift Edit) (Guru Freakout) 5:01
14. Ufolove (Guru Guru Groove Band) 5:06
15. I Ran (So Far Away) (Re-Recorded) (A Flock Of Seagulls) 5:01

The film stars Ken Foree (George Romeo's Dawn of the Dead 1978), Monte Markham (still looking young and fit after all these years), Katerina Cas, and Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers 1992, Masters of Horror 2005-2007). Directed by Dejan Zečević, who makes science fiction thrillers. Forget about the horror backdrop and concentrate on the time travel aspect and how it's played for chilling effects (this is no Back to the Future, I can promise you). Whether it has a happy ending depends on your perspective. But when you look at this film as the science fiction thriller it is, you'll have a happy beginning and middle as well.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Views from a Troubled Mind
Scene #3
Deep Dream, Slight Sleep

Interrupted Conversation 

The cat was talking again last night. You know, those German glotto stops mixed with mewling and moaning. As if the poor creature of the night had something on its mind and just couldn't find the right words to express its troublesome thoughts. And to add to its failure to communicate, it began scratching at the wall beneath my bedroom window.

Its racket awoke me from a fever sleep. Damn Tramadol produces a weird waking dream awareness. If it weren't for the fact that my eyes are closed, I'd be wide awake. And usually I can simply ignore the ravings of the cat, who makes a nightly habit of visiting me right before bedtime to have this conversation. Tonight, it caught me in dead sleep with vivid dreams of being awake. 

Then something slammed against the bedroom wall. My eyes flew open. Is it trying to get in? But no. It screamed with that human voice. There was another sound outside. Another voice? Human? A neighbor awakened from sleep taking his anger out on the confused feline? The human glotto stops turned to infant cries of pain mixed with a helpless mewling. Then nothing. 

That's when I realized I was still asleep. I was dreaming I was awake. A coyote must have caught the plump cat, I surmised. I decided to wake up and look outside in the back yard. And so my dream turned to my going outside. The night was silent and cold. I had to pee. So I woke up for real and went to the restroom to relieve myself.

I considered that pissing out all this warm urine would leave me without any warmth. I should have held in the hot steaming piss to keep me warm on this freezing night. Too late. I returned to bed.

I closed my eyes. Dream returned. I was pissing into a hot water bottle. I awoke suddenly, afraid that I might be wetting the bed by dreaming of pissing. But my bladder was empty. Silly dreams. 

Then the screeching cut through the bedroom. Again something slammed against the wall, shaking the window pane. I was awake. I was sure of it. I went to the window and looked out. I wiped the frost from the pane. There was no coyote. There was no cat. The neighbor was taking out his early morning trash cans for pick-up. The wheels of the cans sounded like squealing. Someone was warming up their cold car engine, revving the motor. It sounded like the thumping engine was slamming against the hood. 

And so it all became clear. Till I saw the morning parrots on the telephone pole line. The revving engine sparked their squawking. It sounded like humans arguing with grunts and groans and words from a language not of this Earth. When the car drove off, the racket stopped. The silence returned.

And I was driving the car. Where was I going? Damn. I was still asleep. I turned the auto around and drove home. I parked, ran to the back yard, and saw the parrots feasting on the cat. 

I saw myself in the bedroom window staring at the carnage. Then he noticed me. I needed to escape. He couldn't see me or I'd never get any sleep. I flapped my arms and lifted myself from the ground, flying above the house, out of visual range of the bedroom window. In my talons I carried a cat. It was screaming like a baby whose bladder had burst. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Update Five
Trauma & Therapy
Two Reporters

A skull littering the roadside in the City of Juarez

Anthony Servante

The Shrink wants me to move the trauma series to another page (blog). She says my current page is depressing. I told her that that's what "horror" is: Trauma with fringes. Guys in hockey masks, creatures from alternate dimensions, child rapists who invade your dreams. People feel safe from Horror in a dark movie theater or a cozy living room with a horror book. You can ride the roller coaster or you can actually fall to your death. People prefer the artificial horror. It's safer.

She didn't disagree, but she told me to consider moving my trauma page. I did. I won't. Let's move on.


The commonality of the accounts we have shared so far seems to be the attention to detail. The circumstances surrounding the actual event are clear, but the specifics of the event itself are vague. In my own case, I remember the others in my group, but I don't remember my part. They tell me my part just like I tell them theirs. We cannot tell our own memories because we have none, or they are hidden, maybe lost to the traumatic circumstances that we personally suffered. Since we don't feel what the others suffered, we are detached from their trauma. We remember their actions for they had no bearing on our feelings of helplessness or terror. Those who do recall their own specific actions and emotions are more likely to have had different life experiences than those of the common folk. 

Reporters, for instance. Especially reporters who have covered many traumatic news events in their detached narrative voice have escaped the personal traumas from years of jaded detachment. That is, until the moment when something breaks down that wall that forces them to look inward instead of outward, when the subject matter is their own family or friends instead of another blank-faced family that is plastered on the front page right beneath the headlines. 

Today we have two reporters who have faced personal trauma. Two very different perspectives. Two formerly jaded men now telling their story accounts for the first time. 

Let's begin.

Reporter #1

An Anonymous (Trauma ) Account

As a reporter in Juarez, Mexico, you risk your life every time you write about the Cartels. Still, that's the job.

Even now I tremble to tell you these words. And hide behind anonymity.

Juarez is notorious for its violence, corruption, and ambiguities. The people of this infamous city are split in their opinion as to the source of the daily death tolls. According to documentarian Charles Minn, there are on average eleven murders a day in Juarez. The question is who is doing the murdering? The Cartels? The corrupt local government? The Mexican Federal Police? The American DEA?

At one time or another every source has been accused and written up in the newspapers. Mayors, governors, presidents, DEA and CIA agents have fallen under the scrutiny of the news media. But no matter who is accused, we never really learn the truth. The Cartels in the early 2000s killed a police officer a day in an effort to force the corrupt the mayor and police chief into the light. Neither the law enforcers or hit squads balked. The killings continued for months.

And there we were in the middle. Same as the other Juarez civilians caught literally in the crossfire.The Mexican government on one side, the Sicarios (Cartel hitmen) on the other. Everyone else running for cover.

It hit home for me when I received an anonymous threat. My high school age daughter brought home a note for me. It warned me to choose the "right" side in my next article about the police killings. It further stated that the "Feds" were behind the murders and the blame is being placed on the drug dealers in an effort to garner the favor of the US DEA.

When I showed the note to my editor, she told me to stay on track with the leads pointing to the Cartels. It was then I realized that she was in the pocket of our Mayor. Bought and paid for.

There is a term in Spanish: Plata o plumo? Money or bullets? Accept a bribe to look the other way or accept a 22 caliber bullet to the head. The 22 is strong enough to enter the skull but too weak to exit, so the slug bounces around your skull, turning your brains to mush. The choice was yours to make. The editor had obviously made her choice. I didn't make mine till it was too late.

My first mistake was letting my daughter return to school. My wife said that now that the Federal troops had arrived in Juarez, our little girl would be safe, that I should just do my job the way the editor wants. My second mistake was listening to my wife.

The next message my daughter brought home was her little finger severed and wrapped in a newspaper page with my article on Cartel involvement. While I rushed her to the hospital, my wife was being dismembered in our bedroom. They were in the house when my daughter got home. Who "they" are is still.not known. The editor disappeared the same day as my wife. But enough of my wife's remains were left behind for me to identify her. The editor simply vanished.

I took my daughter to El Paso, Texas, USA. We've been here for close to ten years. We fixed our papers with the help of the DEA in exchange for information from my laptop regarding my investigations. We have new identities. My daughter rarely goes out like normal young women. She still lives at home with me. We take care of each other. But every time I encourage her to go out on a regular date with a young man from the college, she sulks and withdraws.

It's not as if I'm setting a good example for her. I, too, stay home and avoid people. We spend most of our time in front of the television watching Spanish novelas (soap operas). We found that these TV programs have the least amount of references to the violence we left behind in Juarez.

Still, I have the urge to write again, to research the latest news from my country and share it with the El Paso readers. But I don't want to risk being recognized. The Cartel pays professional readers to follow all the news accounts of the Mexican newspapers that follow the drug trade or the corruption in government. I wouldn't know what to write to maintain a low profile. Luckily, the DEA gave us enough income to not have to worry about getting jobs. Still, I miss fighting with my editor.

My daughter and I are gaining weight, but our counselor says that we can always diet. It's a manageable addiction in the USA. It wouldn't be normal if we didn't put on a few pounds. I find her words condescending. I have a Master's in Journalism from the University of Mexico. A few pounds, my ass. But also patronizing is the American therapy for people in our situation. We get offered drugs, but we prefer food and TV.

I still see familiar faces staring at me when I walk to the store, faces from Juarez. It's the people with tattoos that worry me the most. Americanos, you know, the Millennials, love their tattoos. Vanity and cosmetic trivialities. In Juarez, Ink means the gang you're with, your rank in the organization, the number of people you've killed. Your Ink determines your upward mobility in the Cartel. Not necessarily your trustworthiness, because the Capos don't trust anyone, within the organization or outside (especially Politicos). Ink is power. It is a tool. Here in the States, it is a fashion statement, like a bonnet or a expensive sports shoes.

So, here I am writing about it anyway. It feels good. Like medicine. But ultimately, it is a medicine that will get me recognized by those still looking for me and my daughter. It is best to stick to home cooking, soaps, and counseling sessions with the therapist. I'm glad I could write this for you and your readers. If you want to help alleviate the problem in Juarez, don't buy drugs. But then this is America. You can't help yourselves, even as you displace thousands of civilians caught in the middle of the Drug Trade. It's only one rock of crack. I don't know why I waste my time. How could just one piece of crack hurt anyone? Why am I so drawn to write for those who would risk my life by buying that shit?

Pendejos. And I'm the worst of all.

A Typical Drug Tunnel for Smugglers

Reporter #2
Pack Mules & Hard Labor
(The Trauma of Amnesia) 

I wish I could remember the horror. I wish someone would tell me that I was beaten and raped so many times that I was like a limp rag doll tossed around between convicts in the State Pen. But it wasn't that kind of trauma. I was working a story, a big story, one that I thought would take me to the big leagues, to the Los Angeles Times. I held back on the details of the story from my editor at the Santa Monica Community Newspaper, saving them up for the big angle I was working for the LA Times.

My name is Chris W. Dubois. I'm still in my early thirties. I weighed close to two hundred pounds when all this shit started--the missing girl, the screwed up investigation by the cops, the crazy bus driver. Fragments of my kidnapping are clear but shrouded in dark patches. I got too close to the real story, and the people who took the girl took me too. To shut me up. To put me to work in the drug smuggling tunnels.

They tortured me. They wore masks--the captors. Big Bastards. Grrr-ed their words, grunted and whined till I did what I was told. Almost as if I was expected to know what to do without being told. I don't remember sleeping. I seem to recall sleeping as I worked. Me and the other captives cleared the tunnels where they kept us. They didn't feed us. There wasn't any hunger. If I stopped to look around, the masked Bastard closest to me lifted me with one hand and tossed me back in the pit of rocks. He had only two fingers and a thumb, but he was strong. He had to be to keep an eye on the bunch of us.

Yes, the bunch of us. Many. Slave labor. There were homeless people. There were women and children. Some worked, others didn't. I kept thinking that if I could escape, I could break the story: Transients Forced to Work the Tunnels. I would be the hero. The cops would come and rescue them from slavery. But escape was a dream in a world without sleep. Who would rescue me?

I don't know if it were day or night. I took one of my pauses to look around again. When the three fingers grabbed me, I noticed that I weighed about fifty pounds lighter. The Bastard tossed me like a Teddy Bear into the cold fire of the rocks. There were piles of rocks. That's what we did--piled up the rocks that the others pulled from within the tunnel. What were we building?

That's when I met a man. He told me we were building a railroad. I called him a liar. He laughed and walked away. The Big Bastards ignored him. They didn't even strike me for talking to him. I wish I had asked him more questions. But he was a liar. And I needed to find the truth. I was losing my mind. I needed to find something to keep my brain from spilling through my ears. Too late. The liar was gone. The Bastard grunted and I returned to work.

When we were rescued, I blanked out. I woke up at the UCLA Medical Facility in Westwood. An IV hydrated me for days. First the police talked to me. Then the counselors. Then the doctors and psychiatrists. They said I was a lucky man. That I was working in a drug tunnel for some drug smugglers. There were a few dozen of us forced into free labor. The thin air caused hallucinations. But the boils and open sores on my arms and legs were real. "How long was I down there?" The cop said, "According to the doctor, maybe about four, five months." "No way." And then I started crying. The nurse adjusted my IV and I stopped crying. I fell asleep.

But that didn't stop the dreams. Big Bastards still in my dreams. Yep. Still trying to make me work. Hallucinations! Ha! I had to get out of the hospital and retrace my steps. It took months of therapy before I was free to do outpatient visits with the doctors and psychiatrists. The cops come to my apartment and ask me about the Big Bastards. I pretend to not remember. I keep my appointments. I behave. I show them that I'm ready to return to work. My old editor at the SMN won't take me back though. Maybe I'll start a blog. Maybe I'll check in with this blog.

I'm going to find those Big Bastards before the cops do. It'll be my lead in story to get me back on top. It'll get me that job with the LA Times. The Bastards owe me that much. But first, I've got to find them. Their location is in my dreams. Have to get more sleep. Get more details. Hallucinations? No. Clues.