Friday Night Story

Freedom of the Press

When I arrived we were stripped with pliars, and we put our valuables, my watch, my leather shoes and belt, into the "trash bin." Clothes were provided, but not shoes; only the men admitted in slippers did not go barefoot. Every morning we drill and run, and when it rains it is worse. Hungry men can finish their portions in fifteen seconds; smart men savor the vegetables, and suck the flavor from the several bits of meat.

We assemble lamps from beads starting at 7, and when we do not meet our quota, we stay up until midnight to finish. We are all from other parts, because there is fear our families and friends would cause trouble if they were close.

I share a space 3 meters long by 2 meters wide with two men. Bare mattresses lay on the floor, edge to edge, under the constant glow of a 25 watt bulb. I have refused food for three days, because I have a heart condition and need access to a physician.

At sentencing, the magistrate told me I was to be put to death, but after several days I discovered the written verdict was twenty years. I've been asked to apologize to the people for my crimes. During the eighties there was a purge of the unrepentant prisoners, and while I do not wish to be executed, I can think of no crime to apologize for. In my life before I was a journalist. I told the truth in the wrong part of the world, and that's why they won't let me leave.

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