Even Silence Has an End

Even Silence Has an End by Ingrid Betancourt

Book: Even Silence Has an End by Ingrid Betancourt Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ingrid Betancourt
in the shelter all rose immediately. They removed the mosquito nets, quickly folded them, and rolled them into tight oblongs that they secured with the same string used to hang them from the four corners of their beds. I watched them work, fascinated, as I listened to the news bulletins. Clara and I got up, and I asked to use the toilet.
    Our guard was Isabel. She was short, about thirty, with long, frizzy hair pulled back in a bun. She had on pretty gold earrings and childish barrettes to keep her unruly bangs away from her face. Slightly overweight, she wore heavy cotton camouflage pants that looked a bit too tight for comfort. She responded to my request with the nicest of smiles, was clearly excited to be looking after us.
    Taking me by the hand, she then tucked my forearm under her elbow in an unexpected gesture of affection and complicity. “You’ll like it here with us, you’ll see. You won’t want to leave!”
    I followed her to the toilets, expecting to find a latrine similar to the one I had used in the old house along the road and getting ready to hold my breath to stave off the stench.
    After no more than twenty yards, we were pushing our way through the thick vegetation. I still couldn’t spot an outhouse in the vicinity. We came out into a fairly large clearing. The earth looked like it had been churned up more or less all over. I was suddenly aware of the sound of an engine running. I asked Isabel what it could be.
    She didn’t know what I was talking about; then, listening more closely, she said, “No, no. There’s no engine running.”
    “But there is! Wait, I’m not crazy—there’s a very loud noise. Listen!”
    Isabel once again listened intently, then burst out laughing, squeezing her nose like a little girl so as not to make a noise.
    “Ah, no! That’s the sound of the flies!”
    I looked down in fright. Swirling around my feet were thousands of flies of all species—fat ones, long ones, yellow ones, green ones, all in a mass, so excited that they were bumping into each other and falling to the ground, feet in the air, wings flapping in vain against the earth. I was in the process of discovering a world of extraordinarily active insects. Wasps attacking flies before the latter could get up. Ants attacking wasps and flies and transporting their still-quivering spoils back to their nests. Shiny green-backed beetles flying about loudly before crashing into our knees. I let out a nervous yelp when I realized that an army of minuscule ants was storming up my pants and had already gotten as far as my waist. I tried to shake them off by stamping up and down vigorously on the spot to stop them from climbing any farther.
    “So where are the toilets?”
    “They’re right here!” Isabel said with a laugh. “These are the chontos. See? There are still some holes you can use. You squat over them, do your business, then cover it up with the earth next to it, like this, with your foot.”
    I looked more closely. A number of holes had been dug in the ground. The sight inside each was nauseating. Insects were crawling all over the matter that had not been covered properly. I was already feeling sick, and instinctively I doubled over in disgust, gripped by spasms as the putrid odor filled my nostrils. Without warning I threw up over both of us, splattering even our shirts.
    Isabel was no longer laughing. She wiped herself with the sleeve of her jacket and covered my vomit with the nearest pile of earth.
    “Right then, I’ll wait for you over there.”
    I was hysterical at the idea of remaining alone in this hell. Through the vegetation I saw shadows moving.
    “But everyone can see me!”
    Isabel handed me a roll of toilet paper. “Don’t worry. I won’t let anyone near.”
    I returned unsteadily to the camp, already missing the latrine of the little house along the road. I would have to wash off the vomit on me and put on the clothes they had given us. There were four pairs of pants, all jeans of

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