"Head down, pig," the woman cooed. Her voice was always this way. Calm. Controlled. Smooth as glass. Whenever she spoke, a secret smile could be heard within. The man beneath her strong hands was naked, chained, and crying. At her command he shot his red-rimmed eyes to the ground, careful not to look at the cement floor before her boots, but at the boots themselves. Always at the woman's boots. She could tell- each of them could, even through the back of his head- whenever he cheated. Today he did not cheat. Today he was being broken.
The first time she had 'trained' him, he had hated her, raged at her, with ten times the ferocity he had once thought possible of himself. But this same rage which had helped him endure the weeks of hell was now gone. In its place was fear, complete and overwhelming. Yet most of it- and in that damned box they kept him in, all of the fear- was for what was being done to his mind, not his body. He was beginning to forget things.
His dominant arm was stretched high above his head, now useless, formless as a wriggling eel. The shoulder muscles had been stretched taut and then thinned. In this way he had been forced to sway to her authority for hours. When he'd first begun to lose feeling in the arm, he'd been glad and thought he was winning a small battle. But then the woman had lowered the arm, allowing the blood to again flow and feed. Soon after, the arm was again up, the shoulder was again stretched and taut, and he was once again questioning his sanity.
He saw now how pitiful his hopes and strength had been. She had broken him with ease, selecting the time and method with utmost precision. Now, he hung there, crying such as he hadn't in decades, perhaps as he never had. He no longer fought, no longer hoped. He only waited for her mercy, which would eventually come. His tears flowed unashamed down his cheeks, and in the darkened room he could think only of the girlfriend he had struck in a drunken rage seven weeks ago back at his favorite bar. Back on the mainland. Back home.
"Are you sorry for your crime, pig?"
The question had been posed a hundred times before. He did not answer immediately. He had learned that quick answers were viewed as terse, not spoken with true conviction. He stared at her boots, concentrating until his tears slowed and the pain in his arm subsided, and finally spoke.
"I am sorry for my crime, woman. I beg for your forgiveness. I-"
The rope was yanked higher, and he screamed. "Do not ask for my forgiveness, pig," the woman crooned in her chandelier voice. "I was not your victim." She tugged the rope again, and something in the man's shoulder popped as his body twisted like a corpse on a gallows. He might have screamed again, but instead blacked out. Yet the piercing pain in his shoulder and the heated wash that was still coursing through his body when he awoke told him the respite had only lasted the briefest of moments.
He dangled there for some time more. The woman did not speak; she only watched.
"Please," the man finally said. The word drooled from his mouth with the weakened energy of a spent battery. And wasn't that all he really was? A vessel of limited life now drained of its only value?
"Please?" the woman countered. "Please what?"
"Please… stop." And this was all he could produce. The abuse suffered by his arm and his sanity had been too great. Even the energy required to beg was too much. Now, he could only ask. The woman leaned in close to his face. He could feel her sweet breath on his skin, and she could most certainly smell the odor of his unwashed body. If she had brought out a knife and twisted its blade in the dim light, he would have gladly exposed his neck to her. But the woman produced instead another, horrible, warm smile.
"My dear, pathetic man," she said. And the scent of her breath was indeed sweet, as intoxicating and alluring as that day seven weeks ago when she had witnessed his drunken abuse and then so easily seduced him. "What a humble, pitiful excuse for intelligent life you truly are. I can not stop now." She paused only to sweep the room with her arms. "This is Monroe's Island. It is your classroom, and we are your teachers." She leaned in closer still, and her words were then so sweet, so lustrous, that they entered his body as a poisonous wind that he succumbed to with ease. "We will not stop until you are fully educated. We won't stop teaching until you have learned."
Outside the fortress, nearly two hundred men who had already been broken by their own seducers in their own private manners slept as best they could without beds or roofs in the early morning chill.
They were spread all over the island. Some slept in the vast, rolling hills, believing a bunker of tall grasses would protect them. Some, having doubtlessly responded to the call of crashing waves and the taunting horizon, slept by the ocean's edge, elevated thirty or a hundred and thirty feet above by the island's great wall of cliffs. Most, however, slept in the streets of the run-down city that had once populated a thriving tourist trade.
Despite the inherent danger of the streets, the men slept there because they also lived there. The streets were their community now, a place to meet, talk, and trade what few wares they had. It was where territories and hierarchies were established, where hopes were bred, curtailed, and crushed. And it was these same streets where the men most often ran for their lives as the women hunted them down.
Some of these men were so filled with daily fear that they shook in their sleep, plagued by nightmares. These weaker men were new to the island's tortures and likely to die soon, victims of not only the women's torture but also their own ignorance and lack of fortitude. Others, having fully adapted themselves, slept soundlessly and deep. Such veterans ran well, their experience helping them to survive knowing nonetheless they were mere puppets to the women's strings.
Then there were the men who lived on the very cusp of these two existences, for it is also true that every veteran was once an island child. Each had their own moments of triumph and transformation. These special few were hunted the most, for sport is nothing without challenge and challenge is heightened by the unknown. Still, even these men slept and dreamed, walked and schemed, ran and screamed.
Yet despite their differences, these many men slept as one, united by the icons of death that rolled on four wheels. None could ignore that primal screech of tires that sounded so much like desire, and upon hearing it, all bent easily to their own primal need to run.
Inside the fortress, nearly two hundred more men tried in vain to catch a few minutes of sleep. They had no idea what time it was nor how long it would be before the doors to their rooms would open and another round would begin. Two floors above them, nineteen women slept soundly.
The women woke to the morning sunshine feeling refreshed, fed, and warm. It was by necessity that they all slept on the second floor of the massive fortress. Despite the disagreements that women living together inevitably bring, there was simply nowhere else available. The rest of this grand hotel from days gone by had been fenced, gutted, and utterly transformed.
While the ground floor retained the closest resemblance to its former uses– offices, an impressive kitchen, and a large conference room were all still fully functional– it was the basement, of course, that had had the most extensive renovations. And while the third floor was technically the most unchanged, it was also the most disused. Only one corner office and the central foyer whose windows overlooked the front and rear lawns were ever used by anyone. All other rooms had been emptied and padlocked years before.
Though each of these nineteen women had their own unique skills and island duties, each also maintained a physical strength that only touched upon their even greater strengths within. They had worked hard, most extraordinarily so, to overcome the demons that had brought them to this exotic, radical place and reach their current state of might and grace. But each had also suffered, of course. And ultimately this was the common bond that united them, for none ever forgot the abuse they had suffered by the hard hands and sharp tongues of the various men of their pasts.
For most, their intense schedules made for an instant sleep entirely demanding of that recuperating rest which mysteriously keeps us all alive. The deeper, more relaxed slumber that allows for dreams, however, was assuredly rare. Yet when they did dream, these women, too, endured nightmares. True night terrors, in fact, because they almost always dreamed of days past and woke believing– for a few moments at least– that these pasts had returned and that their suffering had never been vanquished.
IN THE NORTH PACIFIC OCEAN there is an island that has been forgotten by mankind. Living there are men who have committed all manner of moral crimes. Deceived by an elaborate ruse, they wake deep within fortress walls where they are tortured, brainwashed, and then trained to physical perfection. When they are finally released to the island's hills and abandoned streets, they are told one simple rule: Survive long enough and you will be sent home. The island's only other inhabitants are women. In "Man Hunt", survival of the fittest means being literally hunted. It is "Lord of the Flies" meets hard-core feminism, because it tells both sides of the story.