International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes
As he traversed long the hot sands he could still hear the helicopters
in the distance. The choppers that had deposited his eighty-one
year old frame in the middle of nowhere. Juan Muytado cursed them;
they, who had left him here in this wasteland, alone in hell.
Voices sifted through
his head. He could still see the faces of the government men who had
tormented him. He could still feel the bruising beneath his sagging
skin, could still feel the kicking that they leveled on him as they
threw him out of the helicopter down into the harsh, stinging sand.
The men spat at him and cursed at him and left him out here to die.
He was a criminal, they said.
Muytado staggered under the sweltering sun. Sweat poured from every
inch of his body. He wondered how he was supposed to survive without
anything to eat. All he had to drink was one lousy canteen of water
and that would last him less than a day, maybe two if he was careful.
They gave him a first aid kit and a compass. Both were useless, he reasoned.
The compass was the most useless of the two, for he knew he would never
live to find his way out.
He wondered what he had done to deserve this. He had been dealt such
an inhumanity, he raged. What had he been guilty of, he wondered aloud?
He hadnt killed anyone. He was just doing what everyone else did
in their day-to-day; their job. He was following the orders of his superiors,
in this case, the companys stockholders. The government told him
that was what the Nazis had said. This was crazy; he wasnt a war
criminal or anything like it, he argued, hell, he didnt even follow
politics. If anything, he was apolitical. He was an atheist when it
came to government. The prosecutor told him that this was too bad, for
hed better start praying.
He tried to reason as he trudged along the burning grains beneath his
shoes. What had he done but feed his family and give others the chance
to work and provide for their families? As far as he could see he did
nothing wrong. But the political tide had turned and now he was considered
a criminal or worse, not only by his country, but the world. Was it
a crime to do your job to the best of your personal ability, he cried
aloud? Apparently for Juan Muytado, it had been.
His mind rewound back to little over a year ago when he was spending
the first few weeks of his retirement in his spacious property in Peru.
With absolutely no cares in the world, he and his wife Elena enjoyed
their home. One day, she was hanging washing and he was sitting in the
garden, relaxing and ruminating on the possibility of a trip to the
coast later on in the early fall when the weather was not so hot. Then,
all hell broke loose.
The next thing Juan knew, he and his wife were face down on the patio
stone, overwhelmed and surrounded by armed government troops, loyal
to the new regime. Juan tried to speak, telling them how he had served
in the old guard but was pummeled into silence.
They were dragged into the house and interrogated for hours, but just
as frighteningly and mysteriously as the government men had come, they
simply disappeared. Without explanation, nor apology, they simply left
This bothered Juan for a number of weeks, but he did nothing. Thinking
back on it, he should have done something but he misunderstood his fear
then. He understood his fear now. A government that could place an old
man in the middle of some far off desert was not a regime to question.
The heat of the sand began to ulcer his feet and soon he could barely
walk. He removed his shoes and socks and put them aside as he examined
his feet. Pustules had started to form on the sides. He rubbed at his
feet but this only seemed to agitate them more. Soon, he put his shoes
back on, minus the socks and ventured onward towards nowhere.
He wondered where the human rights organizations were in all of this
and if they knew this was taking place. It was unconscionable to do
this to a human being. He knew they would not stand for such political
persecution. After all, he was an elderly man. Juan bristled as he thought
about what the regime did to younger, healthier men.
His mind drifted back to that time of the troops busting into his house.
He recalled how afterwards he did not say a thing to anyone; thinking
if he said nothing, then nothing would come of it and he and Elena could
forget it. He speculated on whether the same thing was happening to
his neighbors, but for the fact that he never asked, for fear of further
retribution, he would never now know.
It must have been happening to his neighbors and those in his town.
But if this was so, how come there were no other government vehicles
in the area or the fact that he was the only one brought to trial, he
He thought of the house arrests. In the months soon after when the troops
would come regularly and the one in charge, the one that always seemed
American, somehow CIA, came into his life; the one who called himself
Antonio. He introduced himself as a general, then changed his mind and
therefore, rank. He then muddled through an explanation of how he was
not in the military at all. Juan smiled at this remembrance. He knew
that the man was lying. The man tried to pass himself off as a South
American and even had his Berlitz down pretty good, but he was no South
American, Juan knew.
The house arrests were the worst, he remembered. Not only did he wince
at the thought of the torture and brutality exhibited and experienced
in his own house, his sanctuary and he recalled the screams of his wife
with tears in his eyes. As a man, Juan could take anything, but not
the sound of his wife being maltreated in the next room; so close to
him but miles away. The cigarette burns on his face, neck, torso and
privates, the slaps, kicks and punches to his old body but the not knowing
how they were abusing Elena, this he could not bear. When her weak heart
gave out, he thought he would kill each and every one of those bastards.
Then fell the quiet. Everything settled peacefully after Elena had died.
He had gone back to as much of a tranquil existence without Elena as
could be warranted. And then came that night; that awful night when
the bastards came in again, rifle-butted him awake and stole him from
his bed. It was the middle of the night, if he remembered correctly,
driven along some godforsaken endless transport ride. Kidnapped like
Eichmann, was all he could think; kidnapped like goddamned Eichmann.
He did not know why he had been the victim of such abuse and treatment
until the trial. The whole trial had been a joke, he mused. What did
the Americans call it again? What was there expression, he wondered?
Oh yes, a kangaroo court. He was guilty the moment he walked into that
room,. The judge had him nailed and the so-called witnesses were nothing
but actors supplied by the government to provide the case with false
authentication. Everything and anything that could have been used to
slander his name was used. They made it sound as if he was the biggest
criminal in the world. He remembered how he saw Antonio, dressed in
a suit and sitting there with a smug expression as though his job was
done. When his turn came as a government witness, his testimony was
the most damaging of all.
In the end, Juan could only argue that he was just doing his job and
if anything, there were bigger criminals still at large. There was nothing
wrong with the honest work he had been doing and honest work had gotten
him to the educated and respected businessman he was; or had been. He
was proud that he had not been a coffee grower like his father. He had
worked himself up through school on the sweat of his father; this was
true, but continued on, working his way to a degree in biology. He worked
in the rain forests through the Central East and soon became a renowned
expert in the region. His real career break came when he was called
to work for a timber company and he learned the business from the ground
up, he liked to say. He embarked on his own lumber company and in a
few years, put his former employee out of business. Eventually, he was
the largest supplier of timber in the country.
He commenced to working with varied companies from around the globe.
Companies that were described at the trial as a conglomerate of
rich, industrial concerns from Europe and Asia and the United States,
as well. Juan did not know if this was true, he just knew that
very quickly he became an extremely rich man. He had been a proud man;
proud of his accomplishments, but now Juan Muytado was not a proud man
At the trial, he regaled a mostly empty courtroom how his work took
him to the most intriguing places and how he met many interesting people.
He explained how he spent over fifty-five years as head of the logging
business and finally sold it and retired. At the trial, the prosecution
team made it sound like a crime spree.
The lead prosecutor was a slick, American-type who harped on the fact
that over his fifty-five year reign Muytado had committed heinous crimes
against nature, fouled up the air and the Amazon River, decimating the
worlds tree population by cutting down approximately fifty-million
Juan waited in vain for the corporation he had built to provide him
with some sort of legal defense, as the government had frozen his assets
and thus, he had no capital for his own legal representation. His former
company did absolutely nothing. The court appointed him some puppet
attorney who barely bothered to show up and when he did, told Juan to
plead to no contest.
In the end, Juan Muytado was branded what the court termed an eco-terrorist,
having destroyed 1Ž4 of the rain forest in South America and under international
laws of terrorism; the prosecutors went for the jugular. They informed
a packed courtroom how this one man alone, Juan Muytado, had upset the
delicate balance of the eco-system, changing lush rain forests into
dry, arid lands, creating perilous changes in the weather, such that
could never be rectified. They accused him of awakening and disturbing
the weather system they called El Nino. After this mockery of justice,
they naturally found him guilty.
Juan Muytado knew his fate was sealed and hung his head while he was
sentenced under international anti-terrorism laws newly adopted by his
country. Even though he had pleaded not guilty against the advice of
his lawyer, he was given the mandatory sentence.
As his fevered brow reviewed all that had transpired, he roamed the
searing dunes, cursing those large corporations for whom he had sold
his soul. These were the very same foreign conglomerate which had taken
away his country and who had with murder, political corruption, torture
and caused deforestation and severe land erosion.
His sentence had been to walk the desert, to search for his conscience.
To wander the desert for the rest of his days, being driven mad by the
sun. A land that had once been lush foliage, but was now a desert; a
desert he himself helped create.
Grant March 2008
Life is defined by light and shadow
voice boomed, filling the large empty echo of the front of the photographers
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