Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Writing a Letter (handwritten correspondence) (10/21/10)
TITLE: Night of Terror
By Kristi Peifer
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My Dear Elsie,
By now you have heard of my arrest. Days ago a number of us were rounded up and brought here to this wretched place they call Occoquan. I pray you and yours are faring better than my compatriots here, my friend.
The conditions here are unlivable, yet live through them we must. Our damp little cells are dark and windowless. The air is stagnant and smells of human waste, yet enduring the stench is preferable to eating what passes as food. The gruel given to us is unidentifiable, with the exception of the mealworms that inhabit it. It is amazing any of us are able to keep down any nourishment whatsoever. I’m finding it hard to sleep at night with the rats scratching at the cement floors. My health is beginning to suffer, but I thank God that I am still among the living!
Less than a week ago the warden ordered the guards to rough us up. Some of the ladies were choked or slammed into furniture. Many were brutally beaten with clubs! The cruelty we witnessed was beyond reason—like nothing I had ever seen. The women in the cell across from mine suffered horribly. One of them seized up after seeing her cellmate knocked out cold by a guard. It looked to be a heart attack. We kept calling out for medical help, but no one answered. The ruffians don’t care if we live or die.
Elsie, I fear some of the women won’t survive this abuse. I know that all of them would give their very lives for our cause, but it is nothing short of a tragedy to think they may have to. Our only crime was exercising our right to free speech! Holding up a sign in front of the White House is enough to justify barbarism toward fellow Americans, female or otherwise? “We the people” apparently does not include women in President Wilson’s estimation! The bigotry of it all leaves an acrid taste in my mouth.
Time is running short, so I must finish quickly. My one chance to get this letter out of the workhouse and into your hands comes with the guard who brings the evening slop. He is a sympathizer—and a Godsend, to be sure.
I am holding out hope that this letter will safely reach you. It must. We might not survive another night of terror. Elsie, see that someone out there finds out what is really happening here before there is loss of life. You cannot trust the authorities. Go to the press—and quickly!
Until we meet again in the here or the hereafter,
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