I knew I was dead the moment they put the bag over my head.
We'd all seen it happen to someone, or know someone who'd seen it. They'd perfected the act to a scientific degree. Two of them follow you until you get a street corner. One of them gets the drawstring bag, shoves it over your head and immediately tightens it around your neck. The other pulls a cosh out of his sleeve and hits you in the back of the leg, on the joint, beneath the hamstring so your knee buckles. Then a van pulls around the corner and man in the back of it opens the side door. The two guys throw you inside, they jump in, the van drives away and you're never seen again. It takes less than 20 seconds.
When they came for me, I remember thinking how quickly and thoroughly all control was taken away from me. The first thing to go was my vision, the quiet run-down street suddenly replaced with irregular patterns of sunlight poking through thick, black burlap. My first instinct to shout was immediately suppressed by the string that tightly coiled around my neck. The moment my brain sent the signal down my legs to start sprinting, the smack of the cosh brought me to my knees. Right as I began to struggle against my captors, I heard the screech of the van braking next to me and the doors sliding open. I felt myself my arms being lifted from below and was hurled towards the direction of the van.
Nobody caught me. I landed inside the van with a thud, my head smacking hard against the floor. Before I even had the chance to try and get up, I felt a knee come down hard between my shoulder blades and the barrel of a gun pushed against the back of my skull.
As I heard the other kidnappers jump into the van and the engine revving as it pulls away, I wondered how they found me.
“If they come for you, it's always for one of two reason.” Dana would say. “You fucked up or someone sold you out.”
I couldn't tell which one was worse.
I felt the guy on my back leaning over me, applying more and more weight on his knee. I struggled for every breath of hot, sweaty air through the coiled strings of the sack around my throat that immense weight on my lungs. The men were shouting, their overlapping voices bouncing off each other and the walls of the van, creating an oppressive and incomprehensible cacophony. I could only make out the occasional word.
“Traitor. Fucker. Terrorist.”
Had I fucked up? Had someone seen me? Had someone heard me? It only took one stranger's suspicion, one neighbour hearing a noise he shouldn't have, one careless moment and it was all over. If it was my fault, who else had I dragged along with me? Who else was in a different van right now, wondering the same thing?
I knew they'd never tell me. They knew we didn't care for our own lives. They knew we were always ready for things to end up like this. But not knowing what happened? Not knowing which one of our friends were still alive and which were dead? Not knowing how many of us they got? Not knowing if there were enough of us to keep the fight going? That was worse than torture.
I don't know how long we drove. Between the lack of air, the constant noise, my head against the floor feeling every bump and pothole in the road, I couldn't even string coherent thoughts together in my head anymore. When the can came to a halt, I knew we weren't in the city. I heard the van doors slide open again and the knee finally coming off my back.
We walked for at least an hour. I felt the crunch of dead leaves beneath my feet with every step as I tried not to trip over the tree roots that occasionally came in my path.
Eventually we came to a stop and they pushed down on my shoulders and brought me to my knees. They pulled the sack off and the black of the burlap finally lifted from my vision.
I could see the autumn forest stretch out in front of me, a layer of dead leaves covering the ground. They had almost all fallen from the trees. A few remained, clinging on, fighting a losing battle.
And right in front of me, at my knees, a shallow grave.
I felt the barrel of the gun press up against the back of my skull again.
Had I fucked up?