What Pegman Saw – Disappeared

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. Using the location provided, you must write a piece of flash fiction of no more than 150 words. You can read the rules here. You can find today’s location on this page,  from where you can also get the Inlinkz code. This week’s prompt is Montevideo, Uruguay.

WPS - Disappeared 180811

Aeropuerto de Carrasco – Montevideo Uruguay | Google Maps

Genre: Historical fiction

Word count: 149

Disappeared

The car hummed south from Montevideo.

“They pulled another body out of the river this morning, a woman,” said Mateo.

“I heard the plane,” replied Jorge. “Heartless bastards those Argentinians. We should pray for her.”

I had been on that plane.

With forty others I had sat on the plane’s hard metal floor for perhaps an hour. I wasn’t afraid; after months of being beaten, or burned with electricity I saved terror for the torture cell.

A man in a white coat moved down the plane injecting each of us.

A door opened to the sky. Soldiers picked me up.

“Madre de Dios! This one’s awake!”

“Who cares? Toss her out!”

I plunged, until the thunder of air was replaced by the explosion of water and the shattering of my bones.

“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

Author’s Notes

This story is essentially true.

From 1974 – 1983 the Argentinian government conducted a campaign of terror, the ‘Dirty War’, against those of its citizens who held contrary political views. Thousands of people were kidnapped, tortured and their bodies disposed of; they became known as ‘los desaparecidos’, or ‘the disappeared’. Sedating them and throwing them (alive) from aircraft was one of the ways they were ‘disappeared’. Many were dropped into the River Plate and some washed up in Uruguay, near Montevideo.

Wikipedia, as always, has a good deal of information.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty_War

The novel ‘The Memory Stones’ by Caroline Brothers tells the story of how the dirty war affected one Argentinian family. It’s very powerful, in fact it’s painful to read, but it’s extremely well written. Her website can be found at http://www.carolinebrothers.com/index.php/books/the-memory-stones/80-the-memory-stones

30 thoughts on “What Pegman Saw – Disappeared

    • Dear Josh
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m glad you think I brought the story to life – it’s a story that deserves to be remembered – it’s a story about where fascism inevitably leads.
      With best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 1 person

  1. sad, sad, sad
    and you told it with a nice riveting unfolding.
    and after having just completed my post for this location – I think i connected more with the history you shared – because I mentioned the water in my post – and to then imagine bodies “washed up in Uruguay, near Montevideo.” ugh –
    powerful piece here….

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Yvette
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m glad you thought the story was powerful. I knew as soon as I saw the location that I ought to write about those of the disappeared who were dropped into the River Plate.
      With best wishes
      Penny

      Like

    • Dear Karen
      Thank you for reading and for your helpful comments, especially about the voice. To try to imagine the state of mind of the main character, I drew on my experience of an anxiety disorder which left me constantly in fear for several months. When fear is constant, you stop noticing it until something really frightening happens, when suddenly it gets even worse. I only realised how frightened I’d been when I recovered. I imagined something similar, only even more extreme, might happen after prolonged and repeated torture.
      With very best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Righteousbruin
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I think you’ll find the same motivations are behind all these actions, namely a limited number of strong men in power (or at the head of insurgents, or crime bosses), a belief that the rule of fear is the most effective way of maintaining power, and the cultivation of an organised body of fighting men to impose and enforce. Some of these strong men have strongly held political/ethical/religious beliefs and then we may refer to them as right wing or left wing, or Islamist, but that label is really immaterial – except that the ideology is sometimes used to build cohesion in the societies they control.
      At all events, the only way I can see of opposing this is by showing love and respect to everyone on a personal level, and being adamant that oppression, torture and murder are wrong by whoever they are committed and for whatever apparently good ideology.
      With very best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Dale
      Thank you for such a kind compliment.
      I confess that I have mixed feelings about the quality of this piece. On the one hand I tried some ambitious things, while on the other hand a lot of the writing is pretty clunky and lacking good flow. And as no-one has commented on the ambitious elements I’m inclined to feel they’re not wholly successful. For example, I wanted to use prayer as a means of binding the narrative together, so Jorge says “We should pray for her”, the soldier says “Madre de Dios” when he realises the narrator is conscious, and the story closes with a big chunk of the ‘Hail Mary’. The other ambitious thing was that I changed point of view during the story, and had to find a pivot to do this (it’s the plane, as if you hadn’t realised). But I found that to make the piece clear I had to be very explicit and that feels clunky to me.
      Still, it was a good technical exercise, and no doubt I will eventually improve! And thank you once more for being so kind about the story.
      With very best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Narasimhan
      Thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, I was trying to bring home the personal nature of wickedness. It’s never just a case of ‘thousands were tortured and disappeared’; it’s always individual people who are burned, beaten and thrown out of aeroplanes. It’s a horror to which we should never be blind, and which we should always work to end.
      With best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Kelley
      Thank you for reading and commenting. If the period really interests you, I can’t recommend Caroline Brother’s novel “The Memory Stones” too highly (see the notes above). It really is totally committed, and superbly written. My personal opinion is that it rivals Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”.
      With very best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Francine
      Thank you for reading and commenting so kindly. I’m glad you felt the story packed a punch. The truth behind the story simply appals me, which is why I seized upon the prompt as an excuse for recounting what happened.
      With very best wishes
      Penny.

      Like

  2. Very sobering story Penny. I learned a lot. I was confused at first when ss you say in your note today, you changed point of view. I assumed that the narrator was present during the first scene, and then it cut to the second scene in the plane, during which the character presumably dies or has multiple broken bones. So how could the men in the first scene not notice?
    Perhaps she is having an out of body experience. Anyways as you can see i had trouble putting two and two together. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and found the prayer element at the end particularly effective in punctuating the end of her life. I only bring up the other because you expressed dissatisfaction and i thought the feedback might help. Beautiful writing as always. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Andi
      Thank you for reading and for the careful and thoughtful feedback. I wanted to establish where the victim had fallen – into the River Plate near Montevideo – so I used Jorge and Mateo to do that by their dialogue in the car.
      I then tried to switch the pov, using the plane as a pivot. Jorge heard the plane, and describes it as Argentinian. The first person narrator says “I had been on that plane,” and the story goes on from there with first person pov. The intention of using first person pov was to make the story much more pressing and urgent.
      The closing prayer element is neither third party nor first party pov; it’s many things. It’s Jorge and Mateo’s response to hearing about the body; it may well be the narrator’s last thoughts; most crucially, it allows the reader to add their own prayer for the disappeared, and for those who tortured and killed them.
      Thank you once again for the constructive criticism.
      With very best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is such a tragic and affecting story, with so much history and detail included. I’d like to know more about who Mateo and Jorge are, and their interest in the woman. However I am struggling with the POV. This starts third person with Jorge and Mateo in the car and then switches to, ‘I had been on that plane,’ and the voice being the dead woman’s. Or at least I think that’s what happens. Initially, the way the lines flow, it was as if Jorge had been on the plane.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Sarah
      Thank you for reading, and for your thoughtful and careful comments.
      Firstly, Jorge and Mateo are fictional; a couple of ordinary Uruguayan guys. Mateo had heard on the radio about the body being washed ashore, and is telling Jorge. (When the Argentinians first disposed of people in this way, Uruguayan radio reported it; it was quite obvious that the bodies had been thrown from a plane because all the bones were broken from the impact with the water). Switching the POV was deliberate.
      I wanted to establish where the victim had fallen – into the River Plate near Montevideo – so I used Jorge and Mateo to do that by their dialogue in the car.
      I then tried to switch the POV, using the plane as a pivot. Jorge heard the plane, and describes it as Argentinian. The first person narrator says “I had been on that plane,” and the story goes on from there with first person POV. The intention of using first person POV was to make the story much more pressing and urgent.
      I can see why you thought Jorge was on the plane. Switching POV is difficult to do successfully and I didn’t quite get it right this time – I’m sure that won’t put me off trying again!
      The closing prayer element is neither third party nor first party POV; it’s many things. It’s Jorge and Mateo’s response to hearing about the body; it may well be the narrator’s last thoughts; most crucially, it allows the reader to add their own prayer for the disappeared, and for those who tortured and killed them.
      Thank you once again for the constructive criticism.
      With very best wishes
      Penny

      Like

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