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Excerpt: Even Silence Has An End

Painfully, I tore myself away from the light, turned on my heels, and plunged into the thick matted darkness. It had begun to rain again. It was difficult to walk; every other step I tripped. I had my hands out in front of me to avoid obstacles. I couldn’t see a thing. I hadn’t managed to get hold of a machete, but I did have a flashlight. The risk involved in using it was as great as the fear that prevented me from using it. I went slowly into this threatening space and told myself I would switch it on only when I couldn’t take it anymore. My hands collided with wet, rough, sticky surfaces, and I expected at any moment to feel the burn of some violent poison. The storm was raging. I could hear the thundering of the rain pounding on the canopy of vegetation that for a few more minutes would protect me. I expected the fragile roof of leaves to yield and open under the weight of water at any moment. The prospect of the flood that would soon submerge me made my situation all the more distressing. I no longer knew whether it was raindrops or my own tears that were flowing down my cheeks, and I hated to have to drag along this relic of a sniveling, shivering child, when I knew that I couldn’t allow myself any weakness.

I had already made considerable headway. A bolt of lightning tore through the forest, landing a few yards away from me. In a burst of light, the space around me was revealed in all its horror. I was surrounded by gigantic trees and was only two steps from falling into a ravine. I stopped short, totally blinded. I squatted to catch my breath among the roots of the tree just there before me. I was on the verge of finally taking out my flashlight so that I could go around the tree that I was leaning against, immediately change direction, and get away from the ditch, when in the distance I noticed intermittent flashes of light headed my way. I could hear their voices now. They were coming after me, and they must be very near, because I heard one of them shout that he had already seen me. I camouflaged myself among the roots of my old tree while praying to the Lord to make me invisible.

Excerpted from Even Silence Has an End: My Six Years in the Colombian Jungle by Ingrid Betancourt. Copyright 2010 Ingrid Betancourt. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Press, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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Ingrid Betancourt