Once upon a time, there were twin sisters in foster care, Farida and Alia. Alia ran away at age 14 and got caught up with the street life. At 16, she was raped and tortured to death.

I know. Life sucks, right?

Shortly after Alia ran away, Farida was adopted by a husband and wife who were both police officers. They were decent people. They opened a better world to Farida. Took her everywhere with them, taught her how to shoot, trained her in boxing and self-defense. Holidays meant hiking for two weeks at a time in the Sierra Mountains, living off the land and sleeping under the stars. Farida knew nothing of her own parents except that her name was Arabic. She and her sister had been brought to the United States as refugees at the age of two. Sometimes Farida wondered about her past, but she didn’t let it consume her. Alia, on the other hand, was always bringing up the subject, resentfully saying if only this or that had or hadn’t happened, things would be better.

“That’s useless talk,” Farida would tell her. “This is our life now. We have to make the best of it.”

But Alia wouldn’t listen

The sisters were like two sides of a coin, one reaching for what she thought she’d lost and the other reaching for what she wanted to gain.

The police officers were immigrants from Mexico. They told Farida stories of their upbringings and how they’d traveled across the border as children and met while in the police academy. If Farida had wondered anything about her birth parents before, she didn’t anymore. These were her real parents and this was where she belonged.

Sometimes, Farida tried to find her sister, but never succeeded. Only once did she receive news, when Alia was in the hospital recovering from an overdose. By the time Farida got there, Alia had checked herself out and melted back into the streets of Pacoima. When Alia was murdered, Farida suffered enormous guilt. Her body had been tossed into a garbage bin. The autopsy showed she’d been raped over and over, while her arms were nailed to a piece of wood in a crucifix position. After that, she’d been raised on the cross, just like Jesus, to die from asphyxiation as her legs buckled and she could no longer hold herself up.

Farida struggled to make sense of it all. How had their paths diverged so drastically? Why had God plucked her out of foster care and left her sister behind? They were identical. It could have as easily been her sister who got lucky. God was cruel. Life was cruel. At night, when she couldn’t sleep, Farida would leave the cozy house in Boyle Heights and run, trying to stop her mind from asking questions over and over that had no answers.

At some point, Farida had to acknowledge that, for whatever reason, she’d always had certain innate qualities that helped her succeed and her sister had not. Farida was smart enough to embrace the opportunities afforded her rather than rebel against them.

Of course, I’m talking about myself. I’m Farida. It’s hard to talk about the time before my sister died in the first person. It’s as if that girl was someone else. But it was me. Yes, it was me and her.

I fell short of helping my sister, but her death made me more determined to do everything I could to live a better life—for both of us.

I have an exceptionally high IQ. I graduated from high school when I was 16 and finished college by the time I was 18. Immediately, I applied to the FBI. I had one goal: to hunt down the person who had taken my sister’s life. I was going to kill him. Or her. Or them. Even if it was an army.

I became a special agent and started working undercover. I went deep, infiltrating a group that was similar to what in 1989 would become a burgeoning online forum called Ipce. Its purpose is scholarly discussions about the understanding and emancipation of mutual relationships between children or adolescents and adults. Eventually, all of this would go online, but most people weren’t really online in the beginning to mid-1980’s. The group I infiltrated was called Flair. A newsletter was circulated and meetings were held, the headquarters being in Amsterdam.

I saw things and did things that would make an ordinary person lose their humanity. And maybe I did. Or maybe I’d already gone so far down that rabbit hole, I didn’t even realize it. The situations I got into, I didn’t care. I did it for a bigger purpose. If information was gleaned, it was worth it. I was a chameleon, blending as easily into the streets as I did into the highest echelons of society. Eventually, those on the street came to respect and even fear me.

Those at the top were another story. They had nothing but disgust for the minions beneath them. And I was way down the food chain. I took what chances I had to advance, but I was careful not to get so close to any one individual, no matter how close I appeared to be. That’s a big danger of staying too long undercover; that you begin to empathize with those you are trying to entrap. Slowly, insidiously, you become the person you are pretending to be.

I think I must have been on the verge of falling over that edge when I finally began to unravel the truth. The dark alleys, seedy hotel rooms, posh parties, all of that intricate web ultimately led me to the commanders running the human trafficking, weapons, and drugs chains. If you didn’t already know it, these three commodities run the world’s economy, well hidden under cover of legitimate companies. Above those commanders were the corporate leaders and the politicians. But they weren’t even the real power. Those few at the very top were virtually impossible to trap. How could you when you couldn’t even prove they existed?

Know that whenever some movie mogul or CEO is charged with pedophilia or drugs or whatever, and politicians and the media go on a self-righteous rampage about how they’ve cleaned up Hollywood and made the world a safer place, don’t believe it. Those few who are charged are scapegoats, used to quell public outcry and assuage everyone’s collective guilt. The Mount Olympus gods keep right on behaving badly. Untouchable.

When I finally hit pay dirt, I was led to the underground world of Torture and Snuff. I was excited. I could smell the scent of evil and knew how close I finally was to my goal.

It was then I did a crazy thing, the craziest I’ve ever done. I sold myself to be tortured. For a fee of $10,000 and medical care. I was told what to expect and I agreed. As per the instructions, I went to a motel room in Santa Monica and drank from the glass on the table. When I awoke, I was lying on a cold cement floor, naked and blindfolded. Someone picked me up and chained me to a wall by my wrists, arms above my head. I heard them walk away and a door closed. A few minutes later, the door opened and closed again. I couldn’t hear him—perhaps he was barefoot—but I felt his presence coming closer, a dark energy enveloping me. I wanted to struggle and scream. I wanted to kick out at the person and miraculously escape. But I controlled those urges and somehow remained still.

At last, he was so close his breath caressed my face.

“I know you’re scared. Come on, let it out.” He spoke, but a device altered his voice so it couldn’t be recognized. I could feel his excitement as he touched first my left cheek and then my right, then traveled down to my breasts. He pinched each nipple so hard I flinched.

“There you go,” he said with satisfaction.

His hand continued down my stomach and between my legs. He penetrated me with his finger. I was terrified, disgusted. He felt it and got off on it.

“You think you’re beautiful, don’t you?’ he said. He thrust his finger hard inside of me. “Don’t you.”

I nodded. It was what he wanted me to do.

“Well, no more, baby.”

With his other hand, he ran a cold steel blade down my left cheek and then my right. Between heavy breaths, he whispered, “What’ll it be, this side or that?”

For a moment, I forgot my dread. The phrase came back to me. I’d heard it at a party once. “What’ll it be, Farida: vodka or whiskey?”

In that moment of heightened awareness, I remembered Alia calling me once not long before her death. She’d sounded excited, hopeful. High. She wanted me to know she was on her way up in the world.

“I got a real connection in film now. A guy came up to me in Starbucks. I know. It sounds bogus, right? But it’s for real. I checked it out. He’s such a funny little guy, too. You’d never guess he was powerful. He asked me, ‘What’ll it be, Alia? You can go this way or you can go that. It’s up to you.’ That’s what he said and, you know, he’s right. For once, I’m gonna make the right choice.”

When I didn’t respond as enthusiastically as she wanted, she’d turned angry, accusing me of jealousy, of never wanting her to succeed, cursed up and down, and then hung up.

So imagine how I felt now, hearing those same words again, chained to that wall. I had found my sister’s killer. Terri Manson. No; I couldn’t be sure he was the one who had actually murdered her. But he was behind it all. The maestro leading the orchestra. It was his company who made the films and trafficked people like Alia.

With me, it was something different. I knew then it wasn’t being filmed. This wasn’t meant for the Dark Net. It was for Manson’s own personal pleasure.

“The left,” I said.

And he’d done it. Slow and deliberate. All the way down my cheek. He’d licked and sucked the blood off my face while jacking off. Coming all over my legs.

I didn’t care. The pain and humiliation meant nothing. I’d found out who killed my sister.

A doctor treated me and drugged me again, all while blindfolded. I woke up beneath an underpass by the L.A. River, cleaned up and dressed in my clothes. Shakily, I got up and surveyed my desolate surroundings: the dried-up river, the concrete sides and gang graffiti, the abandoned factories, chain-linked fences, and barbed wire. This was where my sister had ended up, except she’d been dead. I felt the rage boil. I would bring those gods down to earth and dump their bodies the same way.

I almost got taken off the case when my handler saw what had happened to me. But I convinced him not to report it and let me keep on. There was no way I was giving up after everything I’d suffered and how far I’d come. And I still needed concrete proof.

After that, I rose up higher in the organization, with serious responsibilities in organizing the transportation of higher end prostitutes to an island location where they would pleasure visiting dignitaries.

One night, I ran across Manson at a party. Our eyes locked and he nodded and held up his drink, as if saluting me. My revulsion and anger was so intense I knew I couldn’t continue standing there staring at him. I left the crowd and headed to the edge of the rooftop terrace as if I wanted to enjoy the magnificent view of downtown Los Angeles.

“How are you doing?” he said. “You’ve been a great asset to the company. Very loyal. You need anything? Just let me know.”

“I’m fine, thanks,” I said.

“That’s a nasty scar you have there,” he said.

I shrugged. “It’s a nasty job.”

“Things like that shouldn’t happen to a beautiful young lady like you,” he said. I could see how much he was enjoying the conversation. His little eyes alight with excitement. A stiff dick in his pants. He had no idea I knew it was him. He got off on his little secret, his pathetic bit of power. I wanted to take that dick and not just cut it off, but twist and twist it until it fell off.

I didn’t answer and he shrugged. “Okay, I get it, you don’t wanna talk about it. But any time you need anything, you let me know, okay?”

And he walked off. So cocky, yes a good word for it.

He was a sick man.

But I was a sick woman. What can I say?


This is an excerpt from K.H. Mezek’s new novel, Luminaria: Tales of Earth and Oran, Love and Revenge. You can purchase the book from Terror House Press here.