The barracks was dead cold as the sergeant opened his eyes to the distant glow of an approaching of morning. The fading of the specter of a drawn knife suddenly against him instantly fading from view transitioning to the dim glimmer wending its way through the dark silhouette of bunk beds and monolithic lockers. He stirred convulsively from the covers fearlessly offering his bare legs and feet to the cement below. The flexion causing his chest to swallow a draught of frigid air from the nearby drafty window summoning an instantaneous smoker’s hack. His forefinger scratched about within an empty paper package that he had mechanically snatched out of the pocket of his coat hanging beside him on the lower hook of the post of the bed. There were no more cigarettes to be had. He had consumed the last of his ration earlier last night. His lips curled into an unconscious grimace at the palpable impression of bitter brackish coffee that awaited him in the canteen. Life for it’s own sake alone he thought. Remaining alive had its many penalties. Penalties being the central currency of this headstrong governing structure superimposed equally over all as a normal state of affairs. This same organization that he found himself bound to so completely partly out of self-survival from years back when the foolishness of youth had nearly put him over the fence on the other side. Now he was much wiser and knew that even as its willing agent there was no foolproof shelter against its political largesse.
The duty roster as usual hung just inside the ready room doorway just across the hall from the site’s dingy cafeteria. It was thick with fresh paper. New dossiers detailing the particulars of the many unfortunates who were to be interrogated that day. He could momentarily imagine their shadowy forms cowering far below in dank darkness. several stories below. The latest crop of poor bastards that some faceless state official had ordained must be put to the test in order to verify their innocence. A task that was impossible at this stage as to do so would run against the obvious fact that they been taken there in the first place. The Party never made mistakes! Certainly not about the apprehension of political traitors to the State. After all, they were all were guilty of something. The fact that they needed to be physically coerced demonstrating a felonious attitude that verified that they had malevolent intent to hide. Once accused there was no chance of returning to a former existence, save for feet first. These mechanical thoughts long instilled by relentless Party doctrine had ceased to be of any concern to him long ago. He had to worry about his own kettle of fish. His son! The child he rarely if ever saw come of a very short union. It seemed clear that as the boy, as a resident the State boarding school from an early age would be out of danger and thus of no concern. His position as a Special Technical Interrogator’s Assistant made him next to bullet proof as long as he followed orders and of course, the current regime remained in power. Nothing to fear given his middling station in the hierarchy. He simply assisted the process of questioning by extracting the confessions.
The watery powdered eggs sat tepid upon the over worn plate. All the fresh hot coffee had been consumed at the change of watch leaving only muddy dregs from the bottom of the urn. Whatever the shortcomings society attributed to sabotage or defeatism, this misery was equally shared by all. “From each according to their needs deferred efficiently to each according to the ability!” It made him angry! So many people were angry. Everyone being angry seemingly just to be angry. There were a privileged few, like himself, that were able to superficially express this anger within narrow professional boundaries as long as it was exercised with a cool head in keeping with the goals of the State. To hear the ‘rabbits‘ squealing about their rights when newly brought in was particularly aggravating. Anyone over the age of five in this progressive Utopia knew enough to button their lip lest they suffer the expected consequences. Apparently, that fat sheaf of arrest papers hanging on the wall each day demonstrated that too many were foolish enough no to. Maybe it was true that he was getting to like the fact of his supposedly thankless job as a ‘borreau‘ he could provide them? After all, someone properly trained had to aid in the process to keep things going or the current system might be plugged up with fractious selfish malcontents intent on gumming up the works. The clatter of a plate sliding off the flimsy fiberglass tray and onto the floor before the broken conveyor brought him back outside and into reality. His boot automatically kicked at the shards sending them skittering about. He bent down quickly picking up the broken shards and deposited them on the precarious pile of unwashed dishes. He mustn’t be late for the first case of the day!
The Liberals had overplayed their hand. And their opponents as well in response. The consortium that directed the various social strata had been formed to remove society from these open ended radical agendas. Key posts in government agencies were always under scrutiny for subversion from progressive minded infiltration. They were surreptitiously monitored and then ruthlessly cleansed out as part of the routine of governing. The side benefit of providing fodder for the news of the day to present fully detailing yet another scandal by yet another once otherwise trusted official. The utility of this process in keeping the entire population on its toes a sure method of stifling aberrant behavior. The surrounding fields were also fertilized by the bones of former commanders and bright forward thinking politicians who had been eliminated in a like same manner. Weary slogans like,”Take Back!“, had been the original battle cry of the patriots that had in so many ways offered their existences to keep newly enfranchised minorities lines. No more random bodies piled up from the previous night’s strife to be found in the streets. These previous calls for freedom had been dismantled and all those subversive lifelong held values of times past had been effectively eliminated from the public’s consciousness. Both Socialists and Capitalists had been exposed and their version of the term ‘Democracy’ quashed as the anathema it had always been. The State might had one time been tagged as Fascist, but the fact was that it borrowed its handling of the general citizenry from the two systems it had overcome. Tight supervision on all commerce and the limitation distribution of personal wealth wee the rule. Anything beyond the normative of survival wages would be swiftly investigated. Thus the security services always had plenty of work to keep them busy.
The ‘operating rooms’ as they were loosely referred to had visually maintained the character of a fifteenth-century torture chambers with cumbersome implements used in producing unbearable pain over the ages. Indeed some of them within may have dated from that long ago era. These terrible antiques by their appearance alone would in most cases cause the subject to fade when initially brought into the room. It was not uncommon to see a stalwart demeanor crumble instantly and bodily tremens ensue as they struggled impotently within the iron grip of their warders. There was a ritual that followed in some basic steps. The subject was firmly restrained as their shackles were removed and depending upon their gender made to strip off all clothes or have them torn off. The women having to do so unassisted while the men’s garments savaged by the two attendants. Their arms would then be stretched skyward to be attached to a spreader bar suspended under block and tackle. The unfortunate then hoisted upward so that their toes barely had contact on the cold cement. The dank drafty nature of the subterranean chamber left to do its work in convincing the subject of the hopelessness of their plight. Both interrogator and his assistant would delay entry into the chamber for an indeterminate amount of time while the naked participant swung about in contemplation of their coming fate. Their eyes touring the inventory of terrible devices in the room that might, or might not be, employed upon them. The team would then slam open the entrance door and swiftly stamp roughly in. The two guards then snapping to attention then filing out. The desired effect had an almost comical level of reliability many times resulting in a loss of bowel or bladder control signaling the subjects descent into a state of mindless terror. Rubber boots and butcher’s apron with mask being the order of the day.
This cycle of events would be repeated throughout the course of the day. it would never vary. Most sessions conducted guaranteed no return. Those put to the question never expected back beyond that initial encounter. One of two options being possible as their carcasses were unceremoniously hauled back down the hall, their legs limply dragging upon the rough stone floor. Those surviving the experience would be taken to a dock and packed into a transport headed to the rail head and internal exile in far off camps. Or alternately delivered upstairs to a small soundproof auditorium to be dispatched by a small caliber bullet to the base of the neck. One could detect the constant low daily rumble of the truck’s motors running from the far side of the building. Each vehicle departing with another full load of the guilty off to collectively provide their remaining life force to the State in some far off place. Or to a freshly dug trench in a lesser known part of some nondescipt forested area outside of the town. The length of these sessions could be quite brief depending on the depth of questioning by the interrogator. A certain rhythm made the process of extracting information as efficient as the production of staple goods in a factory. Those cases that demanded a slower application of more intense excruciating punishment were reserved for later during the evening. Given the numbers, it was a grueling day for all involved. He was very clinical in his procedures likening himself to one of a team of doctors in an operating theater. His ears had long ago become indifferent to the expected screams and cries of tearful agonies. He was more concerned in gauging the level of exhaustion of any given subject. The palpable heart rate, amount of blood loss, and discoloration of broken body parts always being carefully monitored so as to keep the recipient awake and aware enough to respond to the many inquiries. He reflected as he adjusted the ties of his rubber apron that in some strange was his long experience in producing the proper amount of physical distress through skillful techniques actually benefited the subject by efficiently reducing the agonies suffered to a minimum duration of time before they confessed all. A somewhat humanitarian gesture given the context of the general situation! He always conducted his tasks with a cool head and dispassionate professional demeanor. The subjects before him merely being some lower form of dumb experimental animal that needing to be industrially processed on behalf of the State. All the psychological stuff was left to his accompanying interrogator.
The first case of the day was a very thin age worn looking old man whose large genitals hung down pendulous between the two sticks of his legs. Generally the older one’s never respond to pain as readily as the young reliably would. Years of hard work or child birth endured numbing them. Psychological terror by the interrogating officer along with a baseline of inescapable distress to demonstrate what other family members would be liable to if there was no cooperation most times turning the trick. He could see that he had his work cut out for him as no close family member was there to accompany him into the chamber to possibly suffer the many agonies meant for the current unfortunate. Several moments with a steel pincer heated red straight from the glowing coals of the nearby brazier plying away all that there was to hide. The details recorded via microphone sent to an anonymous scribe in another part of the building. On and on it went throughout the morning. The room reset many times the two of them worked relentlessly through the pile of dossiers, finally exiting in late afternoon just behind the last limp body being dragged straightaway towards its destiny in the direction of the loading bays. It was obvious that the subject was lucky enough to still considered functional enough to provide some residual future value for the benefit of the State. “If you don’t know what boundaries of evil is . . .“, the borreau mumbled to himself, “. . . then how can you pretend that you are any good?”
Supper was a syrupy meat substitute splattered across badly cooked stale rice. A shallow poured glass of gin in a murky glass accompanying the lack of fit cuisine to steady the nerves. The administrators knew exactly how to inspire the proper mental framework of the building’s staff by keeping their level of irritation with their own circumstances at odds with any possible complacency. If nothing else, it was a reminder that no one was above any other if they strayed outside the boundaries of what was expected of them. Any extended time off from the six day weekly schedule was a reward that was only rarely offered. The result being that like anything else in this society that those at the bottom of the chain as prisoners would suffer most for the most minor of infractions that strayed from strict immediate compliance to commands. The hands of the clock on the wall jerked forward towards a minute before nineteen-hundred hours as he finished the last puff of a borrowed cigarette. The current interrogator he was assigned to was no doubt waiting below and the dirty bastard would no doubt report him as being late if he arrived an instant past the exact stroke of the hour. He crashed his soiled crockery upon the conveyor and trotted out the door. His own footfalls echoing downward before him on the stairwell to the lower level as an admission that he was in too much of a hurry to deny the claim of his interrogator’s expected supposition of again not being on time. The static pickled grimace of the man his feet solidly apart looking down at the clipboard of cases verifying the fact of this very displeasure. The door of their ‘operating room’ located several doors down the hall obscuring the arrival of what appeared the be a rag encumbered bundle partly blocked by the forms of two lumbering attendants. A female perhaps or possible a small effeminate male? Whatever they had been incarcerated for the fact of their appearance in the evening meaning that they would be the recipient of extra special attention of the most extreme type.
The requisite time of delay now being signaled at an end by his quietly fuming superior, the borreau promptly affixed the mask upon his face and followed along behind approaching the entrance. As his eyes adjusted to the differential in lighting he noticed with some instinctive trepidation that the female form strung skyward was immediately all too familiar. He might have been struck with the bare end of a heavy duty electrical cable as he took in the face of the straining form as she canted away the straggle of dirty locks to the side to reveal full view of her facial features. He could hear the interrogator beginning his usual speech. The voice echoing from an unexpected distance far outside. Sternly echoing about the penalties, and not being totally candid when questioned. The officer motioning to him in his mask at the part about telling falsehoods or offering any hesitation would be immediately followed up upon very unpleasantly. The ‘borreau’ now offering a quick crop of the woman’s bare abdomen instinctively on cue. His brain still far away and racing about inside trying to understand what his eyes were telling him. That now undeniable fact that their subject of the evenings pain letting was the borreau’s former wife, Alicia. “What did this mean?”, he twaddled to himself internally? He was dreadfully afraid that his own legs were now trembling violently. A quick glance down under the edge of his mask to notice that they were still holding their own. “Would she recognize me!”, he mentally shouted within. A test to gauge his loyalty to the ever demanding cause of the State? Was this some solipsistic stratagem enacted by this same superior standing just beside him that was in evidence of some final straw reached in terms of his record of behavior? Worse yet! Was this all part of an initiative ordered at a higher level to cleanse all possible social contamination by virtue of former association for the sake of some unspecified new agenda? One that he had inadvertently by chance run afoul of?
The eyes of the subject were fixed upon him in an uncharacteristic expression of rage that seemed to defeat any immediate fear. She was as she had always been. A volatile tempered bitch that repaid any slight offered no matter how overwhelming with a fearsome anger. Something undeniably sexual behind the lexicon of impressions that now welled up within him that he had quickly become all too grievously aware of from the start of their relationship some twenty years past as adolescents. It was no clear that she had come to recognize him yet as she shared her lack of appreciation at being struck so ungraciously in so compromising a circumstance. For the flash of an instant he mentally imagined her naked body melting away the steel restraints from inhibiting her and fly like a demon for the nearest available throat too tear at with her teeth. He had always carried about a sense of walking on eggs when in her presence in those long ago times past. What was he supposed to do? If she fixed upon him after another sharp impact then she might unexpectedly and loudly declare him as something about him would surely in time give his real identity away. He could mount a series of blows upon especially sensitive parts of her body that could overwhelm her senses into the temporal oblivion of unconsciousness? But then that would bring down the ire of the interrogator as that would violate the strict protocols of their standard procedure which demanded an incremental measured level of increasing distress. The problem with this as he well knew is that the harpy before him might well measure up to his ministration and defeat them. A cold chill ran up and down his spine as he heard his superior’s voice speak, “Proceed!”.
The borreau started forth towards the dangling form his head pointed down towards the floor. Maybe he could deflect his gaze enough that close proximity might not reveal him? He reached out and twirled her around as she kicked about in the narrow ankle chains and he applied a series of hard strokes with his gnout upon the base of the spine of her lower back. Usually this and the kneecaps and elbows caused the most debilitating levels of pain briefly inhibiting one to any other sensation but blinding distress. As he hit her he felt a sense of strong emotion grab him from within. Another flashing series of images projected across the back of his brain of various acts of tenderness that they once both had shared. A sickening spreading feeling that was competing with his concentration to focus on responding to the irritable voicing of the interrogator’s commands. The man grabbing at his arm and bending a whisper towards his ear quietly spitting out, “Just what in the fuck do you think that you are doing sergeant?” Cold ingrained discipline forcing his to stop to come to attention. His former wife’s body twirling back around with her eyes wild from the assault of his truncheoning. The interrogating officers stale breath still hot on his ear. The embarrassment of what felt like a pronounced wetness growing just below his belt line. He wondered if a spot was forming that might give some unsuspected part of him away.
The borreau was now in the hallway facing the officer attempting to deflect the hard stare of the man into his own eyes. The interrogator was obviously on the edge of rage as his eyes flashed malevolently. “Have you lost your mind!” “You of all people must be well-aware that it is your duty to maintain strict control of any unfavorable emotion that might crop up during these sessions!” This type of breach of protocol is completely unacceptable!” “What are you going to do about it?” The borreau managing to awkwardly mouth a quavering “Yes sir!“, while all the while wondering if he were now the mouse being toyed with by this cat. Would he suddenly feel the vise-like grip of two pairs of hands from behind binding and restraining him? The open iron door to the waiting chamber loomed large before him. He could hear the sound heavy breathing of his wife emanating with in. A sense of fatality descending upon him. It was he that was now to be put to the test of his ultimate limits to attempt to overcome. As he silently re-entered he knew that each successive blow would be assayed and then taken into account by all parties. Each stroke delivered by him on her vulnerable flesh bringing a correspondingly instantaneous brief pause within causing him to reflect again and again what it might unexpectedly summon in terms of a fearful lasting penalty all based upon the raw facts of how it was delivered and just exactly who it was designed to satisfy or serve.
“It was almost as if the two of them were back together again still being married!”