O Death

The prisoner was in solitary confinement for he couldn’t tell how long. His circadian clock had gone haywire soon after they put him in and it seemed to him like he had spent a lifetime in this little cell. He had vague recollections of being taken in for interrogation (he couldn’t say for what). At first he was with others, they were on an island and he had seen a nuclear reactor at a distance. Then the torture started, the physical and sexual abuse, the degrading treatment, long hours of incessant pain, the broken bones, he’d wish for death but death wouldn’t come.

At this point he had given so many confessions that he simply had no idea what his record said about his past life and he didn’t care, he would have confessed to anything. The beginning of this solitary confinement wasn’t so bad, the torture had stopped and there was no noise and no pain. But in time he realized that this wasn’t so different from physical torture. An endless supply of time with a battered soul and your own muddled thoughts isn’t relief in any sense. There was nothing there to kill himself with either and the only way he knew that time was even passing was because someone came in with food once a day (at least according to his reckoning).

He used to be an academic in the outside world and he tried to occupy himself with some sort of intellectual fodder but soon after it occurred to him how utterly meaningless it all was and how completely insignificant. How it didn’t make a shred of difference what he thought or believed. It occurred to him how indifferent the world was to his predicament and to this injustice that seemed to him so blatant, so violent. He brooded over how his incarceration took place, how this mechanism of systematic abductions and disappearances in the name of security had always been around and how people like himself, normal people had never bothered to say anything. They thought it had nothing to do with them, they were the armchair intellectuals that debated and bashed government policy at the dinner table.

He had no hope of escape from this dreary existence, from this depressing mental prison that he had created for himself until one day something extraordinary happened.

There were hurried footsteps outside his door and then, suddenly the door burst open and in the doorway stood someone with a frenzied expression on his face “hurry! get up! we’ve got to run!” he said, almost dragging the prisoner out. The prisoner was completely bewildered, he hadn’t moved much in days and he felt like his body wasn’t responding very well.

By the time they crossed a couple of corridors the prisoner had developed enough feeling in his legs to run on his own, it was painful but it felt exhilarating. He tried to ask what was happening but the other seemed too preoccupied with getting out “just keep running, you’ll know soon enough” is all he said. On the way they saw a few others running out but the facility was surprisingly deserted, not at all what the prisoner had imagined.

Finally they came outside, to a clearing and he could see that there was just one fence separating them from the beach. The other ran up to a small room on the side that had controls to the exit in the fence. He managed to open it and they ran out towards the beach. Then he went all the way to the shore and sat down as if waiting for someone “There was a minor explosion in the reactor last night, it led to a leak. All the officials here have already fled, there is a boatman I know who delivers supplies here, he will come to pick up those of us who are left” he explained before realizing that the prisoner wasn’t listening at all. In fact his curiosity as to what was happening was gone as soon as he had stepped out into the clearing. The sea breeze on his face, the gravel beneath his feet, the warm glow of the evening sun brought deep sensations, sensations he knew a lifetime ago. He was in a trance, he was lost. He no longer cared about how or why, he walked with deliberation taking in every moment, every sensation. The walked passed the other, towards the sea and sat down close to it, he let the water flow through and felt its grainy coolness. He was crying, tears of unbounded joy. He could have sat there for eternity.

The doctor was rushing down the corridor with the attendant. He was a man hardened by experience and he knew that there were only 2 situations in which the prison authorities wanted him – when a prisoner was dying but they needed to keep him alive or if the prisoner was dead and they needed cause/confirmation. He knew that this was probably the latter. Through the years he had seen all manner of broken bodies, broken by torture, physical and mental but nothing could have prepared him for what he was about to see. As the attendant opened the cell the doctor saw a body emaciated, bones jutting out of the flesh, a few fingers and toes missing, there were numerous bruises, wounds and blisters but these weren’t the things that struck the doctor, he had seen these before, it was the face.

The lifeless eyes were soft and there were tear marks running down the bony cheeks. There was a smile on the dry and withered lips, a smile of childish happiness, pleasure even. It seemed to the doctor that in this hell hole, he had just met the most contented man in the world.

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