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Conversation Pieces IX: Rocker's Creak
By: Wayne Brown
He’s rocking again I think to myself as I hear the incessant squeak of the old rocking chair outside the box in which I am confined. My senses have improved significantly in the time that I have been here. Before, it seemed that I did everything with my eyes. Now that I am enclosed in this small, dark, closet of a cell with a black bag over my head, my eyes have been taken away. I have to now depend on my senses of touch, smell, and hearing to alert me to what is happening around me.
I have lost all track of time. I have no idea how long I have been here. I have no idea whether it is day or night or even what day of the week or month it may be. Soon, I will not know what year it is either. The concept of time is totally lost in the blackness of my small environment. There is no measure of it except the solitude or the creaking of an old rocker declaring that the bastard of a guard has returned to his post.
When I was first captured, I was with others. We were surrounded, our hands were bound and black bags were placed over our heads then tied securely around our necks. We were immediately lost in blackness as the bags were made of a fabric which totally denied any penetration of light and shadow. We were transported to this place and put into these compartments the size of a common hot water closet in a home. The bags were loosened but we were told to keep them in place. I raised mine a few times and looked about the box but the inside must have been painted black as there was nothing visible. It was as if I was suddenly struck totally blind and unable to detect even the faintest shadow.
The closet has just enough room to sit down if you fold up your knees under your chin. I discovered that convenience the hard way. I assumed the sitting position only to fall asleep from exhaustion. When I awoke I was being dragged out of the box from my sitting position. The guards then immediately began to beat me with their rifle butts. Once the beating was complete, they took my coat. I did not realize how cold this closet is until I lost my coat. Now, I am afraid to sit down at all for fear of falling asleep and getting another beating. I lean forward into the wall in front of me and attempt sleep while standing…it is a fitful experience as I have difficulty keeping my legs when the relaxation of sleep overcomes me. I quickly awake with a start then begin the process involuntarily once more.
I note that the creaking of the rocker has stopped. The guard is on the move carrying out some yet unknown duty. Maybe he is coming for me again. He has come for me frequently since I was caught sleeping and then beaten. It seems that I have become a favorite of this bastard and he just loves teasing me with that rifle butt. I’ll admit it…after a few blows from that end of the gun, one really don’t want to experience it anymore.
When he does come for me, he leads me to a small room nearby. I know it is close because I hear the screams of the other men who are here. When they are taken into the room and then resist the questions of the interrogator, they are tortured and I hear their screams. I know that they too, in turn, heard my screams. I have not heard my screams but I know they have for I have made them. It is obvious all of us are suffering in the same way. The question is, how long can we endure it before we either crack or die in the process of the torture which is dealt out by the interrogator and his guards?
When I was first placed into this closet, I hated it…totally hated it. It was so small. I could feel the proximity of the walls. I could sniff the urine residue in the coffee can tucked into one of the dark corners. I could smell the body odor of the guard as he passed by walking his rounds. I hated the isolation. I hated the darkness. I hated the absolute exhaustion and fatigue that I had to endure and could not relieve. Death could not be worse than this closet in my mind.
Then the guard came for me and took me to the room. The bag stayed on so that I could see no one but I could hear their voices and feel their presence near me. They asked questions but I did not reply. They asked again and still I did not reply. Finally, they ask a third time and I sat in silence. Then the torture began and I screamed out in both pain and self-pity praying that I could find a way to relieve the suffering which to this point I could have never imagined under the worst of circumstances. They used ropes and levers and they did things to men that other men would not think of doing to any living thing. These bastards have no feeling, no conscience, and no remorse. You don’t have to see their eyes to know that.
After the first couple of trips to the little room, my tongue began to loosen a bit each time. At first I lied to them. I told the biggest lies that I could conjure up…anything to keep the ropes and levers away. I told them too many lies and soon they were torturing me for the lying that I had done. The methods are brutal but effective and they eventually get to the heart of the matter…the truth. After more of their encouragement than a human being can stand, I finally broke and told them what they wanted to know. They finally broke me and got to the truth.
From that point on, I looked at my little closet far differently. No longer did I feel that it was an overly small enclosure; now I welcomed its size. Now I realized that when I am in the closet, I am safe. I am secure and no one is hurting me…torturing my body. Now this small closet has become my sanctuary. It is my place of recovery. It is my place to heal; and my place to pray to God that the guard does not come for me any time soon. I welcome the closing of the door and the sound of the padlocks clicking into place. I don’t want to go anywhere but here in this small space.
I think back on home and on the times before the war. I make mental lists and commit them to memory just to exercise my brain. Some period later, I attempt to recall the list and every item on it. The exercise occupies my brain and keeps me from going insane in my solitude. I have to keep my mind sharp so that I can capitalize on an opportunity if one should arise. Of course, I remind myself that I am not likely to see it with this bag covering my eyes.
I always cry and pray when I come back from an interrogation session. I wait until the door is locked to release my emotion. I cry not so much from the pain that has been inflicted but more so because I know that I am weak. I know that I have cracked and uttered the truth to my captors. I know that I have given up the one thing which I swore under oath as an officer in the United States Air Force that I would not do…give up the facts; give up the truth. I cry for my weakness. I cry for letting down my fellow prisoners and I cry for them because I know their screams of resistance are part of the path which I endure in my failure on each successive trip to the little room. We each took an oath and now we have failed. I pray to God for strength to resist but each time they call me, I fail. Guilt has become my constant companion.
Perhaps it is good that I am losing track of time. Perhaps it is good that I find my mental exercises more and more difficult to complete successfully. Maybe that is an indication that my senses have dulled and I will no longer feel the pain when the torture is dealt out in the little room. Once my awareness has slipped away, I will no longer register the hours of my life which are wasting away while I sit listening to the creak of the rocker.
I have made a resolution. It does not matter that I have cracked. I will continue to resist. I will continue to make them work for every ounce of information that crosses my lips. I will make them torture me for anything they get. I know that I will eventually be coerced to give up the information but I will not make it easy for them. The only dignity which I have left is my ability to resist and I intend to hold on to that dignity even if it kills me. At this juncture, death would be a welcomed change.
Time passes in some increment whether it is seconds, minutes, hours, days, or years, I am unaware. My senses dull and I cannot remember those things which I have committed to memory. My memories of home seem nothing more than a dream and so far away from where I am at the present. I sit here a prisoner in my closet sanctuary listening to the incessant creaking of the guard’s rocker and waiting for the next time that it stops. Then I begin to pray that he will come for me and leave the others alone for I can endure the torture more so than their screams.
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