Friday, March 27, 2009

Cruel and Unusual

I am a warrior for the cause.

I used to be a Masters student in the nuclear engineering faculty. While I worked on reactor design, my brothers were being shredded and burned by the invaders of our lands. I volunteered as a common soldier, training with weapons, but the brotherhood was smarter than me, my recruiters too aware of my skills. I was soon working with tools more potent than Kalashnikovs.

And then one night, out of the blackness, insect-eyed storm troopers came into our compound and lifted me out. Blindfolded and trussed. Out and into the sky.

They say I was badly knocked around in the extraction. But soon I’ll be better.


I woke up naked, on a surgical bed, my arms and legs strapped down. The upper part of the bed was tilted, so I could see ahead. I was in an operating theatre: there were unknown instruments above on cantilevered arms. Bright lights shone upon me, but the rest of the room was in darkness, and there was no-one around.

Gowned and masked persons approached from either side. Firmly, and not roughly, goggles went over my eyes and headphones covered my ears. A boom mike extended in front of my mouth and I was left alone again.

The questions started at once, quiet and insistent through the headphones.

“What is your name?”

“Your occupation?”

“What have you been doing?”

I said nothing of course, but watched in dreadful fascination as a robot extensor emerged from the nest of equipment above, and snaked across my abdomen. As the questions were gently repeated, the scalpel began its work.


This is day two, they tell me. I awoke to a fine morning in this well-furnished student-style apartment. The male nurse, charming and courteous, told me I was making excellent progress. I mentioned the fresh bruising on my arms and legs, and he assured me that this was often a delayed effect of physical trauma, but that I would soon be fully recovered.

There doesn’t appear to be a heavy schedule today, which is just as well as I feel extremely tired.


It is three o’clock in the morning. The detainee has been given a short-term anaesthetic in his room and transferred to the interrogation suite here in the basement. He lies naked, strapped to the surgical frame, his head cocooned by the virtual reality helmet.

A matrix of fine wires, acupuncture probes, descends from the ceiling and inserts itself directly into every exposed region of his skin. Each probe can deliver thousands of volts to its dedicated nerve fibre. The shock pattern is computer-correlated with the surgical CGI fed to the goggles.

This is state of the art in the virtual reality of pain. We’re proud of it. It works and leaves no physical marks - apart from the bruising that is, squirming being a necessary part of the process.

After an hour of the most excruciating agony, the patient has told us what we wanted to know. He was working on a plutonium cache and we now know who, what, why and where. We just need to check it out.

Time to administer the Rohypnol.


Day three and I awoke late again, feeling like I’ve been doing rounds with Mike Tyson. My medical friend reassures me that this is to be expected, it’s perfectly natural and that the symptoms of my extraction will soon begin to subside. Apparently I will be released soon.

This good news ought to make me delighted, but I feel curiously empty, emotionally numb. Like deep inside, I’m silently screaming?


Yep, it all checks out. We’ve got the stash, captured the team and demolished the site. Job done! Tonight he’s getting the “play nice” treatment. He gets to visualise carrying on with his warrior friends (bad news!), or instead he could be back at university working on something a little more benign than nuclear engineering - and then the pain stops.

It’s been a couple of hours and he hasn’t screamed for a while, so I reckon we chalk up another result here.

Time for the injection.


They say I can go! To be honest, I can’t remember much of what’s happened over the last few days: everything seems a bit hazy. PTSD they say, although I don’t seem to recall that much stress. Anyway, I think I’ve done my bit on the front line. We’ll never win just by endless small arms fire and the odd atrocity.

No, the answer is we have to out-think them and out-grow them. I’m back to university and I’ve decided where the future lies - I’m changing my Masters to investment banking.

© Nigel Seel. March 2009.


Back to "Stories".

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. Keep it polite and no gratuitous links to your business website - we're not a billboard here.