| The Room
The interrogation started on June 18th at exactly 8:08 pm.
The interrogator was a young officer full of enthusiasm.
The interrogated was a young fundamentalist full of pain.
- Who sent you to spy on us?
- No one sent me.
- Then why were you spying on us?
- I was not spying I was just observing.
It went back and forth for almost 2 days.
Both of them knew that it was a game they had to play. Each had to prove to his superiors that he was the better man.
When the officer ran out of patience he threatened to use force.
At first the threat sounded attractive to his ears and tasted mighty full.
After a while its attraction started to fade away as the prisoner wouldn't show fear.
The prisoner in fact used a tactic called the despair. He went directly for it from day one. He was convincing himself more with every passing hour.
After two weeks of daily interrogation he was fully convinced that he had absolutely nothing to say.
He knew that he could have worked his mind harder to please the young enthusiastic interrogator. But that would have led only to more demands, and they never got satisfied.
He had seen the greed that had grown in their eyes with every bit of information his fellow prisoner gave them, their greed for more kept growing and they kept squeezing the poor old man for more until they managed to squeeze life out of his wasted body.
"No, there was despair" he thought, and with feeling helpless you get the right to express your pain whenever you want instead of resisting it. That was the way he planned to fight them back, Desperate and knew nothing.
Was he an anarchist, a terrorist or just another fundamentalist?
He knew well enough what he was. He was just a member of the herd, a bee striving for a living.
Did he know someone who would cause trouble?
Yes he did, like most of the people in his age, like most of the people in those days knew a person or two who were extremists.
Should he spell some names and maybe he could go home?
He knew better. He knew he would not walk out of that room that easy, he was there to stay for as long as they saw suitable.
So he kept his cheap Intel to himself, in fact he regretted remembering those few names in the first place.
One problem was left to deal with, that was pain. He had to find a way to deal with it.
In the beginning pain was tolerable and he expressed it freely.
Then there was no bed to sleep, a bed where he could bury his day and prepare for the next. Instead there was more pain. Sometimes electrocution, whipping, cold water in the middle of the night, hanging him, and many other unimaginable techniques to illicit pain.
The longer he took his torture without expressing his agony, the more dangerous they thought he was.
But sleep became the main problem.
Where could he bury his pain and shame when his mind was always aware?
He decided to take the chance when they tortured him, he would keep screaming every time until they put him unconscious, but they stopped torturing him, they just chained a dog inside his cell. The dog was fierce and angry and would keep barking for two continuous hours before it got tired, he fell asleep only to wake up 5 minutes later on the barking of another dog.
He liked dogs when he was free and couldn't blame them for barking, he just tried to calm them down.
There were no mornings or nights. It was always dark.
He thought it was a matter of time before they would realize that he was fine and let him go, and then he could tell the world of what he saw.
They were trying to break him. He knew that and after many weeks he accepted it and wouldn't resist. In fact sometimes he wished he got broken so it would end.
He was a science student who liked science but didn't like educational systems. He liked to experience and wonder about new possibilities, he was more of an analyst or an observer than a student.
- Why me?
- What brought this on me?
- Who brought this on me?
- When had I gone off the line?
He kept asking himself in his cell when he was able to think.
He began to recognize the officers and remember specific things about them. Which of them was taller or wider or the way walked and talked. He decided they were just employees and his real torturer was their employer and tried not to hate them.
One time when a big officer came with a new electric device, he smiled and asked if that the new toy.
After a year that seemed like ten, he began to think that this was his new job.
- "This is what I have to do for now and the reward must be big." He promised himself.
He kept did what he needed to do to stay alive. He ate what they gave him to eat without thinking about it. They told him that he was eating awful things but he smiled.
He began to fall into the routine and could sleep on the parking sound of the dogs that he recognized well; he gave the dogs names and could tell them apart from each other.
They changed their routine every week at first then every couple of days then everyday then many times a day, but after a year, they changed the routine every month and sometimes every couple of months.
He used to tell himself that every routine is a part of a bigger routine and even if the little details changed he could always find the new routine and fall into it.
He had gone absolutely the opposite direction from that they had intended him to go. They had wanted to break him from day one, but he didn't break. They’d wanted to scare the rest of the prisoners with his screams, but after some time he didn't scream at all. They’d intended him to be a living example of how brutal they could get, but he became an example of acceptance and survival.
He became their burden.
They stopped asking questions but kept hurting him.
He wanted to see his employer, the man behind the curtain, but didn’t expect to meet this man ever.
Sometimes he thought that there were no employers at all.
For a long time they stopped coming and he was completely left alone. He slept well and the food became better.
At first that scared him a lot, but after sometime he fell into the new routine.
He developed a few games that helped him pass time.
He knew well that the only pain that he couldn't take was the want, his wants and wishes.
Wishing to get out, wanting to sleep or to live a better life and especially wanting to understand, were the kinds of pain he couldn’t afford.
As long as he didn't want anything he would be fine he decided. So he didn't want anything and kept doing his job every day.
He became his own employer, he decided how much he was going to express pain and when.
He never asked them why they were doing this or when they would let him go. He knew that they couldn't let him go even if they wanted to, so he started to believe that they actually wanted him gone and began to sympathize with them.
He treated the officers and soldiers as if they had to do what they did and he looked in their eyes with sympathy when they spoke to him.
- "What could be more tormenting than having to harm someone who didn't harm you?" He thought.
When a new officer came with a new enthusiasm, he gave him what he gave the others, the satisfaction of knowing that he had done a good job.
He analyzed each new method and saw what could be done to increase the results, and then he knew how to deal with it.
He didn't like pain more than anyone liked it. But he accepted it much more than anyone could.
One day sitting alone in his cell contemplating his wall view full of his drawings, his legacy, and his theories as he thought of it,
He heard a loud bomb exploding not far from the cell he was kept in.
A few moments later shooting followed the explosion and screaming men filled the cell. They motioned him out fervently and spoke loud and rapidly. He knew this was an attempt to raid the prison and free the prisoners.
He looked for a while towards the shouting men and observed their appearances and the way they talked. They were not common to him, they had to be from a foreign country. He returned his gaze to his wall and went back to revising a melody he wrote a couple of years ago.
The melody was incomplete, he liked the theme, the developments, the tempo but the finale was missing. It was like a beautiful story without a good end.
The raid ended and most of the prisoners went out to die on the wires or in the surroundings, they knew they were most probably going to die but wanted to try anyway. Some of them just wanted to end the story themselves.
The next week his first interrogator who name became a big figure and a famous colonel came back to visit the prison and evaluate the damage. He went by the torn open cells until he came by his cell. He stopped and looked at him for a while before he asked the guard to open the cell.
He went in and sat next to him on the bed as if he was visiting an old friend.
- How are you doing?
- I am doing what I should be doing.
- Why didn't you run away?
- Why? should I try to escape?
- Aren't you innocent?
- Am I?
- You say you are.
- Why do you think I stayed?
- Because you are smart.
He didn't reply that one.
- And because you are innocent.
- Nobody is innocent. I just don't want anything that I don't already have.
- You don't have your family.
- I do have a big family that I love.
- Then why didn't you try to see them and let them see you?
- Because I see them and they see me every day, only in our minds. What do you think it will do to my family if I return after all this time?
- I don't know.
- I will open up an old wound. I will be a living proof of the cruelty of life. I will be a burden. They will break themselves with blame, hatred and anger. But now I am a good old memory. I disappeared. I am all the possibilities. Only in an imagination that is far better than reality.
The colonel sighed.
- What do you think I did to you?
- You spared me all the wishing and chasing after delusions. Only here you can find the one true value of being a human.
- What is that?
- Being. Just being. Like all other beings. He smiled.
- What can I do for you?
His blood type matched that of his colonel who had a kidney failure and needed a kidney.
He didn't know that but he knew that the colonel wanted something. He knew the look of the wanting.
- Take it.
- What are talking about?
- I want you to take whatever you came for.
- How did you know?
- I don't need it anyway.
- What can I do for you in return?
- Live long.
- Why? Why should I?
- Because you want to.
The colonel called for the guards after a long silence
- Yes sir,
- Move this man to a clean room with a clean bed and he gets 3 hot meals of his choosing every day.
- Yes sir. They looked bewildered.
- Tomorrow I will get you your release.
He smiled. He was very afraid of this procession of events. He wanted to stay where he was with his hand made wall view, he knew the routine, he had a job as a prisoner, and he had an employer who no longer tired him with demands. Here he had beaten life and was unafraid of death.
He was moved to a very clean room that smelled like fresh roses with a TV and a nice comfortable bed with clean white sheets, and an attached toilet with a shower and a basin to wash up in the morning. He looked at his reflection in the mirror and smiled. There was an old man he never knew before in his life smiling back at him.
Tears dropped down his face and he kept smiling.
The barber came and shaved his head and beard. They dressed him a cotton white comfortable suit like those of rich patients.
The doctor came at noon and they brought lunch for two.
- Can I have lunch with you?
- You can but do you want to?
- Yes I do if you would allow me. I can come back later if you want to eat alone.
- Please have a seat.
- Thank you, they told me you were very decent and gentle but one has to meet you to believe that.
- Thank you, I can say the same about you. He said with a smile.
The doctor picked up his fork and plastic knife and so did he.
He started eating as if there was nothing different. The doctor looked at him for a while amazed by this man who has been imprisoned all his life and yet carries himself around as if he was an aristocratic gentleman.
- Do you know why you have been moved here?
- And do you agree to donate a part of your body to the colonel?
The words of the doctor registered fast in his mind but he didn't stop separating his steak with the plastic knife.
- Do you know what you are donating?
- I don't.
- Then how come you agree?
- Because I am ready to agree.
- Can you explain that?
- It is simple really, say when you decide to jump in a pool do you know exactly the temperature of the water?
- No, but you can sense it with your leg.
- And if it is cold in winter but you are already wearing your bathing suit and standing at the edge of the pool, does it stop you from jumping?
- Probably not.
- Why not?
- Because you have already decided to jump before you came to the pool.
- OK the colonel needs a kidney, your kidney.
- I am ready to give it to him.
The doctor returned his gaze to his platter and fell quiet, he finally looked up and asked:
- Was the water too cold?
- It could always get colder.
He woke up in a bed next to that of his captor, his torturer, the man who changed his life forever and then became in need for his help.
He was fine. He checked the readings on the monitor of the sleeping colonel and found him still unstable.
He noticed a rapid heartbeat and low pressure and knew that the colonel was still on the edge of the pool. The colonel was considering quitting the game. The water was too cold for him.
He fell asleep again.
He woke up next morning,
Only it wasn't next morning at all. It was next month. He went in a coma for a whole month. He was steady now and regained his full consciousness, but he was on the other side of the bed, he was on the colonel's bed.
He looked to the right and the bed next to him was tidy and empty. All the machinery were removed, his and the colonel's.
He kept thinking about what might have happened while he was asleep and resolved to a simple conclusion, the colonel got better and went out and they moved him to the other bed.
The door opened and a young nurse entered.
- Good morning sir, nice to have you back, you've been coming back for a few days now but I think this time you are staying.
He smiled not taking into account much of what she said at first. After she checked him and went out, he wondered what she had meant by coming back for a few days. He couldn’t explain that.
The door opened again,
This time a familiar face appeared in, a very familiar and lovely face, a face that smiled, a face he thought he'd only see again in his mind.
It was his mother.
He murmured the word mom.
Then he uttered it in disbelief,
- Yes honey, it’s me but it's been a long time since you called me mom. What happened to calling me by my name? She smiled.
- Mom is this really you?
- Yes it’s me, welcome back, you made us worried.
He kept staring at her face in wonder and disbelief. He just wanted to take in every detail of her face.
He didn't know what she was talking about.
So he fell silent but he was extremely happy.
She sat in the chair next to his bed but he motioned her closer and hugged her.
He wanted to remain in her arms forever.
The door opened again, and his brothers came in. He started laughing aloud in extreme joy.
His father also came in, this time he got out of the bed and flew to meet his arms.
Everybody was laughing and looking at each other in a way that said that this was as strange to them at it was to him. He supposed that was normal after all those years.
His family looked the same like last time he saw them. They were not a day older. He didn't realize it first, but after a while it puzzled him.
He didn't care, for now he is happy beyond thinking or analyzing anything.
They kept making funny comments and laughing and catching up for a while.
Then the door opened and the young nurse came in, she smiled when she felt the happy atmosphere, and blushed a little in embarrassment.
- Sir, someone is here to see you, will you see him now or later.
He thought it must be the grateful colonel coming to release him and thank him.
- Please tell him that I will see him in a few minutes.
She left and a few minutes later there was a man in the military uniform standing at the door.
- Good day sir and welcome back.
- Good day to you, thanks.
The military man hesitated for a second. He had something to say but wasn't sure how to say it.
- Sir, umm, congratulations for the surgery.
Having donated a kidney, he didn't know what the congratulations were about. But he replied courteously.
- Thank you and how is the colonel.
- You look fine to me sir.
- Did something bad happen to the colonel?
- Sir, nothing bad could happen to you.
- I am asking about the colonel not about me.
- The colonel looks great to me sir and we can't wait to have him back in the lead.
- Then what's wrong?
- The subject is dead sir.
- What subject?
- The donor sir. I think I better let you rest now.
He didn't reply but could feel that something wasn't in its proper place.
Every one left him to rest and he slept.
His mother came back at noon.
- Mom, where were you?
- We left you to have some rest dear. You need to rest to regain your strength.
- I feel better now that you are here.
- I have always wanted to be by your side. And I will always want to.
- It's over now mom; I am out and back to you.
- You quit?
- You can say that. He smiled, then added,
- Only it's not like breaking out or anything illegal, I believe they are willing to let me go.
She looked to the floor and then looked to him with sympathy.
- Are you sure that is what you want?
- Yes mother, before I had this surgery I never wanted to return, I was afraid to break your heart when you saw me broken, but now I feel strong and I am ready to come back and face life again. That will give me the benefit of seeing you every day.
- Then I will be happy to have you back. Have you told them your decision yet?
- Not yet, but I was promised to be able to leave.
- Then I will inform them that we want to leave as soon as you are ready to.
They had lunch together, and then she left him to prepare for his release.
Half an hour later the military man returned.
- Sir can I speak with you for a few minutes?
- Please come in I think I have something to say too.
He came inside the room and sat in the chair next to his bed like an old friend.
- Sir I believe , umm, he cleared his throat, I mean the doctors believe that you haven’t regained your full memory yet, but they say that it is expected to return within a few days.
- I don't know why you or the doctors would believe that. I think I remember everything clearly.
- Sir, if you don't mind me asking, but can you tell me your name?
- My name!! What do you mean?
- I mean who are you sir?
- You all know who I am; I have been living with you for years.
- Yes it's true that we have been together for many years now, and that you have been with the agency for even more years before that, but what have you been doing all those years?
- I have been doing my job.
- Ok, sir do you remember what you told me before the surgery?
- No. In fact I don't remember you from before the surgery at all. Have we met before today? May be directly before the surgery?
- That’s exactly my point sir, I have been you assistant for 7 years now and you don't remember me.
- I had many assistants over the time I spent down there, and every one of them helped me a little. But you were not among them, were you?
- Sir, we can't let you go, you had told me so before you went to surgery.
- But why? the colonel told me that he will do anything I wanted in return for the surgery, I didn't want anything before but now I am ready to go out.
- Forgive me for this sir but you will remain detained until further notice.
- Can I see my mother?
- I will see what I can do.
The military man stood up and started out.
- Will I go down there again?
- I don't know sir. I really don't.
He spent the rest of the day thinking.
Then he fell asleep and saw the colonel in a dream.
They were back in the room where he first woke up from the anesthesia.
- Colonel, wake up. He yelled. You promised me. You made me want life again. You brought me back and I paid the price dearly.
No reply from the colonel.
- Please colonel, answer me, I have been a good prisoner for years, and I gave you what you wanted. I even gave up the dream of returning back and accepted the way I lived. I refused to escape. I gave you life back. Please give me what you promised. Please don't let them take me back down there.
The colonel started to flicker his eyes and then gradually opened them.
He was pale and weak and whispering something.
- I can't hear you colonel speak up.
The colonel whispered a little louder. He said 'time to go'.
- No please wait.
- Time to go. The colonel whispered again.
- Please tell them that you promised to let me go.
- Let's go before it's too late.
- Go where?
- Go away, for good.
- No I want to go up now, I deserve to go up.
The colonel sighed in desperate weakness. Then he spoke again,
- You can but do you want to?
- What are you saying?
- These are your words.
- Are they?
- Yes there are.
- But how do you know?
- Because I was there too.
- What do you mean?
- You and I are the same person.
- No you must be kidding; this is a dream I am going to wake up right now.
- And spending years in a dark cell is true?
- Yes I lived those years day in day out and I tasted all kinds of hell. And they were many thanks to you and your kind.
- You didn't spend a day in hell, you only believe you did.
- I know what's true from what's not. I am not crazy.
- No I was captured and spent years in my cell.
- Yes you were in your cell. The cell you created for yourself and went to sleep in every day. And when you woke up you were the colonel.
- I want to wake up now.
- Wake up and see for yourself.
They both shut their eyes.
He was back in the hospital room.
He rang the bell to call for the nurse.
She came in a hurry.
- Yes sir.
- Please tell me who am i?
- You are a great man sir.
- Please call my mom.
- She is gone sir.
- Then who is out there?
- Only the major who came to see you this morning sir.
- Call him in please.
The major came in.
- Major can you please tell me honestly who I am? I promise to do anything you want just please don't play games with me.
- I can sir, but do you want me to?
- Yes I want you to tell me the truth.
- You are our hero, colonel sir.
Words fell heavy on his ears and his body turned cold. They were playing a new game with him, he thought.
- Thank you major, you can leave.
- Yes sir I can but I don't want to.
- Thank you for your services sir but we can't let you leave. You wont suffer anymore now sir.
- Don't worry about that. Suffering never made me worry. Do what you came to do.
The major stepped forward and injected something into the IV line.
He closed his eyes for the last time.
The melody was complete now. This was his finale. He understood it perfectly.
The answer to the question is a question.
- You can but do you want to?
- Why shouldn't I want to?
- Because you don't know what is waiting for you?
- Then why do I want it for others?
- Because they are not you?
- What happens to me now?