The torture would be starting again soon.
The burning wracked him with pain, pushing him to the brink of unconsciousness. Sinister voices whispered his worst fears, making them real. The blackness never subsided, never eroded. The pain was excruciating, but the loneliness was worse. Opaque periods of time without anyone to hear his cries allowed the words of his tormentors to do their awful work on his psyche. His captors were skilled at inflicting pain of all sorts. Their expertise knew no bounds, and they utilized their considerable talents on him.
He had no concept of how long he had been at their mercy. Complete darkness has a way of robbing you of time.
How many times had he screamed himself hoarse?
How many times has he begged them to stop, promising to give them anything they wanted if only they would cease their terrible games?
Too many to count. There was no way to measure it, but what good would it do him if he could? Certainly wouldn’t stop the next round of agony they would impose on him.
He did not understand why they tortured him. There was no reason given, no demands made, and no information requested. The only things they said to him were meant to exacerbate his torment.
“You are all alone.”
“No one knows you’re here.”
“You’re getting the pain you deserve.”
“There will never be anyone to save you.”
The other thing was the laughing. The glee they shared while he howled for them to stop plagued him long after they left. Their words haunted him even more than the near constant pain did. The only reprieve he got were those all-too-brief periods where he slept, the kind of sleep only the dead know. He longed for that solace even now, before the terror began anew, but he knew he was damned without knowing why. He braced himself for another onslaught. It had to be soon, he could feel it.
But it didn’t come. Not this time. After all the times of being beaten down, he could not allow himself to hope, though. He’d give that up long ago. Hope was a fool’s errand for him. So he waited in the silence, the blessed silence. After some time, his anticipation waned.
Could it be? Could he finally be free of the endless torture he’d endured?
He willed himself to relax. What harm could it do? Even if (when) they returned, at least he’d been able to have a few fleeting moments of peace.
Suddenly an enormous pressure pushed him back, as if a wall was forcing him back. Behind him something held him in place. He fought the claustrophobia that was taking hold. This was a new method of sadism for the ones who whispered atrocities to him, and it was agony beyond his comprehension.
He felt light-headed as if breath was being forced out of him. Veering towards the safe haven of unconsciousness, he let go, hoping for once to pass that threshold. The pressure released and was simultaneously replaced with light, brilliant and blinding. He recoiled from it, like a toad who’s lived its entire life in a deep cave would, fleeing an unfamiliar invader. It hurt him, but not the way the burning caustic words had. This was the pain of experiencing a previously unknown power, a presence that struck him immobile. It was fear of a different sort.
As he adjusted, he realized that he was not in any real pain. He’d been paralyzed by the unknown, sure, but he was not hurting as he had thought before. He sought to understand this new thing. How would should he proceed? How could he attempt to know this thing that blinded him?
Searing pain pushed the light away and crushed all thought. This burned worse than anything they’d done before. Oh god, what if this is the way they would abuse him from now on? It must be! How could he bear this over and over again? He couldn’t!
He started to scream… and then the pain stopped as abruptly as it had started. The light, that damned too bright light, disappeared too. He felt… nothing. No demons, no fear, no worry. He was free. And so, he drifted devoid of any tether. He floated into nothingness, and was glad for it.
“Doctor Freeman, the patient has been prepped and is ready for surgery.”
“Excellent, Nurse Kline. He’s been sedated, correct?” the doctor responded.
“Of course, Doctor Freeman. We did as you instructed. We wanted to be sure to follow every instruction to the letter,” Nurse Kline said.
The doctor nodded his head. “The students are ready as well, I presume?”
“They appear to be quite eager, yes,” she smiled back.
Doctor Freeman exhaled. “Let’s not keep them waiting, then.”
He strode into the operating room with Nurse Kline in tow. He looked the students over. They did indeed look excited, and why wouldn’t they be? Today, they would be witnessing firsthand a radical procedure that held very promising results.
“Good afternoon, students. For those of you who do not know me, I am Doctor Walter Freeman. Today, you are most fortunate. We will be operating on a young man who has suffered a tremendous amount in his short life.” He turned towards the operating table and held out his arm towards his patient.
“This is Andrew Callahan, twenty four years of age. He has been hospitalized since the age of twelve. He suffers from acute schizophrenia, resulting in fits of screaming and violence. He has raved about being tortured, but he cannot talk outside of these outbursts. This is why the other doctors and I agreed that the best treatment for him is a lobotomy, which is what you are here to witness.”
He picked up a small instrument that resembled a small ice pick in one hand. In the other, he held a hammer.
“Shall we begin?” he asked, a bright grin on his face.
Photo Credit: Aranzazu