The Torture Machine - Connor

Part One: The Torture Machine

I. Insanity

"It's enough just to say what is before our eyes and not shrink from the conclusions."
 -- The Invisible Committee

  He walks around the dirt track that encircles the prison yard. The sun is low in the west, giving a soft, warm glow to the forests and faces on either side of the fence. Birds are offering a lovely melody off in the east. The air is fresh, comforting.
  He is not aware of any of this. In his mind, there is only a cacophony of commodities vying for his attention, and some delusional sense of self he feels compelled to assert. He speaks at length in a loud voice to his companions, about nothing in particular.
  A large, brilliant white butterfly sets down gently on the dirt path, raising and lowering its wings.
  He raises his boot and crushes the butterfly.

. . . .

  I open my hand, full of food, to my companion.
"Would you like to try some?"
"Hell no, what are you, crazy? Not out of your hand."

. . . .

  She hears the screams of her mother every night as she lies awake in her bed, pretending she's crazy.

. . . .

  He scans the magazines and newspapers for the answers. How many times a day should he brush his teeth? What's the best city to live in? How many close friends should he have? What's the best kind of soap to use?
  The answers change from week to week.
  He finds one he likes: a magazine tells him he should walk 10,000 steps a day.
  The hardest struggle is always the one of self.

. . . .

  I was watching the news on the cell block.
  Everyone knows, like the federal government, that Wolf Blitzer tells no lies.
  They cheer on the slaugher of innocents in Orlando. They watch the slaughter in Dallas in silence.

. . . .

  "When I was younger, I wanted to join the military."
  "Why is that," I ask.
  "So that I could kill people and get away with it."

. . . .

  The little girl cannot make sense of it, no matter how hard she tries or how much she cries.
  "But why would they put daddy in a cage? Don't they know he loves me!"
  She chokes from her own sobbing, the only thing she understands.

II. Absence

  I sit on a hill beside an electric fence topped with razorwire. The sun, kissing my face, brings a gentle smile to my lips. A subtle sense of comfort washes over me. I feel your voice rise up in my chest, acknowledging your absence.
  My face becomes drawn and weary as swift as a cloud drifting beneath the sun. I am encircled by the ghosts of those I'll never meet, and those I'll never see again.
  A young man laughs in the distance.
  An old man curses God through cracked lips.

. . . .

  The young woman curls her lip, lowering herself into the seat. The bus reaks of urine and tobacco smoke. She pretends she doesn't notice the other passengers, pretending that by doing so they don't notice her. She stares at the sticky floor and her whole mind falls into a state of nothingness. For a moment the bus no longer envelopes her and the wretched city ceases to exist. There is only her blank mind.
  The bus shakes violently and her attention is drawn upward, to the faces of the passengers. She looks one to the other, never seeing his face.
  Only then, all of a sudden, does she realize his absence has reduced her to a drifting shadow.
  She feels like weeping but nothing happens and noone notices her.

. . . .

  He waits, freezing at the bus stop, smoking his last cigarette. Three layers of thick clothing and a heavy coat cannot keep out the cold. Somehow this dampens his sense of misery. He throws the butt.
  In all the vast night nothing moves.

. . . .

  She laughs and dances, playing with sticks and imaginings in the yard behind the house. The vivid world in her mind takes wing here, in this little square ringed with tall wooden fences.
  A large shadow passes over her, too swift to be a cloud. She looks up at the open blue sky. She stops, staring, mouth hanging open, drifting through all that blue.

. . . .

  His mother found him beside a ravine in the woods bordering their new house. He was curled up, weeping, his little face the color of a ripe tomato. The air left out of her.
  "What's wrong, Tommy?"
  He began crying harder, struggling to speak.
  Finally: "Where have the salamanders gone?"

. . . .

  The old man sits in a wooden chair, staring out the window. There is a pine tree and sun and grass, but he sees none of this.
  Tears flow done his dry cheeks. He waits, but they never arrive.

. . . .

  The doe lies on the forest floor, shallow and slowing breaths contrasted with her pounding heart.
  The sun tickles her nose as if it still wants to play, oblivious to the imminent death of its companion.
  Ants crawl along her legs. A feather drifts down from above. She wants nothing more than to see her mother come over the distant ridge.
  She draws her final breath, her eyes wide open.

. . . .

  The boy stares at the artificial waterfall, the black marble reminding him of a Star Destroyer, or perhaps the court of a villainous king. He doesn't bother reading the names engraved on the marble encircling the dark pool, but he notices there are a lot of them. They seem to go on forever, like the names at the end of a movie.
  He feels like an ant in this place, and despite the summer sun he somehow feels a chill.
  Suddenly he wishes his parents hadn't brought him to this place. Reflecting a moment, he wishes he had been born a long time ago, or not for many years to come.
  Sirens errupt nearby, wiping away his thoughts.

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