I hear the guards coming as they drive their “Gator” across the rocky ground. I see the dust billowing up behind them through the razor wire horizon. I hear them park and when they stop their vehicle I hear them talking. The incessant recitations of the many mantras of their Capitalist society said all with the same absent drawl. There is a certain lack of something here, but it seems almost too plain to say that it is “freedom”. Of course there is no freedom here.
It is a prison camp after all.
The gates to Camp 2 open with blatant and foreboding shrillness. Two new sets of clacking boots join the endless marching of the roving sally gate guard. His name is Johnson. He is replaced every 12 hours by Whitmore. Every twelve hours for last five years these two have “relieved” one another. Neither of them could possibly know the time I have invested into imagining their lives, or the lengths that I have gone to to piece together the story of the world outside of this prison from their few vacant words.
The story seems grimmer than when I left it.
The subtle impression of thousands of voices spoken below a whisper all hush in a great vacuum as the gates of Mike Block opened and in walked two of the meanest people ever put on this planet.
You could feel their anger washing down the corridor. Worse yet, I could feel the righteous indignation of my comrades get washed right away as each and every one of them crawled back into the tiniest, blackest holes in their minds where they nursed memories of when these two came for them.
Their boot heels rang obnoxiously off every crooked angle in this God forsaken cell block. I heard each and every step until the footsteps stopped outside of my rusted and humble cell.
I was stretched out on the metal slab that serves me as a bed and a desk and a table and a place from which I deliver sermons.
“Hey mother fucker.” The taller of the two said to me. “Wake the fuck up, bitch. It’s time for a talk.”
“I heard this fuckin faggot started this whole mess”.
“That’s between him and his interrogator. HEY! I said wake the fuck UP!”
I slowly parted my eyes to stare coldly into his. I will admit now that this act caused me no small amount of pain.
These Alpha Soldiers are real crafty types. Made special to deal with my type Terrorist. Their whole mind is wired to disrupt our whole everything. But I’m no push over in my type of Terrorism.
The beanhole clanged open viciously and I put my thin wrists through it. I could see their eyes taking in the tattoos that peeked out from the long sleeves of my orange jumpsuit. Their faces twisted in a compulsive act of revulsion at the sight of art. That alone gave me a good deal of fear about the current nature of the outer world.
The shackles were clenched tightly down on my pronounced wrist bone. I could feel them cutting in that special impartiality that they alone possessed. Once those were on they handed me the end of the connected chain.
“You know the fucking routine. But please. Make us come in and help you. I fucking dare you.” The tall ones hands were a vice on the chain until he finished with his hateful taunting, and only then did he release the chain.
I spun myself around it and obediantly, but with that little protest we can afford to offer, handed the end of the chain back to them.
The shorter one dropped the feet shackles in and then bent down to undo the bottom beanhole and insert his hands into my pestilence. Some detainees have used this as an opportunity to crush the wrist bones of their guards, but I don’t get their kinds of guards. I couldn’t have broken these wrists back when I was healthy and free. And these men were permitted to kill me. It is a wonder that they haven’t.
The rusting orifice that is the lock to my cell twisted open for the first time in months. Their huge hands grabbed me like dead prey in the mouth of jackles, pulling my frail bones out of my old home and out onto the cause way.
We began our slow walk to my interrogation booth.
Their satellite radio hissed on and the voice of a child asked impatiently: “Gulf One, this is Escort Control. Do you have the package?”
I could feel the irritation in the taller ones voice when he keyed his mike and replied “Roger that.” And as he released his finger he said “you little fucking faggot.” He looked to his friend and spit out “that fucking piece of shit sits in that comfy office all fucking day while we’re out here touching these fucking disgusting motherfuckers. One of these days I’m going to catch his ass out of that office and I’m going to rape his fucking face!”
“Yeah brah. Fuck that dick sucker. I’d help you.”
Apparently I had been forgot about between them. I had to pull my feet up to hop along between them or else they would have dragged me across the stones. It’s a little less than a mile to Interrogation Facility and folks get awful bloodied up being dragged along like that. The common courtesies were the first to go.
It took us all of twenty minutes to cross the barren waste that lies between the various camps. Those were valuable minutes to me. Much had changed about the security here since he had last been out. There were more roving guards between the fences. There were new shacks that had been planted silently by the operator crane. Things change. Everything was exactly as we expected it. What a relief.
The flood lights started to kick on as the sun began to bury itself behind the razor wire and fences that blocked from our vision eternally the cliff that hangs over the sea. They cast the ghastly blue flourescent light, turning all flesh into a sickly white. How I hate those God damned lightbulbs. They spread the shadow of the approaching “Fortress” in all directions at once. The night sky was red over head. These are always somber hours. Nothing could be heard save for my shackles now, and every soul on this camp could hear them. And every soul in this camp knew who was bound by them. Not a one of those souls harbors any fear that I will tell. I know these souls best of all, and they know me.
The door to the horrible ebony obelisk opened swiftly and silently at the touch of a button pressed deep inside this building by a young man trained from birth to operate computers, a young man who watched everything in this camp on a fragmented wall of screens. We have a great fondness for this young man.
Inside our footsteps and my chains were amplified off of every shiny metal surface. All surfaces were shiny and metal. We jangled and clanged and clacked together a nightmare concerto among the labyrinth of corridors that we deftly weaved through. It was difficult to not let my inertia betray that my mind knew this particular maze quite well in such capable hands. I was confident that I would not slip. There are Angels on my side, Fallen though they may be.
Soon we were at the door of what was to be the epicenter of the invasion to come, yet nowhere on that island could any man or device detect a single iota of eagerness. My own heart beat a calculated war drum of fear all for the story that the people who monitored the detectors that have watched me since I was in my cell, or the story that I am trying to tell them.
The real story, this story, is happening in a safe place. This story is actually about that place, but I am getting ahead of myself and that is later on.
The door slid opened and I was pushed into a blinding white room. Between me and a metal desk was only an industrial eye bolt on the floor. Behind the desk was an Agent from the Drug Interests. He wore black goggles which fitted into healthy, white sockets. His nose and mouth were covered by a viral mask, on the insides of which were a microphone and a transmitter which communicated with the chip inside of his brain which allowed his superior officers to communicate with him. He was lanky but his crisp white uniform fit him quite handsomely. There was almost nothing that could be told of this person. On the outside, that is.
My Escorts fastened me to the floor with grace despite their clear agitation in the presence of a human that was barely in the same species as them any more. I could tell that for them this man was as much an outsider as I was. I let only a small amount of smugness show on my otherwise fearful face. I believe it may have aggravated my host. He began our interrogation before the professional men were even done.
“Detainee number zero-two-five-eight from Mike Block, Cell two-two. Interrogation date: zero-five-dash-one-eight-dash-two-three. First Interrogation. Subject was detained along with twelve other men in the VA hospital in Battle Creek Michigan. They were all part of a Terrorist Cell based out of Building 31. Details of the nature of their collective acts of Terrorism are at this time unknown, but the wave of disruption that they set off is currently still growing despite their detention. An effort is now being made to discover the nature of their acts of Terrorism. Chief Technician First Class Reissinger. ISN 0258…”
“Yeah Chief. What can I do for you?” I responded with a manufactured air of sloppy charm.
“Do not interrupt me when I am speaking to you. This is to be an intensive interview and at the end of it we expect to know everything or you will be medically sedated for the rest of your life. Do you understand that?”
“That doesn’t sound half bad there, Chief. Sir. No. I mean. I will tell you everything. I promise. I swear.” Panicked.
“Why were you on Inpatient Care in Building 31 in the first place?”
“I’d been having some really fucked up dreams and it got to the point where I just couldn’t walk along with the way things were headed out there. I needed off the ride.”
“Medical records show that you had been having violent thoughts against authority figures. Those same authority figures that are listed were later found dead.”
“That did happen.”
“But you couldn’t have killed them. Their deaths were determined to be suicides.”
“That also happened.”
“But you swore that you were responsible for their deaths anyway. The Doctors at the hospital institutionalized you on a routine visit for Paranoid Schizophrenia. Why did you think you murdered those people?”
“I made them do it.”
“You could never have met any of them.”
“It turns out I didn’t have to. Look, I’ve had this talk a lot of times back on the Ward. Could you please get to the why-the-fucks, and the what the fuck you wants?”
“It is clear from your speech that your mind surely is not that of a Free Citizen. You speak like a soldier still despite the reprogramming.”
“Yeah. Once and always, I guess. Couldn’t keep a job out there when every other word is full of hate and an eagerness to smite the wicked. That reprogramming didn’t work so good on me, I guess.”
“It doesn’t work on the insane.”
“I guess not.”
“Your military files show that you were classified as Psychological Operations and that you were deployed to this same Detention Facility during the initial phase of The War.”
“There is no irony in the War on Terrorism.”
“No. Of course not. You were saying?”
“I was stating. Your tour was that of an office technician, yet you claim to have been overwhelmed by the burdens of a soldier’s life.”
“My, uh, job… it had its own kind of Hell to it.”
“I’m pretty sure most would call you a coward.”
“They did. But I don’t worry myself about most any more.”
“My job is to find out how you got from coward to Terrorist in such a short period of time.”
“It didn’t feel so short at the time. I’ll tell you, but you’ve got to ask the right questions. I don’t put out for free.” I finally allowed a certain wickedness to pass through my eyes. There was a momentary delay and then I saw him invert as he gathered the news of my sudden change in character through his receiver.
“Why did all those people in the Hospital die?”
“They didn’t all die. Several of them survived the whole ordeal. Only to end up here, unfortunately. But they chose their side of the line.”
“The line between us and you. In your language the line between the Terrorist and the Freedom Fighters. We have different language.”
“Stop being vague. We can sit here until you die. You will not eat or sleep until this is done.”
“Don’t you worry. I’m aware of all of that. Even if I do die.”
“The ones that killed themselves… so did their families. Some of those family members committed acts of violence against Free Citizens. And from them it spread again.”
“And again. And again. Yes. We did that. I won’t deny it. Are you just looking for the right words to charge us with? Or are you scared that…”
“That is enough. What is it?”
“IT is nothing.”
“Evasiveness will not save you.”
“I’m not trying to be evasive. I am just growing sick of doing your job for you. I told you I wasn’t just going to hand this to you if you’re going to continue to be incompetent.”
He paused again to receive orders.
“What happened in the Ward?”
“Much better. We evolved there. The drugs helped. I personally couldn’t have done it, I couldn’t have found the space without Thorazine.”
“What do you mean by evolved?”
“I mean we were a crazy generation. We’d grown up with the keys to the future in our hands. We were the first children of a new and violent Technocracy. We were drugged. We were turned into soldiers. We were the first veterans of a war nobody can remember the beginning of now. We were trained so intensively that we couldn’t make the transition with the rest of society over to the way that you have made things to be. We just didn’t fucking fit anywhere out there. We were all bound to end up in Building 31’s all across the country. But then we found it.”
“It is pretty hard to explain. We call it “The Network”. We found it in our dreams. Somehow, in that building, the 13 of us… we found each other in our dreams. We found a new kind of space. Oh, it was fantastic, those first few adventures into the whole thing. We wasted a lot of time on acts of the most disreputable debauchery. We would snicker through the days each reliving the madness of the night before. The more we did it the easier it got. The clearer the picture came. At first everything was like how you would think a dream should be. It was hard to hold it together. But there is something about the mind of a veteran that makes it easier to hold all these pieces together. It is a little like putting one giant broken mirror back together. But there is a lot of anger in us too. We didn’t know then that when we go there, the anger can come here. We learned that when the suicides started.”
“You mean to put on official record that you and your friends began to collaboratively navigate a “Network” between your minds. And that this is how all of the violence began.”
“Well, no. The story is a lot more complicated than that. We weren’t visiting each others minds. Those places are extremely dangerous. The monsters that reside within the walls of tormented minds are for those minds only. It wasn’t about what we found. It was about where we found. Well, also about what we did when we went there. There is a place that is outside of here. Outside of you. We probably weren’t supposed to go there… but we probably weren’t supposed to hurt other people. And you probably shouldn’t have tried to sedate our monsters away. They will always be with us, you know. They are our burden to carry through all of our lives. They are the guilt of doing things… awful things… things we did under your control. They are the price that we pay for going to War.”
“You are rambling like…”
“A mad man?”
“Do you think you are clever?”
“I don’t know. I think an awful lot of things about myself. I think more than anything I am naive. I think that you should judge me for my hubris and self indulgence. Not my lack of cleverness. And anyway, it is proven that I was not clever enough avoid being caught.”
“But not stopped.”
“Of course not. You cannot stop this. And anyways, you have hunted and caught the wrong thing. You should have been looking for monsters. They have been looking for you.”
“I might have hunted for monsters if I were also a paranoid psychotic and a narcissist. But I am a practical man. The monsters that I hunt are delusional religious zealots who talk thousands into acts against the State. The monsters that I hunt threaten the safety of every human soul under my watch. You and your Satanic cult are my monsters.”
“I wouldn’t call us Satanists. I personally prefer Followers of Lucifer. Others prefer Anarchists. We are all fond of the term Terrorist. Whatever you want to call us, we were just the vessels for something much worst than ourselves. We gave birth to your societies children and your children were monsters and you people and your drugs opened a door inside of us that must have remained locked for all of our evolution so that these monsters don’t get out… but here we are. There is one monster in particular I am very eager for you to meet.”
As I stood up my shackles fell from me like dust. His metal desk fell to pieces like a house of cards. The edges started to disappear from everything. Finally his facial muscles twitched as the walls themselves dissolved into conversation and we were standing, just the two of us, in shear darkness. I could feel the deep, existential confusion he felt when he looked at me and could not tell if I had turned into a man made of broken mirror or folded paper. This was my favorite way to appear. I could almost feed on the confusion that coursed through his every fiber but he had not lied when he said that he was a rational man.
“This is the place I was telling you about. Do you believe me now?”
Without moving a muscled in his face he droned: “If I had not believed you from the beginning do you think I would have tracked you down and detained you?”
“It is hard to tell anymore.”
“I know that I need to kill your monsters. But I need to find them first.”
“You won’t find them. You aren’t their type. They prey on authority figures and you’re just a toy. But they did move through here. I can smell them. No, the only monster you’ve got to worry about is your own.”
Right then we could both feel it as everything seemed to break.
“That was the wall they have built around you. That is the wall that keeps all the bad, irrational things away. All your questions and your fears that maybe you aren’t doing the right thing. The weight of every life that you have ruined. As a special favor my friends and I have gone through the trouble of pulling all those things together to craft for you your very own super monster.”
The sense of order started to blur, strange fragments of memories started to play in various dimensions and a chaotic chatter began whispering in from the periphery.
“Now I’m going to leave you here to sort this out on your own. If you survive that is fantastic. If not I will see you bright an early tomorrow morning to welcome you to your new home for the next few years.”
“How do you do this?”
“Do you really think I know?”
With that I fell apart at his feet and left him to meet himself, making sure to close the door very tightly on my way out.