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I Fought the Law

Torture. The wife asks me what’s on tap when I report to the office, right about the time she’s packing my lunch in its lovely wooden box, and I tell her. Torture. When she stops by mid-afternoon to report how many eggs she pilfered from the hens or to describe the fascinating new bug she found attached to some bit of the garden, I can only tell her about men screaming. Men begging. Men imploring me to end their miserable sodding lives rather than touch them one more time.

Because women are what they are, I keep that to myself. I nod and act astounded with my wife’s prattle, whilst trying to dispel the ringing of despair in my ears. Even at the dinner table, while my boy is saying grace, I can hear the noise clanging on the inside of my head.

It is especially nasty today.

The breaking of men permeates my cell block. Their crying seeps into the bricks and mortar. Rattles their chains. Shakes the foundations of this awful place, this monument to some of the worst things men can do to men. I gnaw on my chicken leg and pretend I’m somewhere else. Anywhere else. I am a pathetic cretin and lack the imagination to rise above it all.

Especially when I cannot consume my meager feast without interruption.

Sir. Bad case. Your unique skills are required.

Barely digested food spins in my stomach as I drag myself to Cell Seven. The unluckiest accommodation we have. My victim awaits, shackled to a chair in the corner, the flickering torchlight making a freak show of his persecuted face. I am angry that it is down to me to break him.

And, it is the anger that fuels me. Every time.

This post is part of the series Jailhouse Rock, set in and around the Old Charleston Jail. If this is your first visit to the series, please click here to read the first installment and here for the second. And, if you’re ever in Charleston, do not miss the Old Jail.

35 Comments Post a comment
  1. Can’t break this.

    August 22, 2012
    • Lou, are you going to force a pirate into this story???

      August 22, 2012
  2. Now we are getting interesting. Kind of like the Executioner’s Daughter. The soul of the torturer.

    August 22, 2012
  3. This scene hangs heavy, Andra, like an early morning fog. I’m interested in where this story goes next.

    August 22, 2012
  4. Heart wrenching. It’s a testament to your writing that we can feel sorry for the torturer. What an interesting perspective. No wonder some of those men were so tortured themselves and their relationships suffered. Thank you.

    August 22, 2012
    • I don’t feel sorry for him, but I suspect sadists fight this very battle within at some point. They get over it. They move past it. But, for a short while, they’re human.

      August 22, 2012
  5. Ooh.

    August 22, 2012
  6. Jill Clary Stevenson #

    OK I just can’t resist.

    August 22, 2012
  7. I love it that a lawman is the one fighting the law. And oh, how I pity that man in the cell, because when rage is the fuel, rationality goes out the window, and mercy and pity are imagined things only.

    August 22, 2012
    • Yeah, I feel sorry for him, too, but that won’t necessarily help him……….

      August 22, 2012
  8. It’s a dark world in the hearts and minds of some; a place I almost never go. Interesting insight into the torturer being tortured. Like where you’re going with this.

    August 22, 2012
  9. This is an excellent character introduction, Andra. I never missed one episode of LOST when it was on, and my favorite character, was Sayid, a former military communications guy haunted by his past as a torturer for the Iraqui Republican Guard. It was the mixture of his ability to perform such heinous acts and at the same time have a sweet love interest that completely captivated me. A torturer with a conscience. How? This is what came to mind with your character here. I’ll be curious…D

    August 22, 2012
  10. This one’s quite deep and dark, Andra… very atmospheric indeed. I can see the beginnings of a future ghost here!

    August 22, 2012
    • Glad you like it, Tom. He would haunt me. That’s for sure.

      August 22, 2012
  11. This is really getting to me.

    That is evidence of good writing. :)

    August 22, 2012
    • I’m glad you think it’s good, Heather. This one sort of got to me, too.

      August 22, 2012
  12. Wow, this one’s disturbing. I suppose rage is what fuels most of what’s worst about human beings.

    August 22, 2012
    • I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced true rage within myself. I hope I never do.

      August 22, 2012
      • It is very frightening! And so is this post.

        August 23, 2012
  13. Hmm . . . I might have to pass on the rest of this story, Andra. Reading about torture is not my balliwick.

    August 22, 2012
  14. You climb inside others’ skin with such ease, Andra. Does it ever disturb you to be in there with people like this? A haunting piece, beautifully written. Harrowing.

    August 23, 2012
    • I could give you a long answer or a short one, Kate. I’ll try to hit somewhere in the middle.

      Before I started writing, I spent about 35 years doing theater, playing the whole “what’s my motivation?” game, writing pages and pages of backstory to figure out why a character moves a coffee cup from her lap to a side table (or, in the last part I played, why she decides to marry a cold-blooded killer.) Always amateur. I don’t think I was ever very good, but I did have those moments when I walked out on stage and couldn’t remember what happened out there once I walked off.

      What I learned from that whole experience is this: we all have the ability to understand people. It doesn’t excuse what they do in extreme examples like this one, or mean we have to agree with them, but we all have the ability to grasp it on some level. I hope that experience made me more tolerant, but who knows? Someone called me a snob (in a very clever way) last night on Facebook, so I may be the least tolerant person I know. I’m glad someone else’s opinion doesn’t have to define me.

      It sounds trite to say the characters take over my writing, but they do. I don’t understand how it happens or why it happens, but I’ve learned to just let them. It sort of feels the same way as not remembering what I did on stage sometimes, and that sounds more than a little crazy, I know. But, you’ll find scads of fiction writers who do it this way, so I know I’m not alone in my psycho little corner of the world. If someone believes that I have the capacity to torture because I can write a visceral piece like this, I don’t even know what to say to that person. What I do have is the capacity to imagine, and I would be dead without it.

      August 23, 2012
  15. Chilling. He’s very relatable given what he does.

    August 23, 2012
    • This one just flowed out. It was effortless. And, that’s kind of chilling. I know you understand.

      August 23, 2012

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