The sun never shone in this room, and the candles trembled against the darkness. It was a place where the light died. The technician stood before the throne of wood and iron, staring at her charge. Lashes tied to screws held the prisoner to the seat, forcing his limbs and back and buttocks down upon the iron spikes. In the flickering candlelight, he chuckled quietly at some private joke.
With practiced care, she loosed his bonds, her face a mask that barely concealed the tumult within. At last, she tilted the chair violent forward, so that he fell out with a cacaphony of wet schlucks to bleed quietly on the floor.
"Teufel! How can you side with the enemies of humanity? How can you betray your own kind?" She shouted at him, spittle falling into the blood oozing from his cold face.
"Oh, my dear. Have you not been paying attention? This is who we are. This is what we do. Just as in the moments of greatest harshness and struggle, when we band together and pool all our strength and sacrifice just so a few will survive...there
Then he stood, with all the dignity of a serpent that remembered what it was like before it crawled, and looked her in the eye. "Vent your spleen at me as you will. In the end there is no nobility in this. Just...differen
She opened the door then, and he staggered forwards. A nurse waited there, in his plain white gown, with bandages and ointments. The technician followed, on hand on the heavy wrench at her belt, closing the door behind them. With slight groans the tortured man lay face down upon the table, and the nurse set about with wads of cotton and lengths of linen, and liberal application of clear alcohol that wrung stings and grasps.
"You could spare some of that," he mumbled from the table.
"Against the rules," the nurse said, as he wadded more bloody cotton into one of the holes, "you're to feel the pain."
In time the nurse's work was done, and they stood as the melting candles marked the hour.
"Shall I tell you a story, while we wait?" came the voice from the table. Neither nurse nor technician replied, but he carried on anyway.
"In fair Gotham, one morning, an alien took the subway. Anyone who saw him knew he was a giant tick - the green chitin fading to brown, the click of its mouth-parts as it chittered a little to itself - but no-one said anything. Because this tick smelled slightly of soap and citrus, its chitin shiny and clean, and it was dressed in a light gray suit that was obviously second-hand, grasping in one claw a cheap briefcase, shiny and new. That was enough for them, you see. It was none of their business, but any of them could see that it was new in the city, either looking for a job or out for its first day - and that was enough. It took its seat and kept its elbows and knees to itself. It didn't swear or play loud music. Truly, you couldn't ask for much more in a fellow commuter. A fellow...Gothamite."
His laughter echoed in the chamber, and all the nurse and technician could do was watch the candle...and wait.
Post a Comment