Down the Hall and to the Right
I sigh. I go to pinch the bridge of my nose, but my hands are shaking too much. I fold my hands together on the table. The man across from me – no. No. The boy across from me – sixteen years old according to the file, though if I’d had to guess based on the evidence of my eyes I’d have said closer to fourteen – moves his hands subconsciously in a mirroring response, causing the chains of his shackles to clink against the ring sunk into the table. I look into his eyes with all the paternal concern I can muster.
‘You don’t understand, son. I can’t make you answer these questions, but down the hall and to the right there is a room full of men who can and they derive a lot of pleasure from their work. You’re about to fall of the edge of a cliff and I’m throwing you a rope. Who were your accomplices?’
I see the faintest flicker of his right eyelid at my mention of the Red Room. Everyone’s heard the rumours. Everyone knows someone whose cousin’s room-mate spent a long weekend behind that plywood door and never again walked in a straight line…
The boy straightens up and breathes in through his nose.
‘I’ll never betray my comrades,’ he says. ‘I’d die first—’
‘You won’t die, son. Not until after they’ve got what they want from you, and they’ve had their fun.’ I lean forward in my chair and whisper the next part, like I really care about what happens to this little terrorist. And I do care, or a part of me does, because… damn it, he’s a child! ‘They’ll make you wish you were dead, though. They’ll make you wish you had never been born, son.’
‘I’m not your son,’ he hisses. ‘And I’m not afraid.’
‘Then you’re an idiot. One of the things that they do in that room,’ and he swallows when I say that word, ‘is strap you down so you can’t move an inch. They cut away your clothes. Then they take a needle, and stab it into your right testicle – the head torturer, he has a theory that that’s where all the sperm that produce boys come from. They turn off the lights and leave you there for an hour or two, though you have nothing to concentrate on but the pain in your testicle and so it feels more like days. And then they come back and move the needle a few degrees one way or another, and then they leave you again. This can go on and on for as long as they like – it’s all very clean, surgically sterile.’
All the blood has drained from the boy’s face. His legs are tight together.
‘In the Red Room, they have the art of pain boiled down to a science,’ I say. ‘They have a ten-point scale of tortures. The piercing of a testicle, on that scale, is a four.’ This last is a lie – it’s actually an eight, and will never be the first technique used on an inmate of the Red Room. But he doesn’t need to know that.
The boy opens his mouth, but apparently can’t think of anything to say. He closes it again, and looks down, suddenly aware of just how many tonnes of shit are about to fall on his head.
‘Do you think your comrades will save you? Do you think, what, that the arrest of some shortarse runt will kick off your revolution? Do you think they even care what happens to you? Do you really think they’re your friends?’
He starts crying, then. I let him; I sit back in my chair and wait for him to finish, and then I put on my most sympathetic mask. He tells me everything.
And then I send him to the Red Room, to have his story confirmed.