The Last Seat
I know that I am going to die soon. That single thought keeps rolling around in my head as if there were nothing else in there. Maybe there isn’t at this point. I know that I should be terrified, but I don’t feel much other than resignation. The men who have taken me haven’t been terribly cruel, and they are even allowing me the company of this paper and pen with which to write my last words. “Keep it short,” they tell me, “no one is going to read it anyhow.”
This is supposed to be disheartening, but I prefer the truth. I’m sure that my girlfriend has moved on by now, my parents are both dead, and I’ve never been close to my siblings. These men are right, no one is going to read the final words of a dead man. Nobody negotiates with terrorists, at least no nations negotiate with them. They are free to carry out their violence and kidnappings at will. Their victims are eventually forgotten until their body turns up in some unmarked grave.
It was night when they came to take me away. I was in bed with my girlfriend at the time. They were so ruthlessly efficient that she didn’t even stir when I was hauled out, restrained, and tossed in the back of a car. I didn’t really have much time to struggle or scream. Boom, door flies open, they grab me, and we were gone into the night. It happened that fast.
Drip, drip, drip…came the first drops of water upon my face. I couldn’t see them. My eyes had been covered with a blindfold. The dripping came faster and faster until it was a steady stream. I began to have trouble taking in air, and I could hear one of them laughing. Keep going he says. Whoever has control of the water seems all too eager to follow his order. Each breath is choked off by another mouthful of water.
I start to feel myself being drawn down a hole. It’s like when you drink just enough to make you pass out right as your head hits the pillow, but not a moment before. That’s enough the guy giving the orders says, and his buddy stops. The blindfold is torn from my face and the harsh light floods into my eyes. I don’t see the fist bearing down on me. It connects with my jaw just forward of where it turns up to connect to the skull. 7 pounds of pressure is all it takes, and these guys are precise.
When I wake up, I’m back in my room and usually adorned with fresh bruises.
They accused me of being many things, but “violent animal” was their favorite slur. I had served in the Army during combat, but I was just a supply guy and never shot my weapon once. That didn’t really make much sense. The interrogations, if that’s what they were, lasted for hours, but could have been days for all I know. But once they had me, I was theirs to do with as they pleased.
Eventually, the hostage starts to play along to avoid beatings. If they said I had done this or that, I had. I am assured that cooperation will lead to reward. This is a euphemism for a quick and painless death. They are honest about that much. I’m not going to walk out of their hands alive. I am going to die at some point. It’s up to me as to how much suffering will take place between now and the day I die.
The lights in the interrogation room remain as harsh as ever, and burn my eyes no matter how many times, or how long, I am under them. The hostage will never get used to these things. This is not by chance, it’s by design. You will break, and you will give your captors what they require; information, confession, or whatever. Much like the rest of their duties they are very good at extraction.
I struggle with my restraints. I find myself on a medical style gurney with rails along the side. My legs are strapped at the ankles and just above the knees. Arms are pulled uncomfortably over my head and ties are placed at the wrists and the bicep side of my elbows. The aforementioned “struggle” is little more than a helpless and ineffectual jiggling. The gag is tight inside my mouth, and is tied tight at the nape of my neck. But I can still scream. They always seem to make that a possibility.
The man standing over me is wearing scrubs and a mask like a surgeon. The scalpel in his hand hovers just above the skin in the area of my groin. The first cut is searing. Flashes blind me, while a choked scream escapes my mouth, but this is only the first cut. He can keep this up without killing me for a long time. The next few cuts make their way to my navel, my stomach, and finally I lose my left nipple. I’m crying now as the blood begin to flow heavily. I lose consciousness shaking against my bonds.
When they exhaust their needs for information I am placed back in my small room alone. There is a small bed, the desk at which I am writing this, and a chair. I am brought meals which consist of bread, water, and a tiny portion of meat, at least I think it was meat. When I need to answer the call of nature I use a small hole in the corner of my room from which emanates the foulest smell I can imagine though can’t seem to put it into words. Each day, one of my captors will remind me that I am one day closer to death.
My days pass, blurring one into the next, and a visitor begins to call on me day after day. He isn’t anything like the rest of them. He seems to genuinely care about me, though after the things he has been told he feels there remains an apparent need for me to seek salvation before my impending death.
I try explaining to him that I am not a religious man, but that I do appreciate his company. And so, each day he returns, we’d play checkers, talk about movies or books, and then he will make his appeal for me to seek salvation and I politely decline the offer. It seems a bit superfluous at this point since I am going to be killed in a matter of days, and I haven’t seen any gods swoop from the sky to retrieve anyone from the clutches of death in all my years on the planet. He would smile at me placing his hand upon my shoulder gently. We laugh, and he departs.
Days passed without him visiting. I begin to worry that my captors have taken him as they are soon to take me. It seemed a dirty trick, but not outside the realm of possibility for these violent thugs. They come daily to remind me that I am going to die soon, and that no one will ever read a word I have scribbled on the pages they’ve provided. But still, I continued writing, and hoping for one last visit from what seems to be my only friend in this world.
The leader of my captors comes to my room one morning to say that the day has finally arrived. I am finally going to be called to account for the “hideous acts” they had forced me to confess. There is no use trying to beg or plead, I am going to die today. Which is fine, I have accepted this fact. And so, without a single word, I stand to be restrained once more, and followed him out of my room and down the hall.
There are other hostages here with me, but I have never seen them before. These people do their best to keep each of us secluded from one another. Don’t want these “animals” getting together and trying to mount an escape, I thought, and this brought a smile to my face. The thug behind me cracks me on the back of the head with the muzzle of his rifle and the smile quickly fades.
“Something amusing, you piece of shit?” he mutters. I shake my head, and keep walking.
As we reach the end of the hall, my eyes still on the floor, I feel a familiar hand upon my shoulder. I look up and find my visitor’s smiling face greeting me. “If you’ve come to talk about salvation again, I’m good.” I said. He laughs slightly and shakes his head. He is allowed to enter the room where they are busy placing me into a wooden chair. He stands close, and this is the first time I notice his suit. It is black save for a single white spot at the front of his throat. The straps dangled in all directions, and the clinking of buckles was all that broke the silence. I found the white spot curious, what was it for? In front of me there is a long red curtain that is dingy with age. This takes my thoughts away from my visitor’s suit, and even as my death is approaching all I can wonder is, “What do you suppose is on the other side?” But my question is soon answered as they finish fastening the last buckle.
The violence which has been visited upon me is probably all too deserved. I’d tell someone if anyone would listen. But who would really care about the words of a dead man?
The curtain pulled aside, I am face to face with my victim's mother and father. Tears stream down her face, and he has a look of contempt on his. My brother and sister are next to them, and neither seems willing to look at me. The priest in the corner, my visitor, notices the look of shock upon my face and asks one last time if I was in the mood for salvation. Breathless, I can only manage to shake my head. Then, with my hood in place, a jolt runs through my body and the world goes black.