A Torturous Life

(This is a sampler from a story I’m working on. Feedback is welcome.)

The thing about torture, you know, as a whole, is that it has gotten a bad rap over the years. I mean, no disrespect and all to my predecessors and all, but they did not have the flair, the wossname, starts-with-p, pizzaz, that’s the word. I mean, like, I know I’m not very high up in the food chain, but as the second adjutant in charge of whips and chains, I would like to think I’ve learnt a thing or two.

Darryl, now he’s the dungeon master, capital-dee, capital-em, if you know what I mean. Darryl says that many torturers think they are artists, or artistes, you know, in the pretentious manner of speaking. Well, anyway, so he says that although these people think what they are doing is art, it’s art for art’s sake. Does that make sense to you?

I realised ages ago that he’s completely right, is our Darryl. I mean, like, despite the fact that he’s my brother. I don’t want you thinking I got this job through nepotism. Oh no, sir, I earned my way. In fact, Darryl’s assistant, Anne her name is, she said they had to create this position and title for me, because I’m so exceptionally special. I’m not sure if I like Anne.

Either way, here I am. My name is Lucky. I’m nineteen years old, and I’ve been in the torture business all my life. Of course, being the youngest of five boys means that I have been at the receiving end of the torture business my whole life, but them’s the breaks.

Our mum, who recently passed on after a long illness, gorresthersoul, said while we were growing up that there are two things that define a man: how he treats a lady, and how he treats his animals. My pet gorilla was a bit of a lost cause. She was a massive thing, silver hair (I think she was old), smelling up the place something horrid, but dad took care of that, and I got a lovely hat stand and two ashtrays to show for it. Not that I smoke, mind you. A good torturer knows that cigarettes are useful artistic tools of the trade, without killing themselves from smoking.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Business has been brisk the last few months. The king has called all people, who don’t have blue eyes, heretics, and it’s literally our job to make their lives miserable. We get paid to hurt people, and I must honestly say that I honestly love my job.

I know I’m only the second adjutant and everything, and only in the whips and chains department, but I’ve had to substitute for my other brothers a few times, and I’ve watched my brothers really get into their work, their zone if you like, where what they do is poetical, musical. It’s like, well let’s think now. It’s like watching a game of football, but less bloody.

So a torturer has to keep his equipment sanitary. You most certainly don’t want your customer (we call them customers because it makes them feel better about it – after all, we’re providing a service) to get some dirty infection and die on you before you’ve extracted a confession out of them. Look at how messy those witch trials were. And don’t get me started on the Crusades. Too many rusty dull blades – although the dull part was a nice touch – the customers kept getting lockjaw, and tell me how you’re supposed to get them to speak? I ask you with tears in my eyes. Rusty blades indeed!

I’m digressing a little again, and I apologise. Our mum used to say I could be having an in-depth discussion of deep philosophical importance, and a butterfly could fly past and I’d be distracted. It’s annoying sometimes, but as I’m writing this down now, it’s much easier to keep track of. Mind you, the ink does tend to dry quite quickly so I have to really concentrate before I dip my pen in a customer’s vein. We used to use arteries but the ink goes everywhere and there’s a shortage of blotting paper in the kingdom right now, on account of all the royal proclamations of heresy. Captain Darling of the Guard thinks it’s a nice touch that we get customers to sign their own death warrants.

Forgive me, I need to focus. Let’s get back to the main topic. So, right, torture is an art form. Darryl, who is the dungeon master and also my brother, but that’s not for here, is in charge of the official King’s Vice Squad. We chose the name to sound menacing enough to lull potential customers into a false sense of sanity. Let’s be honest here, though: we’re here to make you *wish* you were dead, but we do a good job of keeping you alive. I need to emphasise that. We keep you alive, no matter how far gone your body and mind is.

There’s a guy we have in the tower (the dungeon isn’t just underground – we like to chuck customers out of first floor windows too, you know, to break limbs), called Flat Cecil. Flat Cecil was run over by a horse and cart, twice, then put on the rack, and finally strung up on the wall to hang by his arms. Unfortunately he fell off the wall because of the incident with the broken shoulders, but that’s for another time. Anyhoo, Cecil is still very much alive, and we plan to keep him alive until he confesses that he consorted with Lucifer’s Bride, had sexual congress with a goat, and ate gooseberries (they’re the fruit of evil in this kingdom). Until that moment, we will keep him alive. Then of course we’ll have him sign his confession with his own blood (from the vein as I mentioned earlier), and then the Guard will kill him in the name of the noble and good king, whom we all love, gorblesshim.

We have a very simple processing system for customers passing through our dungeon. Firstly, the customer is declared a heretic. Then he (or she, or it – we’ve tried a few animals, including a silverback gorilla) has to fill in some forms to help us sort him into the right chambers. You don’t want paedophiles in the same room as children who were naughty, because that’s just poor taste, as it were. No, we sort them to make our lives less problematic. Plus, for my department anyway, it’s much easier to lash ten people in a circle, with you in the middle. You can sometimes get dizzy if you spin too fast, but hey, a little vomit never killed anyone. Well, except for people who accidentally choke on their own vomit, but again I’m digressing.

The point is, we have a system, and the customers are assigned to specific chambers to be tortured. Clowns, lawyers and priests are usually kept in the same room, but we separate the lawyers every Tuesday evening so that they can play football against the accountants. A while ago it was hard to find human heads to kick around, but lately it’s been much easier with the number of priests we’re bringing in.

So I watched how they actually remove the head from a dead priest. It’s really simple, especially if the guy has been kicked to death. I mean, what better way to prepare your head to become a football? And at the going rate, we get a fresh one every Tuesday. Mike, who prepares them for the game, once told me he prepared a head which still had it’s eyes, and they were blue! I can’t imagine what that guy was thinking when he was called a heretic, but Mike said it was twelve years ago and he’s pretty sure the previous king had different ways to identify heretics. Sometimes I get confused, but then I write it down and it all makes sense.

Mike is married to a lovely man called Harry. They declared their love under the romantic light of human candles, stapled to the sides of the tower. Man, what a bitch it was to get the fat ones to stick, but Frank, who is the executioner, was able to hold up the heavy ones while we drove in spikes.

The easiest way to stake a body to a stone wall is to find the right spot, right between the stones. You want to get in a firm hold, so that if it does slip off, you can reuse the stakes for the next one.

Frank’s cousin, Vincent, invented a way to get the bodies to attach to the existing stakes, using a catapult. So basically, you have to position the customer in the basket of the catapult, and release the elastic so that it drives them into the stakes. Then if you want to make candles like we did for Mike and Harry’s wedding, you drench the customers in oil before catapulting them into the tower wall. Simple, I thought.

(to be continued …)

Copyright © 22/11/2010 Randolph West