28th December

Fifteen Minutes

So, he was in the room. He had fifteen minutes.

His torturer was strapped to a horizontal frame, just as he had been. Naked, just as he had been. Various implements were laid out on a table. He had been told what to expect. Nevertheless he was surprised at how completely the intervening years vanished.

The man’s eyes watched him as he walked over to the table, picked up a baton, felt its weight, put it back down.

He bent over the man. Yes, this was certainly his torturer. There was no forgetting or mistaking that face.

Those bound hands had inflicted on him unspeakable brutalities and humiliations. He still did not quite believe that he had survived.

The choice was his. In fifteen minutes they would return and it would be over, whatever he had done or not done.

‘We know what you went through,’ they said. ‘You have immunity, for fifteen minutes only. Do what you wish.’

What he would do depended on what he saw in his torturer’s eyes.

If he saw fear or remorse, he might go in one direction. He would not forgive, but he might walk away.

If he saw arrogance and scorn, he might go in another direction. The impotence, pain and terror he had felt might boil up, and he would use the things on the table with quick, blind fury.

But how could he know what he was seeing?

The man was not gagged. He said nothing.

If he walked away, the torturer might believe himself still victorious. He might despise his victim all over again.

If he did to the man even a tenth of what had been done to him, what would he have become? Into what new hell would he have descended?

The weakest thing was being unable to decide.

The minutes ticked away.

He had two questions.

‘Why did you do those things to me?’

‘How could you do such things to anyone?’

He looked into the eyes. Still the man did not speak.

‘Do you understand me?’

The man nodded.

He thought: He does not know the answers either.

When he realised this, he knew what he was going to do.

Reader: Paul Gorman
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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