Brutalist Stories #103 — Freedom
I step back and take a moment to catch my breath. My knuckles are swollen, the tension in my jaw is so tight I can’t open my mouth to pant the cold air in the wet concrete room where I stand.
The man in the chair beside me is dead, he fought it for a long time, longer than most, but he succumbed and told me what I needed to know, and then I killed him. There was no point in keeping him alive, no further use for me, and if we had offered him medical help, he would have been a mess for a long time, if not forever. There was no going back, there rarely is.
I walk to the door of the room, knock on it three times. There is the sound of shifting locks and bolts, and I stand back, and it opens. There is just a large rectangle of bright white light in front of me for a few seconds before my eyes adjust, and the guard’s silhouette appears.
I swallow against a dry throat and flick my hands out to my sides in an attempt to move the bulk of the blood off them before I step forward through the doorway.
“He talked?” Jones is stood in the white room that I pass into, a world away from the dark, damp space I just left. Computers buzz quietly with people sat at them jabbing at the keyboards and tablet screens.
“Of course,” I say and meet Jones’ gaze and tilt my head. “They always do.”
“I know,” Jones says, “Did you get anything useful?”
I look at him, and he just nods, knowing the answer. The spirit these men and women have is extraordinary, but they all have a breaking point, an exact moment where a line is drawn, a step is taken, a decision is made, and the will snaps, and they spill. What they spill is rarely of use. We have a continual stream of wasted human life, and for no other reason, than freedom.
“We’ll have another for you tomorrow,” Jones turns away from me and towards a computer, swiping at it, reading some files.
He’s facing away from me and just says, “Get some rest.”
I nod and take some paper towels out of the dispenser on the wall, wrap them around my bleeding knuckles then exit out of the other doorway. I head down the hallway and to my room within the complex.
I make it there and unlock the door and walk into the small room, the light automatically flickers on, and the grey ash walls stand bare in front of me. I sit on the end of the small bed and peel back the paper towels from my knuckles, half dried and stuck. It stings, and I wince and try to pick out the bits that tare away and remain in the red and swollen flesh.
It takes some time.
I look at my hands, then up at the grey and bare room, then down at the bloodied paper on the floor. This is the price of freedom, I think, and I am willing to pay it.