There are twelve windows in this room.
They say one of the windows leads me to my freedom, to a life outside of all this. The other eleven lead me back to more of the same, or maybe worse. Although it's hard to imagine what might be worse. They say that the imagination is the most powerful tool for torture, but I've seen some stuff that puts the unknown to shame. For example, there's a thing called the threader.
The thread - a thin, non-reactive metal cable - goes in your mouth, and you have to swallow. You get a break while they wait for it to come out the other end. When it does, they pull it until there's a loop with its center inside of you. Then they hook both ends to a centrifuge and start spinning you around the room.
Did you know your intestinal tract has a tensile strength, a tearing point? Everything does, really. Even the soul. The threader takes you right up against that limit. I've seen strong men cry and later shit blood; I've seen weak men resist until they were torn in half from the inside out.
I'm somewhere in the middle. That's probably why they put me in the window room to begin with. For those who can endure torment of the body, there's always torment of the mind to consider.
And what better way to torture a prisoner than offering him a choice? I know that if I choose wrong, I'll recriminate myself until I'm torn apart just as surely as if I'd spent an hour on the threader. I know that if I choose right, the whole thing might have been an exercise in false hope. It'd only work once, but once would be enough.
So I say nuts to the whole thing. I sit in the window room. I close my eyes. I must look like I'm thinking, or praying, or maybe even shitting. After you've watched a man's bowels rupture and spray feces across the room in a wide arc, shitting for an audience isn't as embarrassing.
Time passes. I know this can't please them. They wanted to watch me choose and doubt and panic and fail. This has to be a disappointment on the order of the other prisoner who died of a heart attack before they even got to him. It wasn't even a heart attack from fear, just a congenital defect that picked that moment to give the guy the easy way out.
Oh how we all paid for that.
There's a click behind me. I ignore it. Remember what I said about the imagination? Whatever I can come up with in the dark of my mind is still better than their reality. There's another click. Now I'm terrified and curious. Click.
I turn my head and behold a forest of densely packed needles that now covers a quarter of the floor. As I watch another row silently rises, the click only coming when the floor first opens. Intuition tells me they could have made the entire process completely noise free, but the click is part of the fun.
There's a time limit for my choosing, then. Or maybe they just got impatient. Either way, I have about a minute before the needles press my flesh aside and join everything else under my skin. Maybe I should lie here. Maybe I should let it happen. Needles are as good an end as any other. At least my death wouldn't be pointless, ha ha.
But no. My problem, aside from the obvious, is that there's a part of me that won't give in; there's a blind idiot god in the dark of my brain who just won't let the ride stop. And wouldn't you know it? He's got the wheel.
I feel myself rising, rising like the needles, and in just as much control. I take a step, then another towards one of the windows. Which one doesn't matter, I now realize. Maybe the windows don't open. Maybe all the windows lead back here. Maybe life is just another window room we place ourselves in, and time takes the place of the needles, every tick of the second hand another sharp row in place.
I choose a window. Don't we all?