I was weak and vulnerable, trembled with my whole being, and bled from my torn, diseased insides. Then like some menacing melody from the past a huge head appeared at the door gleaming with health and evil.   A hand tugged me back: «Lie with your face to the wall!» and they started trampling on my sides on the sticky trestle-bed. The main one sat on the table and panted satanically then started up on me in earnest. He amused himself by squeezing my Adam’s apple with his thin, strong fingers. They squeezed my groin, then my lungs, then my kidneys, and how my insides leapt when they pressed on my solar plexus and the pen gushed blood on the innocent paper. I stripped naked, feverish and hot. An old crone got the syringe ready in the corner. Terror trampled down my body from hair roots to heels. So they’ll shove the needle in and I’ll crack when I’m half-asleep. He worked on my stomach and squeezed my skull, and then put my forearm in a tourniquet and stopped the flow of blood. I would have screamed but I kept quiet, dry lips locked up, while he, face contorted and sweaty, grunted, wrote and revelled. He flew into a rage - a familiar rage - and I wanted to shout: «What are you scribbling down? Show me your secret rubbish!» His assistant, a former psychopath, bound my wrists; the tarnished instruments of torture were laid out in a row. Though hardened and beaten and stern, I could break like a rope untwisting, but then there’s a lull, and they take them off, and my head lolls and I slump. I lie there like a cowering mouse, but the pen scratches at the table constantly writing something in the notes, although I am saying nothing. No, I have to conserve my strength, I am tired and weak. Soon I’m sure they’ll singe my heels just to make me laugh. I’m strung up on my nerves, absolutely alert, but I feel such disgust: they’ve shoved a stomach probe down my throat and I’ve spat it out. I’m in a vice, I’m held by pincers. They crawl over me and fawn over me now, wanting to find everything out, tease everything out, testing everything blindly. In less than five minutes they’ll extract my soul, change it, defile everything, tear it out, squeeze it and hang it out to dry. Breathe in, breathe in deeper, breathe out or you’ll die! But in your institution if you breathe out you won’t be able to breathe in. I bare my teeth under my parched lips and say: «So that’s it, mates, your game of hide and seek with me will not just pass, my fellow comrades!» They put out the lights and turned on the gas, a plank somehow caught fire. Pus burst from my eyes, my windpipe gurgled. He went into an ecstasy of rage. They dragged in a basin for some reason. I saw this once: a film rather like a trophy of war. They came up behind me and gave me an injection. Shoot it in, you bastards, but let me see it on the record. I managed to get on my knees and pressed my forehead to the basin. I asked threateningly, and demeaned myself with pleading. But they tightened the tourniquet and lit the spirit lamp a ginger she-devil with a hair wick burned constantly. Soon they’ll get down to it. And I, the old clown, try to guess just when the burning lash will strike.   The witches’ sabbath burned white-hot, and the hot sweat flowed. A scream - and a raven settled on a white shoulder. And the nimble raven croaked «Nevermore!» and reminded me that the torture chamber leads straight to the morgue. I still keep up a feeble resistance although to them I’m a simple fool. You will have to answer for this interrogation under torture, you, who have returned to the middle ages, will answer by name, and you will have to hand over to us the notes from the interrogation. I look over his shoulder at what he’s writing.     A yellowed back answered dispassionately: «We don’t need your signature, we know everything anyway.» Dear nurse, don’t be a coward, I will not keep quiet, will not wipe myself out. When I meet with my lawyer I’ll deny my statement. I said nothing to them, I betrayed no one. Tell all of my friends I was true to them. Finishing off the business, he said: «Read it, then, and cool down.» I latched onto the writing, but it was all in Latin. Circles in the eyes, zeroes in the brain. Paranoia vanish! They had just taken down the history of an illness.
© Richard McKane. Translation, 1989