The Inferno, December 22 –
It was time for the shift change in the furnace room. “How’d it go?“ asked Modoc, who was just coming on.
“I don’t know,” said Belial, the group leader he was replacing. “Maybe I’m getting too old for this shift. Century after century, the same old shift. Make sure the rotisseries keep turning, baste the clients on the half hour… I’ll be glad when this batch moves on to the waterboard. You won’t hear all that whining about people being thirsty after the first few minutes of being tilted downward, their faces covered with plastic, while heavy streams of water pour into their mouths and noses.”
“Well I’ve got something that will improve your mood,” chortled Modoc. “Did you hear about the Boss’s new gimmick?”
“I got a hot tip,” said Belial. “Isn’t it beautiful? Absolutely fiendish!” The tip of his forked tail quivered like a cat’s when it’s stroked.
“You’ve got to give the Boss credit. He knows a good idea when he comes across one, and he’s not afraid to swipe it,” said Modoc admiringly.
“Hey, I’ve always given the Boss credit for stealing!”
“Sure, sure. No offense meant.”
“Spreading the story we don’t torture in Hell! Isn’t that a hoot?!” Belial gave an evil smile. “How’s he gonna work it?”
“He’s paid some columnists to write the stories and bribed some papers to run them,” said Modoc.
“A page from the Bush administration! All the news that’s fit to plant! What happens then?”
“He says there are plenty of fools out there who’ll read them and figure they’re got a blank check to do anything their shriveled souls desire. Why not launch a war? Or bomb civilians? Or poison the landscape with uranium? Or sell government to the highest bidder? There won’t be hell to pay because we don’t ‘torture’ any more.”
“That’s what I can’t figure out. The Boss always keeps his end of the bargain. But you’d better read the fine print with a microscope before you sign on the dotted line. What’s the catch this time?”
“It’s so simple you’ll wish you’d thought of it. He’s just redefined ‘torture’ in a way that allows us to do almost anything we want.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. What’s his definition of torture?”
“’Interrogation methods severe enough to cause organ failure or death.’”
“The Devil you say! That’s it? Anything else is fair game?”
“So we can still roast people over fires? And waterboard them? And pull out their fingernails? And pierce their eardrums with needles? And drill holes in their teeth with no anesthetic? And hit them in the mouth with a hammer? And force them to stay in agonizing positions for days on end? And attach electric wires to their nipples and testicles? And wake them every twenty minutes? And piss on their Bibles and Korans? The full works?”
“That’s the beauty of it. Do any of those things cause organ failure or death?—not that death is an issue here. They just hurt like hell.”
“Well, that’s the idea, isn’t it? So we just keep on torturing the same as we always have, but it’s not ‘torture’ anymore because of the definition. That’s a hell of an idea!”
“And since everybody here is already dead…”
“The depth’s the limit! How in Hades did he come up with that definition?”
“You know damned well where he got it! The same place he’s been getting all those other neat ideas: W, Vice, and Rummy. Aren’t they a hell of a team? The President got his own lawyer, Alberto Gonzalez, to sign off on this one.”
“Are you sure this wasn’t the Boss’s idea to begin with?”
“Give these guys some credit, will you. Listen, if we don’t watch it, they’ll have our jobs. They came up with this one all on their own.”
“But he’s planted ideas with them before….”
“Oh sure. The tax breaks for the rich to steal from the poor. The Patriot Act to invade people’s private lives. The campaign of lies to invade Iraq. He’s given them a ton of ideas.”
“How does he do it?”
“Nothing to it. He just whispers in the President’s ear, and the President thinks it’s a message from God!”
© Tony Russell, 2005