Severance

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Perhaps a first chapter to a story. It opens upon a combat outpost where enemy prisoners are taken. This chapter focuses on a young captain confronting the horrors of war and we discover the ill fate that awaits an enemy prisoner.

Submitted: January 21, 2010

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Submitted: January 21, 2010

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Screams echoed up out of the stone ground. Blood curdling screams that would abruptly change in pitch and tone, indications of some new and unimaginable pain being inflicted. Men made strange sounds under the will of such horrible pain. The young captain approaching the dungeon considered for a moment that this was unusual knowledge. Whereas it was abundantly known here, he reminded himself that it was not so elsewhere in the world. In more civilized places men did not know things like this. Men did not know the best ways to keep a prisoner conscience and feeling the maximum amount of pain while keeping him conscience and out of shock. There were places out there where people didn’t know the smell of burning human flesh or the sight of indiscriminate executions made by soldiers who seemed no more bothered by running a blade through a man than swatting a fly away from his face. The captain often tried reminding himself that this was not the way of the whole world, and that this was not who he had become. Though it was his job to be the administrator of this hell, and his burden to witness and experience these horrors day in and day out, it was only his job and he was only following orders. He sometimes wondered why he seemed to make it a point to remind himself of these things. Some days this question made him sick with himself. He wondered if he was a monster trying to convince itself it was not so. Other days he remembered that he was a civilized and educated man, and that he checked his realities against his values because of his enduring sense of humanity. Above all else he did not want to lose his humanity. He never wanted to feel nothing at the sight of mass graves or the burning of men at the stake. But because these things were often done on his orders, perhaps his humanity was the price of his position, his constant attempts to justify or excuse these atrocities were just further proof that he had changed for the worst, and would never be the same again. His mentor and superior officer, Major Groves, had once told him that war inevitably changes men and it is the men who fight against that change that end up having the most problems once returned to civilian settings. As this was his first tour in theater, the captain had not yet experienced how he may have changed. Would his wife notice? Would she be able to look into his eyes and would they speak to her the volumes of horror they had witnessed? Would she see his guilt, his struggle and his torment? Would she know he had ordered the slaughter of hundreds but had never taken a life himself? Would she think him a coward?

In the dark of night and when he thought of his wife and family and his return home, he imagined himself on his horse, trotting through the streets of Varum, his home town. The streets were lined with adoring crowds, all bowing their heads to him as he passed, all waving and cheering at his glorious return. His chest was adorned with assorted ribbons and medals, all insinuating to everyone else what he knew to be lies, that he was a hero and a formidable warrior. He would not care what the truth was as long as he was regarded in such a high manner back home. His desire for glory was what attracted him to becoming a officer in the army after he had completed his studies. Once he had joined and was faced with the realities of war, he knew in his heart that he would never want to meet an opponent on the battlefield in single combat. He did not want to use his sword to cut into another mans body, he could not even comprehend the horror of a blade cutting into his. He was just fine with people believing otherwise; for believing that he was a brave and deadly warrior, a great leader on the battlefield. He had already begun conjuring up tales of his heroism to entertain the town hall with upon his return. In reality, he had made every possible effort in the choosing of his assignments to avoid leading men into combat, hence his current position.

“Captain Bilbrey”!, yelled an excitable guard who stood watch on the walk way of the stone wall that encompassed the camp. Below the guard was a double door that lied flat with the stone ground that tiled the large court yard. This was an entrance to one of the several interrogation rooms. “This one’s a real bag of air, eh sir”!

Captain Bilbrey gave the guard a dumb, questioning look. “Don’t tell me you haven’t been hearin dis one all morning sir”!

Bilbrey, who had been walking aimlessly while in thought was suddenly brought back to reality again by another high pitched scream coming from the room below. Bilbrey gave a start at the scream and took a hard blink of his eyes to compose himself. He immediately looked up at the wall guard to see if it had been noticeable that the scream had shaken him.

“You alright sir”? The guard had a condescending tone in his voice, his words spoken more like a comment than a question. He regarded the captain with squinted eyes and curl of his lip in the corner of his mouth.

“Just fine,” he paused for a moment “sentinel. You do know that the description of your duties are to keep your eyes up and looking out on the OTHER side of this wall, right”?

The guard gave a sneer and reached up to give his helmet a slight tilt to the captain. “You’re quite right captain, I thank your kindness in reminding me”. He stared at the captain for just long enough to be insubordinate, but not so long that the captain felt it could warrant any further action. At any rate, his soldiers of the prison camp often treated him this way. He did not have their respect and so such behavior was not at all uncommon. The previous commander of the camp went about business quite a different way than Bilbrey did. His name had been Captain Uralls. He had spent a great deal of time talking to his men, inquiring as to how their personal lives had been going, asking who had won the card game the night before, or personally delivering the new batch of slave girls to the barracks. He was a loud, obnoxious, lewd and cruel man, but he loved his troops. He genuinely cared for them and it was obvious to his men who in turn, gave him their utmost respect and loyalty.

Capt Bilbrey went about business in an entirely different way. He saw himself as above his soldiers and thought it to be lowering himself to their level to have casual conversations with them. He didn’t associate with them ever. At meals he would sit only with his lieutenants whom he ordered to sit with him rather than with their platoons. Bilbrey didn’t have the respect of his subordinate officers either. His position in the camp was ensured only by rank, formality and tradition.

As the captain approached the entrance to the interrogation room, a gigantic, bald man covered in grime and blood came up the stairs. As he surfaced he squinted and shielded the bright of day from his eyes with a hand covered completely in dried blood. Sgt. Drenn had been down there in the dark room with his prisoner for a long time.

“Sgt. Drenn, have you made any progress with the courier”? Captain Bilbrey did his best to maintain eye contact with Drenn. He did his best to speak to him in a tone that sounded confident and in charge. He had to make a conscience effort to maintain a confident demeanor because Sgt. Drenn scared the very wits out of Bilbrey. This massive, beast of a man seemed to be just that, a beast. Never before had Bilbrey seen a man so deprived of any regard for human pain and suffering and he had seen the worst of the worst here in this place. Just as some men are gifted with talents for art, metallurgy, or architecture, Sgt. Drenn had a talent for killing and making men suffer unthinkable pain. He had been Chief Interrogator since Bilbrey had arrived at this post. Drenn’s reputation had preceded him for Captain Bilbrey had heard of his celebrity while still back in Varum’s military barracks and deployment staging area. This man was known the army over for being a monster, and in this army, there could be no more vile or deadly reputation.

“You were right to give this one to me sir, I’ve gained information I need to brief you on immediately. Action will need to be taken as soon as possible.” Drenn’s voice was deep, growling and underlined with serious purpose. Bilbrey took a moment to take in the sight that was Drenn, a man at least a head taller than he himself was and Bilbrey was fairly tall. His chest and shoulders seemed to be twice the width a normal man. His arms were masses of knotted, bulging muscle, his legs were like tree trunks of the same. Drenn’s neck seemed to be the size of a normal man’s thigh and his massive, bald head and sharp features gave him the appearance of what Bilbrey thought a god of war would look like. Bilbrey thought it no surprise that the courier had divulged information to Sgt. Drenn, regardless of its importance. Bilbrey imagined that at the sight alone of this man, he would divulge the whereabouts of his own mother to the enemy. Captain Bilbrey shuddered at the thought that Drenn’s appearance was the nicest thing about him, that his unique knowledge of torture had gained him notoriety across an entire army.

“Sgt. Drenn, assemble the lieutenants, clean yourself up, and have everyone report to the war room in half an hour.”

Normally an enlisted man would clap a hand to his chest and bow slightly at the waist in response to the orders such as these from an officer, but Drenn only gave a slight nod and walked away. Bilbrey hardly thought to correct him. Out of sheer, morbid curiosity, Bilbrey walked down into the interrogation room to see what Drenn had done to the courier who had been such a valuable prize to catch. Bilbrey first noticed the smell before he saw the man. There was a distinct scent of urine and blood. Bilbrey heard the whimpers and sharp gasps for air from the courier. The room was dark, dimly lit by torches that were placed in each corner. As Bilbreys eyes came in to focus he found himself instantly nauseated at the sight of the man. The courier was stripped naked, blood seemed to cover every inch of his body, it dripped from him in thick, sticky tendrils as it coagulated, a significant pool of it had accumulated on the floor at the mans feet. Bilbrey could see the man was quite muscular, though not large or bulky. Barbed wire had been wrapped around each of his wrists and held his arms spread and above his head from a pulley system on the ceiling of the dank room. Both of h is legs had been bound together at the ankles by the razor wire. This line had also been routed from a pulley in the ceiling. The three lines had been pulled as such as to completely suspend the man , his legs out in front of him as the other two lines pulled his arms back behind him. This left him in a reclined position in mid air. Captain Bilbrey could see dozens of cuts that had been made on the man’s arms, legs, and torso. The features of the couriers face were nearly indeterminable as both eyes were so badly swollen that he was not sure if the prisoner could open them to see him. His cheeks were gouged with deep cuts, his lips ripped open by blunt force. Captain Bilbrey was certain that this was what the underworld must have been like for those who were damned. He was gazing upon hell and whereas he thought he knew something about hell before, this sight left him dumbfounded. Despite all the atrocities he had witnessed in his position here, all the apparent horrors that could possibly behold a man that he had never fathomed could be outdone, he suddenly realized how naïve he was. From gazing upon this sight Captain Bilbrey realized that there was a whole other different world of pain and suffering that he had never contemplated. Captain Bilbrey himself felt terrible pain for this man. He found his breathing to be erratic, he was sweating uncontrollably, his eyes were laden with thick tears that wouldn’t quite fall. The courier himself was in obvious pain, he was taking sharp, deep breaths. Every time a muscle spasm in his arms or legs the courier made a sound between whimpering and screaming.

Captain Bilbrey looked down at the mans clothes and armor that had been thrown on a chair and noticed the royal emblem of his people adorned on a chest plate. At this a further pain shot deeper into the captain for this man. Bilbrey knew that the Empire would choose only the best of men to be royal couriers. Bilbrey began humanizing this bloody pulp that lay suspended in pain in front of him. He knew that this man had probably been educated, that he had worked hard in his career to gain the trust of Imperial Royalty. Bilbrey could see in this man; heart, determination, motivation, and ambition. For as long as he held out against Drenn, he knew this man had nearly unparalleled loyalty and love for his people. Bilbrey knew that at this moment, this poor man was not only in excruciating physical pain, but also great emotional pain because of the information he had divulged to Drenn. He had betrayed his people, and many of his kind would die now because of that. Bilbrey knew that he was looking at a man who was in the deepest fathoms of pain, despair, and heartache. He was witnessing the worst moment of the worst hour of the worst day of this formidable man’s entire life.

Bilbrey suddenly felt a great deal of despair himself. His heart hurt for this man.

“Courier, my name is Captain Bilbrey. I am the commander of this prison and combat outpost. After receiving intelligence of your location and purpose, it was under my orders that twenty of my best men were sent to intercept you”.

The courier said nothing. He did nothing to acknowledge the captain.

Captain Bilbrey went on, “What is your name”?

The captain moved into better light and to an angle where he thought the suspended man might have been able to see him better. As he did so the prisoner turned his head very slowly towards the captain. Bilbrey couldn’t tell if the courier was even able to see, his eyes were paper thin slits surrounded by massively swollen tissue.

“Go on now, tell me your name. I’m not going to hurt you any further.”

The courier was able to see something in the captain, maybe compassion or maybe fear. Either way it was disarming and he knew the captain was not like the brute who had left him some minutes earlier, the man who had done so much horror to him. As Bilbrey stared at him he made an effort open his mouth and in doing so caused his body to shift weight in mid air, thus sending an array of different muscles into agonizing spasm. He screamed. Upon seeing the mans effort to speak and the resulting pain, Bilbrey rushed over to the cranks that held the wire taught against the prisoner. Bilbrey took out the locking pins on the three cranks and released the courier slowly to the floor.

Upon touching the floor the courier curled up slightly into himself. He began taking in deep breaths of relief. He never thought he would be relieved of that unbelievable pain. As he had been tortured, his mind had been unable to comprehend the exquisite level of pain, and as it shot through every fiber of his being like molten venom running through his veins into every last tiny part of himself, his mind kept telling him that the pain had to stop soon. It kept telling him that something this horrible couldn’t possibly last for another second, that he would die if he felt this pain for more than one more second. But when he didn’t die, and the pain continued and actually began to intensify exponentially, every second had seemed like an eternity. The last hour of his life may had well of been a hundred lifetimes of horror and agony. Even though his body was shredded, he didn’t think he had ever felt as much relief as he did right now as he was laying on that floor. An eternity of torture just ended for him.

“Thank you…thank you..’ he coughed blood and curled his arms and legs back into himself even more.


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