They kept torturing me, hoping to squeeze out some answers from my heart. I stopped feeling pain a while ago; the sensation of discomfort now a muted ache. They struck my face, my arms, my head, my back, my stomach, and my legs, tied to a rickety aluminum chair. They pleaded with me to answer for my crimes, to assuage the Party, to give in.
The looks on their faces, such pleading eyes and concerned brows, belied the manner in which they were destroying me for refusing to lie.
What was the good in fighting for this long? I could make all of this stop by acquiescing, by participating in the lie. I could admit that I was an enemy of the state, a betrayer of the Party, and all would be well again. My suffering would end, and their faces would resume their regular expression, of defeated fear.
This expression permeated everyone in my city: defeatism. Everyone was not encouraged to lie, nor did they want to lie, they wanted to survive. Man desires to reduce pain, and increase pleasure, not weather hurt for truth.
But I couldn't. I never could.
As a small child, I balked when I was told to stand and plead to an image of our dear leader, for his continuing grace, for the wealth of opportunity he had afforded students. Not to learn for the sake of learning, of course, but to learn about the world mediated through his greatness.
I openly defied my teachers.
Many times I was asked, begged, by my teachers to give in, they could only forestall the beatings for so long.
I didn't care about the beatings.
A vague feeling brew in my heart when the intercom roared every morning at school, asking us to pledge allegiance to our dear leader, and to our dear Party. This feeling was stronger than any childhood irritation, I felt rebellion. I felt an intense dissatisfaction.
Eventually, as I aged, the rebellious actions and attitudes were enough to warrant physical retribution.
The reality of my moral decisions became evident when I turned 12, and I criticized a lecturer for declaring that the economic decisions of our Party had led to an two hundred fold increase in crop yield for our rural town. I knew this was insane, everyone in class knew this was insane. In our rural town, one 45 minute walk to school, past a couple of family farms, would demonstrate that our crop yield didn't increase.
In fact, everything was dead.
Our people were dead.
Our families work themselves to death, trying to increase the yield, in hopes of receiving adulatory attention from the great Party, and some reward to make this existence palatable.
But, of course, it was all for naught.
Anger overtook me, and I sternly stated at the lecturer:
"How can you sit there and lie to young people with a face like yours? Do you feel nothing uttering a script that you know is ridiculous?"
He looked at me, puzzled, but with no fear for my well-being, or for his own, but he looked at me with sadness. This was the first time I saw that vague, defeated look on a man's face up close.
"Good luck to you, young man, good luck."
He sent me to a room in the rear area of my school with the letters DISCIPLINARY ROOM. Two large men escorted me with there, armed with batons. As a young boy, they forced me into this room, and they beat me. They wanted me to apologize. I remember closing my eyes and asking them to not take it easy on me because I was a child.
Back in the chair, the men looked at me, with more pity this time.
"We are forced to do this. We have to do this. We will die if we don't do this. We need to know. Where did you send that information? What VPN program did you use?" the shorter one asked.
"There is no use in this; I will not talk. I have already done my deed, and I am ready to pay the price. Gentleman, I am ready to die."
A smile left my face as I said those words. I expected tears to run down my face, but they did not, instead, I felt freedom.
I made a decision.
You see, after years of growing up constantly accosted for the basic inquisitiveness of childhood, I developed a knack for computer security. I figured out methods to get around the firewalls in our home country, which pervaded our nation's computer systems, by no decision of our own.
I lived a nomadic and miserly existence, scrounging and escaping from place to place, looking for things to send overseas and hurt the image of my native country. Revenge became my way of life, a fuel for my being.
There had to be a way to damage this institution, this COUNTRY, that had taken everything from me. The empty farms of my youth were empty because of THEM, and they were empty in every sense of the term. As a youth, I was not only hungry for food, but the two people in early life that are supposed to guide. The party took those people away from me.
"This is not going to end well for any of us. If we don't get an answer out of you, you will be dealt with, and we will be dealt with." The shorter man said this as he gestured to the taller man, both crouched enough to be at eye level with me.
"This is my life. The party can take it as they please, but I won't give them anything willingly. You have my condolences, for you lack of conviction."
Both men started crying.
"HE IS CRAZY!"
They immediately stood up and paced around my chair, holding their hands in their faces, stomping about, whimpering about their situation, begging me to stop being so selfish, and telling me they had families.
I understood their concern, I really did. But the truth mattered more. The truth mattered more than their family, than my family, than all of the families in this surreal country. My clarity scared them, my comfort with the inevitable terrified them; the Party had them believing death was the worst of all alternatives.
The two men, after their theatrics, left the room. A second man arrived, in full military uniform, straight and stiff as a board. He entered with an entourage of soldiers, but soon shooed them away, and asked for solitude.
The military man, with deep wrinkles in his face, his face a walking cigarette, studied me like one would study an interesting animal, not a human.
"I take it you're a brave one."
"No bravery, just tired."
"Tired of what? Living? You don't have to ruin your country and everyone that knows you if you're tired of that."
"No word games; I have accepted my fate. The information will be sent out to our public and the world public, the Party's failure in all domains will be disseminated everywhere. Your soldiers will know how little they are paid, and well you are paid. There will be nothing to hold the lie together."
"So you just want to destroy everything then?"
"Yes. It doesn't matter what I want anyway. It won't matter what the Party wants either. I don't have faith that our people will make the right decision, or the best decision, but at least, they know they don't have to believe the lie."
His official face soon disappeared, and he looked angry. People in his position have forgotten what it is like to talk to someone who isn't willing to participate in their game. I have sympathy for men like him, his whole life spent participating in theater, never knowing truth, always denying his senses. If the truth ever did enter him, then he was in for a painful state, a suicidal state.
He acknowledged the finality and certainty of my decision with his eyes, and gave me a proud nod, then he walked out of the room, clicking his boots until they became an echo.
I awaited the final call.
My cell was in the center of many other cells, a long row of trapped men and women. As the general left, and other men shut my door, I awaited what was to be the most final of sentences. I heard the other people in my row crying, imploring God, the Party, and all of them, for mercy. I heard men slamming themselves into the doors, desperate to escape the reality of their situation.
I felt for them. None of them were prepared for martyrdom, and neither was I, I was here for the revenge the truth had afforded me. I was at war; I was a soldier. And no soldier goes into war without accepting the possibility of forfeiting his life.
I too, would cry out if I had arrived here unprepared and unwilling.