20081031

Echo of Victory

I'm going to switch things up a bit. This time around, I've posted a short work of fiction as food for thought. Enjoy!

Echo of Victory
By C.E. Anderson

The single fluorescent light buzzed mutedly, the only audible disturbance in the otherwise silent chamber. It strained to cast its green glow across the barren white-washed block room, barely illuminating only a table, chair, and three persons. One of these sat at the center of the light in the chair at the table, his incarcerated hands resting on the surface of the elevated plane. His orange jumpsuit radiated an eerie neon quality given it by the lighting. He was calm, composed, resolute, staring into space as if his current situation was but a mere trifle and below his notice.

The remaining beings were two plainclothes officers who stood opposite the prisoner in the shadows along the wall, the only thing giving away their status being the badges that hung on their belts and the sidearms strapped to their thighs. One was a rookie, fresh out of the academy and on his first month of duty. But any officers who underestimated him had already been proven sorely mistaken; having graduated at the top of his class, in his short time on the force he had already been instrumental in the apprehending of several dangerous fugitives, like the one seated across from him. Now he was conducting his first interrogation. His young face hardened in thought as he sized up the prisoner, trying to decide what approach he would use.

The second officer was a seasoned veteran, bald head glistening in the pasty light as he rubbed the stubble on his chin. He’d seen his share of whackos before, and had interrogated enough of them to know how this would play out. He was only there as the supervising officer, a sort of moral support for the rookie as the younger man learned the ropes. He would let the kid burn out his energy, but he wouldn’t learn anything useful, no matter what cockamamie techniques he’d just learned at the academy. This nut wasn’t going to say anything. None of the ones like him ever did.

Davis, the younger, glanced at Silverman, the older, who promptly gave him a soft nod. It was time to get the ball rolling.

“Mr. Patterson,” Davis began, stepping into the light and leaning on the table in front of the prisoner, “Are you aware of how precarious a position you are in?”

Patterson just glanced at him stone faced, silence his only reply.

“Well then, let me illuminate you as to your situation,” continued Davis, taking the silence for smugness. “Best case scenario, and I mean best case scenario, you’re looking at twenty-five to life. As things stand, the death penalty is much more likely, I would say even probable.” As a matter of fact, Patterson was all but guaranteed death.

The slightest grin cracked on Patterson’s face as he stared emptily at the table. Did he think that was funny?

Davis ignored it and pressed on. “But, the chances of you receiving the lighter sentence become much more likely if you will cooperate with our investigation. So, do you have anything you want to tell us?”

Still no reply. Davis switched gears.

“Come on man,” he said softly, leaning in towards Patterson, “I want to help you, I really do. But you’ve got to help me for that to be possible, see? What do you say?”

Patterson looked up and stared into Davis’ eyes. There was no fear in the convict’s pupils, only confident certainty. It started to unnerve Davis; he hadn’t ever seen anything like it. Patterson’s crimes were capital; he was a dead man walking. He would have to be crazy not to be at least a little afraid. But crazies always wanted to brag about what they had done and run their mouths. This guy was silent as a stone and cool as a cucumber. Davis didn’t get it.

“You don’t talk much do you?” said Davis, straightening up.

Patterson didn’t break his silent streak.

Silverman, who was still leaning against the wall, pulled a cigarette out of the pack he had in his rear pocket with his left hand. He extracted a lighter with his right hand, and proceeded to light up. He puffed away in silence for a moment as the two other men stared at each other.

“Give it up, kid,” he said between drags. “He’s not going to tell you anything.”

Davis ignored his partner and pressed on: “How many of you are there in the city?... Where do you meet?... How do you communicate with one another?... Do you interact with other cells around the country?” Davis fired off questions rapidly without waiting for a reply, not that there would have been one anyway. “With every one of these questions that you help us answer, your chances of getting a lighter sentence increase.”

Only eyes responded, unwavering, unrelenting, unnervingly calm eyes!

“I just don’t get you fanatics,” said Davis after several moments of silent irritation, “I really don’t. You go around in open rebellion, knocking on death’s door like you’re playing ding-dong-ditch. It’s disgusting.”

“Do you fear death?”

Davis almost jumped; Patterson had actually opened his mouth!

“Of course I do,” replied Davis several seconds later after recovering from the surprise. “Anyone with half a brain fears death.”

“Why?”

“Probably because no one really knows what happens when you die.”

Patterson grinned: “I do.”

“Every religion claims to know,” huffed Davis. “Buddha has his nirvana, Allah his forty virgins, and God his heaven, and then you have the atheists like me who say there’s nothing. What makes you so sure you know?”

A change came over Patterson. A passion washed over his face and a fire burned in his eyes.

“It’s the same assurance that has taken away my fear, the same assurance that has given me peace, the assurance that regardless of what you do to my body you can’t kill my soul, the same assurance that one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!”

Davis didn’t respond, taken aback. Perhaps Patterson was crazy after all; that was all nonsense after all… wasn’t it?

“You can kill me, officer,” Patterson went on after pausing, “but I know I would go on to a better place. If our situations were reversed, could you say the same? Would you have my peace, or would you be terrified out of your mind?” Patterson’s eyes were all but glowing, and demanded an answer.

Davis was quiet for a moment, then said: “You’d have to be crazy to believe what you do, but you’re not crazy. How can you be so certain, so peaceful?”

“It’s not as crazy as it sounds,” Patterson said with a warm smile, his face coming to life. “If you’d like, I can tell y…”

The bullet entered Patterson’s skull, not letting him finish the sentence. Blood and brain matter splattered against the block wall behind, and Patterson’s shell collapsed lifelessly onto the table. The gunshot echoed loudly for what seemed like an eternity as Davis stared in shock.

Silverman replaced the still smoking pistol to its holster, took a final drag from his cigarette, then tossed it to the floor and stamped it out.

“He was getting to you, kid,” said the old officer, concentrating on his shoe as he rubbed the cigarette in to the floor. “It happens to the best of us, but you can’t let them get to you like that.”

“Y…you’re right, of course,” stammered Davis, still trying to recover. He had seen plenty of videos of people dying, but had never witnessed it himself. Now he knew he never wanted to again.

“Well,” Silverman said looking up at the body, “chalk up another win for the good guys. Hopefully, soon all the Christians will be just like him.” He turned and headed for the door. “C’mon kid, let’s get something to eat. I’m starving.”

Davis followed, almost stumbling as the queasiness hit him. He cast one last glance over his shoulder at the body before leaving the room. He could almost swear Patterson was still staring at him from the pillow of pooling blood around his head on the table. Something Patterson had said had struck a chord somewhere deep within, and Davis couldn’t shake the sinking feeling that somehow, he and Silverman had in reality lost. There was an echo of victory in Patterson’s lifeless eyes as the empty gaze bored a hole in Davis’ soul.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” — Tertullian