Yes, this is political. I offer you trigger warnings for language and sexual and racist slurs and comments. Future episodes may also contain rape, abuse, and other unpleasant things.
Chapter 16: Bill Brown #9645990
Bill, rose stiffly from bed at the chimes. It had been two weeks since he’d asked Officer Fernald about writing to his family. Before he knew what was happening, Fernald, someone Bill had thought was pretty nice, given the circumstances, was zapping him with the cattle prod. The officer, while Bill was still writhing on the hall floor, blew a whistle. Three other guards ran up and Fernald began beating him with the prod. The others joined in with their prods and with boots to the back, stomach, anywhere they could reach.
Bill had woken in the infirmary, hands and feet strapped to the bed. A tube was in his mouth, he couldn’t breathe through his nose, and an IV was hooked to his arm. A headache felt like the top of his head was going to blow off. A white-coated doctor came in.
He glanced at the monitor beside the bed, turned so Bill couldn’t see it. “Well, 9645990, you’re a lucky guy.”
Bill didn’t feel lucky. Every part of him hurt.
“I would suggest, in the future, you not ask for anything. You have four broken ribs, a broken arm, kidney damage, and your left femur has a fracture. Your nose is broken, that’s why you can’t breathe through it. I’ll get the nurse to unhook the ventilator. It looks like you’re breathing on your own now.”
Bill grunted. It was all he could do with the ventilator in his mouth.
“I’ll see you get some water. Your mouth is probably very dry.”
Bill managed a small nod.
Bill nodded again, though the movement made his eyes water.
“We’ll get you something for the pain.” He looked at the monitor again. “Trust me on this. The next time you’ll be headed to the morgue.” With that he turned and was gone.
After the nurse came in and unhooked the ventilator, given him some water and took a few minutes to wipe his face. Bill felt somewhat better. The male nurse had been gentle, but all of the activity had ramped up the pain levels. He was happy when the nurse came back and shot something into his IV bag.
“Pain meds. Doc says you can have them for the next twenty-four hours. After that, you’ll have to suck it up.” With that the guy was gone.
A day later, despite the kidney pain, and casts on arm and leg, he was sent, with a crutch, back to his dorm. No one spoke to him.
It was two days before one of his dorm mates told him, they’d all been hit with the cattle prods for his indiscretion. The whole thing was a huge lesson for him. And, he realized, for everyone. They really were nothing but farm animals. Slaves, he finally recognized. And anything any one of them did was going to result in punishment for the whole group. Bill went into a slump, emotionally. It was too much to take in.
After a week, the other men began to talk to him again. George, from his work room, walked with him a moment on the track. “You okay?”
Bill shrugged. “Yeah. I can hobble along, after a fashion. Try and get my strength back.” The crutch hurt him under his arm. Especially since he couldn’t change sides with it. But he’d learned his lesson. He didn’t ask the guards for anything.
“Happens to at least one person in every group. They make an example. Sorry it had to be you.”
“Me too.” Bill nodded to George, then George moved off before one of the guards blew his whistle.
Bill hobbled on. It took him the whole thirty minutes to get around the track once. He was breathless and light-headed as they went back into work. He’d learned his lesson. Now, he watched everything around him. What he’d thought was kindness on the part of any of the guards was simply a strict adherence to their rules. Mostly it was that they weren’t sadistic assholes. And some of the guards were sadistic. They’d cattle prod a man for no reason, then snigger when the man fell to the floor, flopping like a fish out of water.
He noticed they didn’t laugh, though. They eyed the cameras; then would kick the guy they’d just zapped to stand up with a slur matched to the man. Nigger, Spic, Kike—Bill thought those names had been long forgotten, but apparently not. He also realized the guards were under as much scrutiny as the workers were. Perhaps just not punished as much. Though after a month and a half, he recognized that guards were replaced. Especially the sadistic ones. Just one day, someone else would be in the old guard’s place. That was something, he thought to himself. But it didn’t make it much better. He was still a slave. And that stuck in his craw.
Thank you for reading.