in the Keep

My Keeper took some pleasure in interrogating me. I knew well what he was doing, perhaps better than he: asking questions that made no sense; commanding me to explain why I had done things I had not done, and about which I knew nothing; moving me from place to place, but all underground, so that I would lose all sense of time; allowing me only enough rest so that I could survive the next session; and so on.

He plainly appreciated that torment of the mind is more effectual than violence to the body: I was given moldy bread and foul water, and deprived of any covering but the filthy night garment in which I had been arrested, but although the guards were quite rough when they hauled me to and fro in the Keep, they never struck me or hurt me in any other way.

He also showed considerable intuition in teasing out my weaknesses: his probings rarely failed to produce some outburst of impatience or indignation, and this gratified him greatly, as if I had disclosed essential information — which, in the way of these things, I had just done.

I confess I was fascinated by this reversal of roles, at how easily I lost my grip on my feelings — and it made no difference that I knew exactly what he was doing, could even predict when he would do it. Naturally he never left me alone long enough to regain my composure, to steel myself for the next onslaught.

But my Keeper and I also knew well that the longer our sessions went on, the more durable my resistance might become; in such matters, it is imperative to break the Client's will before his weakness finds its strength.

And my tormentor, though able, even talented, was unseasoned, his eagerness in his work too unfocused and raw. I could tell that he was personally concerned in this matter.

When he saw me see this in him, it was an electrifying moment for us both.

Even I, with my greater experience, did not expect the wiliness of his next gambit. He humbly asked me to evaluate his technique.

He said he had long been in awe of me: I was a legend. He said he considered it a personal honor to be allied with me; he said, in fine, that he would much prefer for me to be his teacher than his prisoner.

When I merely gaped at him, he did exactly what I would have done: he directed the Bone-Snapper to break my thumbs.

Of course this was not necessary, for in that moment my will shattered and I gave up, gave in, surrendered to whatever torture lay in store, even welcomed it — not because I deserved it: I deserved nothing, I was entitled to nothing, there was nothing left to me to defend —

— and my heart flooded with love.

Little children, this is how helpless we are. We armor ourselves with possessions, with alliances, with principles; we shake these things in each other's faces, hackles raised, quivering with wrath; we huddle together in families, in nations, in mobs; we say "this but not that", we say "you but not your brother", we say "us", we say "them". We say "save us!", we say "No."


I do not know how much longer I remained in the Keep — probably not long. I seem to remember being bathed like a baby in warm water and sweet-smelling soap by two cooing women who dried me and wrapped me in a soft blanket, then rolled me into bed, where I must have slipped immediately into dreamless sleep — unless the whole experience was a dream.

At some later moment I was led out of doors into blazing sunlight, a pack was loaded onto my back, straps cinched around my shoulders, a staff put into my hand. Then I was alone.

Before me lay the wilderness, our home...