Nameless Faceless

He was awakened by a moan.

It was only as he slowly emerged from his exhausted slumber that he realized that it was his own groan that had incited him to depart the land where he had sat with his family, happily enjoying the butterflies as they pirouetted in majestic swirls of sun blazed colours around the picnic. It was his own groan that prompted him to leave this idyllic world, and reenter the world of here and now. The world of excruciating, all consuming pain.

He had long since given up trying to rise from the rusty bed, which seemed to mock him as it creaked while he battled against his restraints. Each day became the same. The ongoing battle with the flies for the hint of moisture that oozed from the cracks in his dried, swollen lips. The incessant throbbing agony from the beatings of the day before. The time to reflect on what was, what is, and what will be, before the next round of beatings began.

How had this come to pass?

It must have been only a month, although it felt like an eternity, since he had sat with his family in Phnom Penh, huddled around the radio, listening to the advance of the Khmer Rouge. He had assured his loved ones of their security, made promises that he didn’t know he couldn’t keep.

His family, his beloved family had been evacuated with the rest of the citizens to god knows where. He had been identified as an enemy of the new state of Kampuchea. His crime? Soft hands! His delicate office worker hands betrayed him to be an intellectual, and he had been taken to Tuol Sleng for interrogation. Here, he had been tied to a bed, starved and beaten on a daily basis, while being taught the 10 Security Regulations of the Khmer Rouge.

In his near delirious state, his body trembled with laughter although no sound came forth from his parched, inflamed tongue. He slowly, deliberately turned his head to see the 10 tenets through his window. His right eye was swollen shut, his left admitting a mere slit of light. Even though he could recite the tenets by heart by now, it assisted him to see them in his continuing quest to remain sane, or whatever could be referred to as sane in this world of pain, suffering and thirst.

1. You must answer accordingly to my questions. Do not turn them away.

2. Do not try to hide the facts by making pretexts of this and that. You are strictly prohibited to contest me.

3. Do not be a fool for you are a chap who dares to thwart the revolution.

4. You must immediately answer my questions without wasting time to reflect.

5. Do not tell me either about your immoralities or the revolution.

6. While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all.

7. Do nothing. Sit still and wait for my orders. If there is no order, keep quiet. When I ask you to do something. You must do it right away without protesting.

8. Do not make pretexts about Kampuchea Krom in order to hide your jaw of traitor.

9. If you do not follow all the above rules, you shall get many lashes of electric wire.

Darkness briefly passed in front of his window. He shivered.

A guard noisily opened the door to his room. He never ceased to be amazed by the age of his tormentors. These two today, were about the same age as his eldest son. What had become of the age of innocence?

The verbal abuse began immediately, even as they led him past the pools of dried blood on the floor. His dried blood.

At the door he stumbled, and weakly caught the doorframe to keep from falling. As he wearily lifted his head to resume the long, slow walk to the torture chambers, he saw the 10th regulation which had been hidden when viewed from insideā€¦

10. If you disobey any point of my regulations you shall get either ten lashes or five shocks of electric discharge.

His mind must already have entered the realm of insanity, as he laughed when he read this. The laugh came out as a dry gasp, but the guards could see the source of his amusement. Immediately, there was chaos. Guards came running, shouting, gesticulating. They pointed his way, while venomously spitting contempt. He stood there, feeling light headed and detached.

He felt free, as free as he had ever felt. He had transcended above pain, above suffering, above madness. He began to notice the beauty which had been hidden by the ugliness of humanity. He saw the multi coloured birds as they glided effortlessly above him, calling to each other in their sweet melodic voices. He delighted in the sight of an orange and blue lizard as it flitted between the legs of a guard.

The guards roughly turned him away from the torture chambers and brought him around the back of the converted school building. They walked him to the edge of a freshly dug trench. As he was forced to kneel at the lip of the trench, he saw the butterflies, gaily flashing their myriad of colours, the sun piercing the blue sky to illuminate their translucent wings. He was happy.

Even his subconscious did not note the sound of a click behind him as a butterfly proceeded to land on his nose. His dry lips cracked painlessly as he smiled for the first time in weeks. He was back with his family at the picnic.

He didn’t even hear the loud explosion, nor smell the hot acrid stench of gun smoke. As he keeled forward into the trench, he didn’t see the damp, musty earth reach up to grasp him. Instead he rushed toward the outstretched arms of his dazzling wife and adoring children. As his face hit the cold earth, he nestled his head into the warm bosom of his wife, and became entombed in a timeless hug of rapture.

He was with his family again.

He was free.

Nameless Faceless

Donal Lyne

Firies, Ireland

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Tuol Sleng – Khmer Rouge Interrogation Centre: The story of one Nameless faceless man.

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