The Greatest Wall
Why do interrogation cells always seem to drip? Why are they so dark and still. With that one light?
It reaches in again. Scrapes at my psyche. Those words. Words I need to say.
Asylum or death!
Asylum or death!
That’s what he told me. More or less. It's hard to tell. I don't speak Spanish. But I think that was what he was saying. I'm pretty sure.
But I'm so thirsty. Maybe he was saying something else. So parched. That had to be what he said.
The metal chair is hard and cold. It numbs my legs. I don't even feel them now. Just two hunks of flesh below me.
Rusty bolts attach the chair's legs to the stained concrete floor. Stains I don't want to think about.
The room is cold. I am aware of an odor. Dirty shoes, dust and tacos. And something else. Something dead or dying. Me.
On the scarred metal table in front of me, is a single yellowed sheet of paper. It’s blank. The paper has been there for a long time. An ancient prop. I screw my eyes up at it. The paper is not real. A facsimile. I blow at it. It does not move.
I have a pen in my right hand. The pen is trembling. The pen is also not real. It's a piece of plastic. A child's toy. I drop it. It clatters onto the table, rolls over the fake paper and off the other side, where it drops to the concrete floor.
My left hand is restrained. The greasy handcuff is looped through a metal cable on the side of the table. The legs of the table are bolted to the floor, like the chair.
I put myself elsewhere. In a cushioned chair. A television in front of me. I'm in the wide open. There is a city in the distance. Anything to get my mind from this place.
There is another chair across from me. It has a cushion and looks very comfortable. It’s made of rough polished wood, has wheels and it reclines. I want to sit there, but I can't. The other chair taunts me with its promise of comfort. I imagine myself there, leaning back, sipping a glass of water, ice cubes tinkling.
Now I'm back in my cushioned chair, but my television is broken. And I am still alone.
The man who was sitting in the recliner, across from me, was taking a piss break. That’s what he said. But he said it like “Peeze b’dake.” He’s a Mexican Federal Official of some sort. He likes to rock in the recliner in front of me and make it squeak. And play with his mustache. Twist the ends and smile in quick little mustache covered grins.
“Asylum or death,” he said, repeatedly. Only it came out, “Azileem or deeth.”
I nodded to him. “Yes sir.” But I didn’t write anything. I couldn't. I played along.
“I’d like my lawyer.”
“Asylum or death!” He was exasperated. Then he took his break. That was hours ago. Or maybe it was yesterday.
Over the table, hanging from a cord, is one light bulb. It flickers and buzzes like an angry wasp. The bulb is one of those clear kinds with that blinding filament and reminds me where I am. In some kind of interrogation room. How I got here, I do not know.
The only difference between the four concrete walls, besides their cracks, is that one of them has a old steel door. There is a cracked mirror-window in the door at head level and a waist high food slot that appears rusted shut.
After the Mexican Fed left, two army types came in. They took my clothes then and left. They never said a word. Just yanked off my shirt. Cut off my pants. Took my shoes, socks and underwear. They were not nice about my underwear. I am still sore where they pulled and twisted. I screeched like a girl when they pulled.
I am naked and swollen now and I’ve lost track the time.
“Asylum or death.” I keep hearing that. But there is no one there. The cushioned chair is empty. Taunting. Squeak-less. Silently loud.
More hours whisper by. Days that I cannot recall. Moments become locked in some weird half lived dimness that substitutes for this new reality. The it all breaks open, spins away.
The door opens again. Gives its signature squawk and clangs shut. I am disoriented. Snapped awake from the daydream. What time is it I wonder? What day?
A nurse enters. She's wearing a white nurse's dress and not one of those colorful smocks you see at most hospitals. She is Hispanic, kind of pretty, and has nice eyes. She is wearing an old fashioned hat as well. Like she's about to serve me fast-food.
Have they a stage somewhere I wonder? A place where they keep various uniforms and fake plastic pens.
In one hand the nurse, if she really is a nurse, because her uniform smells musty and is wrinkled, holds out one of those open-backed hospital gowns. It looks dull and ragged, smells of urine and stale sweat, but I take it with my free hand.
She helps me into it, having to rip out one arm, because I am attached to the table. I feel awkward, but thankful. I admire the flowers on the gown for a moment, ignore its reawakened aroma, then I look up.
“I am thirsty.” I say it slowly. Hoping she can understand. I remember then. "Agua?" My mind transports me. I'm holding a bottle of water high. Pouring it into my mouth. It is so good. So cold in my throat. "Agua," I say again, pleading now.
She understands. Reaches into her bag. A white bag with a big red cross on it. Yet another prop. Like a child's toy nurse bag. She pulls out a bottle of water. Hands it to me quickly. It has no label.
“Gracias,” I said. I am too thirsty. The water is refreshing, but sweet and chemically. The aftertaste tickles my throat, but I don't care.
She folds her arms. “Asylum or death?” she asks in flawless English.
“Must I?” I say after a moment. I wonder who she is. Why they sent her in, if she wasn't here to help me.
“If you want to remain in Mexico, Señor, you must ask for asylum.”
So I'm in Mexico, I think. I made it. Why this then? Why must I ask? Some test? Isn't it obvious? Was I a spy to them then? Some criminal?
I know the deal. The back story. What we heard in the interior. Pancho Cesar Villa would accept you in Mexico if you asked for asylum. It was all over the internet. YouTubed to death. Colleges were dealing with riots the world over. “Tear down that wall!” they said -- from their dorm rooms. “End the Embargoes!”
Graffiti was painted everywhere. Even on the dome of the abandoned U.S. Capitol Building, according to the news. But I found it difficult to believe. I had taken trips to Washington as a child. Seen the Golden Domes of Trumpus Maximus. Washington was now the City of Gold, not a pile of ruins. Empire Square Tower was adorned with a billion diamonds.
So the news was a lie. Had to be. Surely that new wall around Washington was to protect our heritage, but I knew better. It was just in case. Just in case we revolted.
But life inside the wall was a sham as well. Everybody wanted to defect from America. It was all true.The wall did not kept us safe. It keep us inside. There were no hoards of Mexicans and terrorists at the walls. No attacks upon the United Empire of America. Just freedom beyond it. Even if only a wasteland.
The nurse is patient. Gazing at me now. She takes the chair opposite me. “This is a mistake, Señor.”
"Do you?" She smiled. "Admit it."
"That you sneaked in. That you want asylum. You hate the Empire."
I thought about it. Maybe it was time to admit it. Stop playing games. Maybe there was a Pancho Villa whatever. Maybe he did want asylum seekers to repopulate Mexico. Maybe the Mexicans weren't kidnapping anyone from the Empire.
I thought if I was finally safe outside of the Empire and beyond the walls, then all of the stories about the wastelands were lies.
Everybody knew that we were slaves in the Empire. Few would admit it. That Americans -- slaves -- were defecting. Hell I was defecting and I wouldn't dare admit it. Not yet.
I made it though the wall drains. Crawled my way through them for two days. Feces and rats. Urine and bones. But I made it. Came out in a land of mud, rubble and smog. Found this building in that smog. Banged on the door. A steel giant guarding heaven or hell.
Then the soldiers came. In khaki uniforms. Arrested me. Took me to hell. It's where I am now, until I think of my cushioned chair. My broken television. The open air auditorium in my head.
"I want Asylum, " I finally said. "I confess. I want asylum." I repeated it. I felt a weight lift. My heart hollow.
The nurse's smile widened. "Good Señor. That is good."
Something felt wrong now. The fake nurse. The props. I couldn't figure it.
Her hand went into her bag. Out came a syringe. “You must understand. Asylum is punishable by death."
I'm in shock. The syringe is full of blue liquid. I instinctively pull my body away. The restraints bite into my wrists and ankles, but I'm barely aware that I am cutting myself. Bleeding.
"Shall I use this?” She held up the syringe. Always that small smile.
It was difficult to answer her. “Why?” I asked.
“Señor. You are a fool." She tossed the syringe away. It's on the floor now. Yet another prop. Blue liquid that was not liquid at all. Just painted there.
I stare at her. Then keys rattling in the door and cursing in Spanish. I looked at the fake pen on the floor. The toy syringe again. The yellow paper on the table, that is not paper. What am I missing? I try to think.
The nurse glances at my empty bottle of water, and I know now. Her gentle practiced smile. It tells all. The water. Something in the water. I had been poisoned by the damned water. That is her smile -- my death.
“No last meal?” I asked.
I can't hold onto my open space. My imagined cushioned chair is fading. My television is gone. The ground darkens. Changes back into its true self. A concrete floor here in this cell. This eternal hell. Stained stinking floor.
The nurse leaves. Turns and exits through the now opened door.
The fat little Mexican Fed from earlier, returns. He rounds the table. Twists his mustache and grins. Plops into the cushioned recliner. It squeaks.
I want to rip his mustache off. Feed it to a dog. I need a dog, I think. Maybe a doberman. Yes, a vicious starving doberman pinscher, but there are no dogs anymore. We ate them all long ago. The memory brings to the present again.
“Señor, how you are this morning?” He has on a fresh shirt and slides a leather satchel on the table in front of me. “I hope you slept well!”
I want to lift that satchel. Brain him with it.
His accent is thicker. I had to focus in order to understand.
"Oil," I said.
"You should oil that chair," I said. I'm not sure why.
“Señor? Has the nurse given you a drink?” He looks at my eyes, but I am having a helluva time trying to focus. His greasy mustache seems much larger now. Black, like a paint brush dipped in tar. I was drugged. I can't take my eyes from his mustache. It's absolutely fascinating.
He laughs. “Ah, you have. You have accepted our water! But it was not really water and don’t worry, it is not a painful death, Señor!”
Death I think. What is that?
“Now, back to business, as you Americano’s say. There is little time.” He pulls out a sheath of papers. Scans them. Finds the one he wants. My anger has left me.
“This one, Señor? Does it work for you?”
I glanced down. A typed letter. ‘I, Jackson Filberton, on the 17th of September, 2317, did on or about 10:00 P.M., ascend the wall, better known as The Great Wall of Trump and attempted to enter the Free Mexico, without permission...' I skipped down '…and I bequeath all of my internal organs to the cause of …'
I quit reading. Can't focus now.
“No.” But it came out slurred. More like “Nawh.” I'm so confused now.
“Nawh! Kizz my azz.” My tongue is numb. It feels like cotton. I probe my teeth, but I can no longer feel my tongue. Was it gone? I wasn't sure now. This wasn't going right. Maybe I should go home. Take my licks. Where is my tongue?
Something seems to drift at the edge of my consciousness now. But what?
The Fed picks up the letter. Puts it back in his satchel. Begins to laugh. "I love my job," he said.
I didn’t respond. Just listened. I am amazed. His accent seems to be fading.
He stands, gathers his satchel and walks to the door, but turns, after he taps on the mirror-glass with his knuckle.
“You, Señor Filberton. It is people like you who keep us alive!" Laughter.
The door squeaks open. A soft light probes the cell. My eyes finally adjust.
Through the doorway I can see the wall. The inside of the wall as it fades into the distance like the gray snake it is. A wall that crawls around everything. I had not escaped at all. I was still here. In some kind of cell.
I looked at the Trump Wall in all its grandeur. One of the largest public works projects in human history. A wall fully 5000 feet high and over 1000 feet thick. Steel, concrete and missile batteries. It made the Great Wall of China look like a collection of toy blocks. Stretches not just along the border with Mexico, where I'd tried to escape, but along the Canadian border as well.
I recall a documentary years ago, about how the Trump Wall. Manned by five million soldiers. Has its own farms, airports and shopping districts and even a supporting civilian population.
Work was currently underway on the wall off of Hawaii and Puerto Rico. There was even an entire Reality Television Series devoted to planning stages of the new Sea Wall Projects, designed to close the rest of the ‘gaps.’
“Keep America Safe!” That was the mantra.
I fainted again. I think I did. I'm not in my cell. I'm in a forest of black now. Ghostly trees and solitude. I can't make sense of this, but it's not a bad place. I'm just standing there. Doing nothing. Thinking nothing. Being watched by the phantom trees. I know there are things in the darkness, just beyond those trees. Inside the forest. The waiting things. The deathly quiet things. I scream at them, but my tongue ignores me.
Suddenly, I am awake. There is a cacophony of buzzing. The screeching of machines. Conversation and orders being issued over speakers far above. I am in a Harvester, in America. I’d heard about them, but never believed they existed. The nightmare is true.
Don't defect, they had said. Never admit it. They will harvest you. I had been too vocal. Spoken my mind on occasion. They had discovered my transgressions. Now they were taking me apart.
I couldn’t talk, couldn't move. I could see. Oddly, my mind was clear. But my eyes were frozen. I could stare and blink. Stare at the American Flags draped over thousands of coffins with the word 'RePat' painted on their sides. Blink at the flicker lights.
What did that mean? RePat? Repatriated? Brought home -- to be harvested?
On a screen above my face, red letters were flashing. My name, Social Security Number, height, weight – all my personal data. Scrolling by. Then three dimensional views of me. My feet, bones, groin, internal organs and even my brain were all represented, on the screen. Behind my stats, a stylized American flag flew, waving in a solemn breeze. Why I wondered?
Little blinking green lights were everywhere behind the screen. Monotone sounds. Saws and drills? It was difficult to make out. But that hospital smells were not. Rubbing alcohol and an odd burning scent permeated the open building.
Long spiraling tubes clung to the ceiling. They looked like grotesque vacuum cleaner tubes, except they were wet with entrails which still hung from small hooks along their sides. Hooks that held other unidentifiable parts that dangled and dripped. One such part looked familiar. Perhaps my leg?
It took a moment to understand the parts and pieces that dangled were full organs as well. Human parts surely. But bones, livers, hearts and eyes all parading by on thin green strings and conveyor belts. Full hips and knees, held in fizzing solutions.
Robotic arms with nozzles, waving in a sickening dance, spraying the organs as they were moved along. Other robotic arms that were lifting the organs and scanning them with flat beams of light, then returning to them the belts, tubes, cartons and hooks.
I seemed to be on a conveyor belt of some sort myself. Something was tugging at my hair, my lower body and arms now. I am torso and head.
I go away from my self again. It is like a faint, but without the dizzy feeling. Almost natural. I await death. Hope for it. Beg.
Now I am back in the black forest. Waiting again. Being watched by these strange tree sentinels. I don't think I should be here. It's a bad place. I feel bad in here. Let me out! But I cannot scream. I don't think I have a mouth or a face any longer
Voices echo in from the darkness. From behind the trees. I cannot see the talkers.
“You suppose they are awake?” The voice came from nearby now.
“Nah. They are comatose, Harry. Don’t worry. The blinking is just a reflex. Just remove Filberton's heart, they said we only have eight hours max – after that the organs are no good. And he's a perfect match for the recipient it says here."
“You are heartless!"
"You're pretty funny, Harry. But don't quit your day job!"
More laughter. "What choice do I have?"
"Hey!" It was Mr. Scritter, the super. They both looked up.
Behind the dark glass of the monitoring station, Scritter was leaning forward, staring. "Get that one prepped now. His heart is going to the big boss this afternoon."
"Crap, Harry. Let's get this show on the road. This'll be Trump's tenth!"
"Tenth heart? For Trumpess Maximus?"
"You bet. But careful with the descriptive titles, Harry. The air has ears, you know." He pretended to look over his shoulder at the rows of bodies moving along an impossible number of conveyor belts. All for Trump's family and friends. All bought and paid for.
"What is he now 400 years old anyway?" Harry asked.
"Hell, I dunno how old the Founding Fuhrer is," he replied, as he lifted the circular saw. Gave it a squeal. "Sorry Buddy, Trump said their would be consequences if you left the country..."
Harry smiled. "But seriously, don't you get tired of this?" Harry asked.
"What?" the saw's whining was drowning out much of the conversation. He was starting to make a cut.
Harry switched to his microphone. "All this prep work?"
He pulled the blade upward. "Why do you ask Harry? You want to defect so I can cut out your liver?" He was smiling again.
"Nawh. I mean why can't we play the Mexican Fed part? You know. have some fun?"
"What, and I can be the nurse? No way Harry, I ain't going over that wall to that nuclear wasteland! Play jailer? Please. Trick people into thinking there is still a Mexico beyond the wall. Come on, Harry. I like it here. I get to eat and go back to my wall apartment every night." He started the saw again. He hit bone. Filberton's rib cage was nearly off.
"Jeez. The wasteland is 100 miles farther on. We could have some fun. You know, maybe get a raise. Get promoted to interior even."
He stopped again. "Are you insane, Harry. You have to be a full citizen to do that! I suppose you want mating privileges too. Maybe have a kid or something and a farm, maybe some real chickens in your backyard!"
"Well this guy did. Look," Harry said.
Filberton's body was laying there. What was left of it. "Yes, he had all of his parts, Harry. But he was neutered, just like us. He's just for spare parts. You know that."
"Yep, I know."
"Bye Bye, Filberton." He looks down. Snips. There's a heart in his hand.
"Once a citizen, always a citizen," Harry said.
I feel a fine mist upon my face. It is warm. The wind is blowing here...in this black forest. Tree limbs crack. I must find the dark things now.
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© 2016 jgshorebird