He had been the professor, now he was the dummy. Jake called him that, but he was maybe a manikin, no, a marionette, named Marion. Marionette, from Mariol, diminutive idol of the Virgin Mary, and Jake had a virgin birth in his brain waiting to come out: wisdom.
“Athena!” Jake shouted, playing with the array of tendons slick with blood stretched between his ceiling and floor. The professor tried to scream but Jake pushed a button and cut it off.
“No screaming,” Jake whispered. “No screaming.”
Torture: from the Latin torquere, to twist, turn, wind, wring, distort, akin to ‘thwart’ which comes from a Germanic root for across, or contrary. To thwart the instincts of the body, to learn, as in Socratic dialogue, the knowledge that lies behind logomachy, behind the argument of skin and word, and Jake was in love with this, in love with this bestial knowledge:
“Professor, Professor Marion…”
He tried to scream again and Jake pressed the button. Jake pulled down on a chain and most of the head of the man was lowered down, stretched between carefully inserted metal plates, the eyes still wide, the face become a kind of horizontal dais, like a Green sun god, Apollo for the shrine ready in blood.
“Annnhghh,” moaned the professor.
Jake looked into his eyes.
“You look beautiful, Professor,” said Jake, and he saw that tears were streaming from the man’s eyes; Jake had left the ducts intact.
Torture, to twist and turn, as in sleep in a nightmare, trying to shake off the pressure of the images and visceral all-surround of the monster in pursuit, or the secret mask a loved one wears revealed only in dream, twisting and turning as a planet round a mutant, swirling sun…
Jake danced, spinning the horrifying bloody mess of the stretched human body of the professor, kept alive so carefully in this high-tech basement, he danced and spun, humming to himself. He was unwell, yes, but as all transgressors learn, the transgression provides not only knowledge but calm, it is the feeling of the first dive below into the dark water of the abandoned quarry, before you even feel the shock of cold, you know it’s summer.
The professor began to scream again and Jake smiled a little and spun, feeling as a priest might feel, in the middle of the most important ritual of his life, the ritual that would mean not only his elevation to Hierophant, but which had resulted in unexpected revelation; like the Indian who does not expect the spirit journey to be worthwhile but who unwittingly fulfills the millennia-old legends of his ancestors.
He was close to God.
Men have survived torture many times in human history; they are, of course, never the same. Professor Ryan Bremlin would be a little more not-the-same than most, as his torture episode coincided, unluckily for him, with a profound technological breakthrough: his torturer had succeeded in distilling Bremlin’s consciousness into each of his cells and he was being processed, processed into an additive.
Are the reasons important? Can we justify things on this Earth? Certainly not to one another: this is what transgression means, you cross over and a switch occurs in the brains of others. They no longer seek understanding, only your death. But Jake had been careful. So careful. The additive was carefully mixed into seven different soft drinks which Jake would carry to the next meeting of the Modern Language Association in June, in Memphis. And Bremlin would, like Jesus, be eaten by his followers, all the followers of Jacques Derrida would imbibe and ingest the flesh, a few cells, of Bremlin, and Bremlin would be aware the whole time.
What is the Buddhist pool of consciousness, or the promise of transubstantiation, if not this divine intermingling of the mind, made only slightly more explicit by Jake’s arcane addendum, that Bremlin would lurk, like a ghost, in the backs of the minds of all his colleagues, all his enemies, forever, unable to speak, unable to escape.
My brothers, the study of language is a dangerous thing. I advise you, if you are of a mind to pursue it, to take the utmost care in your personal behavior. Like the high priests of Judea, every word of yours will be remembered as you practice this unholy art, and every word can earn you hate or love or indifference, as you desire.
Be careful as you drink that Coca-Cola, brother. Please, enjoy it!