Short Story

The Book of Love

A short story about love by Alistair Fruish.

“The philosophers have only interpreted the mind in various ways, the point however is to change it.”
Major Jo Williams,
Psychological Operations briefing 2003.

I was a man in the land of Af whose name was Jo. I was neither perfect nor upright. I was not one who feared God. Nor did I eschew Evil. Dual delusions that my brother perpetrated unto the people of our land. I lamented and cursed him unto his face for his stone-age beliefs. Thomas, my own Twin. Double helixes exact, but how different two could be who look and sound as one. Yet we were similar in our wroth; and I am escaped alone to tell thee of it. I am my brother’s keeper, his memory now within my own. My punishment is greater than I can bear. He could speak with the tongue of an angel, or bring the fear of God boiling in the blood of many who heard him resound. He would bring them unto his Lord. In tents across the land they would kneel and be healed. I had enough of him going on about God. I joined the army to get away from him.

I was a man in the land of Ir, on State business. In the Homeland my brother worked as a Shepherd for the Lord. We met as little as we could. He knew not of my work. Now I see our ways were most similar. I also dealt out persuasion. Our methods, if looked at with clear cold eyes, are not so different. He got his converts the same way that I got intelligence, as I have come to appreciate. Care should have been taken, I suppose. He scared his sheep to save them. The difference being he kept them scared afterwards, separated them from their old group. When my job was done, I moved on. Stress is the key. I impair the detainees’ judgements. I like to play with little things, mix my signals. That’s why I have the enemy flag on my key-ring, when administering the hardest slap to them they are ever likely to feel. In interrogation I have no weaknesses. They do not know where they are or at what time of day. Make them anxious. Lie to them. Prolong the tension. We are looking for the transmarginal situation. So we are creative with it. We have all sorts of ways. Until Pavlov’s little dogs bark and tell us what we want to know. Sometimes they wet themselves and sometimes they cry and sometimes it goes so far that a man’s beliefs will slip suddenly into total reverse. They will tell you anything then. They come to love big brother. The easiest way to break a proud religious man is to sexually humiliate him. Then make him defile his God. Hence the photos from such places as Abu Ghraib, they are for taunting purposes and have an acceptable military value. The grunts, they just carry the can. At least we did not torture their families in front of them, like the last lot. I had something else in mind for my brother. At our father’s funeral I made the challenge, half in jest. My brother’s sermonising provoked me. I had seen men renounce their Gods. He would too. It was simple. He rose to this challenge. It was as if we were children again. He had never forgiven me for being five minutes older than he. As a child he was practised in ways to trap me. Perhaps he trapped me still. For he demanded that I administer the test. I told him in two weeks his God would leave him. Perhaps he foresaw the outcome, loved me more that I knew.

I was a man in the land of my father. We went to the mountain, where we had gone as children. I put my brother to the test. The Chinese get good results with essay writing and group work over long periods. We in the West are in more of a hurry, subject to the whims of fashion. My brother said, “The Lord have mercy upon your soul.”

I then cuffed him in a very awkward position. Tied his hands up behind his back, placed a hood over his head and left him for 36 hours on the cold floor of a cellar, with nothing for company expect the thrash metal music of Slayer playing, ‘Reign in Blood’ on a loop until its batteries died. I thought that would soften him up. He was in such a position that if he fell asleep it would cause him excruciating pain. For the first time in my life the enemy inspired sympathy in me. I tried not to think about my brother’s suffering. While he agonised, I spent my time walking on the mountain reflecting on my life. I could not sleep. I should have terminated the mission then, or brought in assistance. I was proud. I did not. I was preparing for the bible study phase. I checked my biblical expertise as I walked. I would show Thomas that his knowledge of the book was not as good as he thought it was. That would undermine a core belief of his. It was a standard technique, but very effective; show them who is boss. He would be stressed and therefore forgetful. The cards would always fall for me on the flop. We would test each other on the bible and if he got it wrong, I would give him an electric shock and if I got it wrong I would undo one of his bindings. I started. He got it wrong straight away. The answer was the Book of Revelation and I was sure he knew it. He laughed. I hit him with the bare cables. As he writhed, I screamed, “Where is your God now?”

He said, “It’s my turn to ask the questions.” I should have stopped then, taken a rest. Taken that little bit of power away from him, but I did not. I suppose now I am grateful. For the first time in this kind of situation I lost my grip. He asked his question, “According to Matthew, what did the Lord say upon the cross?”

And I knew as he asked it, he was giving me an easy one on purpose so that he would stay as he was. He was showing me that he was stronger than me, that he was prepared to suffer for his God.

And I answered, “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?”

Thomas smiled. Then I asked another and he got it wrong straight away, so I applied the wires. The pattern continued for three hours. He found it increasingly difficult to ask questions. It seemed his knowledge of the good book was gone, wiped. Although even then I felt things might not be as they seemed. I continued never-the-less. After some time I thought I detected signs of a change. Thomas seemed to actually be struggling to get them right and began to look genuinely distraught. I was prevailing, but with this intuition came increasing amounts of sympathy for my brother. It was getting harder for me to apply the wires. I was no longer shouting, “Where is your God?” as frequently as I had done at the beginning. As my respect and sympathy rose for him and his beliefs, his health began to fail. I was trapped with him, I could not leave him and regain my advantage. Thomas suffered a heart attack, I think from what he said of the symptoms. Thomas told me that he would die. He closed his eyes. I was not sure whether to believe him. I began to examine him. I was increasingly filled with love for him. At the same time I did not want to stop the procedure. I did not want him to die. I did not want to lose. I was tired. I was anxious. Frantic. I had done this all wrong. He opened his eyes, so much like mine. He fixed them upon me and said, “You were right Jo, there is no God.” And died, in my arms just like that. And as I held him, I felt the light and fear of the Lord fill me up. I knew that my brother had lied for me and died for me, to save me from damnation. I became sure that there was a God Almighty and that Thomas had said those words to bring me to him and I would be saved. As my brother has shown me, any means are acceptable that bring you to the Lord. And the Lord have mercy on my soul, that his job now falls to me.

© Alistair Fruish 2005

Alistair Fruish uses unconventional methods in his work with prisoners.

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