Sunday, April 17, 2011
Fiction: Morning Lash
Sorry it has been some time since I posted. Been really busy with other projects, but just knew I had to get something up on the blog! I thought I would try my hand again at some fiction. I hope you like it. I am always looking for feedback on making it better—so don’t hold back!
The Warden likes to have the sounds of discipline accompany his morning coffee. At 8 am every day, the Colonel steps out onto his office balcony which overlooks the small courtyard enclosed within the three-story stockade complex. Here he sits alone or accompanied by visiting officers, drinking coffee and watching the strict drama of military punishments being inflicted.
This courtyard is for his private use. His standing orders are to have small detachments of men perform exercises, military drills, or carry out punishments in this space while the sun shines down into it. Summer time leads to long days of constant clamor from the sweating men below his office window. As a newly promoted Colonel, he takes his duty to command this punishment barracks seriously, and makes the lives of the inmates as unpleasant as possible. This small courtyard is a way for him to ensure that his orders are carried out.
The first event of every morning is a flogging. After two hours of forced exercise, a contingent of 18 soldier-guards, commanded by a presiding officer, marches a prisoner to the permanent whipping frame in the yard. The shirtless detainee is firmly secured to the overhead bar, his arms spread wide and off his heels—only his toes and the balls of his bare feet allowed to touch the black paving stones.
The Warden had ordered the bricks of the yard painted black to ensure each day’s blazing heat would build up and be felt on the constantly bare feet of the prisoners toiling there. One of his first orders upon taking command was to order that the offenders remain barefoot at all times, as a sign of their subservience and disgrace. This isn’t meant to act as a deterrent to escape attempts, as the men are often forced to run for long miles on those naked feet, which hardens the soles; it’s just another torment for the men to endure during their sentences.
Upon arrival in the courtyard, the Sergeant orders the detachment of guards into three ranks to witness the punishment and calls his two Corporals forward to carry out the physical part of the sentence. Once at the whipping frame the Corporals strip off their uniform tunics, exposing their tight black tank tops and tanned skin covering shoulders and arms perfectly defined by daily directed forced exercise. Their muscular chests are already wet from the morning heat; sweat forms a glistening film over the military-unit tattoos on the round of their shoulders. In place and ready, the men wait for the Warden.
The nervous prisoner’s body is covered with sweat, streaming from his armpits, down his back and chest, dripping from his face. He had been flogged seven times by summary judgment during his two years as a conscripted soldier, before being sentenced by Court Martial for stealing. The military judge ordered him flogged 75 lashes each week as part of his nine months of incarceration. But the additional disciplinary floggings for infractions to the strict rules of prison life were just as hard and came at least every three days. Dozens of times during his imprisonment, Prisoner had been seized up and helpless in this manner; while he was by now accustomed to the situation, he had never grown accustomed to the pain: Each flogging was a whole new adventure in suffering.
The Colonel has a standing order that the last two floggings of any prisoner’s sentence will be taken together as a reminder of to the man of his time in the stockade, and incentive to help him remember that military discipline is better observed in the ranks than unmercifully enforced behind bars.
The two young guard Corporals, wearing fingerless black gloves to help keep a firm grip on the whip handles, spread their boots wide for balance in preparation to begin their duty of flogging the secured offender; they continue to wait in disciplined silence for an order.
The Colonel appears on the balcony with a visiting Major, surveying the scene and nods to the presiding Lieutenant. For this muster, the prison strap had been ordered to carry out the final sentence; the flogging that marks the completion of an offender’s time in the stockade and his return to military duties—that very day. He can once again look forward to being called “soldier” instead of “prisoner”.
Lieutenant calmly orders the formal beginning of punishment by flatly saying, “Lay on!”
At the Sergeant’s count of “One,” the Corporal to the left of the prisoner lays on the first stroke: A hard lash that lands on the Prisoner’s right shoulder and angles down to his left. The loud smack of the strap’s first lash against the exposed skin reverberates off the courtyard walls. The Prisoner responds by trying to stifle a scream, which makes it come out as high-pitch closed-mouth yelp. He throws his head back in an unsuccessful attempt to adjust to the pain, just in time for the second stoke to send a burning sting across this left shoulder.
The opposite guard, to the inmate’s right, in obedience to the Sergeant’s slow count, aims his stroke as an exact mirror of the first, striking the man’s left shoulder and travelling down to his right. The two lashes leave a perfect X of two wide, dry red lines, which stand in stark contrast to the Prisoner’s tan sweaty skin.
Like the dozens of sessions before it, the Prisoner knows this flogging is a PUNISHMENT for his crime; after only two lashes he feels the throbbing of the wide stripes which cross slightly above the exact center of his back.
On the third stroke, the strap lands horizontally across his middle back and the end wraps slightly around his side, outlining a perfectly straight, nearly black welt across his right lat muscle. The corporal on his right places the fourth lash directly on top of the one he had given before, ripping another involuntary yelp from the man enduring the ordeal.