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“They take up arms against their ruler; but in this they deceive themselves, for experience will prove that they will have actually worsened their lot.”
—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince
The guards visited Jimmy Marzan in his cell at dawn. They hooded and zip tied him, as they did whenever he was transported, and escorted him to an infirmary cell. There, he was unhooded and reshackled to a bed. He waited there alone for fifteen minutes, then a guard and a physician in teal scrubs carrying a clipboard entered the room. He was the physician who had repaired the wound in Jimmy’s side.
“I’m hoping this will be our final examination,” said the doctor. “How is it healing?”
“Everything seems fine,” Jimmy answered. “Sometimes a piece of lead will work its way to the surface. I just pick it out.”
“That’s pretty typical.” The doctor set his clipboard down and put on a pair of latex gloves. “Do you mind unbuttoning your jumpsuit? I’d like to take a look.”
With his uncuffed hand, Jimmy unfastened the front snaps of his jumpsuit and pulled his left arm out of the sleeve. The doctor had him sit upright, then he examined the scar that had healed into a pink slash.
“Any pain?” the doctor asked as he gently pressed on the wound.
“Any unusual redness? Does the area get warm?”
“Sometimes it seems warm. It feels like there’s a cramp, like something sharp is working around in my side.”
“Any fever? Night sweats? Would you call the cramping severe?”
“No. I wouldn’t call it severe.”
The doctor removed his gloves and threw them in the trash. “You can button your jumpsuit.” He took up his clipboard and scribbled his signature, then handed it to the guard who turned and gestured out the cell window. “I’m giving you a clean bill of health and releasing you from my care. Gentlemen, he’s all yours.” With that, the physician left.
Four guards in black riot gear stormed in. They rehooded and re-zip tied Jimmy and carried him out. He was placed alone into the back of a truck and driven for five minutes. The vehicle stopped and the door was unlocked and opened. Jimmy was pulled out and placed on his back in a wooden box. He only heard one voice. It was the one that had interrogated him several times before.
Marzan, still hooded and bound, didn’t answer.
“It’s been decided that you’ve died of complications related to your wounds. As we do with all expired detainees, we’ll be burying you adjacent to the facility in a plot marked with a number. I don’t expect anyone will be coming to visit. I wish I could say that it has been a pleasure working with you. Unfortunately, we have no more use for you. Try not to panic. Just breathe normally. Eventually, the oxygen will run out and you will lose consciousness. Chaplain…”
Marzan heard the verses of The Lord’s Prayer as the lid was placed over the box he was lying in. A hammer pounded nails down to seal it. He felt himself lifted briefly, then lowered which he sensed by the pitch and roll while the ropes suspending his coffin were let out. He did not cry out but remained helplessly tied, silent and hooded. The box descended, coming to a rest on the floor of the hole. It was silent for a moment. Jimmy felt his breathing quicken. He fought the urge to cry out as it built inside, consuming him. He heard shovels scoop dirt above. He lost control of his breathing. His muscles tensed. The dirt fell onto the wooded lid of his box. Swoosh. Thump. Swoosh. Thump. He writhed in his bindings. It felt as if the air was already gone. The shovels of dirt piled upon one another. The sounds of the world above muffled and dimmed, leaving only his gasps in the dark wooden box. Each shovel full of earth piled onto his coffin, insulating him from the sounds of the world until he couldn’t hear anything but himself.
He sensed the madness bursting through him.
“Stay calm. Don’t fight. Breathe slow.”
It had become suddenly hot, as if he were in an oven, baking alive. Rivulets of sweat ran down his face and neck and body under his hood and clothes. His shoulder ached. The air was heavy and hot, like breathing steam in a sauna. Each breath was as if it held no oxygen. Thick. Hot. He couldn’t straighten his legs. They ached. His arms went numb. His body felt as if it was swelling up inside the tiny, infinitely dark wooden box, filling up all the space and driving out the remaining air, leaving nothing to breathe.
From that point the madness took over.
Jimmy screamed, screamed as if his voice might blow the tons of soil right off his grave and raise him up into the air. Oh, the cool clean air. He screamed again, a plea for mercy. Somehow, they would hear him and take pity. He kicked against the box but was kicking against an impregnable wall of earth bracing the wooden planks. The terror drove the humanity out of him. He screamed again, and again. Sweat flooding into his eyes, down his neck and chest. He braced and pushed against the coffin with every ounce of his might. It would not budge, not even a fraction of an inch. Air! Air! Air! He swallowed for it, like a fish on the shore, gasping out its death throes, kicking, writhing. He began to thrash, smashing his head against the inside of the coffin.
Jimmy Marzan was transformed into something else, something not human.
He stopped, physically exhausted. It was incredibly silent with only the sound of his breathing, a tumultuous, resounding, crushing, asphyxiating silence, louder than any sound he had ever experienced or could imagine. He sobbed to drown it out. His heart raced, his arms and legs went numb, and his face bled. He prepared to lose consciousness. Breathe. Breathe up the last of the air and be done with it, he thought. Jimmy Marzan was ready. He wanted it over. A thousand memories flooded his mind. Then he thought of that night and what he had done to Bob Garrity, leaving him to freeze to death in that garage.
Then he heard shovels.
They dug at the dirt above him. They grew louder as they dug. Louder, louder, louder with each shovelful. Then they scraped. They had reached the wood planks of the coffin. He felt the cool air and moist earth sifting in through the cracks. He felt the box being raised by the ropes, up, up, up and out of the vault. Crowbars clawed and pried at the planks. The nails squeaked and yielded. The brittle slats of pine cracked and snapped. Hands reached in and pulled Jimmy Marzan upright and brushed the dirt off of him. Someone placed a stethoscope on his chest.
“Bob…” Marzan mumbled.
“James,” came the familiar voice in his ear.
“There’s no Bob here, James.”
“Take my hood off.”
“We can’t do that, James.”
“What do you want from me?” he mumbled, barely audible.
Someone leaned in and whispered in his ear. “We want nothing, James. Nothing at all. We have everything, already.”
“Why did you dig me out,” he mumbled.
The voice whispered. “We didn’t think waterboarding would have the same effect.”
“I’ll tell you anything you want.”
“We already know everything.”
“Then what do you want?”
“You’re the star of the show, James. You’re the villain, the devil. The men here, guarding you, they are the heroes. And everyone they tell about what is being done to you is the audience. And this, what we are doing to you, this is what we call justice. We’ll let a few videos of this leak out. Americans hate traitors. They’re going to take great pleasure in seeing what we did to you.”