Adrian sat naked in the chair, shivering. He was tied down with razor wire and blood seeped from the wounds where the wire had torn his skin. He had long since given up struggling since every movement caused fresh pain from the razor wire. Not for the first time, he shrieked into the darkness “Why are you doing this? I’m just a programmer.”
He couldn’t understand why he was here. He was a nobody, a nothing. He worked the software division of a large multinational firm that had fingers in dozens of industries. He was a code writer, one of dozens working on The Project. He didn’t even know the name of the damn thing or what the purpose of it was. He just crunched code in his cubicle, day after mind-numbing day.
One night after work he unlocked the door to his apartment and stepped into the darkness. He remembered being grabbed from behind, then blacking out. He had awakened here, stripped naked and tied to this chair.
The space was dark but Adrian got an impression of size, like a factory or industrial space. When he yelled there was a definite echo. There was never a reply though. He had been awake for hours but had no idea whether it was night or day. He could see no windows but that didn’t mean there weren’t any. It could be the middle of the night – or bright morning, kept out by blacked-out windows or no windows at all. The only sound he heard was an occasional chittering, scrabbling sound. Rats, he thought to himself.
At length he heard a door open and footsteps, multiple sets of them. An overhead light snapped on and Adrian shut his eyes, temporarily blinded by the light. After a few moments his eyes adjusted and the footsteps became shapes in the darkness that then stepped into the light.
There were three of them, two men and a woman. All three were dressed in black, but very well – the men in suits, the woman in a business suit. They all wore dark sunglasses and were pale. One of the men carried a satchel, like a medical bag. He placed it on a small table to the right of Adrian. There was one other metal folding chair, but that was all Adrian could see. He peered into the darkness but could make out no detail. It looked like an abandoned factory as he had surmised.
The man carrying the satchel was large, with short-cropped dark hair cut in a military style. In fact, Adrian thought he might be military or ex-military, the way he held his body. The other man was middle-aged, maybe a bit older. His hair was mostly grey, stylishly cut. His features were aquiline, patrician. This was a man used to wealth, Adrian guessed, and used to being obeyed. He pursed his thin lips as if he had just sucked on a lemon.
The woman was in her 30s, platinum blonde her hair done up in a stiff bun. She was attractive but there was an icy air about her, one of emotional detatchment. Her designer suit was more functional than attractive; there was nothing soft or feminine about her. She might as well have een carved from alabaster, or porcelain.
The older man spoke in a voice that was gravelly with a vague accent Adrian couldn’t place. “Young man, you’re probably wondering why you are here. That will all become clear in a few moments.” Adrian found himself babbling “Please sir, there’s been a mistake, I…”
The older man held a finger to Adrian’s lips. “Please, don’t speak right now. You will have your opportunity to say everything you want to. In fact, I encourage you to….spill your guts?” Adrian thought he saw the ghost of a smile crease the lips of the bigger man but it was gone before he could be sure. The older man continued “But for the moment, I require you merely to listen. There has been no mistake. You have been brought here for a reason. We require information from you. I will ask you some questions. My associate here,” he indicated the woman, “will record the answers. Answer truthfully and completely and this business can be concluded with a minimum of discomfort. You will be returned to your life. Answer untruthfully or incompletely and my other associate and I will be reluctantly forced to make this unpleasant…for all of us, but most assuredly for you. Do you understand my meaning?”
Adrian was quaking in fear. He nodded as best he could. The man smiled. “You will address me as the Interrogator. She is the Recorder. He,” he said with a nod towards the larger man, “is the Persuader. You need not address either one of them for they have been instructed not to speak to you.” He turned to the Recorder. “My dear, the portfolio please.”
She walked over to the table and opened the satchel, pulling out a small notebook and handed it to the Interrogator. He smiled and nodded to her and she walked back into the darkness, returning with another folding chair after a moment. She place it to the right of the other folding chair, then walked back to the satchel and brought out a small digital recording device. She set it down on the table and connected a small microphone to it. She switched it on, then said “Testing, testing” in a strongly accented voice that Adrian guessed was Eastern European. She hit the stop, then the replay button and “Testing, testing” was repeated. She nodded at the Interrogator, then hit the record button. She pulled a steno pad and pen, then sat down in the folding chair furthest from Adrian. The Interrogator sat down in the nearest one.
“Let’s begin then with verifying a few facts. Your name is Adrian. You are a software engineer for Goliath Industries. You reside in the Parkside apartments in number 801. Is this all correct?” Adrian nodded, frantically. The Interrogator smiled. “I must ask you to speak as the recorder doesn’t pick up gestures well. We had intended to record this interrogation on video but our camera is alas…on the fritz?” He raised an eyebrow quizzically. Adrian responded “Yes, that is correct.” The Interrogator sat back in the chair and smiled. “Excellent!”
He opened the notebook and Adrian thought he saw several typewritten sheets of paper. The Interrogator studied these for several minutes, turning the pages. Adrian was sweating even though he was naked and it was cold. The bad feeling in the pit of his stomach was worsening.
At last the man pursed his lips again and looked up at Adrian. He leaned forward, adjusting his suit jacket and said “Very well, let us begin. What is Osiris?” Adrian stared back at him, puzzled. “Wha…what?” he asked, not sure he had heard correctly. The man smiled pleasantly. “What…is…Osiris?” he said, his smile a bit fixed. Adrian’s mouth opened and shut. “You mean…the Egyptian god?” he asked. The Interrogator glanced at the Persuader and smiled broadly, revealing gleaming, polished teeth. “Yes, that is true, Osiris is the name of an Egyptian deity, but that is not the answer I’m looking for. Once again, what is Osiris?” Adrian shook his head. “I don’t know” he answered truthfully.
The Interrogator frowned. “I see. Let us move on to another question. Who are the Observers?” Again, Adrian was baffled. “I don’t know. I’m not sure what you’re talking about.” The Interrogator’s smile was gone, replaced by a more menacing expression. “I’m truly sorry to hear you say that Adrian. One more question. Where is the code key hidden?” Again, Adrian didn’t understand what he was talking about and said so.
The Interrogator stood up and sighed. “It’s truly a shame you have chosen to take this path, Adrian. I had hoped you would simply answer the questions and we could all put this unpleasantness behind us, but you have chosen a different route. I hope it is worth it.” He nodded at the Persuader who stepped forward and with a startling suddenness slammed his fist into Adrian’s jaw. Adrian felt an explosion of pain, but it didn’t end there. The Persuader administered a beating that went on despite Adrian’s screams until Adrian began spitting teeth out. Blood was dripping out of his mouth and nose, which he thought might also be broken. Throughout the Interrogator and Recorder watched impassively, expressions unchanging. At length, the Interrogator spoke.
“That will be quite enough for now.” The Persuader immediately stopped and stepped back to his previous position. Other than the blood on his knuckles, you never would have known he had moved or done anything. He was as still as a statue. Adrian was whimpering, the pain of his beating echoing in his skull that pounded with a splitting headache that was dwarfed by the pain of his shattered jaw and nose.
The Interrogator leaned forward and said “I do hope you will be more co-operative this time. My associate the Persuader has a great deal of talent for causing pain, and we have provided him with the tools to inflict a great deal of it on you. I should hate for him to have to use them.” He smiled. “Now, shall we begin?”
He asked the same questions, one by one and once again Adrian babbled that he didn’t know the answers. This time he was crying and pleading, telling them that they must have the wrong man, that he was just a low-level code writer on an industrial project that he didn’t know anything about. The Interrogator seemed genuinely sorrowful. “I assure you, you are exactly the man we want. Now, once again, what is Osiris?”
Adrian’s mind whirled, panicked. In desparation, he lied “That is the code name for the project I’m working on for Goliath.” The Recorder lookedd up for the first time and gave the Interrogator a meaningful glance. For his part, he sat back in the chair, clicking his tongue. “Adrian, I’m disappointed in you. Do you truly believe we are fools? You are working on a graphics program that allows the highest resolution to date for high end monitors. While I’m sure Goliath believes this to be an important and profitable program, we are not interested in it. I suggest you stop wasting all our time and tell me what Osiris is.”
Adrian’s mouth moved but no words came out. The Interrogator sighed and gestured to the Persuader. “No wait, ” Adrian screamed, “Give me a chance to think goddamn it!” The Persuader was upon him before he could finish the sentence and this time he had a hammer which he had taken from the satchel. Again and again he brought the hammer down on his right leg, and Adrian knew there were multiple fractures. He screamed and screamed in a high pitch that would have shamed him ordinarily but the pain was more than he could have thought he possibly could bear and after a few moments, lost consciousness.
That blessing was denied him for long. The Recorder revived him with smelling salts. “Dear, dear, you must be in terrible agony,” cooed the Interrogator. “This can all stop you know. We’ll even make sure you get to the hospital so you can get treated for your wounds. You don’t have to endure a single moment more of this pain if you just answer the questions. What is Osiris? Who are the Observers? Where is the code key hidden?”
“I don’t know! I don’t know! I don’t know! Can’t you get it through your thick skulls I don’t have any idea of what you’re talking about? Is this just some kind of game to you?” The Interrogator stood up, clearly angered. “This is no game to us, I assure you. I would ask you the same question! Do you think we are fooling around here? Have you not gotten the message that we are serious and we will do whatever is necessary to learn what we need to know? Apparently you require further persuading.” He turned to the Persuader. “Emasculate him” he said in a terse whisper.
Adrian began screaming once again. The Persuader pulled out a pair of pliers and advanced towards him. Both the Interrogator and the Recorder moved a distance away. Adrian tried to shut his legs together but the pain from the broken one prevented it. In moments the Persuader used the pliers to rip Adrian’s testicles completely off his body. The Recorder immediately moved in and treated the wounds. Adrians screams diminished to a whimper.
Once the ministrations of the Recorder were completed, the Interrogator resumed his seat – after wiping Adrian’s blood off of it. “We can’t have you bleeding to death before we have completed our business, now can we?” He leaned forward so that his face filled Adrian’s vision. “We have the capability to do far worse to you than has been done so far, things that can’t be fixed. I beg you to reconsider your obstinacy and just tell us what we want to know.”
Adrian was crying now, sobbing like a little girl. “I want to, but I don’t know what you want me to say. Please tell me what you want me to say and I’ll say it, I promise.” The Interrogator shook his head. “Why, we only want you to tell us the truth Adrian. That’s all we’ve ever wanted.” Adrian began crying harder. “I have been! Why won’t you believe me? I swear to Christ I don’t know anything, I would tell you if I did. Do you think I’d put myself through this?” He was weeping uncontrollably now.
The Interrogator turned to the Recorder and raised a critical eyebrow. She smiled for the first time and nodded. The Interrogator nodded to the Persuader who went to the satchel and began rumaging through it. The Interrogator turned back to Adrian and said “I do believe you’re telling the truth.”
He motioned to the Recorder who went to the digital recording device and shut it off, then handed it to the Persuader. He set it back in the satchel, along with her steno pad and pen. The Interrogator turned back to Adrian. “Osiris is a…well, I’m not sure what to call it exactly. It’s a business, but it’s also recreation. Only the wealthiest men in the world can afford to join it. The members of Osiris are called the Observers. That is because they observe, first hand, the torture and murder of young men and women for a fee, a rather healthy one. In order to bid on subjects, the Observers use a code key to access the website where bids are made. One of the code keys was stolen from us and sent in an e-mail to you along with a detailed description of Osiris and a list of its members.”
Adrian shook his head. “I never got an e-mail like that. And who would send it to me?” The Interrogator smiled. “That’s the irony of it. The man who sent it to you sent it to the wrong address. Fortunately, we intercepted it and deleted it from your account but we needed to make sure that you hadn’t seen any of the contents of the e-mail. I’m quite satisfied now that you haven’t.”
He stood up. “I’m afraid I did fib ever so slightly on a couple of points. The first is that our video equipment is on the fritz. It is not, as a matter of fact. As you might guess, we have access to some of the highest-end equipment in the world. We just felt it better that this not be preserved for posterity. We wouldn’t want to make our Observers nervous; they might withdraw and take their billions with them.” He straightened his tie and handed the notebook to the Persuader who put it back into the satchel. The Recorder and the Persuader walked away into the darkness, leaving the Interrogator who stood on the edge of the light. “What was the other thing you fibbed about?” asked Adrian, dreading the answer.
The Interrogator laughed, a chilling sound. “I lied about you being returned to your old life of course. We couldn’t let you free with the knowledge of our society. Osiris thrives on operating in secrecy. No, I’m sorry to have to tell you this but your services are no longer required. Have a nice day.” He turned and walked away and the light went out.
Adrian called out “Please! I won’t tell anybody anything! I can keep a secret! Please don’t leave me here!!!!” The Interrogator’s laughter echoed derisively in the cavernous empty factory until Adrian heard the door open and shut one last time.
He screamed for a few minutes but didn’t have the strength to carry it on very long. The factory grew silent but not completely. Adrian could hear chittering noises. Rats, he thought to himself. The sound grew louder and Adrian realized that there were far more of them than he had first thought. Hungry too, I’ll bet he thought. He began laughing and didn’t stop until they had torn his throat out.