Snakes and Pills

214 - quill

Juan stared blankly ahead at the one-way mirror. He knew they were watching him on the other side. He didn't want to betray himself before the interrogation even began.

His hands were cuffed behind him, over the back of the metal chair. He felt uncomfortable, but he had endured worse conditions. The isolation chamber they kept him in for days prior to this was a place he'd rather not revisit.

At least this was progress. Toward what end, Juan couldn't fathom, but it was better than just waiting without a word.

In the back of his mind, Juan had always know that this was a possibility. It happened to guys like him from time to time. Everyone saw the stories on the news. Yet he somehow avoided acknowledging the risk.

Until a week ago. He suddenly found himself surrounded by men in suits while walking back from the convenience store. A black van materialized as well on the street next to them. Juan then knew he was about to become another face on the evening news.

He tried to delude himself, that his detention was a mistake, and that he would be released promptly. But he knew that they didn't make mistakes. Now, he just wanted to be done with it.

His two interrogators entered the room, and no words were exchanged. One of them unlocked his cuffs, and Juan felt his hands flop free. He repositioned them palm down on the bare table in front of him while the two men took their seats.

Juan stared at them, and they stared back. He couldn't tell if the situation was supposed to be exceptionally tense or mind-numbingly boring. If they were waiting for him to crack, they would be in for a long sit.

The man on Juan's left eventually opened his coat and produced a simple manila folder. Juan expected that it was some sort of dossier on him, but when the man opened it, he revealed only two blank sheets of paper and a pen.

The man slid the stationery across the desk to Juan. They waited. Juan wondered if they assumed he would know what to do with them, or if they expected him to ask. He finally broke his silence by choosing the latter.

"One sheet is for writing a letter to your family," the man on the left explained. "In it, you will stress that you are doing well and that they have no need to worry. You will inform them that as long as everyone does as they are told, everything will be fine in time."

Juan knew the type of letter the man was describing. The aforementioned news stories of detained individuals were always accompanied by letters to the detainee's family in their own handwriting.

"And the other?" Juan asked.

"For your confession," the man said.

"I shall confess to no crime, as I've committed none," Juan replied. "If that's what it will take to secure my freedom, then you ought to just kill me now."

The man on the left grinned the slightest of grins. "Kill you? What good would you be then? You're a tool, a bargaining chip. If it were a mere matter of taking you out back and putting a bullet through your heart, we would have done that on the first day."

"So what, then? I tell you, I'm not going to write a confession. I won't even write the letter to my family. I'll give you nothing," Juan said, feeling defiant.

The man on the left's expression remained unchanged. "Oh, you will. We have our ways. All of them before you were the same, don't you think? Yet you read their letters and confessions nonetheless, did you not?"

Juan nodded the slightest of nods.

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