On the Fringes of the Penal Colony

5 Jun

It’s a bit like the story you know. The apparatus is different, however. It’s made of wood and rope. Something out of the middle ages. It doesn’t tattoo the sentence into your skin. That is merely read from an official piece of paper by a bureaucrat with a monocle and balding head. The machine is made to pull apart your limbs with slight adjustments as a sharp lance slowly punctures the skin and flesh from below. It’s a bizarre variation or combination of The Rack, The Wheel, and the Judas Cradle. It’s designed to always kill the condemned, but to do so slowly. The executioner speaks with a lisp; a strange, electronic sibbilance:
–Your limbs will be tied to the spokes and pulled slowly while the wheel itself will incrementally be revolved. Through the opening between the spokes, I will strike you with an iron hammer which will break your bones. At the same time, through the triangular board at your feet, the blade will be raised as the wheel turns, slowly impaling you up from your genitals. You will be left on the wheel to die. Or, at my preference, you will be raised on a pole, while still alive, to be fed to various birds.

There are three levels of being, ordered hierarchically. The first, the aesthetic level, marks the single individual as the single individual in the physical world. The second, the ethical level, marks the single individual as the universal. The third and final, the religious level, marks the single individual as the single individual in an absolute relation with the absolute, whose relation with the absolute, God, comes by virtue of the absurd and is inexplicable. It is this third level of being that the condemned is to ultimately feel in the throes of his harrowing demise. It is this breakthrough from ethical or tragic hero to the knight of faith that is to be experienced at the moment of lucidity in the face of death; moving quickly from the aesthetic level to the ethical to finally the religious.

–The discipline of suffering, of great suffering…only this discipline has created all enhancements of man, the executioner utters a Nietzschean dictum as he starts the apparatus.

(Author’s Notes)

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4 Responses to “On the Fringes of the Penal Colony”

  1. Slyboots 05/06/2008 at 7:23 PM #

    All I can think of when reading this (besides ICK), is Vlad the Impaler. Probably not what you were after. Sorry.

  2. (S)wine 05/06/2008 at 7:26 PM #

    Well, given my heritage and history, Vlad would make sense. I’m not really after anything except reactions from readers, whether good or bad or mediocre. Always good insights from the regulars here. Never sure how these things work for various people, if they work at all.

  3. J.A. 06/06/2008 at 2:09 AM #

    enhancements of man… I get some sense of familiarity reading this; in “The Journeyer” by Gary Jennings he speaks of a Chinese torture master. He used mainly blades, needles and some other tools; not machines. At the same time he was always trying to keep alive whoever he was torturing, this reminds me of what I felt the first time I read that.

  4. (S)wine 06/06/2008 at 6:14 PM #

    J.A., I’ve always loved Kafka’s “In The Penal Colony” and that atrocious machine which would carve out the Condemned’s sentence into his flesh, killing him slowly. I love the end, I love how and why the Officer chooses to place himself onto the machine, in place of the Condemned. For some reason, Kafka’s themes have been entering my dreams lately. Makes no sense, either: it’s sunny and hot and beautiful here now. You’d think I’d gravitate toward lighter subjects.

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