Written for Tipsy Lit. A story, about playing games with a person’s mind, begins after the image.
His uniform was spotless, with creases sharp enough to cut. He moved smoothly, athletically. A man of supreme confidence. He ignored Cooper and sat casually at the corner of the simple desk in the spartan, blood-stained room.
He lit a cigarette and took a few puffs, gazing absently at the ember. Without preamble, he said, “To begin, Mr. Cooper,” he said in clear, though accented English. “You will tell us everything we wish to know.” He looked at Cooper with ultimate confidence. His eyes steady.
Cooper’s eyes were bloodshot and the swelling in his left cheek was receding. He shrugged a little, trying adjust the electrodes that pinched his skin. He said, “Number 2, right?”
Hajjar’s right eyelid twitched ever so slightly. “What?”
“This is where you tell me I’m number 6 and you are number 2.”
He looked lost for a moment. “I…no. I am Colonel Falah Hajjar.” He sat at the desk and placed his hand on a large, menacing electrical switch. “I will remind you that I am asking the questions here.” He slammed the switch down.
When Cooper regained consciousness, Hajjar looked up. “Ah! You’re back.” He paused to sift through a file. “We already know you are CIA, Mr. Aegis Cooper, and we know why you are here. We already have many answers. So for now, let’s play a little game.” He held up a simple blue card. “What color is this?”
“No, it’s…” Hajjar paused to turn and look at the card. His eyelid twitched once. He took a breath and composed himself. Patiently, he said, “No, it’s orange.” He pulled the switch and Cooper received a harsh electrical jolt. “For each wrong answer, you will receive a shock. Let’s try this again.”
“This is an old technique,” said Cooper. “You show me a simple thing and ask what it is. I answer correctly and you punish me, telling me it’s something else. You keep doing this until I answer incorrectly, truly believing the wrong answer you’ve trained me to believe in. It’s an effective method of breaking someone’s will. Now, here you are holding up a pink card and trying to make me say it’s orange.”
“No. The card is blu…I mean…” He ground his teeth and slammed the switch down.
Cooper recovered from the shock, thinking idly about Hajjar. He wasn’t too bad for an interrogator. Unfortunately for Hajjar, he was matched up against a master. After decades studying Eastern philosophies, perfecting hypnotism techniques of the shadowy Inshamakesh Priests of India, and mastering exotic martial arts techniques for defeating an opponent without physical contact, Cooper was quite possibly the deadliest man alive. He could do things with his eyes alone that would make a survivalist hurl himself out a 57th floor window. If Cooper was permitted to speak, things got worse.
Hajjar held up the blue card. “What color is this?”
“You mean that banana?”
Three days later, Cooper stood in the viewing room and watched Hajjar in his cell through the one-way mirror. The former Colonel held up a blue card and was apparently speaking to someone, but there was no one there.
“Congratulations on capturing the infamous Colonel Hajjar,” said the man in the booth beside Cooper.
“No names. Not even here,” the man said.
“Of course, V.”
“What is he doing?” said V. He watched with surprise as Hajjar slammed his hand on a stapler.
“He still thinks he’s interrogating me,” said Cooper. “He’s trying to use Interrogation Technique 73B.”
“Ah, yes. So you responded with Counter-Interrogation Technique 37E. Masterful! How long will he stay like that?”
Cooper shrugged. “Indefinitely. Or until I release him.”
V turned at the sound of footsteps coming closer. He opened the door opposite. “I’ll expect a full report via the usual protocol.”
“Of course, Sir.”
The other door opened just as the first closed. “Cooper!” said the new arrival. “Excellent work, young man!” he said, shaking Cooper’s hand with vigor.
“Thank you, Colonel Hayes.”
“Ah, who was that who just left?”
Cooper pointed with his thumb. “Him? Oh that was the janitor.”
Hayes squinted uncertainly. “I thought I heard you calling him, ‘Sir.’”
Cooper sighed. “Poor chap. He’s been here cleaning toilets for nearly 40 years. Mind finally went. Thinks he’s a spymaster now. He’s a good fellow, so we just play long with his fantasy. Hate to spoil his retirement, you know.”
Hayes looked concernedly at his nails. “You ah…wouldn’t have used your infamous mind-control techniques on him would you?”
“Wouldn’t think of it, sir. That would be cruel.”
“Good to hear that,” said Hayes, relaxing a little. He looked into the cell. “So that’s the Colonel Hajjar we’ve been trying to capture all these years.”
“The very one.”
“They probably couldn’t imagine you would affect Hajjar’s mind so easily, escape, and still make him believe he’s at his base. Hard to imagine he’s looking at one thing, yet seeing something entirely different.”
“Admittedly, it’s hard to wrap your head around the idea, Sir.”
“Indeed. I say, why is he holding up a blue card?”
“Blue, sir? I believe it’s pink.”
Colonel Hayes smirked at Cooper. “Yeah, right. Don’t pull your mind games on me. Next thing I know, you’ll be telling me I’m not a Colonel!” He raised a spray bottle and sprayed down the glass with cleanser. He produced a rag and wiped the window clean.
“Oh, and Colonel?” said Cooper.
“It’s Tuesday. Don’t forget to empty the trash before you leave.”
I think my fascination with the spy genre began with the TV show, The Prisoner. My odd reference to number 2 and number 6 comes from here:
A far more serious (though fictional) use of this interrogation technique:
Join the Tipsy Lit writing challenge! You can find this week’s prompt right here: http://tipsylit.com/2014/03/03/prompted-color-the-world/