Plato screamed as a thin jolt of white-hot energy pulsed through his body. His limbs flopped and gyrated beneath his cuffs.
“State your name,” the interrogator said.
The pain continued. Plato’s scream did not end. He couldn’t force it to end, couldn’t even will his limbs to thin and slip out of the restraints. Regulator magic compelled him to endure.
“State your name,” the interrogator said, more forcefully.
Plato tried to speak. The current running up and down his spine, into his fingers and toes, through his head and bill, wouldn’t allow him to say a damned thing. He screamed, and screamed, and screamed.
“State your name,” the interrogator said.
Eventually, Plato did. The plaintive quack was the closest to proper English that he’d ever gotten. Satisfied, the interrogator shut down the current. The rat curled on his head, too, seemed rather satisfied with the answer, its tail tucked neatly around its body.
“Good.” The interrogator folded his legs, jotting a few notes down on a piece of parchment with a quill. “Very good. The masters are pleased. When they are pleased, you will remain unharmed. Do you understand?”
Smoke rising from several spots on his body, Plato flopped out a nod. He was bolted into an uncomfortable iron chair, arms, legs, torso and neck held in place by thick metal bands. The room around him was dark, the only source of illumination a pair of candles on the interrogator’s side table. Despite the lack of light, Plato could see a thin, dark wire running from the man’s foot and into Plato’s chair.
“Excellent.” The man folded his fingers and sat forward. “My masters know what you are. You understand this?”
Coughing, Plato nodded. His fingers spasmed.
“And you know that they want answers from you?”
“Y… yes.” The word took a great deal of effort.
“Oh, tut, that vile language of yours.” The interrogator shook his head, and the rat atop it bristled. “We need to cure you of that habit.”
Magic coursed through Plato again. He screamed, straining so hard against his cuffs that his Non skin wrapped up and around them for a few seconds. This pulse of pain only lasted for ten seconds, but it felt like an eternity.
“Speak English or nod from now on,” the interrogator demanded. Plato noticed, despite his hazy sight, a pronounced quaver in the man’s hand as he wrote something down. “No quacking. No symbols. Do you understand?”
Plato nodded. He forced his eyes to close. Looking at the light of the candles hurt too much.
“Good. The will of the masters is all.” It was the interrogator’s turn to cough. Something wet hit Plato’s knee. “You are acquainted with the one known as Kierkegaard, correct? You went to school with him?”
Plato nodded. Fear overrode his pain for a moment, fear and memories.
“And, if our intelligence is correct, you were entrapped by him. Correct?”
Another nod, slow, tentative, horrible.
“According to our reports, he is the current leader of the Non.” The interrogator sat forward, putting his fingers under Plato’s melting bill and forcing him to look up. “We want to know everything there is to know about this Non. You will tell us of his powers.”
Plato thought of running through empty, endless halls, followed by phantom terrors. His only living companion mocked him from somewhere above and beyond, often leaving Plato alone for long, lonely years.
“Tell us,” the interrogator insisted. He forced Plato’s eyes open with his fingers, and when Plato looked, he saw that the man’s face was thin and stretched, as though deprived of water. “Tell us.”
Plato tried. He knew the consequences of not speaking English. He also understood English perfectly fine. But when he opened his mouth -
- stupid little Plato, quacking the day away, what a fuckin’ freak -
- symbols and stutters came out.
The pain was exquisite. Not enough to kill, not nearly enough, but Plato suffered mightily for almost five minutes. By the end he was a horrifying wreck, skin sunken and sagging, churned into a mixture of deep black and runny grey-and-blue. Plato fought to sustain his normal shape, but his bill half collapsed into a runny mess on his neck.
The interrogator was in worse shape. He lay slumped on Plato’s lap, twitching. Through the chaos of his nose, Plato detected the fecal stench of death.
The rat, shaking its head, jumped from body to desk. Its eyes glimmered, and a door nearby opened. Two guards entered and dragged the interrogator’s corpse away. A third man, dressed identically to the interrogator but looking much healthier, sat down. The rat settled on his head.
“Now,” the interrogator said, picking up the quill. “I believe you were telling us about Kierkegaard?”